[Webinar] Zero to Paid as a Backend Engineer: A Guide for Absolute Beginners

by Solomon Eseme


Updated Fri Jul 07 2023

[Webinar] Zero to Paid as a Backend Engineer: A Guide for Absolute Beginners

“What you say and do on social media is your personal brand and companies care more about that than they do your CV or resume,” says Masteringbackend Founder, Solomon Eseme.

In a webinar held by Masteringbackend Academy with Founder Solomon Eseme, he shared at length his experience over the years as he grew and matured in backend engineering—the good, the bad, the ugly.

You might want to check out the webinar for yourself on YouTube.

If you are a beginner still pondering if backend engineering is worth it or if you already decided on going down this path, then this article is for you, as easy-to-miss insights and nuggets from the webinar have been carefully extracted for your benefit.

So it would be in your best interest to read this article to the end.

We will start with the first thing on our plate: what is backend engineering about?

What you will learn

  • What is backend engineering about?
  • How did Solomon end up in backend engineering?
  • What was Solomon’s learning path?
  • Did Solomon ever have to deal with Imposter syndrome?
  • Did Solomon have a mentor during his formative period?
  • Expantiating on the significance of mentorship and community support
  • Solomon’s roadmap recommendation for learning backend engineering as a beginner
  • How Solomon went from Zero to Paid

What is backend engineering about?

“Backend engineering is all about data manipulation”, Solomon said. “The core is all about getting a request from [front-end user], manipulating it, and then returning back the request.”

In the webinar, Solomon would later go on to stress the importance of deep knowledge of databases—NoSQL databases and/or relational databases—caching, authentication, and web security as absolute must-learn for any would-be backend engineer.

“You need to learn a lot about databases (SQL or NoSQL database knowledge) and how to make sure you manipulate data faster (caching)—for faster responses to front-end requests—as well as know-how to manipulate data in a way that is secured (authentication and web security).

“Having security is necessary because of layers of  data sensitivity and you don’t want your database to be hacked.”

Now that we have those out of the way, before we dive in, if you’re a backend developer or looking at delving into this career path, join other developers to receive daily articles on backend development that will boost your productivity.

How did Solomon end up in backend engineering?

“I started with the front-end,” Solomon said. “I started with writing HTML and after HTML [and CSS], I just moved straight to Java.”

At first, he explained, he wasn’t aware Java could be used for back-end engineering. He didn’t even know there was something called backend engineering!

“I just used it to build a desktop application back in school,” he said.

The moment of discovery and conscious awareness of a niche in software development called backend engineering, he said, was when he moved to the PHP programming language.

He recalled it as a defining moment for him as a backend engineer.

“I officially started back-end development when I moved to PHP and I think PHP really defined me as a back-end developer.”

From his later discussion, Solomon also revealed how his interest and strengths played into his choice as a backend engineer.

“Like everyone else picked up HTML and stuff… Then I discovered that I am more good at manipulating data and back-end stuff, and that was where I made the switch and I moved to back-end development.”

What was Solomon’s learning path?

“Except Youtube, there was no dedicated site or platform or a dedicated point where I could go and just get answers to my questions,” Solomon said. “I just jungled through a lot of tutorials.”

That’s why, Solomon would later say, he decided to establish Masteringbackend so it serves as a dedicated platform to master backend engineering.

“I decided to create something that I never had, so I created the Masteringbackend blog.

“I pick a particular technology and I try to explain it in depth for beginners to learn and also to be able to get their job done more effectively.”

Masteringbackend Academy wasn’t immediately intuitive to Solomon. He took a cue from users of his blog.

“We started having traffic. Many people wanted what Masteringbackend could offer, so we created the academy.”

Did Solomon ever have to deal with Imposter syndrome?

“Since 2012 when I started with HTML, about 6 years passed before I got my first paid job,” Solomon revealed. “What happened in that long time period was what everyone knows. Tutorial hell and Imposter syndrome“.

He wasn’t building anything. He went from tutorial to tutorial.

