Pablo Olóndriz

31 year old online entrepreneur and -sometimes- writer. Now learning to Code.

Why am I Learning to Code at 31 after being Successful at Entrepreneurship

Well...
I was always a pretty bad student.
Classes at school bored me so much that I just couldn't listen, much less start memorizing things that didn't matter to me.
It was something far greater than my concentration strength.
The only class I was really passionate about was computer science, and at that time we didn't do anything interesting on it. Everyone took it for a ride, like music or arts. But to me, the simple fact of being able to be there playing with such a fascinating machine made my day.
At home we had a computer with Windows 3.1 and the only programming language it supported was called BASIC. I tried to study it once, but Google hadn't been created yet, so it wasn't long before I thought it was impossible.
I couldn't understand how to create programs just by writing phrases on the screen and nobody could explain it to me either.
I also studied a little on my own what Linux, hacking and the Windows terminal were. They were pretty interesting but hey, I still didn't really understand what they would do for me.
And then came my late teenager years. I had a pretty clear picture of myself studying Computer Engineering at the university, but high school threw away all my expectations: I was an absolute disaster with numbers. In mathematics especially.
Between that and the fact -no less important to me at the time- that studying computer science automatically will turn me into a freak and that would not help in picking up girls, I didn't think twice.
I didn't want to be a freak and I wanted to meet lots of girls.
Yeah, the teenage mind.
So I forgot all about it, changed the conception of mysel and stopped being so interested in computers.
Having put aside my 'professional passion' to say something, I had no idea what to do. So my rational mind followed this logic:
You go to school to enter -> high school, which in turn is to enter 
-> university, which in turn serves to get a -> job,
which in turn serves to get -> money.
Money. That was the end of the sentence. I didn't see a job then as something to have meaning, since I didn't know it could be that, but as a means to get money.
I didn't start looking for a career that would allow me to get the higher salary. Instead, I thought:
Which career studies how money is made?
Business Administration. Of course.
And although I later I was bored as hell studying that career, I discovered other new interests, first in entrepreneurship and then in the stock market. The Wall Street world seemed a lot cooler to the 19-year-old me.
I got over the stock market pretty quickly, as soon as I found out that I didn't want to spend all day long looking at graphics on a screen.
But the entrepreneurship seed was there.
I was fascinated by how someone could set up a place out of nowhere, an entity that created jobs for other people, in which pieces were moved to end up with money as a result.
I also wanted to be able to do that kind of magic.
However, with my first internship in a social media company -it was 2010 and Facebook was on fire-, I realized that online business were the present and the future.
Basically, they eliminated a big chunk of the structure: it was not necessary to have offices, papers, machinery, and even many times not even employees (you just hired freelancers on demand).
Your only needs are a computer, a server, some software and an Internet connection.
This made them a thousand times more efficient: fixed costs were tiny compared to their physical counterparts. And most of the times it's the high fixed costs that weigh down the profits of a business.
On the other hand, the market was not only global but easily scalable. In a company that sells physical products, if you want to sell more you have to also invest more in the creation and manufacture of those products. And if you sell services, the sale is limited to your time available (or the time of your employees).
In an online business -theoretically- you can sell a lot more overnight if you change some 'things' on your website and, to scale it, sometimes you only need to invest a few more bucks in a more powerful server that allows you to handle the increase of traffic.
And nowadays you don't even need a website. Any Youtuber will corroborate that.
Videos, online courses, ebooks, software... you can "copy" them almost infinitely. To sell two online courses you only need to give both customers access to the platform where the course is hosted, you don't need to create two courses. That's the big difference.
And as a third point, you can save time. A lot of time. Many people spend one hour commuting to get from home to the office. In one day it's 2 hours, round trip.
And a year?
2 hours a day x 5 days a week = 10 hours a week. 
A year has 52 weeks. So 10 hours a week x 45 weeks
= 450 hours a year.
Imagine that, instead of spending those 450 hours commuting, you dedicate them to just work a little bit more.
