Episode 69 – Mauro Chojrin from Standup Comedy to Coding Success

Mauro Chojrin with Arsalan Ahmed and Mentoring Developers

You don’t always end up precisely where you started in your career life, and that includes the industry, but a calling is still a calling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least in the US, it’s not uncommon for a person to change jobs 11 to 12 times over the course of their career life. With that said, once you find your true calling, your ‘dream job’, even if you initially leave the field, it’s easy to see why you might return to it. That was the case with our next guest, Mauro.

Meet Mauro Chojrin, an Argentinian authority on PHP, professional training, and coaching. Mauro dipped his hands in coding at a young age, thanks to the help of supportive parents, a Commodore 64, and an uncle who owns an IT company, but things were not always easy. When his programming took a left turn, Mauro decided to try his hand at standup comedy.

While comedy was fun for a while, it began to pale in comparison to his original love…computer programming. So, Mauro returned to tech and hasn’t looked back since. He gained an education and continued to find ways to practice and build on all those juicy, but essential coding skills. Today, Mauro runs his own tech business focusing on PHP and combines his love to code with his love to teach. Listen to his story in episode 69 now…and don’t forget to say hello to Mauro on Twitter!

Mauro’s Bio:

Mauro is a PHP trainer and consultant from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He’s been teaching programming since 1997. He has learned several different languages and technologies along the way and has been working as a professional web developer since 2003.

Mauro has worked for different-sized companies, acting as an architect, a technical leader, and a project manager among other roles. Today, his main activities aim to help PHP dev teams improve the quality of their deliverables through more streamlined processes.

Episode Highlights and Show Notes:

Arsalan: Hi, everyone. Welcome, once again, to Mentoring Developers. Here we are with a very interesting guest today who was doing programming and had a nice job, but then he got fed up with it and decided to go into standup comedy. We want to know why it happened and what didn’t work. So, are we talking to a software developer or a standup comic? Welcome, Mauro, how are you?

Mauro: Hey, Arsalan. How are you?

Arsalan: I’m pretty good. Tell us a little bit about your foray into standup comedy.

Mauro: Well, the thing is, I was working full time for a large software company in Argentina. At the time, I had it with software. I had been a software developer since I was very young, and I had always liked the standup thing. One day, I picked up a flyer that read Come Study Standup Comedy with Us. I saw this is my chance. So, I went into it and did a couple of shows. I was considering ditching my computer completely. Then, I realize that it would be really hard for me to make a living out of standup comedy. So, I made peace with the computer side of my life and I must say that I do always enjoy programming and stuff. So, I put standup comedy aside and went back into development and computer-related tasks.

Arsalan: So, how long did you stay in the comedy world?

Mauro: Approximately a year and a half, maybe. The other thing that happened was that once I decided I wasn’t going to pursue it as a career, I still wanted to keep doing it because I really enjoyed the activity. Then, I got married and between all the preparations for the wedding and my two teachers that were fighting between each other… there wasn’t really much to go back into. It’s one of those things where you say to yourself, “I will pick it up later,” but that day never came.

Arsalan: Tell me honestly. How much of this was your wife’s idea to quit?

Mauro: I thought about quitting, for real. I never really wrote any…

Arsalan: You realize that there’s no money here. In software development, as boring or as repetitive as it can be, it’s still one of the best careers and you could make a pretty good living and software development. All of us have realized that. I went into artistic endeavors in my own life. At one point I had considered leaving software development because I thought I was good at other things. Then, I realize that software development is pretty cool. You can carve your niche. You can make a good living and you sometimes it’s just a give-and-take. So, it’s wonderful.

Mauro: Yeah, it’s about finding the niche to make it interesting for yourself. I usually consider myself a very creative person and I don’t like doing the same things all the time. Yet, I think it’s very possible within the software industry to have many different roles.

Arsalan: You can have different roles within the company. The company can change directions and start to do different things and you can get involved with that. Or, you can change companies. You can move around. You can move to different countries if you don’t have opportunities where you are. Okay, that’s pretty good. Take us back to when you were a kid and you said that you got into programming early. What was your first experience with programming and how did you know that there was a thing called programming?

