Kids I’m gonna tell you a story. The story how I met the “hello, world”…
OK, maybe not all you are familiar with the “How I met your mother” TV show and probably this joke is not making too much sense. But the sitcom is about the 2030’s Ted telling to his children how he met their mother several years before. And now, I’m here in 2021 telling you, whoever you are, how I became a coder. And, no, I promise you I’ll not take 9 seasons to do that. So, let’s begin.
The year 2003
I was a mere high school student. I was looking for a job or something similar to make some money. At that time, my older sister, Andrea, was an intern for Banco do Brasil – one of the majors banks in Brazil. The bank used to open new internship positions regularly and Andrea told me about a new opening. Despite my doubts – I was looking for something more hard bounded than an internship – I decided to apply to the position and after two weeks I was working to Banco do Brasil in GEREL 5, Andaraí, one of bank’s regional management sites.
My department was responsible for checking, provisioning and paying taxes related to bank’s agencies. The internships duties were basically manual work: check month-by-month the due date of the taxes for every city in Rio De Janeiro State, check and record in a Lotus 123 spreadsheet the tax values for each of hundreds bank’s agencies and so on. After few months I understood a pattern and some logical in that.
There was a “master spreadsheet” where we had to update the due date for each County month-by-month. That spreadsheet has a button. In my first day I were warned to “never push that button” because it broke all spreadsheet. Some day I decided to understand WHY that could happen. So I backed-up the original and bravely pushed that button… For my surprise, nothing happened! 🤭 I gone further to understand WHY. That button once pushed fired a macro that just reorder all rows to reposition its in a due day sequence. Magical! As intern I had no internet access and only with help of Lotus Help, I’ve fixed the macro! 😎
When I first showed it to my supervisor she was completely wondered! After years of broken macro, a mere intern fixed. She was so proud of me that she told everybody what I did. It made me feel recognized. Márcia was an incredible person and I have an other entire story about her. But, for now, back to track. After that success I decided to improve my new fixed spreadsheet. I wonder “if I register all due dates for every County in the beginning of the calendar-year (how taxes are planned in Brazil)… Maybe I could improve it and reduce a lot of manual work for every month”. That I did.
At this time you maybe is asking “where the code appears in this story, man?” and I tell you: now!
Some months after, a day I arrived to work and there was a new face. A tall guy named Gustavo Alves. Not much older than me but a College student. Specifically, an Information Systems student. At that time, Banco where no longer hiring High School students but only College ones. Gustavo was one of the firsts in that group. For his first day I was responsible to show him how things were there, also introduce to the routine. Then I proudly demonstrate my Lotus 123 spreadsheet and how he should use it. He seemed too much interested in that. Opened the macros to understand how that used to work. After some time he said:
Do you know that you are using database concept?
I didn’t. Actually, I had a vague idea what databases were… I knew that were used to store data in computers but, how could I being using a database concept? 💭 “No” – I said. I’m sure he could read my questions on my forehead.. “Never mind, I’ll show you something tomorrow” – he completed.
The next day arrived and I was already in the office when Gustavo asked me to join him at one computer stations. He pulled out from his backpack a CD labeled Visual Basic 6 and told me that I maybe could be interested in that. After few next, next, finish I opened for the first time the Visual Basic IDE – a gray screen and a popup asking what kind of project do you wish to create. Standard EXE were selected. He drew a button on the Form… Double click on the button. A white window comes to front with
Private sub Command1_Click(). There he wrote –
MsgBox("hello, world!") and pushed the blue play button on the top of IDE…
It’s really hard to explain how I felt that moment… It simple opened a vast horizon to me. I remember to ask him “what now?” and he gave me “now you should do your own research because I don’t had VB lessons on College, only C…” as answer.
Learning by myself
I could not stop there… I asked to my manager to give me some minutes to do an internet research. He asked what and once it was to learn something, he agreed to give the access. It was 2004, I was studying to do make application tests to public colleges, called vestibular in Brazil. But, I don’t know exactly why, 2004’s Anderson used to believe that he should have a Journalist career… That new knowledge was definitely game changing. The first site I’ve visited was https://www.apostilando.com, very popular to students. I searched “VB6” and the only “course pack” available was a VB4… Well, I didn’t knew nothing of 4 nor 6, so I downloaded it… But there was a problem: where could I study if I don’t had a computer at home? 😟
With the printed document explaining how to code in VB4, I used to read it on the bus commuting between home and internship. At home I used to write the code exercises proposed on the course pack. And only when I could use the internship computer I finally copied the code to test if and how does it works. After few weeks doing that, I asked Marcia to allow me to use the computer after my internship daily time. She was observing me… I told her what I was learning and she said I could do if I try to make something useful to work. I enjoyed the challenge!
After that my new routine was, arrive to work, do my duties and after my duties I had enough time to study coding. I start creating a program to cover all the work the internships did, having an interface to avoid typing errors, like we used to have on Lotus 123 and automate some other stuffs. The stack: Visual Basic 6, Crystal Reports 8 and Access.
I decided to stop studying to journalism and started to study more math and physics to apply to Information Systems or other related area. Some friends called me crazy but I was decided. For the first time in my life I was doing something completely new, all by myself and also there was hope to it became my career in the future.
After the waterfall
Few months after stepping in my journey, I was delivering my first software. I was also understanding what were bugs in Production time… I was learning how to fix them fast and implementing new features that completely changes the software after a lot is done. I could not help myself, I was only a learner! As long I study the much I felt in love to coding. Not much longer I was finally accepted to a College. In 2005 I started in Universidade Estácio de Sá. I was trying to extend my internship but after some months, once I had completed two years, my contract was done. Not longer after I was recruited to work with ASP Classic… It was a new internship, to Estacio itself, but to me it was my first work in the field! I was the only 2nd period student, among 6th and 7th period students. And, despite having a short experience as student, my developing experience in Banco do Brasil, and I dare to say my self leaning, make me able to even help the colleagues in coding. 😃
Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher born in 544 B.C. said:
No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.
My river is divided in two at least: before Banco do Brasil and after Banco do Brasil. It had everything to be only a place where I would be only a intern to execute that work what the employees don’t want to do. But to my surprise that experience was a waterfall on my river. It was fast and long at the same time and changed my course. It gave me a direction. After that, I was not the same. And even the department where I worked in also was not the same. One day, months after I left the bank, I visited the office. To my surprise, my humble software was still running. But the manager told me they asked to IT to implement a new one to replace it. And even knowing that my first child has days to perish, I was deeply proud… Maybe vain. I know, it has a plenty of flaws but, probably if didn’t done that software, maybe all the work should be preachy and hard to interns after me. I was also a waterfall in the department’s river.