Imaad Uddin: A More Affordable Way To Become A Software Engineer

Imaad Uddin: A More Affordable Way To Become A Software Engineer
Imaad Uddin is a software engineer and tech content creator. He's based in Houston, Texas, and has always had an interest in tech. As he got older, his interest broadened into software engineering, and he actually become a content creator by accident as he was prepping for job interviews. He wanted to differentiate himself from other candidates, so he started making content around coding and software engineering, and discovered a passion for creating this content and helping others learn.

Denali: Welcome to the Creators and Experts Podcast. As usual, my name is Denali, and today I have Imaad with me. We're going to discuss how he began his journey in content creation and his diverse range of interests in that field. Imaad is a software developer and content creator across multiple platforms. So, without any delay, let's dive right in. Welcome, Imaad.

Imaad: Thank you for the introduction and everything. I'm glad to be here.

Getting Started with Content Creation

Denali: It's great to have you. As always, I believe the best approach is to get straight to the point. How did you start creating content?

Imaad: Yeah, so, it's a funny story because I never intended to get into content creation long-term. I started creating content about two years ago. Initially, I focused on coding and software engineering content. I made YouTube shorts, Instagram Reels, TikTok videos, and wrote blog articles on Medium. My goal was to differentiate myself from other candidates and enhance my chances of standing out in interviews. See, I wasn't the smartest when it came to technical aspects in coding and software engineering. I needed that extra something to talk about, something that would set me apart academically and technically.

So, I began posting videos, teaching coding basics, delving into specific topics, discussing my interview preparation process, and exploring my interests in software engineering and computer science. That's how I got started. It began with videos, short-form content on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, and blog articles on Medium. Gradually, things started picking up. I gained followers, received numerous questions, and people reached out to me via DMs and emails. They sought my assistance, whether it was clarifying doubts or discussing career transitions into coding. Initially, I planned to stop once I got a job, but the overwhelming response from people made it impossible to ignore them. So, I continued responding and creating videos. I figured, as long as I was on these platforms, I might as well keep producing content.

For the first ten months, I focused solely on coding-related content on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. After that, I transitioned into a broader scope, Tech and lifestyle content. This area aligns more with my passions and interests. It includes tech reviews, product recommendations, unboxings, comparisons, and related topics. I'd say I've been doing this for almost a year now. It doesn't mean I've completely abandoned coding and software engineering videos; I still make them once or twice a week. However, my main focus is now on Tech, particularly Apple products and accessories.

When it comes to coding-related content, I primarily stick to LinkedIn and Medium. Medium is where I publish blog articles, covering various coding, software engineering, and computer science topics. On LinkedIn, I break down each post into two or three parts and share them throughout the week. So, that's how I ended up getting into content creation. It was accidental, but I'm glad I stuck with it. I've come a long way, and I'm excited to continue growing, helping people, and pursuing what I love.

Denali: Yeah, your content is really interesting. I find the transition you made quite unique. I'd like to delve into it a bit more. Going from focusing on what you thought would help you secure a job to exploring your personal interests, how has that transition affected your income, follower growth, and views? Basically, how has the shift toward your personal interests impacted everything?

Maturing & Transitioning as a Content Creator

Imaad: Yeah, with coding, I realized there were limitations. When creating content for TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, I had to consider that the audience isn't comprised of senior-level engineers. So, I didn't have to go into complex concepts like I would in a 10 to 15-minute YouTube video. After the ten-month mark, I thought to myself, "I've made these videos repeatedly. There's no need to continue like this." On the other hand, I've always been passionate about tech. I grew up watching tech content creators and following tech YouTube channels. I already had an audience across multiple platforms, so I decided to transition into that realm. I didn't entirely stop coding content, but rather limited it to one or two posts per week. This way, people looking for coding-specific content still have something to see. But I shifted my focus toward what I'm truly passionate about, which is tech.

Tech is my passion, and I thoroughly enjoy it. That's what motivated me to stick with it. Tech offers endless possibilities because there are always new products and accessories being released. People in my audience, from all over the world, use different types of products. Not everyone uses a MacBook, for example. They have different laptops, headphones, and so on. The vast range of tech products and the immense potential for content creation fascinate me. I have a notion template full of ideas, and it's mind-boggling how much you can do with tech. That's why I transitioned to tech. It's not just my passion; it's also the abundance of content opportunities it offers. I can create diverse content and help a broader audience.