Mauro: Okay, it came from my parents. They bought me a, I don’t know if the audience will be familiar with this computer or not, a Commodore 64 computer. It was an 80s something computer. Back then I was eight. My father has a younger brother who got into computers back in the 70s and he did really well. So, at some point, he said that this was what he wanted for his kids. So, as soon as I learn my numbers and things he went out and bought me a computer. They immediately sent me to a programming course on Logo. You know, the little turtle thing?

Arsalan: Uh-huh.

Mauro: I must say that it didn’t go well. Each time I was in the class, I would do the exercises and everything, but when I got home, and I tried to show my dad what I had learned, things never worked. In my own computer, things did not work. That was very frustrating, I have to say. So, for 3 to 4 years after that, I used the computer strictly for games, which Commodore 64 was very good at that.

Mauro: Then, I eventually went to a friend’s house, who was a year older than me. He knew how to program computers. He knew some Basic. I asked him if he could teach me some. He said that he could but that I would probably want to read this book. He handed me a book called Basic for Kids. That was the change and the tipping point. That became the before and after in my life. Before I read the book and after. I got into it quickly. I started developing my own software programs. Back then I was also completely into gaming. So, I tried to develop my own computer games with Basic.

Mauro: Then, I loaned the book to another friend of mine, who is in the same classroom as me. He also got very excited about it. Then, he bought the second part of the book, which was Advanced Basic for Children. I remember that the cover of the book had a Mr. Potato Head. The first book was to end the second book was three and they covered more advanced topics. The funny thing is, this other friend of mine did not have a computer in his own house. So, he would come to my house on a fixed day every week like a Monday or Wednesday or something and we would create our little programs. Back then, I created mostly conversational games. The graphics were very limited with that. That is pretty much what got me into computers. Besides a standup comedy, which we were just discussing, I never really went very far with it.

Arsalan: Yes. That’s the one wonderful thing about programming. It’s a wonderful skill to have. My daughter is eight years old and she’s learning to program. She has been doing programming for two years. She’s been doing it in Scratch. Now, I’m getting her involved in Python. She likes it. It’s a little boring, obviously, but it’s not like playing games. Yet, it is captivating. You can probably keep her interest for a few minutes and that’s enough to teach her a little bit at a time.

Arsalan: It’s a skill and you get to make things. Everybody likes to make things and they like to show people what they made. As they get older, they like to do. Then, hopefully, with a few years of experience behind them, they find themselves in college or looking for work and by then they have a very good idea of programming. It’s a natural skill for them to get into and it turns out that there are a lot of jobs there. There’s a lot of background noise there. Is there a lot of traffic? What’s going on?

Richard: There are some construction workers around here. Sorry about that.

Arsalan: I just wanted to see where the noise was coming from. We can probably cut some of that out. Will see what happens.

Richard: Okay.

Arsalan: This is how you got started. You were a kid. You got interested. Did you ever go to school, a college or university, and study it?

Richard: Yeah. When I went to high school, it was a technical high school. So, I had some programming courses during the first couple of years. After the third year, every kid got to choose their own major. It wasn’t called that because it was in high school, but that’s essentially what it was. So, I chose ‘computering’ and I had programming courses, all the competencies and everything surrounding computers. So, that was interesting.

Richard: Most of the topics I didn’t have mastery of, but I had an idea of what they were talking about. Yet, I did learn a lot about the computer hardware stuff and what goes into it. Afterward, I went to a university. Technically, I don’t have a degree in computer science, but it’s mostly because I never went to a university to ask for it. I completed all the courses and submitted my CCs a couple of years ago. So, I completed it, but I never went to get my degree. Once I was working and everything, I never really saw the need for it. It’s one of those things where I have to do it and stop nagging about it

Arsalan: So, you don’t have any degree right now, but you finished enough classes that you could’ve had a degree by now with computer science?

Richard: It’s a matter of having a piece of paper. I have all the credits and such. I have a degree as a technician for my high school, but that doesn’t really count for anything.

Arsalan: The reason why I’m asking is that many of our listeners and viewers are in the same position. They believe they can do programming, but they don’t have a degree. Or, they have another aptitude, but they don’t have a degree. So there wondering how they’re going to get hired. Yet, I know for a fact that after a little bit of experience, nobody cares what degree you have. So, that’s why I’m pointing it out. Did you ever bother you or cause you any issues getting a job or getting a good salary?

