๐Ÿ“ŠMy Year Journey in Becoming a Developer

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โ€ข 7 min read
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    Kien Dang

Last year, I resigned on May 3rd to do a career change and found employment a year later after reskilling, on May 22. It took 12 months of hard work before I became employed as a Software Developer.

I would like to say that the Pomodoro Technique really pulled through for me and would like to share my thoughts and experience below.

Table of Contents

๐Ÿ… The Pomodoro ๐Ÿ…

The Pomodoro Technique helped quantify my efforts which provided a concrete unit of measurement of how I track my time and productivity. Eventually, these Pomodoro's became the foundation of my study process.

I was doing 1-2 Pomodoro's per day and eventually worked my way up to doing 4-8 Pomodoro's. I improved my process and increased my Pomodoro count every month. As a result, I would be hitting close to around 80-100 Pomodoro's per month.

By focusing only on the process I set in place, it gave me the discipline to achieve my goals.

I wrote about my Pomodoro's at the end of every month, thus, generating reports that included self-reflections which allowed me to see whether I've deviated from my goals and giving me the opportunity to self-correct.

In addition, these self-reflections allow me to monitor any signs of burnout and address any areas that need improvement. It is important to develop a system that can create the habits and positive rituals required to achieve your goals.

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

โ€” James Clear

Studying vs Working

After a year of self-studying, I noticed something very important and I think its critical to have this perspective when start your journey.

Doing 80 to 100 Pomodoro's is equivalent to 33 to 42 hours respectively. While it might not sound like a lot, but it definitely is when you are learning. A full-time job is 40 hours a week, but there's a significant difference when it comes spending your time studying and learning versus doing a task at a job.

When you're working at a job, your brain is actually being guided by the same rituals performed to do the daily duties. Whether its number crunching or data entry, you are guided by habits that are created at work. You repeat the cycle to get the job done and this takes very little effort because things start to become automatic.

Studying the same number of hours in a day as a full-time job will not give you the expected results that you think it will; 8 full hours of studying non-stop is not effective in my personal opinion. I'd rather have 2-3 hours of effective studying than to have 8 low quality hours of studying per day.

Taking periodic breaks allow the brain to process the new information and build those neural connections.

When you're learning something new, it requires you to tax your higher brain functions. You are no longer guided by the habits that was once there. You need to develop new ones to make sure you stay disciplined.

Since learning flexes the brain muscles, this takes a lot of energy and we only have so much available to us. Thus, as I was developing my Pomodoro process, I found that running mid-day helped my productivity.

If you feel like those Pomodoro counts are low, just remember that nobody is working at 100% efficiency at a full-time job. However, every Pomodoro that is completed contains 100% of your effort and focused time into learning something new in a 25-minute period and that's what matters.

May 2019 to May 2020


Number of hours tracked while learning:

  • 1031 Pomodoros
  • 25775 minutes
  • 430 hours

I tracked 1031 Pomodoro's (25,775 minutes) equivalent to 430 hours. I know that every single one of those Pomodoro's were 100% of my effort in programming, debugging, reading and writing, all of which were dedicated to develop the skills I needed to be a developer.

These are courses and projects I have been able to complete in the year of self-studying which include a mixture of Udemy courses and side projects I built on my own:

Courses (176 hours)

  1. freeCodeCamp - HTML - CSS - JS (5hrs)
  2. The Modern JavaScript Course (29.5hrs)
  3. The Complete Node.js Developer Course (34.5hrs)
  4. The MERN Fullstack Guide (19hrs)
  5. Advanced CSS and Sass: Flexbox, Grid, Animations (28hrs)
  6. The Modern React Bootcamp (39hrs)
  7. Four Semesters of Computer Science in 5 Hours - FrontendMasters by Brian Holt (5hrs)
  8. A Practical Guide to Algorithms with JavaScript - FrontendMasters by Bianca Gandolfo (4hrs)
  9. Introduction to Data Structures for Interviews - FrontendMasters by Bianca Gandolfo (5hrs)
  10. React Hooks - Tyler McGinnis (4hrs)
  11. Interviewing for Front-end Engineers - FrontendMasters by Jem Young (3hrs)

Projects (my own projects)

  1. Blog (React, Gatsby, GraphQL)
    • Implemented many changes to customize it to my liking, deviated from template
    • Installed Algolia's Search on my blog Gatsby blog
  2. Gatsby Portfolio Experiment (React and Gatsby)
  3. LottoMin - LottoMax opposite (React game)
  4. Not Codenames - Online board game (React, Firebase)
  5. Pomodoro Timer - Timer with dark mode and motivational quote (React)
  6. Personal Portfolio
    • /projects section (no longer available after blog and personal site migration to Nextjs)
      • A mixture of completed projects from courses and my own that was built using the material I learned from the courses
      • Created a total of 17 projects including the ones mentioned above from the beginning to Pomodoro Timer (see list view in projects)

I also had 3 take home projects given to me during my interviews with different companies, this took an undetermined amount of time, roughly 2-4 days each project depending on complexity.

Books I've Read


  1. Spent 92hrs at the hospital: undergone 2 procedures, 4 visits to the ER and being hospitalized for 3 days
  2. Learned about antibiotics and pain management with different types of opioids, I wrote about them here.


Total Effort:

The numbers of hours I put in - The number of hours of course work

(430 - 176)hours = 254 hours difference

254 hours of working through problem sets created by tutorials on Udemy, debugging my projects, developing new projects and time spent re-learning the material to make sure I understand and writing on my blog.

Inside that same 254 hours was the struggle and the time spent pulling out my hair simply because I didn't understand something. It was the time learning how to learn and developing and improving my methods. There was no substitute for hard work and spending the time.

There was nothing special about what I did, its just the system I developed to track the time and using it to my advantage. I thank the Pomodoro Technique.

These were the steps and process I developed that helped me in my journey. By no means that this path I took was the most effective or efficient. Many people learn differently and it'll be in your best interest to explore the different types of learning methods that suit you best.

I wrote this post to reference back on my exact progress of what I did to get to where I am now. I also believe that being prepared and being surrounded by individuals who can help you achieve your goals plays a big part of your success.

Going Forward

I will still be doing my monthly Pomodoro's as I continue to learn new topics about programming and refining my skills which aligns with my values of being a lifelong learner.

As James Clear mentions, the purpose of goals is to win the game, but the purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. It's not about a single accomplishment but the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement that will ultimately define your progress and success.