450 hours / 8 hours a day = 56 days.
So, a person who doesn't need to do any commuting has a 56-day head start over another person who takes 1 hour to get to the office.
56 more days of productivity a year -almost 2 months!- or, better yet, of free time, to do whatever you want. The difference is just mind-blowing.
And well, I've only counted commuting time.
Then there's the time you can save by automating tasks, thanks to online services that are one click away or the code that you can write yourself.
The combination of lower expenses, more money and more free time using computers made me fall in love from the beginning with online businesses.
So, as soon as I finished college I got into a social media company and learned to be a community manager. Then later on, I joined another little startup to understand the basics of online marketing. And then I started to try to set up some businesses myself at the age of 25, at the same time I was learning some SEO.
I failed miserably the first years, ended up broke 2 times with only 1€ left on my bank account and learned what means to have an over-the roof anxiety.
I had to keep going and going, accompanied, then alone, then accompanied again, then alone again. I had to search for all kinds of little jobs that no one of my age wanted to do that helped me to get some income, to keep trying. Frustrated, impatient and desperated hundreds of times and happy a dozen. The ride was crazy and amazing.
Until I made it.
Any business has two fundamental pillars: (1) product/service and (2) marketing.
It's really complicated that one works without the other.
I've always liked to do a little bit of everything when it comes to setting up a business. Maybe it's because at first I didn't have any money to invest and I had no choice: I 'was' all the departments. I had to learn how to set up the website, design it, position it on Google, create its content, form partnerships with other companies, manage the finances, design the strategy and provide customer service. Everything.
But given the circumstances, I was always much more focused on marketing than product creation. So much, that many times I haven't even had that product, but I have acted as an intermediary, sending clients to other companies in exchange for a commission. Affiliates rocked!
But now I would like to create products or services online, knowing how to write code.
And how could I've been setting up online businesses without knowing how to program? Basically, thanks to WordPress. I believe it's still the easiest tool to set up a website, even if you start from scratch.
I didn't do bad at all this way, with the combination of SEO + WordPress.
But two things happen: on the one hand I have always felt a little regret for not having learned to program in a decent way. If I liked it when I was a kid, why didn't I continue?
On the other hand, WordPress was initially created to host blogs and therefore is very limited when you want to create websites that go beyond having content. And I'm not even talking about the continuous headaches you get as soon as the website gets bigger. Suddenly things break, there are incompatibilities, it gets slow...
What I could do is hire someone who knows how to program, tell him to migrate my websites to other technologies -to stop using WordPress- and let them take care of all that part of the business.
In fact, it would be what I "should" do according to the rules of the business game.
It's the best way to grow any business: hire people who are better than you in certain areas and let them take care of them. And then I would be in charge of the overall strategy and the management of the business "from above".
But that's not what I want. Managing people doesn't give me any satisfaction.
I like to think of my work in terms of craftsmanship, even in front of a computer. I think if I had been born in another epoch, I would have been a carpenter or something. But now everything is code. Although we don't usually see it, it's everywhere. It's on your mobile, on your TV, on your fridge, on your credit card, on your ID, on the home alarm, in the car, on the street lights and, of course, on your computer.
And since I like to take care of all parts of the business and not be limited when creating anything that comes into my head, I want to learn to program decently.
It's been half a year since I started taking it seriously.
  • I'm learning HTML -to create the structure of a website.
  • CSS -for the design.
  • Javascript -for the functionality.
My idea is to study what is called 'Full Stack Development', which is nothing more than an acronym to say: "all the technology you need to set up a functional web in conditions, kid".
I've been studying on my own, with online courses (@andreineagoie I owe you) and books, but programming is not easy stuff. There comes a point when, if you want to move on, it gets really complicated.
So complicated, that I always keep in mind this phrase that I read somewhere:
"I was convinced that the seemingly normal programmers I encountered were actually sociopaths who had experienced, and then repressed, the trauma of learning to program..."