Richard: That’s funny. The only times that I was rejected because I didn’t have the degree were in teaching positions. It was very little money and very academic environments. Just last year I got involved in a teaching position at a kind of college, but I don’t really know what to call this place. I got through a couple of interviews and was told they wanted me to teach there. However, when I went to sign the paperwork. They told me I needed to attach my degree. I didn’t have one and they wondered why I didn’t have one. It never came up in the interviews and they had hired me. So, I didn’t lie. They just never asked. So, the whole time. They wanted me to go and get it, but I was already teaching the course. It was a situation where if I left the course, they had more to lose than I did. Yet, I wasn’t very happy about the place, or the environment. It wasn’t very serious about their courses and such.

Richard: I have been involved in teaching programming for most of my professional career. When I had finished high school, I stayed in high school as an assistant teacher. Eventually, I had some courses of my own. But, back to the original question. Those were the only situations where having a degree made a difference. Each time I applied and got a job as a developer or a technical leader or any other technical position, the degree was, “Well, it would’ve been nice to have, but it doesn’t really make a difference.”

Arsalan: Yet, you still want to get it. So, what is your motivation for getting it?

Richard: Okay. That’s a good question. In my case, it was when my son was born. I felt that I wasn’t setting a good example for my kids by not finishing. That was really the only reason for me to go in and cross the line. I don’t want my kids to look at me and see me as a quitter. That’s all there was for me, but there are lots of motivations for getting your degree or not getting it.

Richard: For me, it does make a difference if you go to college or if you don’t. If you have no formal training at all, it does make a difference. It’s not so much about finishing and having your degree. I consider that a formality. I liked what I learned at the University. I think that it was a very good education and it was very hard. I had to put a lot of effort into it, but I’m happy that I did it. I don’t think I could do it again, right now. Yet, if I could go back in time, I would definitely do it again.

Arsalan: Okay. You’re in Buenos Aires, right?

Richard: Yes. Exactly.

Arsalan: Okay, so, a big city. How big is it?

Richard: I would say that it’s a little bit bigger than New York City if you count the boroughs and stuff. I’m not really sure, but it is probably more like Paris. That’s probably a fair comparison.

Arsalan: Okay. So, it’s a very large city.

Richard: Right.

Arsalan: So, do you think that because you’re in Buenos Aires that you have an advantage in getting a job? How is the do job situation or job market down in Argentina?

Richard: Definitely in Buenos Aires, there are many companies that can hire you if you are looking for a job. Right now, many people in tech in Argentina are looking to be hired by outside companies. There are economic factors. Our currency is basically divided. So, having a salary in US dollars makes a lot of sense. So, everyone who knows how to speak English can get a job working remote and do. For the guys who don’t have that possibility, there is a lot of work in Buenos Aires.

Richard: There are also a couple of other cities who have been to grow the local communities. At the same time, some local companies have been picking up on the fact that the cost of living outside of Buenos Aires is much cheaper. So, they can pay lower salaries and get the same results. So, being in technology and working over the Internet, makes the geographical location completely relevant. It’s a very interesting time to be alive and working, I believe.

Arsalan: Okay. So, how did you get your first job as a software engineer?

Richard: I was right out of high school. My uncle, who is my father’s brother, has this IT company and it was natural for me to go and work with him. The relationship between him and my father wasn’t exactly fluid, but I approached him and asked if I could work at his company. He asked what I could do. And I began as tech support. I was frustrated by it because I saw classmates of mine who had already been hired as developers. They were very much junior developers, but they were doing development while I was reinstalling Windows and boring stuff.

Richard: So, I went to my uncle and asked if he could move me to more challenging work. He did and then I eventually ended up in a developer position, but I had the same salary as I started with. That wasn’t very cool, but… The whole experience was very weird because between him being my uncle and me being his nephew and employee wasn’t very clear. So, I eventually left that company to go into teaching. That’s when I went to teach at my high school. There was about half a year between the moment I left school and the moment I began teaching there. In the beginning, I held two part-time jobs. One of them was teaching and the other was working for my uncle. At night I would go to the University, but I went couldn’t really keep it up. So, eventually, I left the company and stayed with the teaching position.