Coding, on the other hand, has its limitations. You often get the same questions repeatedly, and you answer them accordingly. But with tech, everyone uses different products, professionals and students alike, with varying levels of work and interests. The amount of content you can create in the tech field is just greater. That's what led me to pursue my interest and go down the tech route.

Denali: Right, and it seems like you've expanded your potential audience by catering to both coding enthusiasts and tech users. Almost everyone uses tech to some extent, while many people aspire to code.

Imaad: Right.

Long-Term Financial Goals of Content Creation

Denali: Now, here's a follow-up question: Is content creation now your primary source of income?

Imaad: No, content creation is not my full-time source of income. I still have my software engineering job, which is currently my main source of income. However, when I started, one of the things that motivated me was the potential for financial gain. Money is a driving factor to some extent. Once you start seeing money coming in or hear your peers discussing finances and their earnings, it provides motivation. But to answer your question, content creation is not my sole income yet. It doesn't even surpass 50% or anything like that. However, it does provide a consistent income that I never had before, which is fantastic. I can see the potential for growth every month and every year. In conversations with fellow content creators, we discuss finances, and I see the possibilities in terms of earning potential. Working with brand deals, platforms that directly pay you, utilizing affiliate links, and creating your own products—these are all exciting opportunities that come with building an audience. I recognize the potential, and although it's not my primary income at the moment, I know it's growing, and I'm confident it will reach that point. That's the goal, to eventually replace my full-time job and make content creation my sole source of income. It's an exciting prospect to gradually work on something I enjoy, help people along the way, and make a living out of it.

It's not just my passion; it's also the abundance of content opportunities it offers. I can create diverse content and help a broader audience.  

Why Software and Tech

Denali: Yeah, that's a perfect response. One of the reasons I enjoy hosting this podcast is that we get to reach people in various stages of their content creation journey. Some are looking for supplemental income while keeping their day jobs, while others aspire to make content creation their full-time pursuit. It's fascinating to see different goals and aspirations. Now, I'd like to switch gears a bit and ask you what specifically interests you about software and tech. To provide some context, I came across one of your posts discussing the choice between law, medicine, and software development, and why software development is a compelling option. Since this is your area of expertise, I was wondering if you could elaborate on that topic.

Imaad: Yeah, so, about software engineering and tech, the main reason I'm drawn to this field is the low barrier to entry. As I mentioned in my blog post, anyone, regardless of age, background, or education level, can get into software development and engineering. All you need is a laptop, a Wi-Fi connection, and a good guide to follow. Over time, with practice and by following the right roadmap, you can become a software engineer, apply for jobs, and secure employment. Unlike other professions, you don't necessarily have to attend a coding bootcamp or earn a four-year college degree. Software engineering and coding offer a unique opportunity to make a good income without the need for traditional education. It's not uncommon to hear stories of people accomplishing this in 12 to 15 months, or even shorter. It all depends on the time and effort you invest. With determination, it's possible to obtain a well-paying job with flexibility in working hours.

In my blog post, I compared software development to law and medicine, which are prestigious professions. However, these paths require extensive schooling. For law, you need four years of undergrad followed by another four years of law school. In medicine, you have four years of med school, then residency, and potentially further specialization. The amount of time and schooling required before reaching your end goal is quite long, ranging from 4 to 12 to 15 years. By the time you start working, you may be in your late twenties or even thirties. Additionally, there's the burden of student loan debt that accompanies these professions, unless you're fortunate enough to pay for everything out of pocket.

On the other hand, software engineering offers a different scenario. If you take the self-taught route, you can emerge without any loans. Even if your starting salary isn't as high as those in law or medicine, let's say around $75,000 to $80,000, you don't have the burden of student loans. Your expenses are primarily focused on living, and you can save money. For instance, if you spent two years learning to code by yourself, starting at 20 and securing a job at 22 with an $85,000 salary, you've saved significantly. Let's say you saved around $30,000 per year. Over the course of 13 years, that's a substantial amount of money you've accumulated, providing you with a head start compared to a friend who finished medical school at 35. Your friend still has expenses and loans to manage, while you're already ahead financially.

This is one of the remarkable aspects of software engineering. It allows for a fast entry into the field. People often perceive it as difficult, and don't get me wrong, it does come with challenges. The interview process, rejections, networking, and other aspects are not easy by any means. However, with the right path, guidance, and commitment, I believe anyone can succeed within a reasonable timeframe, typically between 12 to 24 months. This allows you to start your career quickly compared to other professions. Even compared to those pursuing a four-year computer science degree, you gain a two-year head start. In a CS degree, you may encounter subjects that are not directly applicable to the job or interviews, essentially wasting time. By self-teaching and focusing on the essentials, you can save significant time and get ahead of the curve.

