Why I Decided to Learn Software Engineering

Brian Firestone
3 min readMar 28, 2021

My professional journey has never been easy for me to suss out. Muzzled by indecision in my late teens and early twenties, like many, I had no clue what I wanted to do “when I grew up”. My only true passion in life has always been music — playing it, listening to it, seeing it performed live — it has always been at the center of my life. At the same time, as a self-proclaimed “optimistic realist”, the knowledge that sustaining myself purely on my passion for music wouldn’t be easy or necessarily worthwhile has always been at front of mind when thinking about my career. I thought of all the “starving artists” of the world, or all of the underpaid & overworked staff that make live music events happen, or genius musicians playing to empty open mics every night, and on and on. It’s a hard truth to swallow, but for me, a necessary one.

For some, coming to this realization can be really tough. You might ask yourself, “how can I ever truly enjoy my career if it doesn’t align with my biggest personal interest?” — and for a while, this question was running through in my mind from morning until night. I worked in various aspects of the music industry from 2014 until late 2020, and while I don’t regret a minute, I needed those six years of experience in order to come to the decision that changed my career trajectory and put everything into focus — to dive head-first into software engineering with the same passion and drive that I applied the first time I picked up a guitar.

Truthfully, studying software engineering never seemed attainable to me. I’ve been obsessed with technology for as long as I can remember — I vividly remember geeking out when our family first got a desktop PC in the early 2000s and the possibilities were seemingly endless, even with just a dial-up connection. Since then, I’ve had a burning curiosity of how 0’s and 1’s make up the digital world, but always just thought, “I’m probably not smart enough to understand it”. This summer, with some extra free-time on my hands due to the pandemic, I decided to finally test that hypothesis and pick up HTML, CSS, and a bit of Python — and I quickly realized how wrong I had been all these years.

With just a few weeks of exposure to programming, I began seeing the similarities between it and music. At their most basic levels, both operate within a provided framework (music has scales, programming has languages) but how the creator gets “the job” done, such writing a song or developing an app, is largely up to them — they have the agency to impose their vision and creativity on the project to make it their own. With this, I realized that this type of agency is really what I’ve always been looking for in a career, and it’s not exclusive to music or art after all.

With this epiphany fresh in my mind, I decided that it was finally time to do the thing I had always told myself I could never do. I quit my 9–5 job at a major record company in November 2020 to spend the next 6+ months studying programming in pursuit of my dream of being a software engineer — to have that agency I’ve always wanted, to be able to flex my creative muscles in new and exciting ways, and to hopefully make the digital world a better place while doing it.