Arsalan: Okay. So, you started off and had to struggle. So, you had to find a good job. You are starting out. You were working at your uncle’s place because that’s easy. Getting a job in a big company would be your goal because of a secure salary and all that. Was that your goal?

Richard: No. I don’t think that was my goal. I must say that I haven’t been a very goal-oriented type of person. I’m not one of those where do you see yourself in five years type of people. I’m always like “oh, I have no idea.” I more of a “this is what I want to do now and all figure the rest out later” type of person.

Richard: When I was finishing at high school, I was very sure that I wanted to work at my school. I knew they would usually hire former students. I applied there, and they didn’t give me the job. Yet, eventually, they had an opening that needed to be filled. So, they re-contacted me. I don’t think I had a very clear picture of where I wanted to go. I knew that my job at the school wasn’t going to last forever. The money was good for a student, but not for a grown-up. I stayed there for approximately eight years. As I moved closer to the finish line at the University, I would pick up freelance gigs to supplement my income.

Arsalan: So, while you were teaching at your high school, what technologies or techniques were you teaching?

Richard: when I first started, I believe we were using Pascal. I don’t know if anyone will remember this language.

Arsalan: I remember Pascal.

Richard: I have to say that it was my first love.

Arsalan: Yeah, it was a good language to learn.

Richard: I really liked it.

Arsalan: The whole language was invented to be used as a tool for teaching programming.

Richard: Still, I did some pretty nice things with Pascal. We eventually went into C++, some Visual Basic and some ASP. They were all version 3.0. They were nothing like .NET. By the time I left, we were starting to toy around with Java. We also did some Visual Fox and stuff like that. Most of my teaching was in programming. There were other subjects that were more theoretical like database design and stuff like that, but I wasn’t teaching those all the time.

Arsalan: That’s pretty early in high school to be learning about, not just the idea of programming, but to also be writing entire applications and making websites in ASP and Visual FoxPro, which is very specific that let you do a very specific thing. It’s usually for business users and non-programmers and such.

Richard: Right.

Arsalan: It almost seems like these are skills to get a job.

Richard: Yep. That was the vision for the whole school. It was to prepare the kids for life after you get your degree at 18 or 19 years old. You could go out and get your first job as a junior developer or something like that. It was mostly developers.

Arsalan: Is that normal in Argentina to go from high school to a job?

Richard: Yeah. Definitely. People, usually people who go to the University or college, work between classes. In relation to what happens in the US or the UK or something, until they are advanced or finished with the University. It is much more of a concentrated thing here. If you live outside of Buenos Aires, it is much more common to come to Buenos Aires to study here. Yet, if you are local to Buenos Aires, you can commute to the University in about 30 minutes or so. So, it doesn’t really make much sense for you to live somewhere else unless you want to and can afford it. Right?

Arsalan: Right. Okay. So, you got that teaching job and then you quit. I’m assuming that after that you got a job at a commercial enterprise?

Richard: Kind of. After that, I took my first real bite at freelancing. So, I decided to plunge in and see what happens. So, I quit my job at the school and I took on a couple of clients but looking back I can see that I wasn’t ready for the human relationship point of view. So, that didn’t really go very well for me. I eventually took a regular job. I don’t remember now what it was that I was doing, but it was probably something like programming or project-management or something like that. It was a very weird situation.

Richard: I got to work for a very big company. They had won a contract with General Motors to provide support for all their Latin American users, but they had to support some applications that were developed by another company. In order to do that and keep the costs low, they subcontracted some people in India to do the actual maintenance. So, my job was mostly a translator because the Indians wouldn’t speak Spanish in the people in Latin America wouldn’t speak English. So, I was writing messages all around. Yet, when you think about it from a distance, you can see, there was no way that could end up right. Basically, what I noticed very early on was that the code was written by Spanish-speaking people. So, all the value names and the function names etc. couldn’t speak Spanish. So, for them, it was complete. Gibberish. It was a real nightmare.

Arsalan: I can imagine. I have never experienced anything like this, but I can totally imagine it. The whole point of using your universal programming language is so that everybody can understand it, but we forget that within the programming language, we have these different names. And if these names are in a different language, I can completely understand…

Mauro: It was madness. For me, because the way that it was fractured, I couldn’t really put my hands into the code. I was forbidden by contract to do any actual coding or anything like that. So, I had to tell the Indians what they needed to do, and it was a real mess. What you said about the language, it’s something that I did. I took it upon myself to decide that the code would be 100% English. We have this expression. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but it’s called ‘Spanglish.’

