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SoloLearn Stories: From Learner to Coder

SoloLearn Stories: From Learner to Coder

Hatsy Rei has been a member of the SoloLearn community since 2016, and he can often be found on the app doing such things as advising new learners on the order of courses they should take, or going head-to-head in competitive coding competitions. 

Although Hatsy started with SoloLearn as a coding novice, he quickly developed the skills he needed to support his career goals. Read on to learn more about the commitment to constant growth that helped accelerate Hatsy’s trajectory from programming student to technical research and development intern.

Tell us about yourself. How did you become interested in coding?

Hi! My name is Hatsy and I’m 22 years old. I live in Penang, Malaysia. In 2016, I had to select a course for my bachelor’s degree program in order to apply for university. I was unsure of what to choose, since up until that point, the country’s educational system determined what syllabus all students should follow. Because I had always had an affinity for computers and technology and felt confident that I could pick up the topic throughout my education, I opted for Computer Science as my first choice -- as that option stood out for me from all of the others.

I was admitted to University, and I began my four-year Computer Science major. I am currently completing my third year, and as part of my studies I must spend six months as an intern at a relevant organization. Fortunately, I received an offer for a position as an R&D Software Engineering Intern. 

How did you learn about SoloLearn?

When I began my university program, I was not really sure what I was getting into. During orientation week, I began to hear rumors about the programming languages that we were going to learn. I was a little worried that I would not perform well  -- since many of the other undergraduates already seemed to know some programming. Because I did not want to begin my studies behind my peers, I looked for reference books that I could use as study aids. Unfortunately, many of those resources were either outdated or too advanced. 

While at the library, I noticed a stranger who seemed to be enjoying himself on his phone -- this got my attention. Not wanting to bother him, I took a quick glance across his shoulder. He was using an app featuring tutorials, questions, and exercises for C++ programming. The app was called SoloLearn. ‘Neat!’ I thought. Learning on your mobile phone. Why didn’t I think of that?! I did a search for SoloLearn on the Play Store and within minutes, I was enjoying myself much like the stranger I had encountered in the library had been.

The tutorials in Sololearn were everything I needed. SoloLearn not only provided learning content, it also provided a built-in compiler at a time when I was still figuring out which one to install on my laptop. So it ended up being on SoloLearn where I successfully compiled my first program. 

Predictably, since I was just starting to learn to code, I made almost all the usual beginner mistakes -- so I spent a lot of time searching through the Q&A section of the app trying to figure out what I was doing wrong and why. I began investing more and more time in researching answers, to both solve my own doubts and also respond to questions posted by other learners. Before I knew it, SoloLearn became the app I checked every ten minutes.

I became an expert at answering questions and finding solutions to problems from a variety of online sources. The challenges which you can play with your peers on the SoloLearn app were also one of my favorite pastimes. While tutorials were short, they were also concise enough to cover a couple of semesters worth of material.  Even years later, I still find myself referring to SoloLearn when new topics are introduced in my classes. SoloLearn was completely indispensable to me. 

How do you make use of SoloLearn?

There wasn’t much time between downloading the mobile application and finding the website version of the program. I put together my first program within days of downloading the application! I was impressed that throughout the journey of putting together my first application, I could quickly receive answers to my questions through the Q&A section on the app or by engaging with other SoloLearn users on the discussion board

Although I began my time with the application asking questions, soon I was able to return the favors others had offered me by contributing my own answers to questions users posed on the discussion board. Answering questions in the Q&A gave me the habit of fact-checking everything I said or claimed. Some may say that that just comes from my personal values, but I think that the environment provided by SoloLearn, in which the importance of knowledge is placed above all, certainly acted as a catalyst to my good practices.

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How did learning with peers help you achieve your goals?

In 2016, I took three students under my wing. Being a mentor made me realize that my role was not simply to pass along information, but to get to know these individuals and understand their true potential and how much more they could grow. To be their trusted confidant. .I felt joy when I could help them solve their problems. My mentorship memories are very dear to me and an experience I will forever treasure. 

It would be fair to say that with SoloLearn, I found similarities between engaging with the community, and my experience as a mentor. I have never been drawn to group learning and have tended to prefer to study in solitude -- with the occasional exception of chiming into an ongoing discussion if I felt my contribution would be beneficial to the group. But I found that with SoloLearn, I constantly make exceptions to my natural preference to study alone. I found many learners who could contribute further to my own growth, and today, I follow 32 people on SoloLearn who I love to learn with in a group. 

The cycle of teaching and learning is what keeps me invested in the SoloLearn community. I spend anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours each day on SoloLearn, depending on my schedule. As I’ve mastered time management, balancing my job, my education and my investment in SoloLearn has not been an issue for me.

Is there any one feature of the app that has been the most useful to you in your personal or professional growth?

Without doubt, the Q&A section. I always do research before posting answers to questions in Q&A. The benefit and additional knowledge I gain by doing research is critical, and so is the practice of maintaining integrity. Apart from the benefits of learning through teaching, answering questions in Q&As reinforces the habit of fact-checking everything I say or claim. The environment provided by SoloLearn where knowledge and learning is paramount certainly acted as a catalyst to me picking up good practices. Practices which go well beyond the sphere of education and into the workplace as well.

A second invaluable feature would probably be the Follow system. Thanks to SoloLearn, I have met teachers, engineers, developers, data scientists, and more amazing people. To be able to connect with these peers and develop mutual interests in fields apart from programming is an awesome experience. The one thing about following people you admire and upvoting their stuff, is that giving and receiving encouragement to/from these peers are important to stay motivated when it comes to learning, working, doing anything. I find that these small details helped to build my interpersonal skills.

Now that you have a job, will you continue to use SoloLearn?

Of course! Now that I’m connected with so many other users on SoloLearn, these peers play a large role in my journey. They keep me motivated and feeling I am accountable to them pushes me to do my best.

Another reason to continue with SoloLearn is the mentorship role that I’ve assumed. I have three students who I help on the site and I feel a responsibility to help them become all that they can be. This cycle of teaching and learning keeps me motivated. 

Whenever a learner needs help, I will be there to help solve their problems just like I did before I got a job. That will never change..