Hey Boss, Can I Have a House?
My needs are simple. At one point my days involved hiking around to get food in different locations and finding a place to sleep not too far off the beaten path. I remember thinking it took up just as much time as work did. So, as is requested of most homeless individuals, I began trying to get housed and become employed. I reached out to a state vocational rehabilitation program. They got moving right away, testing, training, internship and eventually employment.
I enjoy the type of work I do. In my early days, I did it just to do it. Of course, the money kept a roof over my head, food on the table, and provided a car to travel about. But, if necessities were taken care of, I was free to focus on what I really enjoyed (contributing to an organization by means of developing and maintaining technology solutions). Besides getting to build better solutions, advancement was not really on my radar. But it was on my wife’s radar.
Since the beginning, my wife has always pushed me towards excellence. With her, it feels like I have skin in the game. It is not only taking care of the necessities, but living life, making sure our life experience is best as it can be, in every way. This includes what we call home. My wife is pushing for a house now; It is her top priority. She would like to have her own garden, build equity, have space to entertain, et cetera.
This post is a little like asking your boss for a raise because of such and such. But I am willing to put in the work to increase my value, and how much an impact I have to the bottom-line. We are improving our credit scores and such, but I would like to hasten the process if possible. Let us get this thing to take the social and financial anxiety away from my wife. Let us get this to serve as a testament of my work.
Just in Time Knowledge
Testing as part of an interview seems common today, but it may be partly due to location. Those IBM tests seem the most common. Before, at least in my experience, the organization hiring would provide a task and determine if the interviewee could complete said task. For example, Los Angeles County asked me to deliver database schema for a certain scenario. I did so and was hired.
In New York, while I could get someone on the phone, the interview was cut short after taking a test. The organization I was hired onto most recently used these tests as well. I had the luck of them sharing a specification with me for the project I would be working on if I were hired. I did not feel that great about the interview process up to that point, so I built a proof of concept from the specification. The CEO said that he heard I had done some good work on the project and that they would be moving forward with me (on a contract basis to begin with).
This is what I do. I think this is what most software engineers do. I can no longer tell you for sure what stage of the page life cycle to add dynamic controls in, nor am I able to tell you what Aristotle’s four causes are (if that is even what they are called). I am not sure if that is the mind, or just my mind. However, I can quickly perform research and deliver solutions.
With aptitude and a bit of talent, I think a newcomer (or one re-entering a project stack) can deliver. Even more, I think they can deliver in the future. Maybe it is just that I do not perform well on the tests that interviewers use. Maybe that makes me bias. But it seems to me that the type of world we live in today would produce and utilize resources that ask the right questions, rather than memorizing the right answers (there are of course exceptions, but generally).
How I Chose New York
After relocating from Seattle to Los Angeles and back to Seattle (my county job ended after I said I was not sure I would stay on after the contract ended), it almost felt like the city was angry with me. I could not make anything happen work wise, my things (computers) kept getting stolen from my shared housing, and I was arrested when I became a bit obstinate while attending an academic event. Not the best experience. So, after thinking about my sister’s advice of going to New York (she graduated from Fordham) and thinking I may be able to redeem myself for the Los Angeles mishaps by succeeding in New York, I decided to jump a flight to New York City with the little cash I had left. And I am glad I did.
It was rough at first. I thought I may catch a windfall in court by suing everyone that did anything wrong. I was doing this while working a six-figure job and sleeping in a stairwell, so to keep in forma pauperis status, I spent my money at gentleman clubs. While I wore my one outfit (shorts and a t-shirt) to the interview, I do not think they appreciated that I did not spend some of my paycheck to purchase more clothes. I did not have anywhere to put them, so I figured I might as well just go with what I had. I was fired, reportedly for my attitude.
I guess they found my hide out spot, because cops started picking me up and bringing me to psychiatric wards. Not knowing much about shelters and soup kitchens, I went to hospitals for food, where they gave me more psychiatric diagnoses. They fed me because I had a medical condition. They also offered a ride to a shelter. At first, I declined, but soon accepted. This is where things opened my eyes. If I would have stayed in a shelter while I was working, I would have been able to buy more clothes and put them in my locker in the shelter. Eh, we live, and we learn. So, I was ready to work then, though, again, the city was not ready to provide me with work. It played havoc on my identity, and I grew obnoxious. The arrests and involuntary admissions continued.