That's what makes software engineering appealing to me. It's a field where you can enter rapidly, and with dedication, build a successful career.

Advice for Prospective SWEs

Denali: I think that's a phenomenal answer, and I really appreciate the accessibility aspect of it. It leads nicely into a question I like to ask, which is a borrowed one, but still valuable. What advice would you give to someone, perhaps your past self, who was smart, driven, and entering college, preparing for the "real world"? What advice should they ignore?

Imaad: Yeah, the advice I would give to someone going to college, specifically in my major, computer science, is that I initially believed that the degree would provide me with all the necessary knowledge to land a job and be fully prepared right after graduation. However, that is far from the truth. Not everything you learn in a computer science degree, even in top programs, directly applies to the job or interview process. Additionally, there may be subjects in the curriculum that don't align with your specific interests. For example, my interest was in design and front-end development, but I didn't take many classes in my CS program related to those areas. This meant I had to rely on self-teaching.

So, my advice is, if you're pursuing computer science, understand that while it's crucial for learning the fundamentals, many aspects of the degree may not directly translate to the job. It's essential to research beforehand and identify the specific area of software engineering that interests you. This could be front-end development, back-end development, mobile, AI, machine learning, and more. Software engineering offers a wide range of paths. Compare what's being taught in your degree plan to your desired area, and note what's not being covered. Fortunately, there are numerous free resources available, such as YouTube tutorials, to help you acquire those additional skills on your own. You have four years to pick up these extra skills and expand your knowledge.

By the time you reach your senior year and prepare your resume for graduation, you'll be a well-rounded candidate. You'll have a clear understanding of what you want, which jobs to apply for, and how to prepare for relevant interviews. The goal is to graduate with a job and a career path that aligns with your happiness and personal growth.

Denali: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It's a common experience across different areas, where the transition from college to finding a job is often missing a step. Many people, including myself, didn't fully grasp that transition period and the opportunity to shorten it by studying and learning the right things while in college. Now, turning back to the content side...

Imaad: Yeah.

Biggest Obstacle: Avoiding the Comparison Game

Denali: What has been the biggest hurdle you've had to overcome since diving into content creation?

Imaad: I think the biggest hurdle for me has been comparing myself to others. When you create content, there will always be someone who inspires you, and you naturally want to reach their level as quickly as possible. However, it's challenging to remember that these individuals have been doing it for much longer, perhaps five, six, seven, or even nine years. So, my biggest hurdle is comparing myself to others, seeing their videos getting a lot of engagement, positive comments, their cool editing style, or their excellent communication skills. But I have to remind myself that these creators were once in the same position as me, looking up to someone else and wishing they could be like them. I have to acknowledge that this process takes time. As I make more videos, engage with more people, and receive feedback, I learn how to improve and become better. Eventually, there will come a time when someone will look at me and think, "I wish I could be like Imaad. His editing style is fantastic, and the way he interacts with people is great." So, comparing myself to others is a hurdle that I need to work on. It's natural for anyone in any field to compare themselves to those who are more successful. It can be both good and bad, depending on how you look at it. I need to focus more on the positive aspects and learn from others, incorporating what I can into the content I create.

Advice for Beginner Content Creators: Consume to Learn & Start with "Day in the Life"

Denali: Right, it's more about a continuous improvement journey rather than reaching a specific milestone. For someone currently looking up to your content or who may be in a similar position a couple of years from now, what strategy or resource has been the most helpful for you? It could be your blog post on Medium or something else. What lever have you found to be the most impactful?

Imaad: Yeah, the easiest lever to pull, or at least something I do, is when I'm scrolling through social media apps. The advice I would give to others is to not consume the content solely for entertainment purposes. Instead, view it as a source of ideas and inspiration. Personally, I spend a few minutes scrolling through TikTok and Instagram in the morning, but I'm not seeking a dopamine hit or mindless entertainment. I'm studying the videos, reading the comments, and analyzing what engages their audience and why. I use this information to generate ideas for my blog articles and videos.

For anyone starting out, I suggest adopting this mindset for the first week or two. Rather than approaching the apps as a consumer, see them as a well of inspiration and ideas. Analyze what keeps you hooked on certain content for hours, causing you to lose track of time. Take notes and study the successful aspects of these content creators. When you're ready to start creating your own content, you'll have valuable insights to apply.

