Iris Classon
Iris Classon - In Love with Code

My third year of programming: Getting to 410 then 308, then 200

EDIT: ah yes, typo in the status codes. It originally said 401 which is unauthorized, which is of course 406 (Not Acceptable) so I’ve correctly edited it to 410 which is Gone. I feel like a total 418 (I’m a teapot) for getting the bits wrong. To be fair, I was only two bits off :D

Content warning- if you prefer people to maintain a picture perfect this post might not be for you. Here is the long version of why I did a 410, then a 308 and then getting back to 200. This post is divided in HTTP status codes instead of the months like I did in the previous post about my journey from dietitian to programmer.

Photo from today. It has been an interesting year where my relationship with programming, and therefore also my beloved keyboard, has been put to the test

It all started with a 507 during my second year of programming.

507 Insufficient Storage
My blog post about my first year of programming spread like fire in Australia- it spread fast and umanagable, gaining a lot of media attention. The pressure was on. I felt like I had to keep delivering. And during the second year I did. I did 54 talks at conferences and user groups, was awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award, became a Pluralsight author and started authoring on my first book with a publishing company. I let my world spin 100 miles and hour, running as fast I could keeping up with the pace. Friends, family and strangers warned me, but I kept running feeling pressured to keep up the pace and meeting expectations. I never made time for managing life, and managing me in a new situation. Because life happens, and you can’t control it. You can’t stop it, plan it, or pause it. There was a separation, then a divorce (we were two very good friends growing apart for a very long time), there was illness, there was a move, there was a job, and then there was just me- not giving myself time to deal with change. I had to deliver, I had keep the story going. The developer that went from 1 to 100 in a short amount of time. The story of the second year ended with a 507. I simply depleted my energy storage, but I kept it a secret, implemented a facade thinking that one day I would find the time to refactor the broken APIs. I just needed more time. My mind and body 507’ed on me, but I ignored it.

410 Gone
The third year started with even more change. I was offered my dream job at an American company called IdentityMine, so i quit my job at Evry, packed my bags and prepared to move to Seattle.

The blog post I wrote when I joined IdentityMine- a fantastic company.

As I waited for the visa to go through, never even thinking that I could even possibly be declined, a family member got really sick and the whole family core was struggling. I had to be prepared to drop everything and go home at any moment, all while realizing that I would never get my visa as the applications were declined one by one and suddenly finding myself without a job with my suitcases packed.

It was the worst possible time, not just for me- but also for my family. I didn’t, couldn’t, didn’t want to, add more concern. I had to be perfect, I had to be that success story, meet expectations, deliver. Be strong. Ignore the 507.
So I made a video, I would consider any job anywhere in the world. I didn’t want to give up on my dream, and I didn’t want to feel like a failure.

I kept coding 24/7, kept pushing a maxed out capacity, all while ensuring my friends and family that I was doing fine. I think I was trying to convince myself more than anybody else, I wanted it to be true. I wanted to be a 200 return.

But oh boy was I in for one hell of a year.

I started interviewing, believe it or not my first techincal interviews as a programmer. I felt confident, after all- I do know how to code, don’t I? I did several interviews, and failed horribly. Altough I am the first to ask to grab the keyboard and try something new, when in an interview setting I turn into a horribly nervous person, I visible shake, I can’t put words together, and my coding the same.

“You don’t hold the level we expect for this position”

I felt rejected.
I felt like a failure.
I felt like I had no control.
I didn’t want my family to have to worry about me

And there wasn’t one, two, three or even just four interviews. For each failed one I got more nervous and did worse. To the point where I actually couldn’t remember how to do nested arrays, list the SOLID principles or what came out in Ecma5. Looking at my bank account seeing only ‘outs’ and no ‘ins’, and not wanting to add more concern to my family, I started panicking. And questioning myself as a programmer. Maybe this wasn’t for me. I packed my bags and went to help organize and speak at a JavaScript conference in China.

Post about my China trip

I remember standing on the stage and feeling like a fraud. But I kept pushing, and kept hiding. I interviewed in Shanghai for a company while I was there and was close to considering, but couldn’t be that far away from my family. My family needed me, but I felt like I had so little to give, nonetheless I squeezed out the little I had in me and went home putting on my usual happy face altough I had spent days in a hotel in China staring at the ceiling feeling absolutetly worthless and that all the time I had put into learning programming had been wasted and that honestly my family and friends would be better without me and my failures in their life. It was probably around this time I lost my appetite as well, and kept getting migraine attacks and nausea.

