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23 Jan 2024 • 25 min read • 1

Development - Coding Across Borders: My Syntax-Agnostic Adventure in Tech

Embarking on a coding journey is akin to setting sail across uncharted digital waters. My odyssey began with a modest Tandy 1000, leading me through a dynamic array of programming languages, each sculpting my perception of the technological realm. I invite you to join me on this exhilarating expedition as I recount how embracing syntax agnosticism has been pivotal in my growth and versatility amidst the continuously transforming world of software development.

At this pivotal moment, I scarcely realized that those initial, hesitant keystrokes were far more than a mere introduction to a programming language; they marked the commencement of a journey that would intricately intertwine with the ever-changing landscape of programming languages.

It felt as though an entirely new realm had unfolded before me, vast and unexplored, brimming with the allure of infinite exploration and intellectual challenge. This was not just the dawn of a hobby or a career path; it was the birth of a lifelong quest through the dynamic and endlessly growing universe of technology.

BASIC Beginnings: A Child’s Play in the World of Pixels

My software engineering odyssey began in the pixelated landscapes of the Tandy 1000 , where, at five years old, I first encountered the enigma of BASIC. To me, BASIC was like uncovering an ancient, cryptic language, both mystical and complex, a digital puzzle without a Rosetta Stone.

In those early days, my use of BASIC was less about crafting complex code and more about childlike exploration. I was awed by how simple keystrokes could bring the machine to life. My crowning achievement? Making the system speaker emit a melody - a cacophony to most, but to my young self, it was magical.

BASIC, in its nascent form, was starkly different from today’s intuitive programming languages. It was the wild west of coding - raw, unrefined, brimming with potential. It reflected its era: a time of digital discovery, with each new command a step into unknown lands.

Wonder and Curiosity

BASIC was both a stepping stone and a constraint. It ignited my passion for technology, encouraging young minds to delve into coding. Yet, its simplicity, seen as a limitation now, held back its potential. It was the digital equivalent of cave painting, setting the stage for more advanced languages.

Nonetheless, my time with BASIC was pivotal. It was an era of uninhibited exploration, where the thrill of discovery overshadowed any functional limitations. Every command was a puzzle, each beep a victory. In this rudimentary digital playground, I grasped a key programming principle: it’s fundamentally about problem-solving, creativity, and bringing ideas to life.

Reflecting on my BASIC beginnings, I feel a mix of nostalgia and gratitude. It was a modest yet crucial start, laying the foundation for my journey in software engineering - a simple, pixelated introduction to the intricate symphony of code that would define my career and life.

Visual Basic: Unlocking the Magic of UI

At eight years old, my programming journey took a remarkable turn with the discovery of Visual Basic. A gifted, outdated computer opened my eyes to the art of user interface (UI) design, far surpassing anything I’d experienced before. This wasn’t just advancement; it was a leap into a realm where I could craft digital environments and orchestrate windows and menus as I pleased.

Visual Basic was like uncovering a secret alchemy in coding. It shifted my view of computers from mere functional tools to canvases of creativity. Designing UIs felt like unlocking a fortress. My code wasn’t just functional; it was creating gateways for human-machine interaction, each element a portal to new experiences.

This period ignited my enduring passion for UI design. Visual Basic made me feel like a novice wizard at Hogwarts, each project an enchanting challenge. The excitement of dragging and dropping elements to form my initial Windows interfaces was a revelation. I was sculpting the user experience, influencing how people interacted with software.

Journey of User Interface Design

For a young, aspiring software engineer, Visual Basic was an ideal proving ground. It transcended being just a language; it was a conduit for expression. My code transformed the rigid interface of computer programs into a dynamic, user-friendly experience.

This journey was filled with triumphs and humorous setbacks. My programs occasionally crashed, like a clumsy dance, yet each failure was a lesson in balancing functionality and aesthetics in UI design.

Visual Basic wasn’t merely an introduction to UI; it sparked a lifelong fascination with human-machine interaction. It taught me the essence of great software: exceptional user experience. In this phase, I wasn’t just coding; I was on a magical quest to bridge the human-technology divide, one interface at a time.

HTML/CSS: My Foray into the Lucrative World of Web Design

My journey into programming took a significant turn at 11, as I delved into HTML and CSS. This was more than learning new languages; it was my gateway into the dynamic world of web development. With my parents running a successful web development business, the opportunity to transform my coding hobby into a profitable enterprise was compelling.

