Ainul Mardhiyyah, 24, is a software developer and content creator who hopes to inspire thousands of people all over the world to pursue tech careers. Being a first-generation minority in tech was a lonely and nerve-wracking journey for her, and became the driving force for her to share her experiences and advice on social media to inspire other minorities and aspiring techies alike.

Start small and early

I used to believe that I needed the latest tech and highest quality gear to succeed as a software developer and content creator. I eventually realised that success is not a race, but a marathon. Having a simpler and earlier start conserved my motivation and resources (especially money) to keep working towards my goals, no matter how small the progress may be.

There is almost always room to improve and things to upgrade – but progress is only made when you actually start the journey. There are many lessons that you can only learn through time and practice, and you can easily miss that by speeding through your struggles with money.

Consistency beats perfection

When I was still a newbie content creator, I often had “writer’s block” or content paralysis. I was obsessed with creating the perfect post to maximise my growth somehow. It was easy for me to fall behind and feel burnt out with social media ideation.

At some point, I tried to “split” my big main ideas into many smaller and simpler ones. I ended up being able to post more often and realised I was also learning more. By posting more and “practising” more, I found a more manageable creation rhythm and had more room to try new content styles.

I feel it is a Singaporean thing to want the perfect start and optimum journey. In reality, being more accepting and welcoming to making “minor mistakes” will almost always work out for the better – for your creations and your self-growth.

Set boundaries on your time

During the early part of my creator journey, I felt like I had to juggle between time and effort spent on my career, my family, and social media. Once I set boundaries on my time for each aspect of my life and learned to prioritise, I found that I had more freedom and control over my own personal growth.

Everyone has commitments and passions they find important. Setting boundaries on your time and how you prioritise your commitments keeps you accountable for your own life and which direction it goes in.

Stay in your lane

At some point, putting myself online made me believe that I was educated enough to share my hot takes on different social issues. I then realised that by speaking on topics that I had little understanding of, I could be “overpowering” the voices that should be listened to. There are experts who have studied these topics as a career, and victims who lived through the experiences everyone is talking about. It would be disrespectful to add my opinion to an issue that does not directly affect me.

There are times when our voices matter, but when we know little about a topic, we are obligated to listen and let the people who know best speak up with dignity.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Being a first-generation tech student meant that I had to grow my own career network and teach myself about the tech industry in a way that school was not doing so. It was overwhelming, and I felt like I was falling behind my peers who seemed to know the right people for every occasion. It was only when I found the courage to ask the people around me for advice that I was learning faster from their advice, mistakes, and experiences.

It is possible to become a better version of yourself all by yourself, but in many cases, it is worth asking other people and learning from them. Plus, asking others for help allows you to build friendships in a pretty competitive society.

Always have a back-up plan

I used to bank too much on receiving a return offer, only to have it never confirmed, and not have a back-up plan immediately lined up.

As a result, I was desperately balancing my grades, applying for jobs, and preparing for interviews in the busiest part of my third year in university. At some point, I had roughly a month to prepare for two major coding interviews – around the same time as project submissions. I was lucky enough to get a great job offer after a string of rejections, but my grades barely scraped by.

Never underestimate how unpredictable life can be. While you cannot anticipate every situation, at least have a personal “standard operating procedure” to help you figure out what to do when things don’t turn out the way you had hoped.

Be humble but not timid

My parents always say this: “Any success or blessing you get can be stripped away in a blink; that’s why you must be humble.” This is something I try to remind myself every day, but it can also be confusing when you have to “market” yourself in your resume and interviews. After all, there is a very thin line between arrogance and confidence, and a similarly thin line between humility and timidness.

You must take pride in your achievements because they are proof of your best efforts at the time. At the same time, remember that you are not the only one capable of achieving your success, and that often, you are not the sole contributor to your success.

Always remember to give back

Volunteering has always been a big part of my life. I feel like it is only fair for me to give back when other people have been generous enough to help me when I truly needed it. There is also a kind of social awareness that you can only get from giving back, because not everyone may share the same privileges as you do.

Give back not just to “look good”, but to give yourself the opportunity to self-reflect on your journey and how it could have been different.

You might as well be scared AND productive

When I decided to pursue coding and become a Software Developer, I was terrified of whether I would be able to cope, or even do well enough to land a job. If I had chosen a “safer” field that was more familiar to me and my parents, there was still no guarantee I would find success or fulfilment in the industry.

The truth is that it is normal to be afraid of uncertainty. You might as well do something while you are afraid, and get better at anticipating the obstacles.

Have faith in yourself

I was the first in my family to do many things – attending university, pursuing coding as a career, and becoming a content creator. I had my fair share of reasonable scepticism from my parents who wanted me to “just focus on my studies” and pursue a field they were unfamiliar with. Their support and advice could only nudge me so far; I was the one who had to actually make the choices in my own journey.

You are the only person who can take yourself out of your comfort zone, and having faith in yourself is crucial to doing so.

This article was published on Mar 11, 2022

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