Péter Varga graduated as a Computer Scientist from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. He’s been freelancing ever since the last year of university. Currently, he’s also helping CodeBerry students when they get stuck with a task or have any programming-related questions.
I live here: Budaörs, Hungary
I work here (too): CodeBerry
When you’re asked about your profession, how do you answer?
Depends on who’s asking. When talking to someone elderly and/or unfamiliar with computers, I just say IT specialist. If I think the person might know something about computers, I say I’m a developer. If it’s a colleague, I tell them I usually develop 3D web applications.
Tell me more about what program you’re developing right now?
For the past six months, I’ve been working for an American building manufacturer that builds light-frame houses to order. They have a 3D application on their website that helps visitors design their own future home. They can set the dimensions of the walls, windows, doors, etc.
There’s a live preview in the browser that has an adjustable camera with inside and outside view. If the visitor is satisfied with the plan, he or she can ask for an offer with a simple click of a button.
I do a lot of different things, but the development and maintenance of this app take up most of my time. In the meantime, when I have time, I work together with my sibling on an online photo editing program, but it’s still very rudimentary.
I also spend a couple of hours helping CodeBerry students every other day when they get stuck with an assignment or have any programming-related question.
How did you join the CodeBerry team?
I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed where I noticed a job offer. I liked the fact that I could do it from home, and it was web development and teaching related. It also fitted well into my schedule, so I enrolled.
When, where, and how did you learn to code?
I panicked on my very first lesson during my first semester at university when I learned that almost everyone else has done programming before in high school.
Back then, this part of IT was totally new to me. I wrote my first program here during classes. Before that, I wouldn’t have even gotten to the point of “hello, world!”.
During high school, in the famous Mihály Fazekas High School in Budapest, I picked up some strong maths skills that I could lean on during university and even today.
After learning the basics in the first programming classes, I often wrote programs at home to help me out with the maths lessons.
I started with things like the Pythagorean theorem or quadratic equation-solving. Later, I wrote the code for the so-called extended Euclidean algorithm, too. At one point, I realized I knew how to code.
Looking back at it now, it’s astonishing how fast all this happened. Within a few weeks, I got from zero to the point where I could write programs that, at the very least, were useful for me. It was a fantastic feeling.
Of course, I had a long way to go to get my degree and learn 3D, but that part just came by itself.
I work here.
What are the job opportunities for web developers? On average, how much time did you spend looking for a job?
I never looked for a job except for my obligatory internship. If I were to lose my current jobs, I’m sure I would find another one soon. I see dozens of offers each day where they are looking for programmers—with a big demand for web developers.
What is your schedule like?
If I can afford to, I like to sleep in even until 10-11 except in the summer when I wake up at 8-9 at the latest because of the heat. I have breakfast and wash, then I sit down at my computer and have a look at my daily to-do list.
I usually start with routine tasks, followed by a bigger goal, thinking “I will finish this today”. Unfortunately, errors occur often or I just miscalculate the time needed for a task.
This results in late nights because I don’t like to leave things half-done. I think I’m lucky because, as a freelancer, I have the opportunity to set my schedule the way I want it. This means I can afford days off but also have weekends where I just have to work.
What surprised you about programming that never occurred to you before studying it?
I didn’t think one could learn the basics so fast. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I started university with no coding knowledge. However, it wasn’t me who failed at the end of the semester, but often students who already had some knowledge to start with.
I guess they thought they know everything already, so they weren’t interested. By the time they realized what’s going on, it was too late and they couldn’t catch up. I think the key to successful studying is motivation.
Who do you work with?
With my older sibling at home. It’s comfy and practical because we can always give each other a hand if necessary.
What other profession would you choose if you had to change? Could you change?
I was always interested in music as a hobby. Not so long ago, I even had a rock group. But I don’t want to fool myself, I know I could never earn a living as a musician. 🙂 Honestly, I don’t know what I would do if I had to choose something else.
But one thing I know is that this profession isn’t endangered. I have never heard of a software engineer being fired before. It’s more common that the developer switches to a different company upon receiving a better offer.
What skills do great developers, IT experts require? Who do you not recommend this profession to?
I think the best developers all had curiosity and geekiness inside them since day one. The kind of kids who disassembled their Christmas present to see what made the toy car go so fast or those who attacked their parents’ radio with a screwdriver to see how it made the noise.
The kids you can’t get to play outside, they’re so attached to their computer or they build their own PCs using separate parts they find here and there. These curious kids are great “programmer material”.
I’ve seen some other cases, too, where people only got interested in IT in their twenties but still became great professionals. Either way, the main point is interest and motivation.
I don’t recommend this profession to those not feeling these traits in themselves. Furthermore, finding and fixing bugs in software requires a lot of patience and endurance.
For example, when I was writing a thousand-line program for my thesis, I spent days looking for a single error that turned out to be a bad mathematical symbol. I had to change a plus with a minus.
Bigger projects can consist of hundreds of thousands or even over a million lines; finding an error takes much longer. It’s important to narrow down the place of the error as much as possible.
But that means we have to understand the structure of the project which might take days to examine.
It’s almost inevitable to have some nerve-racking situations in the lives of developers, so I suggest you don’t choose this profession if you’re impatient or short-tempered because you could easily hurt your environment during these times.
What’s your favourite part?
I love it when there are noticeable results of my work. Writing a functioning program is a great feeling.
What grinds your gears most? What are the difficulties and dangers of your profession?
I don’t like leaving things unfinished at the end of the day, but sometimes it takes ages to find errors. I usually don’t sleep that well if this happens because I’m constantly thinking about the solution.
On the other hand, it’s great to finally find that error and see everything suddenly come together. Freelancing can be dangerous because you can easily accept too much or too little work and fall out of your daily routine.
I feel like I’m a newbie when it comes to this as I often don’t feel my perfect rhythm. It’s also important for getting enough exercise, especially with sedentary jobs.
I wouldn’t say I move a lot, but I do a workout at least twice a week for 1-2 hours (usually playing football or basketball). I plan for improving it to 3-4 times a week.
How stable is your job?
I feel all my regular customers are pretty secure. Right now, I feel I receive more and more tasks, and I never run out of things to do.
If you had to ask for one thing in the name of all developers, what would it be?
Please use Google!
How much can one earn in this profession (as a newbie, experienced and veteran)?
In [the US] the [annual] average is [$70k], but later you can easily multiply that number. That does require good self-management skills though. It’s not enough to be a good developer.
What do you think is the best way to learn to code?
With lots of practice. It’s a good idea to take an online course for the basics. Afterwards, if you have a great idea (game, webshop, anything), try to do it yourself. Browse the internet and watch YouTube tutorials. If you practice enough, you should be able to do it. 🙂
How do you keep your knowledge fresh? What books or blogs do you read, what events do you attend, etc.?
Sometimes I watch Google I/O and other similar videos where they talk about the latest technology. If I like something based on the presentation, I will research it online to see how it works.
Why is it worth learning to code?
It’s one of the most in-demand and paid professions nowadays, and algorithmic thinking is an amazing thing as well. I recommend everyone should try it out. You have nothing to lose.
– drink: water
– food: escalope
– TV series: Game of Thrones
– movie: Matrix
– book: Ender’s Game
– operating system: Windows, Linux
– text editor/IDE: Notepad++, WebStorm, Visual Studio
– fruit: banana
– music: System of a Down — Chop Suey
– color: black
– animal: cat
In the “Meet the Codeberry team” article series you will find interviews with our co-founders and collegues, as they are talking about what it’s like to be an IT specialist nowadays.
Would you like to learn how to code? Come and try our first lessons for free at the CodeBerry Programming School.