This phase was akin to discovering a hidden level in a video game, where the rewards were both real and gratifying. HTML and CSS became my tools for creating not just for pleasure, but with the acumen of a budding entrepreneur. I evolved from a kid playing with code to a young professional, handling over 10 web design contracts and crafting sites that were both functional and visually striking.

Coding Hobbyist to Web Design Professional

The domain of web design became my new frontier, approached with the enthusiasm of a pioneer. Each HTML element and CSS rule was a part of a larger canvas, combining to form creations that were both beautiful and business-savvy. This was a pivotal moment; I realized my programming passion could also fuel my livelihood.

As I navigated HTML and CSS, I transformed from an enthusiast to a professional. Each project was a dual lesson in design and business, teaching me client relations and project management. This wasn’t just about creating websites; it was laying the groundwork for my future career.

An amusing but significant aspect of this time was mastering MySpace profile customization. While others used basic templates, I became the go-to MySpace artist, turning my profile into a digital showpiece. Though seemingly trivial, this reflected my combined skills: technical proficiency, artistic sense, and an understanding of the web’s possibilities, all during a teenage trend.

PHP: My Adolescence in Dynamic Web Development

At 13, I ventured into PHP, marking a pivotal transition from crafting static websites to mastering dynamic web content. Driven by curiosity and inspired by my father, a skilled web developer, I gradually unraveled the complexities of this versatile scripting language.

My breakthrough with PHP came when I animated my static website to reflect holidays - a Santa hat on the logo at Christmas, a jack-o’-lantern for Halloween. This achievement, though modest, felt like unveiling a hidden dimension within a familiar space, filled with endless possibilities.

PHP quickly became the core of more ambitious projects. It enabled me to infuse life into web pages, transforming them into interactive landscapes that responded to user inputs and time-based events. I was no longer just coding; I was architecting digital environments that were alive and interactive.

Discovering the Dynamic Web

One of my most challenging endeavors was creating my own social media platform, a time when the social media realm was still uncharted territory. This project, for a teenager, was monumental, demanding not just advanced coding skills but also an in-depth understanding of user engagement and data handling.

Through PHP, I intricately wove the digital fabric of what would become a thriving online community. This project transcended a mere coding task; it was an exploration into complex web applications, showcasing PHP’s capability to transform static pages into dynamic, engaging platforms.

PHP served as the bridge between the aesthetics of the front-end and the functionality of the back-end. It was like conducting a symphony where each code segment played its part, creating a seamless user experience. The journey wasn’t without its challenges, like the occasional elusive semicolon, but each obstacle was a step towards mastering dynamic web development.

Java and Objective-C: Navigating Professional Challenges at 16

At 16, my software development path transformed from a hobby into an entrepreneurial endeavor. The high school halls became networking arenas, leading to a formidable contract: developing a custom Android ROM and a suite of mobile apps for a hospital nurse-staffing service. This was not just a step up in complexity, but a leap into the realm of professional-grade challenges.

Equipped with Java and Objective-C, I embarked on this ambitious project. These languages weren’t just coding tools; they were my arsenal for tackling the demanding tasks of custom ROM development and specialized app creation. Java, essential for Android, was my precision tool, slicing through the Android ecosystem’s complexities. Meanwhile, Objective-C, key to iOS development, acted as a safeguard, navigating Apple’s stringent standards with finesse.

Becoming a Professional

Designing for healthcare on small screens required more than coding skills; it was about striking a balance between functionality and user experience. We were not creating mere apps but solutions for real challenges faced by nurses and healthcare professionals. This task demanded a sophistication and responsibility beyond anything I had faced before.

Every line of code was critical; the applications had to be flawlessly functional. These tools were vital for healthcare workers, where usability could directly affect patient care quality. Developing a custom Android ROM introduced further complexity, demanding an in-depth understanding of the Android OS and its customization to meet specific client needs.

This project marked a significant transition in my journey: from a young coder experimenting with ideas to a professional developer addressing real-world issues. The late nights, countless cups of coffee, and pursuit of excellence were integral to this evolving experience. Java and Objective-C were more than just programming languages; they were the conduits guiding me through the rigorous challenges of young entrepreneurial software development.