In June things changed, I found a fantastic company to work for just across the pond from Sweden, Compare the Market. There was no official interview, they went on merits and cultural fit and I immediatly packed my bags, threw away 2/3 of my belongings and moved to UK after delivering a keynote in Australia. I was so tired, so exhausted, but had said yes to speak as my sister lives in that city and I wanted to see her. I was however surprised that she decided to leave Australia on the same day of my arrival. I checked into the hostel and thought, “Iris, you don’t have the capacity for this right now,- but pull your shit together and do it. Do it well”. Exhausted after another multi-timezone travel I returned to Sweden with just a few days to pack up my apartment and move to UK.

I was in for a shock. Turns out the the town I had moved to was a tiny place with high criminal activity and unemployment. And I had rented a house in the ghetto, where I certainly wasn’t very welcome. On my second week I had to go to the police station and report three separate incidents. I couldn’t do any of the things I had done before, dancing, stand up comedy, user groups every evening and hang out at cafes until 1 AM in the morning. I stopped leaving the house, unless it was for work.

One of the incidents in the town

I stayed at CTM for a month. The team was great, tech awesome, and fantastic team lead and boss. However, being in finance the company had a very strong corporate culture and I kept fucking up. My language was wrong, my clothes were wrong, I was wrong. I simply didn’t fit in. And then I would go home to a prison. I lost it. I lost myself. And I quit and had to repay the relocation money on the day. I was stuck with a lease on a house in a place I didn’t want to be, with a rather empty bank account, with a 507, not knowing what to do next.

I started my own company (a continuation of the one I had in Sweden) and took on small projects. A year before me and two friends had planned a trip to Japan for 3 weeks, everything was already paid for so I went. During the trip I kept interviewing, and coding morning and night. I just didn’t want to give up. On my way back I did a conference tour with Microsoft TechDay , delivering two sessions a day and a keynote demo in three different countries. At the end of it I was to sick to travel home and had to book a new ticket home two days later as I was bed ridden in Riga and reluctant to see a doctor. I didn’t tell anybody about me being sick, I just shut of my phones and laptops and laid in the dark. I was worried. I was loosing weight, struggeled to eat, and kept having migraines. But I pushed through.

Back in UK I did more interviews, but failed again. I was physically weak as I was only eating tiny amounts, only one meal a day, and it certainly didn’t help my nerves. I started withdrawing from social media and other communiation. Mostly because I felt ashamed. Like I had let people down. I felt such a strong pressure to do great. People had cheered me on, helped me, recommended me, but I just couldn’t deliver. And I also felt like I had let my family down.

After the US trip I got on the scale and realized my petite frame barely weighed 105 pounds. I shamefully went to my parents in Norway and admitted everything. All my failures. How I couldn’t manage the imaginative pressure in my head. And I slept, I slept for 15 hours at the time.
“Have you ever wished you could just stop the world? " I asked my mumone day I got out of bed “Like pushing a giant stop button, and have the world come to a halt. Complete silence. You can breathe. You can take some time to think.” She nodded “Take some time while you are here to do just that”.

Making it official

The next day I closed my Facebook account and let my dear friends and followers on Twitter know that I would 410. I closed Skype, email, hangout and all outside world communication. It was my way of pushing that giant stop button and give myself some time to reflect on the year that had passed, and the year to come. 507 had become 410.

308 Permanent Redirect
It’s amazing how much thinking you can get done when you completly disconnect from the outside world. I thought about my last two years, what I wished I had done differently, honestly wondering if programming was for me. Maybe it was too late. Maybe you can’t join the game late in life like I had done. I had a return home, but extended my stay. I wasn’t ready to push play. I kept thinking, and I kept coding. It was my dad that commented on that after we had watched Silicon Valley together while I was reverse engineering the cash register systems used at the club since we were having performance problems the company refused to fix. The irony was, all while I was reflecting on wether or not I could be a programmer I had kept coding for all the hours I was awake. It is who I am, I love the logic, the late nights with just the sound of me and my mechanical keyboard tapping along- getting lost in time and space. Or the user groups/conferences where I truly feel like I am among people that understand the fascination and the addiction. It’s where I’ve met some of the most genuine, smart, caring and funny people I’ve ever met. I am not ready to let go, I can’t let go. I truly feel like it is where I belong. But I need to slow down, and ignore the pressure I feel like I have on me. I don’t need to impress, I just need to code.

200 OK
I don’t know how you get to 200. I know how to in code, but not in life. Life isn’t binary numbers and it doesn’t have conditional statements, and it’s full of uncaught exceptions, memory leaks and crappy APIs.

I’m still on a 308. But I guess that is where the fourth year comes in.

One of my drawings

Right now I am doing consultant work with my company, always looking for an awesome team or project to join be that as a consultant or employed.
I can’t promise perfect, I dress weird, I don’t always say the right things, I get nervous around large groups of people or pressured situations, I am somewhat awkward and sometimes insecure, and I can’t play pretend. Programming is my passion, and I’ve come to the realization that I simply cannot stop programming. My 200 will be when I work with likeminded people. Then I will be OK.

