Hello 👋🏽 my name is Dhanish Gajjar. I’m a developer advocate and full-stack developer at Revieve Inc. I joined them in September 2017, and I’m still working there, loving every single day of it.
My social media links are on the home page if you want to contact me.
First time I saw a computer was in my primary school. It was 1994. The air-conditioned room was full of beige boxes with black and white screens. A cursor was blinking away. I thought to myself, this is the best thing I have ever seen; I could spend hours sitting here. But, we only had 1 hour in like every 2 weeks.
Unfortunately, my father could never buy me a computer due to financial circumstances. Focus on your school, he said, may be when you’re older I will think about it. It didn’t stop me from trying every year. But after about 7 years, I gave up. I finished high school and then joined university, thinking I would do business administration.
I dropped out in 3 months because I couldn’t let my soul die. Finally convinced my dad that I really wanted to do something with computers; it’s always been my dream. But it was the early 2000s. The E-commerce bubble had just burst. Companies were shutting down and laying programmers off left and right. I got a bit worried.
I liked drawing and sketching. I thought to myself, why not go into the creative field. I found a good 6 months diploma course that taught me how to use Photoshop, Dreamweaver, 3D Studio Max, DOS-based 2D Animator Pro and Flash.
While I was doing that, one of my friends told me you’ll need a degree in something still. No one hires people without a degree. So I enrolled in a college for my BA, majoring in Economics and Statistics. (Yes, that’s the degree I have.)
When I finished the diploma and started looking for jobs, I soon found that whatever they taught in 6 months was so simple, no one would hire me with that skill level. There is still a big disconnect between what institutions or schools teach and what is really important to get a job.
I started begging my dad to really buy me a computer because I wouldn’t be able to learn new things or practice without that. Thankfully with the help of one of his friends, he managed to get me one in April of 2005. Finally! 11 years later, I had a PC of my own.
I started out as a graphics designer making print ads for magazines and newspapers. Then moved on to designing and developing websites. I didn’t know HTML, CSS, and JS back then. I learned at my first company to take a Photoshop file and slice the entire design. As an example, the navigation, where the text would go. You then turn off all the text layers and export this collection of slices to an HTML folder. You then open the file in Dreamweaver, all the spots where text would go, you delete that image and place it again as a background. Then type out the text. Everything was done in a visual mode. This was so wrong, but it worked!. We only had to care about one screen size and 2 browsers, Internet Explorer and Firefox.
But my career was not always smooth. I was a terrible employee. Sometimes the companies were horrible. I didn’t care much about office politics and how to traverse it. All I wanted was to learn and do my best work. Instead of teaching or helping a newbie, Colleagues would make me mess up on purpose. I kept quitting jobs out of frustration; it took a toll on me.
Someone contacted me to make a corporate presentation CD (Remember Macromedia Director?). I did a good job and was paid well for a few days’ worths of work, more than I would make in 6 months as a salary at any company at that time. So I started freelancing. I was lucky to get a few good clients who paid well and on time. There was a time when I even worked with architects and builders. I made 3D renderings for their projects, sometimes websites and marketing materials. It all felt like I was going in the right direction.
However, I was not good with marketing. There were some good months and then no work at all. I was not disciplined enough to keep a good work routine. I kept messing up. But bless those clients who still stayed with me because they loved my work. If I woke up at 2pm in the afternoon, they would wait until then to schedule appointments. This was not my ego; I really sucked at keeping a good routine. Let this be a lesson for everyone who wants to be a freelancer. You need to have all the skills, not just be good at doing the work.
When the iPhone SDK launched in 2008, I knew it would be huge, so I shifted my focus to UI / UX and worked with several startups on iPhone and iPad apps.
In 2016, I was working for an American startup, which had just opened an office in Lisbon. After about 5 months, they fired me without any reason. This was the longest I ever worked for a company, 5 months. The shortest was 10 days.
That pushed me into depression; I will never work again. I started to doubt myself if I was any good. It was the first time I was ever fired from anything. After months of carefully thinking it over, I realized I had been doing all this for almost 12 years, and I don’t enjoy this anymore.
It was a good thing that I was fired. I shuffled through my memories, trying to find what made me fall in love with computers in the first place. And there, it came screaming back to me. That same computer classroom from 1994.
So I decided I wanted to start teaching myself how to code. Which I never did in all those years. I got started with online courses; I had no social media presence, nor was I a part of any community, so I always felt alone. I started posting what I was learning on Instagram (It seemed less daunting than Twitter, where all the Pro devs hung out).
Surprisingly I started getting lots of followers. Along with followers, I got feedback; I got more questions from other people who were just beginning. Unknowingly I had created my own community on Instagram. I wanted to be a guide and a mentor to all these folks, which I never had. At least point them in the right direction and give them all the resources they need to make their own decision.
After about 6 months, I started applying for junior developer jobs in Lisbon. I got rejected by every single one of them. I had no CS degree or a boot camp certificate. I felt a bit demotivated. I was in my mid-30s; I didn’t know how long it would take to learn everything to get my first job, and then something magical happened.
I used to get DMs on Instagram all the time, and sometimes people tried to ask me if I was available for freelance work; I used to deny them or just delete them. Most seemed like blank accounts, not real, and that often happens online. People are trying to get free work. But there was this one DM I thought let me give it a try.
They asked for a quote, and I emailed them back saying I would prefer a full-time role if their project was long. The person said he would call me on Skype the next day. We discussed everything, and he introduced me to what the company was doing, so I asked when is the interview. He said there was no interview. Everything you do I have been watching on your Instagram, how you come across problems, how you post them, how you find solutions and fix them, that’s enough for me. Just like that, I was hired by Samuli Siivinen.
I am still working there, and we’ve grown from a team of 6 to more than 60 people today. It’s been an incredible journey. Samuli has been a fantastic mentor, manager, CTO along with the CEO Sampo Parkkinen and COO Gavin Weigh.