Arsalan: Mm-hm

Mauro: So, when you look at the code and it’s in Spanglish, it’s like “whoa, no way.”

Arsalan: So, that was pretty interesting. Now, which technologies are you excited about? What are you working on these days?

Mauro: Okay. So, these days, I have a mix of things. First, I have a couple of consulting clients. Some of them I do development for. For the last 10 years or so, I’ve been using PHP. The first time I used PHP, I think it was version 3. I thought it was gibberish. All the dollar signs and such made no sense. You know how it is. Somehow life took me from one PHP project to another. Eventually, I got to know some real frameworks and then thought “Okay, now we’re talking about a different thing.” Since then, I’ve been mostly using the Symphony framework, which I really like. I think it’s a very professional way to develop applications. So, right now, that’s mostly what I do.

Mauro: When I have to face a new development project, I will set up my repository and everything and create a new Symphony project, and then start coding. I like using virtual machines. I like toying around with Docker. I haven’t really made sense of it yet. I failed to see the difference between Docker and Vagrant, which is what I use nowadays. That’s pretty much what I do for this client. On the other hand, and this is probably why am talking to you, I also do some mentoring for developers. I like to take a project and I’ll look at somebody else’s code and let them know what and where they can improve and address why it makes sense.

Mauro: I also like to help other PHP developers live it up by producing higher quality code and etc. The thing is, PHP has a bad reputation out there. It’s mostly due to bad programming practices. I think the language is too open. You can do basically anything you want. You can do very good stuff or you can do very bad stuff. It’s up to you, which can be a blessing sometimes and other times it’s a curse.

Arsalan: Right. So, if you’re trying to build a quick website, and you prefer prototyping and want to show something within a few hours to a client, if you’re good with PHP, then you can do something quickly. You can put something out and set it up nicely.

Mauro: I don’t usually create public-facing websites. Most of the time I use applications like intranets and stuff. It’s more like corporate applications if you will. Some time ago, I discovered a little planning for Symphony, that allows for very rapid prototyping, a fun little fact for the Spanish speaking people out there. I uploaded a video of myself creating an admin panel within 20 minutes using this and it works. So, for prototyping, it’s great. A couple of command line comments and you’re good to go.

Arsalan: Send us the links for that and will put that in the show notes. If you’re listening right now or if your reviewer and you want to see what he’s talking about, I’ll put a link to… Is this a blog post? Is that what it is?

Mauro: Well, this is a YouTube video. It’s a very short screencast. It’s in Spanish, but someday I will do something in English as well.

Arsalan: It’s a good idea. You speak very naturally. What you could do is let people translate. I think Google has a translator for YouTube. You could turn the captions on and it automatically tries to translate. If you’re speaking clearly from Spanish to English, I would think that it would be fairly easy to do.

Mauro: Okay.

Arsalan: But, if not, then you could type your own translations. So, you could type it in and then people would see it and then you don’t have to make another one.

Mauro: Okay.

Arsalan: The other thing you could do is, if you have a blog post that’s in Spanish, you could use Google’s translate feature to translate it automatically into English.

Mauro: Right. Well, most of my material is in Spanish. For one thing, it’s easier for me. For another thing, I’ve realized that there’s not as much content in Spanish as there is in English. Many people in my local area, particularly, are not so good at English and are falling behind. It’s not that they aren’t smart enough, it’s that there is a language barrier. So, I’m trying to fill that gap as much as I can.

Arsalan: I guess that’s a wonderful idea. You should stick with it. There are many countries, not just Argentina, South America-most of it, and even Mexico and other places. You’ll have a lot of audiences. You won’t have any trouble finding users, but if you also wanted to reproduce the content, then you could use the auto-translate feature.

Mauro: I’ll look into that. Thanks.

Arsalan: So, we put a link to your blog post or any blog post that you want to highlight and also this video that was talking about. It’ll be in the show notes. So, if listeners or viewers want to check it out, then the link will be on the page itself, but you could go to mentoring developers.com/episode 69, which is this episode number. Then, they will get all the links and the transcript and all that other good stuff.