I also want to address a common concern I receive from friends and family who express uncertainty about starting their own content. They often worry that their life lacks interesting elements that people would enjoy watching. However, everyone has something interesting in their lives that others would find engaging. My advice is to begin by recording "Day in the Life" videos. These videos, regardless of the platform, tend to perform well. Whether you're a student, doctor, nurse, engineer, or any other profession, people are interested in seeing the routines and activities of different lifestyles.

You might think your daily routines are mundane because you experience them every day, but viewers on the other side of the screen may find them intriguing. So, I encourage everyone to start with these "Day in the Life" videos as an easy entry point. Once you gain a decent following, you can gradually incorporate your passions and interests. For example, if you're into fashion, cars, or tech, sprinkle those elements into your videos to keep people engaged. As your following grows, you can dedicate entire videos to your specific passions, such as car reveals or fashion-related content.

In summary, my two pieces of advice are: start with "Day in the Life" videos, even if you think your life is ordinary, as others may find it fascinating; and when scrolling through social media, don't just consume content for entertainment purposes, but study it for inspiration and ideas. Take notes, analyze successful elements, and apply them to your own videos.

Imaad's Kahana Hub: Becoming an SWE

Denali: That's wonderful, and I really appreciate the practical advice you've shared. It's great to have tangible steps, especially the suggestion of creating "Day in the Life" videos. It gives everyone a starting point since we all have unique lives. Similarly, conscious consumption is a valuable approach, as people often get caught up in general advice found through Google searches. Your tactical advice provides a fresh perspective.

Now, to respect your time, I'd like to give you an opportunity to talk about Kahana Hub and any other upcoming projects you're working on.

Imaad: Absolutely. Currently, I have one Kahana Hub available, which serves as an introduction to content creation within the realm of software engineering. This particular hub focuses on becoming a software engineer, specifically in front-end engineering, as quickly as possible. It provides a step-by-step roadmap and resources, both free and paid, for learning the necessary skills. I also include time frames for each section, offering an idea of how much time you should dedicate to learning assuming you have at least two to four hours per day to focus on coding. As a bonus, the hub includes a software engineering resume template, making it easier for users to fill in their information. The template provides layout suggestions and helpful tips for creating an impressive resume, reducing the stress that often accompanies this task. It's a plug-and-play solution that simplifies the process.

As for future hub projects, most of them will revolve around tech-related topics. Currently, I'm working on creating my own wallpapers for iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and more. The hub dedicated to this project will delve into my creative thought process, inspirations, and the tools I use to design and publish these wallpapers. Additionally, I'm developing a project focused on creating the perfect aesthetic desk setup. This project will provide ideas for cable management, recommendations for products, tips on finding the perfect theme, and guidance on optimizing your workspace. Both projects are in progress and will be released soon.

These are some of the exciting projects I'm currently working on, and I'm thrilled to share them with everyone.

Imaad Uddin's A More Affordable Way to Become a SWE

Learn how you can become a software engineer at your own time and pace and be job ready without going to a university program or coding boot camp.

Gimme Imaad's Hub

Denali: That's great, and I think that brings us to a perfect close here. Is there anything else you want to add?

Imaad: Anything else I want to add? Yeah, you guys can check me out on my social media accounts like @ImaadUddin on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. I also have a blog on Medium for those interested in software engineering-specific content. Additionally, you can follow me on LinkedIn for short-form software engineering coding advice. So definitely check me out. People always ask, "Why should we check you out?" Well, I see it as an opportunity for you to witness a content creator starting from scratch and working his way up. I may not be Marcus Brownlee with 15-20 million subscribers, but I'm on the beginning of my journey. Just like many of you haven't seen Marcus Brownlee's journey from the beginning, I can't promise to become the next Marcus Brownlee in 10 years, but I know I'll grow bigger than what I am now. So, if you want to follow along and see how an average software engineer decided to switch to content creation and grow his accounts, definitely check me out. I promise to improve over time and create really cool content for you guys to enjoy.

Denali: Awesome, and your content is already great, so it's only going to improve and get even better. I will link all of that in the description for this video, including a link to your Kahana Hub. Thank you so much for chatting with me.

Imaad: Yeah, thank you so much, Denali. I appreciate your time. It was fun talking to you.

Edited with ChatGPT for clarity and readability some language was edited.
Brought to you by Denali Keefe - Denali is a creator focused on the intersection of Mental Health and Technology based out of Chicago.