Some of the cops were aggressive. I felt a bit threatened, so I figured I would live in another country instead of taking my risks with unruly police officers. England, Italy, Switzerland, and France, all told me my claim had no merit, so, I figured it was on them to make sure I could make it in New York. When I got back, and things just seemed weird. Not being allowed in my shelter was the final event; I went to the hospital and told them what I thought was happening. They told me they were going to admit me, and I was ok with it. This time, I did not challenge them in court for medication or anything. What did I care if I took medication? Soon after, they said they were going to release me to my shelter and supply me with a month of meds. I did as I was told, and everything was fine. I moved on to transitional housing.
At transitional housing, they strongly encouraged us to participate in a program. I chose the state-run vocational rehabilitation program. They put me through training, where I was put into touch with employment agencies. One ultimately hired me as a remote software developer, and while it is not quite six-figures, it is enjoyable. Shortly after hiring me, I was given an apartment as part of a mental health program. Next month is my year anniversary for my job. So now I have an enjoyable existence after years of struggle. If I fall, I know how to get back up. I think I have some New York knowledge and feel like I have a personality that New York helped make. At least enough to get by here. And I think I would like to stay, if possible.
Why I Became a Software Developer
I first remember reading about Bill Gates when I was a young child. The newspaper was touting him as the richest man in the world. This is what original sparked my interest in software. I began learning about computers. There were several times when my grandmother called me into the computer room and asked me who broke the computer. It was me most of the time, so I sat down and fixed it.
Later, while in junior high, my friend and I taught QBASIC for one of the computer classes I was a student of. We did things for the school outside of class also, like ran and terminated network cables. These experiences confirmed my belief that computers were a burgeoning product space and that the market would continue to grow steadily with more and more interesting contemplations. I stayed the course, taking a CompTIA A+ and CCNA class at the skills center in high school, and eventually getting both certificates.
After high school, I worked in customer service, technical support, network administration, platform and security engineering and software development. I found that I enjoyed intranet site, or similar, development. The money was decent for me being a high school graduate without a college degree. I learned a lot on the job. It seems to be fairly low risk, for physically injury and such. I also thought that if I ever did come up with a viable business idea that I could save a lot of money implementing the idea if I could do it myself.
So, with my early interests and experiences, software development just seemed to be a natural career for me. While I am not sure, it seems that others could also learn software development if they are interested, at any age. I still enjoy my job. Hopefully, others do too.
Employment for All
Nish Parikh, cofounder, and CEO of the company I work for (Rangam Consultants Inc.), hosts a 30-minute chat every week with a variety of people. The topics are empathy, innovation, and employment, mainly centering around those with autism and disabilities. I have enjoyed watching and would like to share some of my thoughts.
Nish commonly asks what the topics mean to his guests. For me, empathy is an interest in understanding someone in a certain context while considering their emotions. Innovation is market targeted invention. Marry these concepts to employment and I would say that practicing empathy while employing others may lead to innovation, both in employment methodology and production.
Knowing the chat is usually about employment for all puts a bit of a spin on these subjects. Standards in most of society include financial wellness and value contribution. Not being able to partake in these ways, typically through employment, can take its toll. The best way I can describe how I felt is it was like my soul was on fire, and everything that comes with that (restless, depressed, hopeless). Finding places of employment, a sense of belonging and a way to contribute to society for those with autism and/or disabilities that have not been able to find work for a while is, in my opinion, a great thing, and I am telling you from personal experience. Now employed, my life is like a well-oiled machine.
From what I can tell, Rangam already works with state vocational rehabilitation contractors to ensure Rangam is known to students of training programs the state pays for. I downloaded their mobile app and completed an application at the behest of the staff. I did not think anything would come of it, but it did. I got a call back after I completed the training. I hope and wish all people in similar circumstances can get the assistance they need in order to become involved in something that makes them feel fulfilled and accomplished.