JavaScript: My Evolution at 17

At 17, a crucial year in my coding journey, I revisited JavaScript, moving beyond its basic use as an interactivity enhancer in web development. Previously, JavaScript for me was about adding simple interactive elements to web pages, often using borrowed scripts. But now, it was time to deeply engage with JavaScript, crafting my own scripts and unlocking its full potential.

This phase coincided with my explorations in jQuery and jQuery Mobile, which in hindsight were like training wheels. While they might seem a bit elementary now, they were vital stepping stones that led me to the more intricate aspects of vanilla JavaScript.

This period was perfectly timed with the rising popularity of AJAX, revolutionizing how web pages could be dynamically updated. AJAX was like uncovering a hidden passage, enabling me to refresh web content seamlessly and change how users interacted with websites. This opened new avenues for client-side web development, making web applications more interactive and responsive.

Engaging with JavaScript

Client projects soon flooded in, challenging me to create custom JavaScript solutions like media players and interactive galleries. These tasks required both creativity and technical skill. JavaScript evolved from a secondary tool to the centerpiece of my programming toolkit.

During this time, I came to appreciate the dual nature of JavaScript. It was both playful and powerful, allowing for whimsical animations and user interfaces, while also enabling complex functionalities like API integration, data manipulation, and real-time user experience enhancements.

JavaScript’s adaptability became a newfound strength. Each script was like a magical incantation, each function a wizard’s spell, combining to create digital experiences that were engaging and functional. This wasn’t just about learning a language; it was about mastering the craft of enlivening static code, transforming it into an interactive experience.

.NET: Navigating the Corporate Labyrinth at 18

At 18, I took a significant leap from independent coding ventures into the corporate sphere, joining a seasoned development team. This shift wasn’t just a career move; it was a cultural jolt. Embracing .NET, I stepped into a domain where coding intersected with corporate norms, and my work became part of a larger, more intricate system.

In this realm of enterprise software, VB.NET and ASP.NET were my primary tools, guiding me through the intricate mesh of business logic and technical requirements. The corporate environment contrasted sharply with my previous experiences. Here, the focus was on collective precision and sustainability rather than individual creativity and innovation.

Adapting to this new setting was akin to learning a complex dance. It required synchronizing with team dynamics, adhering to project schedules, and performing under the scrutiny of business objectives. The challenge extended beyond coding; it involved integrating into a team where my youth was as conspicuous as my rapid professional ascent.

Corporate Software Development

Rising quickly to a project lead role, I navigated the complexities of leading a team of experienced professionals. This role tested my technical skills but also my emotional intelligence and leadership abilities. Gaining the respect and trust of a team significantly older than me demanded more than coding expertise; it required empathy, inspiration, and effective communication.

In this corporate setting, every project was a critical performance, with each deadline marking a significant milestone. The pressure was substantial, with every decision impacting both technical and business outcomes. Balancing assertiveness with humility was key, proving my capabilities through the quality and efficiency of my work.

This phase of my career was impactful, teaching me that software development is as much about people and processes as it is about coding and technology. It was within the confines of boardrooms and cubicles that I matured from a coding prodigy to a software engineer with a comprehensive understanding of the technology business.

Specialization Saga: The Node.js Enlightenment at 20

Turning 20 marked a pivotal moment in my development journey, signaling a shift from a versatile coder to a specialized expert. My chosen path? A deep dive into the world of JavaScript, focusing on the new-found power of Node.js and its extensive library ecosystem. This step was more than revisiting a familiar language; it was ascending to a higher level of mastery.

Node.js represented a significant departure from JavaScript’s traditional role. It was like uncovering a hidden dimension within a well-known territory. JavaScript, once limited to client-side tasks, was now a formidable server-side player with Node.js. This breakthrough blurred the distinctions between front-end and back-end development, and I was at the vanguard of this exciting shift.

The Node.js landscape was rich with tools for innovation. AngularJS introduced me to the principles of robust and scalable web application design. React revolutionized my approach to user interfaces with its reactive programming and component-based architecture, streamlining the development process.

Mastering the Modern Web

This phase of specialization was about precise skill refinement rather than broad skill accumulation. Each project offered a chance to delve deeper, to explore not just coding techniques but the rationale behind different methodologies. It was a time of learning, experimentation, and continuous skill enhancement.

