Zero to Data Engineer Part 8: Everything Everywhere All at Once

8 min readJun 27, 2023


Created with

“Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than to be good”

— A sarcastic comment from a friend of mine. I’d say this has aged rather well

We find ourselves in February 2021. Everything was coming to a close now; the bootcamp, the outcome of the job application which had taken six weeks. My nails were getting constantly shorter as the fabled recruiter strung me along week after week. The more I slept on it, the more I didn’t really want the job but wasn’t in a position to refuse it.

Now, this is something I’m absolutely convinced of which self taught developers/engineers and people entering the world of the work first time don’t grasp — sometimes it’s better to be lucky than to be good. You don’t always have to be the best, but you do always have to be lucky.

The Bootcamp

I submitted the final project for the bootcamp — a few paragraphs of text on how data can be used in the modern world and a small, basic website which is hosted on Github. I pass. I get my meaningless qualification. As I mentioned before, I’m only in this to get a job. Nothing else. Okay, well, that’s a little unfair: I met some lovely people in that cohort.

I eventually get a call on my phone from the bootcamp, presumably so they can sell me on the £10k paid course they want me to attend where they’ll get me a job. They call me and say that the instructor has named me as one of the standout candidates in the cohort and if I’d be open to opportunities as they have one they’d like to refer me for.

The feeling is overwhelming. Not only do I feel prematurely free from having to take the other role, there’s also this massive vindication that I hadn’t wasted my time. That I wasn’t a failure. That I really can be good at this. Needless to say, I accept and await the call.

Just as this strange, positive feeling is settling in, I get another email.

Data Engineer (Financial Services)

I receive an email to be a Data Engineer for an accounting company. The email came from their internal recruitment team which began with a phone call and I remember it going something like this:

Me: I have a quick question - is this a junior role?

Them: This is an experienced role.

M: Okay, well, just to be very clear I don’t have any experience and I’m trying to gain some but the advert says you’re looking for somebody with two years experience…does the hiring manager know I’m not experienced?

T: The hiring manager said you should come for the interview and see how you get on.

I agree to it and am absolutely shitting myself. This makes zero sense.

A positive is the interview is booked in within 24 hours of the phone call for a few days time. It felt like these people were taking me seriously. Perhaps a little too seriously…

That feeling there was imposter syndrome rearing it’s ugly head. The idea that even though you’re experiencing deserved success, there is absolute conviction somebody will oust you as not good enough. As an imposter.

I have the first interview with the hiring manager who is friendly and talkative asking me extremely sensible questions which are by no means gotcha style. They’re giving me a lot of chance to talk about my background, why I want to switch into Data Engineering specifically as opposed to Data Science as I have a science background, experience of freelancing and learning how to code.

We chat and get to know each other, we even run over the time by ten minutes talking about our personal lives before coming to a close. Everything feels like it makes much more sense and I come out of the interview positive, excited even, for this job. Within a few hours of the first interview concluding, I receive a phone call — it’s the internal recruiter. They want to arrange a second interview! I’m booked in with the same manager and the director of data. This is night and day compared to the other process and my imagination is running away with me as the dream of achieving a specific goal and laughing in the face of Dave simultaneously is one step closer to reality.

The second interview was advertised to have more technical questions and, in all honesty, it was very much like the first. Some slightly tougher questions although I got so much time and freedom to express what I thought. The director asked me more qualitative questions such as the vision of data in the future and the manager more technical questions, such as asking a simplified version of how to manage slowly changing dimensions.

The call ends. I am absolutely sure I want this job.

A Delayed Reaction

I get my weekly call from the recruiter who strings me along with their well oiled routine. How’s life, what are you plans for the weekend, did you catch the sporting event. All bullshit. Eventually they ask me if I’m still interested in the webscraping job. I say:

It entirely depends as I am involved in other processes.

Naturally, this causes a lot of panic.

I am blunt. I tell them it has been three weeks since the technical, seven weeks since the start of the process, and they’ve openly said they have to look at all candidates. I say if somebody else makes a better offer sooner, I’m going to take it. It’s out of my hands.

“Is the other role a python webscraping job? What’s the salary like? Have you signed a contract yet? Well, you never know, you might not even have to relocate…you can just spend six months with this role and pick up another”

— Recruitment agent who has strung me along for seven weeks upon finding out I might have another offer on the table

I’m getting sales speak of all the benefits of this job, asking what the job is, how does it compare to theirs, asked if I’ve signed anything yet and to give them some time to go and talk to the employer.

