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In this article, I’ve shared my personal experiences using commitment devices as a powerful tool for change. Before diving in, let’s first understand what a commitment device is and how it works. According to Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt, a commitment device can be defined as:

A way to lock oneself into following a plan of action that one might not want to do, but which one knows is good for oneself.

Started from The Bottom

Prior to embarking on my journey to become a full-stack software engineer, I was at one of the lowest points in my life. As Covid-19 began, sending the world into a chaotic down-spin, it seemed like my life was strangely following suit. Everything started to fall apart — I ended up letting go of my startup, my relationship, and several friendships. To top it all off, I was broke and felt completely worthless.

        Photo by Stormseeker

Saying that I was at rock bottom isn’t an understatement. And yet, all was not lost. 

If there’s one blessing in disguise, I’m grateful lockdowns gave me the time, and space, to really reflect on my life and all the events that had transpired. After deeply reflecting, I realized how wrong it was for me to attach my sense of self-worth to my startup, my career, and even my achievements. I learned I needed to accept and love myself for who I am, and that I should strive to keep growing, rather than dwell on instances of failure.

Suddenly, everything was no longer bleak. It is never a mistake to focus on one’s self, and that was precisely what I intended to do. I decided to record all my feelings, disappointments, triumphs, thoughts, and insights that I’d learned from my startup journey, and charge all of that to life experience. Life is more than one failed startup, and I was prepared to start my next chapter.

Picking Up the Pieces

When reflecting on my startup journey, I realized one of the biggest struggles I had was finding a technical co-founder who could build the MVP (minimum viable product) for just equity. Instead of giving up on the search, I continued to prod on unceasingly, banking on my ability to sell/convince someone on my startup’s mission/idea. 

I’ve since come to realize that the smartest decision then would have been to invest in myself. I thought to myself, “Had I spent a year or two learning to program, I probably would have been able to build this myself”. And that’s exactly why I decided to take the plunge and become a software engineer — so that I could build  products, myself.

Photo by Sven Vahaja

Discovering Microverse

It’s funny now when I think back to how I ended up discovering Microverse. Being a startup founder, I loved spending time browsing through innovative and amazing projects featured on sites like ProductHunt, IndieGogo, and Kickstarter. I loved it so much that I ended up making ProductHunt my default page for my browser — and that’s exactly how I found this ProductHunt post about Microverse

After a quick glance, I saw how Microverse was trying to become the global school for remote software developers, as it was the only platform offering an international ISA (income-sharing agreement). “Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not.”

It was at that moment I knew I was going to do whatever it took to be a part of Microverse, and become a world-class remote software engineer. So, I  excitedly read up on what it took to become a remote software engineer, and how I could get into the program.

My worldview expanded in an instant. As an underdog myself, I was beyond ecstatic. I felt a personal connection with Microverse’s mission of bringing opportunities to talented people who typically don’t have the same kind of access. Microverse opened my eyes to the world of life-changing remote work — a direction I had never considered or explored.

For someone living in a developing country like the Philippines, where the average salary for a junior software developer is ~$435 USD per month, Microverse’s intention to help students land remote jobs that pay more than $1000 USD per month was a game-changer. I’ll explain in further detail below, how I knew Microverse’s offer wasn’t just a pipe dream.

Getting Accepted Into Microverse

Just like that, my life changed forever — Microverse became my new goal, and I would stop at nothing to get in, even if the odds were unlikely. None of that mattered — all I had to do was grab the opportunity with conviction.

For the next month, I deeply immersed myself in the world of programming, starting with the basics of HTML and CSS with FreeCodeCamp, and the basics of JavaScript with Grasshopper

Even if every single thing felt foreign to me, I’d spend more than 10 hours a day googling, reading, watching tutorials, and then applying my learning via practice. And sure enough, after that month passed, I gathered up the courage to apply and was accepted into the program! I started in June 2020, just two months after I discovered Microverse.

Microverse as a Commitment Device

Photo by Mark Duffel

There are several reasons why Microverse is an effective commitment device. While I can only speak of my own experience, these are the biggest reasons how, and why, Microverse is a powerful commitment device for me:

  1. Microverse only wins when their students win. Microverse’s program is valued at 15K USD, but I only start fractionally paying this back after I start earning at least 1K USD/month. By this logic alone, it’s in their best interest for me and fellow students to earn jobs that pay more than 1K USD, which means I’m aiming to earn more than double the average salary for junior programmers in my country. This comparison holds true for most students from developing countries, whose economies pay way below the global standard.
  1. Microverse’s program and team go beyond providing a structured roadmap for software development. Personal and professional development are also accounted for, ensuring that students perform well in remote settings, with people from diverse backgrounds/cultures. They have invested heavily in career and program coaches to help students each step of the way, with the goal of making sure all students are fit to land awesome jobs, whether it’s the first, second, or third time around.
  1. Microverse’s primary approach to learning is through remote-pair programming on different projects with various partners. I personally found this method successful, as it forces one to become more ready to adapt. It’s akin to having a gym buddy who helps push you to become stronger, and whom you don’t want to let down. Aside from having different partners, students also have standup teams to help provide good social pressure and added accountability.

Manifesting The Future

To sum it all up — I can confidently say that Microverse helped kickstart my ambition to become a world-class software engineer who’s capable of working in remote-first companies with confidence, and I’m forever grateful. And this is why Microverse’s offer isn’t a pipe dream.

Photo by Fab Lentz

The structures they have set up, along with the resources they have invested in to help students succeed, are all concrete pushes and commitment devices. They work to help aspiring programmers like myself have an easier time with learning and committing to the daily grind.

In my case, however, this is only the beginning. Now that my eyes have been opened, I’m set on even bigger dreams —to join a truly epic company where I can grow and learn a lot. Eventually, I also plan to start my own impact-driven company that aims to solve a real problem worth solving, with some Microverse peers, where we’ll hopefully get accelerated by YCombinator.

While Microverse undoubtedly continues to help push me, it’s crucial to remember that at the end of the day, I’m ultimately responsible for my own education, future, and growth. This is why I constantly take steps outside of Microverse; such as finding my own awesome mentors from top tech companies like Airbnb, Shogun and Google, to working on personal projects to deepen/accelerate my learning. 

After all, there’s nowhere else to go but up. Never stop manifesting your future, and never underestimate the power of commitment devices. Who knows? Maybe your future will change for the better!


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