Terence Bezman

Relay / GraphQL Engineer

👋 Hey I'm Terence.

I'm currently a Frontend Software Engineer @ Coinbase. I specialize in React & TypeScript.

👶 The Early Days

I started writing code ~11 years old. My Dad thought it was a good time for me to start learning. I was born in 1998, so it was 2009 at the time. The iPhone had just created the App Store, and my Dad could clearly see this was the future of application development. He sent me Paul Heagarty's iPhone course and told me to start watching. Looking back at this moment, this definitely was not a good starting point for someone who had never done any programming whatsoever. I was able to write some blocks of code, but I was really just copying characters without any concept of what they were doing.

After a while of playing around with things like Appcelerator, and PhoneGap, I gave up since I wasn't really stimulated. In hindsight, I think this is because I never really had somebody sit down with me and teach me the fundamentals of programming.

☕️ Breaking into Java

Around the age of 13, I started playing this game called Minecraft (maybe you've heard of it). This game consumed pretty much the next two years of my life. I played it all the time with my friends and watched Youtube videos about it whenever I was free. Minecraft also had a huge modding community. I played modpacks which were thrown together by a wonderful group of people who go by the name Feed the Beast. These mods added many features to the game. They really expanded into the technical side. After a while I wanted to know what it would take to make my own mod, so I just started watching YouTube videos on how to do that. I began to make mods and post them to the minecraft forums (please don't cringe). I did that for a while and started getting a grip on Java. Concepts really started to form in my head. I'm not sure if this was because I was older or what, but finally things were sticking.

At some point, I learned that you could use Java to send bytes over a network. This was huge for me, I got really excited and made things like Tic-Tac-Toe using Java Swing for the UI so I could upgrade my skills and play with my friends online. Eventually I remembered that websites are just servers that return HTML, so I could write a server that sends HTML back to the client. This is when I saw big opportunities for bigger projects. I started playing with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Eventually I ended up making a website to manage the inventory at the School Store at the High School I went to. I worked for weeks on this project. I eventually showed it to the School Store Manager. She was ecstatic and told me to implement it immediately into our workflow. This was my first big project and she gave me an award at the end of the year. This was the first award / trophy I really ever cared about.

Lucky for me, my dad works in tech. He's not an engineer anymore, but he still works very close to the engineers. When I was ~15 years old, I got the chance to speak to one of his co-workers. Talking to this dude was definitely the turning point in my career. I asked him what I needed to learn to get a job one day. He did not hold back and told me to learn Spring Boot, and Hibernate. These frameworks / libraries are super enterprise, and I was pretty intimidated, but I started playing with them anyway.

💥 The Big Break

All of these technologies were awesome, but I felt like I wasn't actually using them for real projects. I didn't have a job, and I was super discouraged that I probably wasn't going to be able to do so until I had graduated from college (I really hated the idea of going to college). I spent a lot of time watching people on Twitch. One day, I came across this dude named Syntag. He was awesome! He had his own web agency, and he would stream the work he did for his clients.

One day, Syntag had an idea for a game show where 3 developers would team up against another set of 3 developers to make a website in 60 minutes. I thought this idea was stellar, so I volunteered to play in the first game. It went terribly, there was no system to sign up, he used google docs for the live coding and it was hard to see if your code even worked since google docs doesn't have a live preview 🤦‍. After that game, I got really hyped about the idea and built him a website where contestants could sign up and manage their account, see past games, etc. I showed it to him, and he thought it was sweet. So we got on a call and he told me he wanted me to keep working on it along with a few other folks from the chat. This was great for me, I (a 15-year old) had the opportunity to work with more experienced developers than myself. This turned into a startup and is still going on today. You can check it out here.

After working on DevWars for a bit, Syntag reached out to me and asked if I wanted to work on a project with him for his web agency. I was freaking out inside, I sort of idolized this guy, and he wanted to work with me 😮 ?!? This web agency took over my entire High School life. Syntag did all the HTML + CSS, and I did everything else. I did the JavaScript on the frontend, the API, the Database Management, and all of the infra that came along with deploying sites. I had the opportunity to try out new technologies every time we had a new project. I switched from raw Java servlets, to Spring Boot + Hibernate, to raw PHP, to Laravel, to Express JS on the backend. I also switched between Angular 1.x, to VueJS, to React, to React Native on the frontend. In retrospect this was crazy for someone so young to be taking on so much stuff, but I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity as it's the reason I have the knowledge I do today.

⏱ 4 Years Later

After 4 years of working with Syntag, I was in college, trying to juggle this web agency + studying Software Engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology. This was by no means a light load. I flunked a class for two semesters in a row before I admitted to myself that I was wasting my + my parent's money. I started attending a local community college. I hated it, the classes were boring, the students were uninterested, and I missed my college friends. I was just overall really unhappy with the direction of my life. I went on Hired and Coinbase was the first company I got matched with. I did their tech screens or whatever they had in place at the time and passed. I got a call from the Hiring Manager, and she told me they wanted to do an on-site interview. My stomach dropped, I was about to be flown out to San Francisco by myself at the age of 19 to interview at what seemed at the time like a huge company. I didn't study for the interview because deep down I think I didn't want to move out to San Francisco. I passed the interviews and received a call a few days later with an offer. I sat in the car with my friend Renatto that night at the liquor store he worked at where we always hung out. I told him my feelings that I didn't want to leave everything behind and go start a new life. He knew what my salary would be and told me I'd be dumb not to go. I swallowed my sadness and called the Hiring Manager, accepted the offer and began plans to move out.

🤔 Reflection

I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunities I've been given in my life. I have a Dad who encouraged me to code at such a young age. I met a twitch streamer who took a chance on me at a young age and gave me the opportunity to try out whatever technologies I wanted to. Great support + hard work + some luck led me to the amazing career I have today at Coinbase and I could not be more grateful.