Magically, within a few hours, I get an offer for the Insurance DE role (let’s call this job 1). It’s Wednesday afternoon. I’m asked to provide my address so they can send out a laptop and I can start on Monday. For anybody not in the know — no onboarding process is going to be smooth if they have a 48 hour window. It will be a guaranteed shit show.

I’m now getting pressured by the recruiter to sign the contract for job 1. Quite frankly, everybody in that process can go and fuck themselves.

In a completely different world, I email the Financial Services job recruiter (let’s call this job 2) and tell them I have an offer for job 1, but I’d rather have job 2 although I’m getting heavily pressured to make a decision on job 1, and would like to know if job 2 has made a decision on my application.

Here’s how the job 2 recruiter replies:

A positive decision has been made so I hope you can hang fire until the correct approvals are in place. I am sure the other job offer wouldn’t expect an immediate decision from you, it’s certainly not how I would treat a candidate.

Thank god…

In retrospect, it’s so funny that this perfectly reasonable person is saying the text in bold whilst the other recruiter is literally hounding me for a signature.

Wait… Wait…

My brain catches up with what’s going on. I’ve fucking done it. I’ve actually done it. I’ve got not one, but TWO offers to be a Data Engineer from absolutely nothing. I’ve been utterly consumed from the accumulated stress of job 1 that I hadn’t recognised what’s actually happened.

No matter what happens, I’m going to be a Data Engineer.

I’ve been locked in my little office handling all of the emails and calls, I hadn’t even told my wife yet. As clear as day, I remember she was on the phone to her friend and she mouths, “Did you get it?”. I nod. She sits upright, asks the question again, I nod, and her face was very similar to this:

Screen grabbed from when you recognize someone by their voice 2.0 | gillian jacobs

Job 1 tries to offer me 50% more money in order to work for them, but that’d mean relocating to London. There are two issues with this:

  • The director who interviewed me lived about 20 minutes from where I was living at the time i.e. not close to London at all. They clearly earn significantly more money, although don’t have to relocate.
  • They were completely okay for us to uproot our lives and take on London living costs at 50% of what their budget was.

It’s absolutely clear there was no respect at all for me. There is no way in hell I’m taking job 1.

I had a first stage interview for a job referred to from the bootcamp. They were nice, I let them down gently.

Job 2 calls to confirm an offer has been made. Before they even list terms, I verbally accept. Of course, this surprises them because I haven’t even read the contract yet. I didn’t care. My emotions took over and I just knew this was the opportunity I had been waiting for. They say congratulations and to expect to start in a few weeks. All is right in the world.

I spent the next few weeks having sleepless nights again. Just for different reasons this time.

Six Months In Bullet Points

And that’s the journey of how I went from print(“Hello World!”) to full time programmer. From unemployed to employed. From scientist to Data Engineer.

In between August 2020 and February 2021, I had:

  • Learnt a total of 1.25 languages
  • Spent approximately 200+ hours physically writing code.
  • Purchased 3 Udemy courses
  • Watched countless hours of YouTube videos
  • Enlisted and completed a free bootcamp
  • Completed 1 (2?) freelance job(s)
  • Built around 10 projects
  • Burnt out multiple times
  • Applied to 200+ jobs
  • Attended 5 interviews
  • Received 2 job offers

Two years on…

The legend of Dave, the Data Specialist

6 months after I had worked as a Data Engineer, Dave put out two job vacancies — one for a Data Architect, one for a Data Engineer.

After watching them closely for a year, I spoke to a friend who still works there and they remained unfilled. The positions were removed. They have not been readvertised. A sign a company doesn’t have faith those positions will ever be filled.

Dave has been given an ultimatum to get this data project which started over 3 years ago into gear. I often wonder if he’d answer my emails or calls now.

The absolutely diabolical recruitment agent of job 1

They called me for months after rejecting that job. They’d leave countless voicemails, messages, and calls. They still call me to this day — it’s times like this I’m thankful for caller ID.

Thank you all so much for reading this series. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as I have writing it and maybe even see some of your own journey in here.

If you haven’t already, please consider following to come along with me on this wild journey that is Data Engineering.




Former scientist turned Data Engineer. I share my experiences of struggling as a self taught dev and alternative views on the modern Data Engineering landscape.