Arsalan: Okay. So, this is good. So, you have all this experience and you’ve been doing programming for all those years. Now you are doing PHP and you’re using a framework that you like and your teaching. What’s the future look like? I know you don’t like to plan ahead, but where do you see yourself?

Mauro: The thing is, I started on my own about three or four years ago. I didn’t really have a very clear picture of where I was going. It was sort of like that time when I thought I wanted to do standup comedy. I didn’t really want to do any more development. Time went by implants were not coming together as fast as I needed them to. So, I realized that it wasn’t programming that I was trying to get away from. I had been in a state of burnout from my last job. So I took a couple of steps back and decided to do some programming for clients and stuff. That is how I’ve built my business so far. Then, I got back into teaching and realized that this was my real passion.

Mauro: I really like teaching and the combination of teaching and computers. That’s my sweet spot. I took some of the material for my consulting practice and focused on my brand. I call it Leeway Academy, which was originally a separate unit from Leeway Consulting. Yet, now it took over. Leeway Consulting is gone. I’m putting all my energy into Leeway Academy.

Mauro: What I’m doing now is trying to focus more on corporate clients. I’m trying to help establish teams. It’s funny because I know many PHP leaders who are not very knowledgeable about their own tools and technology. It’s not that they didn’t want to, it’s more of someone came over from another tech stock and led a group of developers and he may not have had as much expertise as thought. So, that’s why I want to be able to help.

Mauro: I want to approach a team and help sharpen their skills and bring them up to speed, which is what I was doing when I was employed. At my last job, I used to be a technical leader. I think I did okay improve the development processes and stuff. So, that’s what I want to do for others.

Arsalan: That’s wonderful. So, you do a lot of teaching. Teaching is one of the most fulfilling, rewarding things that you could ever do. I enjoy it. So, if you want to give advice, not just people in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but also the rest of the world and especially South America to people who are in high school right now and have never done any programming and are interested in it, do you have any advice for them?

Mauro: When you were stating the question, I was running some ideas through my mind and first, I would say to learn English. Go ahead and learn some English. I think anyone can learn how to program. It’s more of whether you want to do this or not. The only way to know this is by doing it and seeing if it sucks or makes sense for you.

Mauro: One thing that I recently did, and I’m really fascinated by what happened is I ran a little experiment. I have a five-year-old son and I started him with some scratch and stuff. He’s probably too young to understand some of the concepts like variables and stuff. So, I actually did the programming for him. I wanted to teach them something. He asked me ”What do you do. Dad?” So I told him I would show him an example.

Mauro: I took this board game that he has, which is called Ladders and Slides. It’s a very common game. So, I told him “Assume that I had never played this game. Teach me how to play.” So he told me to take the dice and throw it and move the little doll as many steps as the dice. I took notes of everything that he said. By the end, I had a complete algorithm of how to play this game.

Mauro: It was fascinating because I thought that this is how programming should be taught. It’s a very simple game. Everybody knows how to play it and it’s very easy to explain. By the end, I was fascinated that it has all the structures of programming. The game continues until somebody hits the last mark. When you land on a certain spot, you get a conditional. Does it have a ladder? Does it have a slide? So you could go with the variables of the position of every character in the game.

Mauro: So, I would probably ask questions like “do you like logic games?” It’s very much like math. I wasn’t into math until I was at the university level. Still, I love playing with computers and programming. I think it comes down to that. It’s more of an exercise into your own personality. When you’re doing something. Do you work on it until it cracks open or do you get frustrated with it? I think it’s more of that than anything else. You must know yourself and which activities you like to do.

Mauro: This is something that I used to tell my students. If you go into it, and it’s hard, you don’t quit. You don’t quit because it’s hard. You quit because you don’t like it. That is the thing. You don’t quit. You don’t give up. The frustration that you get by giving up is hard to bear. If you quit because you don’t like it, that’s fine. You’re not obligated to do it. There are many other things you can do.

Arsalan: I think this is great. Yeah, this is wonderful advice. Don’t give up. Folks, if you are listening to this podcast right now, don’t give up if you are stuck because everybody gets stuck. There are things that you don’t know about programming, in general. There are also things that you don’t know about what you are trying to do. Sometimes we know the programming bit. We know how to write the loops and how to construct the programs, but we don’t really know what we’re trying to do. That keeps changing. Go ahead.