What now?

During my ‘little’ break I kept coding, so I have so much to share with you all, and get input from you on. Here is a list of the upcoming posts waiting to be cleaned up and published:

  • Searching, exporting and exporting PSD files with node (a Edge.JS implementation)

  • An introduction to Purescript and setting up the environment on a Windows machine

  • Using layout information from Optical Character Recognition result (Windows Runtime)

  • Carbon X1 Fixes: internal speakers audio problems, smart keys disabled, intermittent touch problems

  • Microsft Translation Services with Optical Character Recognition

  • Adding contacts in Universal Windows Store Apps

  • Universal Windows Store Apps Error: This app does not support the contract specified or is not installed


Leave a comment (via email)
Bryan Ross
11/30/2014 2:56:46 PM
Having gone through a very similar experience in the music industry after almost 20 years, I definitely empathize. 

Our passions drive us, and sometimes we have no control over them. Sometimes we suffer for them. But keep going. Persevere. The multitudes of "no" don't matter. Only the "yes" matters. 

At the risk of sounding cliche, keep at it. The industry is better for your involvement and experience. 
Elliot Blackburn
11/30/2014 3:42:36 PM
Should you be looking to code for an awesome and quirky company who don't care what you wear to work. Our company is hiring, we're a small company of about 30 or so people looking for web and application devs. - and if anyone else picks up on this, we're looking for any awesome developers not just Iris :) 
11/30/2014 4:33:41 PM
Good job on the ambition and the ability to keep moving forward after all of the drawbacks. One thing that I would recommend is getting a Java or C++ certification. It really forced me to learn programming in a way that I may otherwise not have. I can tell from your jargon you do have skill but it can be hard at times to translate our skills inside of intense job interviews. 
Nevertheless, it is good to see that you are doing great now. Please keep the blog post coming, you are awesome. 
Andre Almar
11/30/2014 5:25:26 PM
You have the guts to share your life story with us. Hang in there. Where there is a will...there is a way...


Andre Almar 
12/1/2014 10:14:19 AM
I have followed your blog and youtube channel now and then since I found out about you a couple of years ago, and I never imagined it would be so hard for you to find a job!

I'm very much like you, I live in Sweden, I live to program, and I get really grumpy at work if I get stuck on other tasks, like testing or project management :) I believe the problem is that you have to high expectations from your workplace. These days I'm just happy to be a programmer by profession, sometimes the projects are funny, and sometimes I get to work with great minds, but most of the time we're just code-monkeys. 

However, in the spare time me and a few friends have our own company, where we work on the fun projects. Sadly most of them don't bring in any money, but maybe one day they will. The important thing is that we have somewhere to be creative, and not limited by the constraints set by a business oriented company.

I guess my advice is simply to lower your expectations, take a job where the requirements of education/experience isn't as high as the ones you have tried to get. With your charisma and jävlaranamma it will all work out in the end! 
12/2/2014 5:54:25 AM
I'm a bit the same in regards of not fitting in a large structural Company and I have to say I was very lucky to find an awesome Company that took me in when I moved to the UK, despite my awkward and shy style I have around people I meet for the first time. Did you try some Agencies in the UK? I have a very promising one at hand that found me the Job I am currently in and I can give you the Number of the Agent that took me in his care. Just write me a Mail if you want to get into contact with them and I'll send you the details. Now if you search for my Mail address I am sure you will find my Blog and see that I am not some kind of Spam Bot or an associate with that Agency ;)
Also I would like to give you the details of the company I am working with. I am not sure they are looking for a new .NET developer at the moment but it might be worth to ask!
Hope to hear back from you! 
12/2/2014 5:58:13 AM
Had some problems with the comment system so I post that again. Just delete if it is a double post: 
I'm a bit the same in regards of not fitting in a large structural Company and I have to say I was very lucky to find an awesome Company that took me in when I moved to the UK, despite my awkward and shy style I have around people I meet for the first time. Did you try some Agencies in the UK? I have a very promising one at hand that found me the Job I am currently in and I can give you the Number of the Agent that took me in his care. Just write me a Mail if you want to get into contact with them and I'll send you the details. Now if you search for my Mail address I am sure you will find my Blog and see that I am not some kind of Spam Bot or an associate with that Agency ;)
Also I would like to give you the details of the company I am working with. I am not sure they are looking for a new .NET developer at the moment but it might be worth to ask!
Hope to hear back from you! 
Anders Holmström
12/15/2014 12:42:17 PM
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul. 

Last modified on 2014-11-30