Where Passion Leads: TJ's Coding Journey

As we lie at the cusp of a digital revolution with industries changing at a rapid pace, career paths that are taken by people also change. A career field taking centre stage currently is coding. Coding refers to working with the language of computer programs.

We sat in an interview with an amazing industry specialist in the field of coding who let us into his coding journey and tells us what it takes to become an adept coder. He goes by the name of Thulani Langa, but his friends call him TJ.

TJ has always been exposed to the world of programming. It runs in his blood, considering that his father was a programming analyst for FNB.

“I grew up looking at my dad’s computer screen.” He began. “I didn’t understand anything; I just saw lots of colours and dark screens.”

He then casually set out to get a better understanding of the systems behind computer programs and phones.

TJ’s mother was the one who encouraged him to see if he might like coding. This

is when he joined an institution called VZAP (Van Zyl and Pritchard), where he

took an aptitude test to determine his programming capabilities. This propelled his love for coding.

TJ started as a backend developer. That is everything that happens in the system that you do not see. He then expanded his knowledge to front-end programming, which entails visuals. He then started designing websites, games, and apps.

TJ’s friend and peer, Kea, introduced him to the EPF DC Hackathon. Although he was committed to his weekend shifts at Amazon, he asked for leave so he can participate in December’s DC Hackathon.

“[This] is when my life flipped around for the best.” He added.

December’s problem statement addressed something very severe in the country: “The Communication Between the Municipalities and the Citizens.”

“I thought it was a big thing. There was prize money, but for me, it wasn’t about the prize money, it was mostly about how we can play a role in helping the economy using tech.”

TJ and his team won that Hackathon. He was then approached by EPF, where we expressed our desire to bring his team’s solution to life and collaborate. TJ got on board with The Good People Data Company near the end of December.

For a week after the Hackathon, TJ and his brother, Sanele, were invited to help with some work at TGPDC. At this point, TJ had two jobs. There was one Sunday night where they got to the EPF offices at 2 pm and worked right through the night until 6 am, where TJ then had to go to his other job at Amazon. This dedication was a testament to his passion.

"I worked on zero hours of sleep, but I had to just push through. I am hardworking; I don’t give up easily,” he said. “But at the same time, I am very persistent and very positive with almost everything in life. I can be driven. If someone gives me something I don’t know, I’ll learn it. I don’t like staying inside a box. I like exploring, I like going onto different fields. I don’t want to be a jack of all trades, a master of none. I want to do something and do it very well. Go onto the next and do that very well. I try to make everything work with each other so that I don’t lose any of those skills."

TJ inspires us further. “Ever since I have been here, I’ve had good times. We get pressure, but those pressures shape you to be a better person. It gives insight into how to do things in the future; what not to do and what to plan for. There are lots of challenges that come. Sometimes too much, but it’s all part of the growth, it’s all part of the experience. Valuable experience that I am going to use to better other people’s lives. I don’t like gaining for myself, I am much happier when somebody else gains.”

Whew! What a guy!

One of the biggest projects TJ wants to incorporate tech in is the education sector.

“What got to me the most during lockdown was that I had the privilege to be able to go onto the internet and learn more. That’s something that somebody else doesn’t have,” he began. “To be honest, tech is growing at an exponential rate. The 4th Industrial Revolution is here. Any opportunity to influence and give someone a chance to go down the tech route to play a bigger impact in their lives, their family’s lives, or their communities, country’s lives, is something that I take seriously.”

TJ is currently working on how to give the disadvantaged access to technology and the internet.

Lastly, we asked TJ what advice he would give to young people wanting to explore the industry.

“First thing’s first: Do you love it? A lot of people get stuck in a job because it either pays well or it’s ‘trendy’. But before anything, practice it, play around with it, see if you enjoy it because it can get hectic. You must constantly learn new things. Are you willing to give away extra hours so you can get things done? You need to love what you are doing, don’t just like it.”

What a riveting interview with a rising expert! We hope this story inspires many young aspiring programmers to reach for the stars. This interview has left us with a lot of wisdom, inspiration, and pumped energy, to go for what we love and what we believe in, and that success is possible.

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