Mauro: Oh no. I was going to add a little piece to that. If you get stuck right now, there’s always going to be somebody who has the answer or can help you get there. It’s like when I started, I had my book on my shelf and if my answer wasn’t in the book, then that was it. I had to figure it out for myself. Right now, you get Stack overflow. You can all sorts of different online forums where you can post your questions. It’s also a matter of persistence and dedication to getting the thing done.

Arsalan: Yeah, sometimes you find yourself stuck on a problem for a day or two and you just need to walk away from it and do something else and sometimes it just happens. So, this is a problem that we all have. The only way to solve the problem is to persist. Keep doing it.

Mauro: Absolutely. That’s my advice. Persist. Never give up.

Arsalan: That’s pretty good advice. So, let me ask you this one final question because we’re coming to a close. Imagine I am a young person in Argentina or maybe another city in South America and I’m listening to this right now and thinking “Yeah, well, that’s easy. I can start it, but there are no jobs where I live, and Mauro is saying that you can just learn English and get projects, but I don’t know how to get projects. How am I going to get clients? Nobody knows me.”

Mauro: That’s a good one. Well, first, I’d like to make a clarification that if you don’t know English, there are some websites where you can go and take projects from Spanish-speaking clients. The reality is that most of my clients are local. So, they don’t care if I speak English or not. I speak Spanish with them all the time. You can play the card of the big city on me anytime, though. Let’s leave that for a second.

Mauro: The thing is, right now, you have so many tools available to make yourself visible. At the very basic, you can participate in online forums. Go writing. Even if you don’t think you can. You can always ask or write or somehow participate. Start getting to know people. Networking is by far the most important thing that you can do to get a job or get freelance gigs or whatever your goal is. Networking is the number one priority for everyone. That’s one thing. You also have to get out of your head as much as you can and be open and exchange with people. It doesn’t really matter what you do. That’s one thing.

Mauro: If you’re trying to get noticed by a recruiter or something like that, one of the things that I’ve seen recruiters do is put more importance in the code that you can show. So, if you code for fun, just make sure you load it to Github or some other public repository, so you can send the link to anyone. That’s another thing that can give you some authority.

Mauro: Another thing you could do is contribute to open source projects. That’s something that may require a little more expertise on your side, but it’s not exclusive. I’ve seen some open source projects that have been coded very poorly and even if you can’t contribute code, you can still contribute some feedback or documentation or something. It all revolves around the same principle, which is getting to know people. You get to interact with as many different people as you can. Eventually, it will come. If you’re persistent enough, opportunities will appear. It doesn’t matter where you live, as long as you have a slightly decent Internet connection, you’re fine. You can do it.

Arsalan: That’s pretty good advice. All right. If you’re listening to this podcast right now and you want to get in touch with Mauro, all you have to do is go to www.scientdev.wpengine.com/episode69. You’ll see his contact information. You’ll see his blog post and YouTube links and all that good stuff. You’ll also have the transcript for this interview. So, you could read it if that’s easier for you. If you want to get in touch with me, just email me at us.scientdev.wpengine.com. That’s just the fastest way of reaching me. I’ll get the emails, personally, and I’ll look at it and answer it as soon as I can. Then, will go from there. If you want to be a guest on this podcast, if you have something amazing to share, or if you’re like Mauro and you want to inspire other people, just let me know. Otherwise, send me your questions and will see if we can get them answered.

Arsalan: All right, it was wonderful meeting you, Mauro. Am I saying your name correctly?

Mauro: You are.

Arsalan: Excellent. Awesome. That’s good to know. I really don’t want to mess that up. Usually, before the interview, I like to go in and make sure that I’m saying the name correctly. Today, we were crunched for time, so we just started. What I don’t want to do is say something that’s inappropriate. So, that’s good.

Arsalan: So, for anyone out there who wants to be a software developer, and if you don’t really know English very well… Mauro, can you give us a 10-second inspirational speech in Spanish so people can hear it?

Mauro: [Mauro issues message in Spanish]

Arsalan: Gracias. That’s awesome! Alright, Everybody. We’ll see you in another episode and its goodbye from here.

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