College Drop-out, Cab Driver Turns Software Developer, Credits Online Coding Course

Hailing from Munger, Bihar, Ashish Raj has managed to leave the life of a driver where he used to pick up and drop people off at the airport and is currently working as a software engineer at WebEngage. How? Further education. A 30-week programming course landed him a job as a software developer.

As the son of a farmer, Ashish’s family is not well off financially. After finishing school he moved to Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh for further education. His father spent his life savings on Ashish’s freshman tuition. Ashish, on the advice of friends and family, took an electrical engineering degree with the hope that he would get a job in the government sector. But he struggled to make ends meet in Bhopal.

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“I don’t really come from a very wealthy background, which meant limited opportunities for me to grow up. Growing up in Bihar, there is only one goal for the youth there. Get a government job. In school, the mindset is to become an electrical or civil engineer because that’s the shortest route to a good job in the government,” explains Ashish.

“The financial situation was very bad for a large family like ours and I saw only in the first year that most of my seniors who passed out didn’t get any jobs at all. I couldn’t borrow, I didn’t really have anything to borrow against, and then money problems got really bad for us. I needed money for my family and myself because I wasn’t home,” he told News18.com.

To make ends meet, he learned to drive a car with the help of his cousin and got his driver’s license for it. He started working as a driver in Bhopal at the taxi aggregator Uber.

“My whole family was disappointed because they spent everything to get me to study. Indian families value education above all else. It’s the hardest time I’ve ever experienced,” Ashish said. He fell into dire straits. He couldn’t stop driving because he needed money and driving didn’t leave him the time or resources to not learn. He had not having enough money to purchase additional supplies including books, dorm fees, etc. needed when he reduces his hours of work.

“I couldn’t stop driving because we needed money, and I couldn’t go to college because we didn’t have enough money,” Ashish said.

At this point, Ashish stumbled across a short-term (30-week) course in full-stack web development at Masai. He completed the course in April 2020 and learned HTML, CSS, Javascript alongside the MERN stack. As part of his project work, he also built a clone of the professional networking website LinkedIn.

He was interested in computers. It reminded him of his childhood days when he spent much of his childhood in his uncle’s cybercafe.

He says he took a chance on the programming course since he didn’t have to pay for it. “If it doesn’t work out, I won’t pay them any money and if I get a job, anything is better than driving a taxi,” he says.

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After completing the 30-week course, he now believes, “There are people who do four years of CS who know less than me at that point, and I’m working in an area right now that they can’t get into because they don’t have skills in software development,” he adds.

It took Ashish about three weeks after completing his course to get the job. He didn’t get the first job he applied for due to a lack of interviews, but he took every interview as a learning curve. “I had 6-7 interviews. I prepared for interviews by taking feedback from previous interviews and trying to improve,” explains Ashish.

For his job at WebEngage, he first had to pass a coding test, followed by a technical interview. Then interviews with the supervisor and the HR department. After that he finally got the job.

Though he didn’t disclose his salary, he says it’s more than what he earned plus “doing a better job.” “The course taught me everything you need to know about programming.”

Ashish’s striving for improvement doesn’t end here: “For the future, I want to grow more and get a better salary package. First I just wanted to do good things in life, now I want to grow as a software developer and earn more money and help my family. I just want to keep going and growing and earning more doing something I loved as a kid.”

When asked how important English skills are for tech jobs, he says communication and understanding are important factors. Therefore, knowledge of English is really helpful. “My writing skills are getting better and better, but programming is a language of its own. Once you understand what needs to be done, you can get it done. I think English is a very important, fundamental skill. The more fluent you become the better, but English skills are important in engineering,” he says.

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