Solomon later emphasized. “While you are learning, learn by doing stuff… however small it is. Even if it is replicating someone’s job, representing what somebody has already done. Just build stuff.”

Did Solomon have a mentor during his formative period?

Solomon’s feeling of imposter syndrome was worsened by his lack of a mentor.

“To be very honest I did not have a mentor, and that is why it took me a very long time to get to this point.

That’s the reason why we are setting up Masteringbackend to guide backend developers… I had no mentor and it took me a long time and I would not recommend you to start without having a mentor.”

Expantiating on the significance of mentorship and community support.

Solomon revealed how community support can help boost your confidence and reduce your imposter syndrome feelings.

“Community is very important because community shapes how you perceive yourself.”

“So for example, you could be in a group of developers and you will be thinking you are not good enough…  Once you are on the list of developers and then you do what you can do and next you see what others are doing.”

“First, you will know that you are not that bad, and second, you will be motivated to do more.”

These two things are why you cannot replace community.”

Currently, Solomon belongs to over 20 WhatsApp groups.

“I have like 20 different groups that I joined. There is this person in one of the groups who always shapes me. I go there, we interact, we share our problems and we solve them together.”

Solomon also clarified that community support doesn’t replace the need for a mentor and vice-versa.

“A mentor is someone you are looking up to. The position that you want to be in is the position that he has been or he has passed or has been there a long time ago.

“The person is guiding you through the past so that you don’t make mistakes. So you don’t remain at a particular point for a long time before you’re able to figure out yourself.

“A mentor is someone that guides and directs you personally to your goals.”

Solomon’s roadmap recommendation for learning backend engineering as a beginner.

“I would say, first of all, learn the basics of programming: learn HTML, CSS… then move down to picking a particular server-side language,” he said.

“In my case,” he continued, “I took up learning PHP, and from PHP I moved down to a PHP framework which at that time was Laravel. So I had to learn Laravel.”

Solomon, however, recommended considering JavaScript, being one of the most in-demand programming languages on the job market today.

Moving on, he recommended, as earlier mentioned in this article, that you learn about authentication, caching, logging, and web security. 

Thereafter, you should move on to learning DevOps, as well as learning how to deploy and scale an application.

How Solomon went from Zero to Paid

Networking proved to be vital to Solomon’s success.

“My first tech job came through a friend’s recommendation to a company, Solomon said. “Prior to then, I applied to several companies, and honestly, I didn’t get a job.”

Two things, Solomon also revealed, contributed to his career success. The first was his technical writing skills.

“I do a lot of technical writing apart from coding during my spare time… and that has helped me a lot in my career as a backend developer.”

The second, as Solomon puts it, is “always put yourself out“.

“What I did was I always put myself out there. For example, something companies value the most, I found out, is personal branding over your CV or resume.

“What you say and do on social media is your personal brand and companies care more about that than they do your CV or resume.

“How you express yourself on social media, what you’ve done, what you do. All these different things, how you express them on social media, they (companies) value that more than how your resume is crafted.”

This was an insightful moment for Solomon.

“I started talking about my job through technical writing. You know, if I’m able to solve a particular issue I just write about it whether the article is there [on the web] already or not.

I just write my own way of solving that issue and publish them on medium.”

This action would prove useful to Solomon later on as he revealed himself.

“I think I had lots of traffic to my Medium and right from Medium I started having more contracts outside Nigeria.

“I could remember one company in Saudi Arabia that reached out to me because I wrote about how to implement the real-time chat application with Nodejs.

“They wanted to do something of that nature and the CTO read my article and reached out to me so I could help them implement it, and I got the job.” 

Solomon is currently a full-stack developer at Airbank, a fintech company in Germany. He got the job in a similar manner to Saudi Arabia’s case.

“The CTO specifically said to me that he read my articles and he enjoyed them and asked if I would want to work with them. And that was it. I got the job.”

You might want to check out the webinar for yourself again on YouTube.

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