Node.js and its allied technologies enabled me to craft narratives through code. Every application I developed was a blend of user experience storytelling, performance optimization, and creative problem-solving. This period marked my evolution from merely writing code to architecting digital experiences.

Through this journey, I realized that true mastery lies in understanding the depth, context, and subtle aspects that transform a skill into an art form. At 20, amidst the JavaScript revolution, my work in Node.js wasn’t just coding—it was sculpting the future of web development, one line at a time.

Bridging Fintech with C# and COBOL at 24

At 24, I entered the intricate world of fintech, a blend of finance and technology offering unique challenges and rewards. This stage wasn’t just a career progression but a dive into the nexus of two complex fields. I equipped myself with a duo of diverse yet complementary tools: C# for its modern capabilities and COBOL for its enduring legacy.

C# felt like piloting a high-tech sports car – sleek, powerful, and cutting-edge. Its sophistication made it ideal for crafting advanced financial applications. With its prowess in handling complex computations, algorithmic trading, and large-scale data, C# was perfect for navigating the volatile financial markets with precision and finesse.

Fusion of Contemporary and Legacy

In contrast, learning COBOL was like a journey back in time, akin to driving a classic vintage car. Each line of code was a nod to the dawn of programming. COBOL, despite being dated, was a linchpin in numerous legacy financial systems, showcasing the durability of well-crafted software.

This dichotomy highlighted an essential insight: in fintech, the old and new don’t just coexist; they intertwine symbiotically. C# represented the future of fintech with its advanced functionalities, while COBOL offered a solid, time-tested foundation still critical in current operations.

Working in fintech with C# and COBOL demanded versatility and the ability to bridge these two worlds. It involved integrating the reliability of COBOL systems with the innovative aspects of C# applications, a true test of adaptability and skill.

This phase wasn’t merely about mastering two languages; it was about understanding and valuing technology’s evolution in finance. At 24, amidst the fintech wave, I was not just a coder or developer. I was a mediator between the past and future of financial technology, combining time-honored wisdom with contemporary innovation. This era underscored my growth as a software engineer, equipped to face the dynamic challenges of an ever-evolving industry.

Python: The Math-Crunching Odyssey at 28

At 28, my software development journey veered into the intellectually rich territory of Python, famed for its mathematical and algorithmic capabilities. This phase was more than just a new chapter in my coding career; it was an immersion into a world where coding intersected with intricate mathematical problems and data analytics. Python, revered for its simplicity and elegance, became my chosen instrument for navigating complex computational challenges.

During this time, Python transcended its role as a mere programming language. It became a gateway to the realms of data science and advanced computation. My focus shifted from conventional software development to areas like machine learning, statistical analysis, and tackling complex algorithmic puzzles. Python’s versatility, bolstered by its extensive libraries and community resources, made navigating these diverse fields more approachable.

Engaging with Python

My projects centered around leveraging Python for number crunching, pattern analysis in large datasets, and extracting meaningful insights. Each line of code contributed to solving broader challenges, be it optimizing algorithms, training machine learning models, or automating data processes. In this context, Python wasn’t just a tool for writing code but a sophisticated instrument for quantitative analysis.

Python also led me to explore the intersection of programming with 3D modeling and design, blurring the lines between digital coding and the creation of physical objects. This exploration underscored the expansive potential of coding, extending its impact beyond digital interfaces to influence real-world design and manufacturing processes.

At 28, Python represented a confluence of mathematics, programming, and practical application. This period challenged me to apply my coding skills in novel ways, pushing me to understand the mechanics of programming and also its broader implications and possibilities. This stage in my journey underscored the true power of code - not just as a foundation for software but as a versatile language capable of addressing some of the most complex and intriguing problems.

Go, Rust, and WebAssembly: The New Frontier at 30

As I reached 30, my programming voyage expanded into the novel territories of Go, Rust, and WebAssembly. This stage was about venturing beyond familiar grounds and engaging with technologies that were relatively new to me. The potential of these tools was captivating, despite my nascent experience with them.

Go, known for its straightforward syntax and robust concurrency model, felt like discovering a new yet oddly familiar language. Its apparent simplicity masked a depth well-suited for scalable and efficient software projects. Embarking on Go was akin to taking flight, offering fresh insights into problem-solving and system architecture. The goroutines were a particular highlight, enabling seamless and elegant multitasking.

