And you may ask yourself… “Well, how did I get here?”

A truer sentence couldn’t be formed in my head as I found myself hunched over my laptop, basking in the glow of the blue light as I haphazardly try to remember the distinction between a <div> and <br>.

Melissa Guachun
4 min readJan 12, 2021

From a young age I’ve always self identified as an artist and nothing else. My passion lies within creating compositions that work harmoniously and intentionally to evoke a specific message to the viewer. I grew up with the idea that my career was limited to the arts because it was the only subject I knew (at the time) I was able to transform a concept into something fully realized. Whether it was a critical literary essay or an illustration, I found immense gratification within the process of composing ideas. The logical step to pursue a career as a freelance illustrator came almost as natural to me as the process of turning the abstract into the conventional. Clients encouraged this process through their collaboration and I felt driven to tackle the road bumps that lie ahead. Each job lended itself personal experiences that gave me better insight to streamline my process and in turn, create a better product for the client.

Into the blue again after the money’s gone

Though as real as my dream was becoming as a freelancer, the harder reality crashing into my life. As emotionally rewarding the work was, it wasn’t enough to get by. I had to face the truth that I needed to make a living and not just survive. For a while I felt adrift in a sea of uncertainty, I had previously left a scholarship and art school to pursue a life in academia. But the closer I got to my degree, the smaller the island Academia became. I knew I had to find a new path but I wasn’t willing to walk away from the artist I always was. I desperately clung to the theory that my identity as an artist therefore dictated my profession. With not much left to turn to I look to my friend who casually suggested coding.

And you may ask yourself, “Where does that highway go to?”

My friend has just graduated from Stony Brook with a degree in Physics yet was already carving himself out as a successful and talented developer. Knowing nothing about coding, he explained to me his own discovery through an introductory course on databases which opened up a range of options and paths that extended beyond the scope of Physics. Feeling akin to his situation, I took his advice and unknowingly began on my own path to uncovering what it meant to be a developer. Being introduced to software engineering, I immediately saw the parallel between artists and developers. The only difference between them was their medium, but their passion for composing the abstract into something palpable is ever present. Software engineering intrigued me from many aspects, particularly the ability to create something responsive by my own design. I was excited by this type of independence and power that software engineers wielded with just the knowledge of a language and a coding application. Coding languages compare themselves to a chisel and a computer being the slate of marble waiting to be given form, shape, and structure. Coding intrigued me because it makes me utilize different facets of my thinking. Front end design invites my artistic inclination, while back end engineering challenges me to think logically and remain grounded.

And you may asked yourself, “How do I work this?”

What led me to decide that I wanted to be a software engineer was my yearning to use what I know about art and literature and turn it into a career. Being a software engineer involves logical problem solving, a voracious need to learn, an eye for detail, and a command of languages. With a background in the arts, a degree in English, Language, and Composition, and a minor in Spanish, my college career has led me to this path. Software engineering is the next best venture for me to take an idea for a website or app and to make it a reality with the tools of coding. Becoming a software engineer lets me utilize my artistic background and marry it with logical problem solving to create something aesthetically pleasing but also for everyday use. As I begin my journey as a developer at Flatiron School I look back at my academic past with pride. Every lesson, every hardship, every doubt helped me get to where I am now as I begin a new chapter in my life. My experience in visual arts, language, and critical studies have helped me establish the basis to become the best person and developer I can be. I don’t expect it to be an easy journey but I at least don’t have to ask myself “How did I get here?”.

Lyrics from The Talking Heads “Once In A Lifetime”



Melissa Guachun

Software Developer and visual artist based in NYC. Join me on my journey to coding enlightenment or a torrential mental breakdown, whichever comes first.