An unfiltered story from Nikhil, his journey into software development and how he is starting his own business.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What is it that you do?
Hi! I’m Nikhil, and I am a full stack developer in my final year at Newcastle University where I study engineering, but I have always had a love for the software side of things. I am also passionate about design and creativity, I love making and building things which is what led me to want to start building a product.
What pushed you to start up Nodemap and can you tell us more about it?
Ultimately, Nodemap is the product of experimentation. We have been through four iterations and pivots so far, and are now seeking to solve a problem we have experienced ourselves throughout this journey. Nodemap is effectively a platform that merges visual, node-based planning with learning and guidance from experienced people in the founder/builder/creator community. We allow experienced people who have done it all before to create and sell visual and customisable step-by-step guides that more inexperienced people can use to guide themselves through their own journey.
Where do you see yourself/ your business in the next 5 years?
Personally, my aim is to be working for myself. I know that’s a bit of a cliché but it is something that I have always strived to do, I think I can put this down to just wanting to be in control of my own future. In terms of the business, we see Nodemap becoming one of the go-to tools that new founders and creators will look to for guidance and help during their journey. Everyone can already see the shift from typical working patterns to a larger portion of society starting their own thing, and our goal is to facilitate that with our platform. Another big aim for our platform is to allow people that have been through all of the hard work of starting something to monetise their experience, we want to help these people get something back while they give back to the community.
How did you get into Software Development?
I currently study Electronic Engineering, but I was always captivated by the software development scene, it always really excited me and so I sought out a placement year at Siemens R&D in the North East. My manager was great, the first thing he asked was ‘what do you want to do here?’ – I loved this. Having only learnt C and C++, I was very tempted to stick with what I knew, but instead I decided to go out of my comfort zone and asked to do some C# work alongside some closer to home embedded projects. This was the gateway for me, later in the year I was given the freedom to explore some solutions to some real time data monitoring specifications and decided to tackle this problem with the web, allowing for mobile data monitoring.
Did you face any challenges when learning Software Development?
One of the biggest challenges was constantly operating outside of my comfort zone, I was always being put in situations that I wasn’t comfortable with and that is something that I hadn’t had experience of before. This definitely gave me the feeling of imposter syndrome, but I was able to learn so much thanks to a supportive team. Other than that, most of my learning has been facilitated by some form of learning environment such as university or placement which means I haven’t faced some of the challenges that I hear from other developers online.
Are there any specific tools/ resources you like to use to develop your knowledge?
One of my favourite resources is Indie hackers because it allows me to connect with other people, learn about new technologies and practices but also get feedback on anything that I am working on. I also like to use Twitter a lot, people share some amazing tips and resources on there that I find myself often jumping into some deeper research straight after spending 15 minutes on Twitter.
Finally, probably the resource I have gained the most from is YouTube – once I know that I want to learn something specific, the first thing that I do is search for it on YouTube. I often watch a long video and then if I like the style of the video, I will go on to purchase a course from the creator. I prefer the courses that are more practical, for example, the creator has chosen a bigger ‘real-world’ project to complete and is using a specific framework/method to achieve the goal.
Would you have done anything differently, if you could go back to when you started your learning?
I think I would have started earlier, I wanted to start after discovering ‘The Coding Train’ on YouTube aged 15, but didn’t have the confidence or a laptop to get started. In terms of when I actually started, I think I would have tried to structure my learning a bit better, I never used to think about this but now that I do structure it somewhat, I can look back and realise how inefficient it was. The main problem was that it didn’t allow me to deep dive into specific things such as code structure, readability, and testing. Although this came from a place of excitement, I also wish I had thought about it a little bit more.
Do you have any tips/ guidance for those who are wanting to become a Developer?
Firstly, if you haven’t started yet, start now! Secondly, don’t be afraid to pay for things like courses, they might seem unnecessary due to the amount of free information online, but you will be able to save a lot of time and effort searching for what to learn, and instead you will be able to get stuck in and actually learn by doing.
Finally, try to put yourself out there online, be honest about where you are and where you want to get to, and find members of the community who are better developers than you. Learn from them, replicate what they do and if there is something you don’t understand, research the use cases, pros, cons and decide whether to dive deeper into it.
You can follow Nikhil’s journey on Twitter by following him @Nodemap_Nikhil