Rust presented a stark contrast. It was demanding, requiring precision and attention to detail, especially with its focus on memory safety and performance. Working with Rust felt like apprenticing under a master craftsman, where perfection was the standard. Each line of Rust code was a meticulous exercise in crafting software that was efficient, secure, and robust.

WebAssembly was the most enigmatic and bewildering. It pushed the boundaries of what was possible in web applications, introducing high-performance capabilities within the web browser, previously the domain of native desktop applications. WebAssembly expanded my view of the web as a platform, highlighting its potential for hosting sophisticated, powerful applications.

Exploration of Go, Rust, and WebAssembly

At 30, diving into Go, Rust, and WebAssembly was like embarking on a maritime journey into uncharted seas. The path was challenging, replete with learning opportunities and new hurdles. Yet, it was also thrilling, a reminder of the dynamic, ever-evolving nature of technology and coding. Each of these languages and technologies enriched my skill set, keeping my software development journey vibrant, contemporary, and continuously stimulating.

AI, ML, and LLMs: The Next Frontier at 33

As I celebrate my 33rd birthday, the horizon of my programming journey reveals an exhilarating new landscape: the realms of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Large Language Models (LLMs). This upcoming chapter is not just a progression in my career; it’s a dive into the future of technology, where intelligence and learning are not just human traits but attributes of the software we build.

My focus on AI, ML, and LLMs represents a natural evolution in my quest for cutting-edge knowledge. These technologies are reshaping the world, offering unprecedented opportunities to solve complex problems, automate intricate tasks, and even mimic human-like understanding. My journey into this field is driven by a fascination with how these technologies can enhance, augment, and even challenge our understanding of programming and problem-solving.

Deep Dive into AI and ML

The transition to AI and ML is a testament to the importance of being syntax agnostic in the rapidly evolving tech landscape. My diverse background in various programming languages and paradigms isn’t just about versatility; it’s about understanding the fundamental principles that drive software development. This foundational knowledge is crucial when steering AI and ML algorithms, as it allows me to mold these advanced technologies at a fundamental level, achieving optimal results.

LLMs, in particular, represent an exciting frontier. They’re not just tools for processing and generating text; they’re gateways to understanding and interacting with human language in a way that was once the realm of science fiction. By delving into LLMs, I aim to explore the nuances of natural language processing, pushing the boundaries of how machines understand and generate human language.

This next phase of my career is about harnessing the power of AI, ML, and LLMs to create solutions that are not just technically proficient but also intuitive and responsive to human needs. It’s about bridging the gap between human creativity and machine efficiency, leveraging the best of both worlds to solve problems in innovative ways.

As I embark on this journey at 33, I’m reminded of the dynamic nature of technology and the endless possibilities it presents. My commitment to being syntax agnostic and my foundational understanding of programming principles will be key in navigating the complexities of AI, ML, and LLMs. This focus is more than just a career choice; it’s a step towards shaping the future of development, where AI is not just a tool but a partner in the creative process.

The Power of Being Syntax Agnostic in a Diverse Tech World

Throughout my programming journey, one of the most important realizations I’ve had is the immense value of being syntax agnostic. This approach is not merely about acquiring proficiency in various programming languages; it represents a deeper, more versatile engagement with the art of coding. It’s like achieving a state of Zen in the digital realm, where the focus shifts from the constraints of specific languages to the underlying principles that unite them all.

Embracing syntax agnosticism is comparable to understanding the essence of music rather than limiting oneself to a single instrument. Just as a musician seamlessly transitions from piano to violin, my journey in coding has spanned languages and paradigms - from the structured harmony of C# to the meticulous craft of Rust, to the fluid rhythms of JavaScript. Each language offers a unique medium to articulate ideas and address challenges, much like different musical instruments offering varied expressions of the same melody.

This philosophy has significantly altered my interaction with technology. Rather than specializing in one language, I’ve become a programming polyglot, fluent in multiple coding dialects. This versatility is crucial in the ever-changing tech landscape, allowing me to adapt and thrive amidst new trends and innovations.