Now I remember it every time I'm stuck with a problem. Because the frustration that I can feel learning this is something from another world, I don't remember feeling anything like it before.
At first everything is complicated, until you start to separate the whole into small pieces and you understand those small pieces.
And when you start to make sense of them and to be able to write them minimally, the fact of taking an idea out of your head and putting it on the screen gives you an incredible satisfaction. Programming is something that gives respect and even fear to a lot of people but then, when you're into it, you realize that just by dedicating time you can learn it, like everything else in this life.
And what I said earlier about craftsmanship wasn't a joke.
Programming is an art. When you become familiar with it and know how to read it, you discover that there is a lot of beauty in a well-written piece of code.
And many people would call me crazy, but it's possible to feel the same hint of depth, surprise, wonder and all that you can't put into words when you're in front of a work of art, whether it's a cathedral, a painting, a book or a song, than when you read a well-written piece of creative code.
Because one of the things that surprised me the most when I started to learn to program is that there is not a single way to write code. You can do things in hundreds of different ways and, in the end, it all comes down to your knowledge + your creativity.
I will give you an extremely oversimplified example in Javascript. Imagine that you are Amazon and a client saved a gift list on your website for Christmas:
let giftList = ['book', 'gloves', 'alarm clock'];
And now we want to go object by object to take them off that list and show them to the customer, as long as he remembers that list and finishes his purchase.
To do this, we must 'iterate' -repeat- the action of removing the objects three times (because they are 3 objects) from that list. And we can do it like this:
for (let i = 0; i < giftList.length; i++) {
	console.log(giftList[i]);
}
Or like this:
giftList.forEach(item => {
  console.log(item);
})
Or this other way:
for (item of giftList) {
  console.log(item);
}
It doesn't matter if you don't understand the code, I didn't either until a few months ago. But you can see that things can be written in many different ways.
Apart from being an entrepreneur, I sometimes like to write on my blog, just for the sake of writing. It's in Spanish. And some days ago I received a very beautiful message from a reader that ended like this:
"...With this, I just want to encourage you to keep writing. You have a lot to contribute to people, and perhaps that is one of your missions in this earthly life. You have the wood of a leader, the authentic leader is the one who is there to serve others and help them. You already do it with your writings and with all the projects you have undertaken. "
I was shocked reading the end phrase "... with all the projects you've undertaken."
It surprised me because, although I would love to do it, I never thought I was helping anyone with the projects I have.
And maybe yes, I'm doing it even though I don't realize it. Just like you are doing it in any job you have, whatever it is. Even if you think you just go to "be there" and that's it, it's possible that you're touching a lot of people without being aware of it.
Until relatively recently, I didn't make much sense of what I was doing professionally. Setting up online businesses was just about making money and having free time.
I know that both things are no-nonsense - especially the 'free time' thing nowadays in developed countries -, but yeah, I was not feeling completely fulfilled.
Now I've been able - I suppose that going a little deeper with the programming stuff helped - to get my hopes up again, to believe that I can not only benefit myself from this learning, but also help other people.
That, in the end, seems to me that it's the only thing that counts and that ultimately fulfills you.
So that's why I study Web Development.
"I think if someone had told me that software is really about humanity, which is really about helping people using computers, I would have changed my point of view much earlier..." from What Most Schools don't Teach

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November 21st, 2019

Hello Natasha!

Thank you for your comment :slight_smile:

Well, to not to be a “bad student” I think I would have needed a very different approach in how classes were teached (they were just so boring!) and something different in terms of evaluations or maybe not evaluations at all. I’m no expert on this, but I think the Montesori system does a pretty good job on this.

Yes, one day I will write about the failures as well, those are the most interesting times for sure! In fact, I would like even to write a little book about them and, of course, the lessons learned.

Big hug!

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