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This is Katlego — a village kid who taught himself to code and now earns over R30,000 per month

Born and raised in the village of Ga-Mphahlele in Limpopo, Katlego (surname withheld), taught himself how to program after high school and landed a job with a US-based company earning R30,000–R40,000 per month.

His is not an overnight success story. Katlego persevered through scores of rejected and ignored job applications, and remained committed to learning the skills that ultimately landed him a well-paying entry-level job.

However, his journey also didn’t take years. Armed with a basic mobile data connection, smartphone, and computer, he learned everything he needed on YouTube to land his first internship in around 18 months.

Starting with the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, he soon graduated to NodeJS and ExpressJS. Upon trying to tackle building his first major personal project, he discovered and learned ReactJS.

An avid musician, the first big project he did as part of developing his skills was building a music app to host and sell his creations — Katwave.co.za. (The site was being revamped at the time of publication.)

“I always wanted to build a music web application to sell my beats, list my songs and accept bookings, all in one place,” Katlego told MyBroadband.

“I do have accounts on other music platforms, but I mostly use Katwave to generate sales on my beats.”

Katlego said that he started learning to program in Computer Applications Technology when he was 15 years old, in grade 10. However, it was only elementary HTML.

He had moved to the township of Lebowakgomo in Limpopo to complete his schooling.

After high school, he applied to university to study computer science but was rejected because his maths marks weren’t good enough.

He then applied to study law, for which he was accepted in 2019.

In a video posted to his YouTube channel, Katlego said he tried to get into programming again while studying law and looked up information about languages to learn.

He found a video on YouTube saying that Python was easy to learn and started with that.

However, when he tried learning the language, nothing made sense to him.

“Because I was not doing real programming in high school… when I got to real programming, nothing made sense,” Katlego says in one of his YouTube videos.

He quit trying to learn coding to focus on his law degree, but this changed in 2020 when South Africa entered its protracted Covid–19 lockdown.

Learning to code in lockdown

“We had to go home, and school paused,” he said.

“I was watching YouTube videos, just for entertainment, and came across a video with [Mark Zuckerberg], Bill Gates, and [Will.i.am] where they explained how easy it is… That’s where I tried to get into programming again.”

Katlego said that, at this point, he was more serious about learning. He restarted his coding education with HTML and CSS using a course from LearnCode.academy.

When he felt the websites he was building were starting to look good compared to what he saw online, he started applying for jobs.

He received a raft of rejections but pressed forward and began learning JavaScript through a YouTube channel called Telusko.

“After learning JavaScript, I built lots and lots of projects,” he said.

“I spent a lot of hours… I utilised the time I was at home.”

However, knowing JavaScript did not provide the breakthrough Katlego was hoping for.

The rejections kept streaming in, but in 2021 he came across a video advising to approach local companies and offer to build them websites for free.

“So that’s what I did. They didn’t have anything to lose, so they told me to go ahead,” he said.

“I didn’t know anything about hosting and domains or anything, so I just used Github Pages… to get the websites live.”

From there, Katlego built a portfolio to showcase his best work.

However, rather than applying for jobs again, he wanted to try and build something real.

“That’s when something clicked… I’m a musician, so I can build a music app,” he said.

This led him to learn backend skills to complement what he had already learned about frontend development.

Katlego said he looked for backend frameworks to learn and found Programming with Mosh on YouTube, which taught him NodeJS and ExpressJS.

From there, he found ReactJS and followed tutorials from YouTube channel developedbyed, who also turned him on to Sass.

After launching Katwave, which also taught him about hosting and domains, he began applying for jobs again.

This time, he got shortlisted and interviewed, but failed at the technical interview section where he was often asked about data structures and algorithms.

“That was a learning experience. I actually stopped a bit from applying and focused on data structures and algorithms,” Katlego said.

“I applied again, and that’s when I got my first job in July 2021 as a junior full-stack web developer.”

He said he started by earning R7,000 per month, and in 2022, he decided to drop out of law school.

When he felt he had hit a ceiling in his professional development, Katlego said he approached his boss to ask for a new challenge, who was up-front that there wasn’t really an opportunity for further growth at the company.

He then started applying for a new job. His search included UK, US, and South African companies.

“I actually got an interview with a company in New York, and started working for them in February 2023,” he said.

Interview with Katlego

In an email interview with MyBroadband, Katlego said his first computer was a Windows XP desktop PC at home, which he also used to produce music.

He started learning programming and uploading to YouTube using mobile data, but has since rented a small apartment with Wi-Fi included backed by a fibre connection.

“During load-shedding, I use a normal chargeable LTE router to stay connected,” he told MyBroadband.

He said he would prefer not to reveal the name of his employer.

Katlego described himself as a music producer and artist, soccer player, martial artist (a karateka, specifically), and content creator.

He also plays video games and consumes a lot of YouTube content for learning and entertainment.

Asked whether he’s making money from YouTube and his music, Katlego said that he has started earning money from YouTube, and has seen music sales through Katwave.


Source: My BroadBand


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