Beyond flexibility, being syntax agnostic has reshaped my approach to problem-solving. It encourages a focus on the foundational elements of programming, those universal concepts and logic that transcend language boundaries. With this understanding, I can navigate any coding environment, concentrating on crafting effective and elegant solutions without being hindered by the idiosyncrasies of specific languages.

As I advance in my career, I see myself as a digital explorer, traversing the diverse terrain of technology with an open and agile mindset. Being syntax agnostic keeps me adaptable and perpetually curious and eager to embrace the next wave of technological evolution. This perspective is not just a professional strategy; it’s a continuous journey of discovery in the vast and dynamic world of software development.

Embracing the Future at the Crossroads of Code and Creativity

Standing at the current crossroads of my life and career, I find myself in a realm where code, creativity, and continuous innovation intersect. Reflecting on my voyage through the ever-evolving landscape of software engineering, it’s evident that the journey itself, rather than specific destinations, has been the crux of my adventure.

This journey has been a journey of relentless learning and adaptation. Each stage, from my initial forays with BASIC to the advanced territories of Python, Go, Rust, and beyond, has been impactful not just in broadening my technical expertise but also in shaping my approach to problem-solving and creative thinking.

Throughout this odyssey, while technology has been a steadfast ally, it’s the creative application of this technology that has truly propelled my progress. Be it animating user interfaces with Visual Basic or constructing complex data models with Python, the fusion of logic and imagination has always been central to my achievements.

As I continue to traverse the ever-shifting landscape of software development, I perceive each new challenge not merely as a task but as an opportunity to redefine the limits of what’s achievable. The crossroads where I stand is more than a milestone; it’s a springboard for future ventures where change is the only certainty, and the horizons for innovation are boundless.

The journey has also taught me the value of agility and open-mindedness. Unexpected detours have often led to the most enriching discoveries, highlighting that the most profound insights often lie beyond the conventional path. These experiences have instilled in me the agility to adapt, the readiness for the unforeseen, and the willingness to embrace new ideas with a creative mindset.

Looking ahead to the forthcoming chapters of my career, I carry with me a treasure trove of experiences and knowledge. Equipped with a versatile skill set, a syntax-agnostic philosophy, and an unquenchable thirst for innovation, I am eager to discover where this fusion of code and creativity will take me next. The future lies open before me, a canvas ready for new stories of breakthroughs, personal growth, and boundless possibilities. As I step forward, I’m prepared to not just write code but to craft narratives of advancement and exploration in the digital age.

Infinite Possibilities: Charting the Unbounded Digital Terrain

Embarking on a programming career is like setting sail across an immense ocean brimming with endless possibilities. In this ever-evolving digital landscape, the constant is change, and the most vital skill is the ability to continuously learn, adapt, and evolve. My journey through this expansive digital world has ingrained in me a crucial truth: the essence of technology is its perpetual state of flux, and the key to thriving is embracing this relentless tide of transformation.

In this boundless digital universe, every programming language, framework, and tool is a milestone in a grander journey. They are the instruments to decipher complex mysteries, the prisms to view and solve intricate problems, and the palette for crafting innovative solutions.

This digital playground is where creativity converges with logic, where imagination fuses with practicality, and where once deemed impossibilities become realities. Here, each line of code is a step toward discovery, each successful compilation a victory, and every bug an opportunity for growth and learning. It’s an arena where traditional limits are constantly tested and redefined.

As I journey through this exhilarating digital expanse, I extend an invitation to fellow explorers in the realm of coding. Join in this odyssey to unearth the boundless potentials of technology. Embrace the uncertainties, relish the challenges, and cherish every accomplishment, no matter its scale. In the realm of programming, the journey itself is the ultimate prize, marked by unceasing learning and the exhilaration of creating something novel and impactful.

This career is more than a profession; it’s an ongoing adventure into the heart of innovation. Each piece of code we write is a step into uncharted territory, a dance with the limitless possibilities that the future of technology offer

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1 comment
Kelly Parker

Hey Dillon, as a tech recruiter, I found this article really interesting. The ability to be syntax-agnostic is definitely valuable, and developers who can adapt to different languages are always in demand. However, I think it’s important to balance this with deep expertise in at least one language or framework to really stand out. Your experiences highlight the need for flexibility and continuous learning in tech. It’s a great perspective that helps me understand what to look for in candidates. Keep sharing these insights!
Reply to Kelly Parker

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