Markus Eicher
Markus Eicher's Blog

Markus Eicher's Blog

Learning to code [2022] My start into Tech with 51

Learning to code [2022] My start into Tech with 51

Markus Eicher's photo
Markus Eicher
·Feb 26, 2022·

9 min read

Hello dear friends and community.

My name is Markus. Nice to meet you. Thanks for investing your precious time in reading my story. While I am recovering from a long-term health crisis, I'm on my way to becoming a software and web developer now at the age of 51. My goal is to get good enough in Tech to make a living by doing what I love. What I am trying to achieve is to get into freelancing. That is foremost because I need a flexible and remote-based business. I invite you to read ahead and learn about my adventure.

In my younger years, I had my first successful company called EM-Sponsoring. We did promotional Compact-Disc covers for sports teams to sell to their fans. This business was profitable, not great, but ok. I want to be active in graphics design again. Later I entered the IT Industry as a self-taught System Engineer. I started with database analytics beginning of the new Millenium. Other sectors I worked in were security and virtualization. My last position in this industry was as a senior systems engineer. I had plans to change into Tech after learning to code. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Till now to say.

So we have graphics design, software, and web development at this point. But there is more. I've also had my fair share of experience in starting my own business, both successful and unsuccessful. Currently, I'm working on my business model and value propositions. I follow the principles laid out by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pignuer from Strategyzer. My last few tries to build a business in the IT sector failed because I was afraid of a Minimal Viable Product MVP. That may not happen again. Lean startup and early testing and feedback are the fundaments of my strategy.

Startups like mine need bootstrapping. At least when I consider my history. That means I have to keep the fixed costs as low as possible. I already meet this requirement. My expenses are at the absolute minimum. The value I deliver to a potential customer comes from my direct contribution, knowledge, and experience. Using free and open-source software additionally benefits my cost structure. On the other side, this means it is a lifestyle business. Not very attractive for potential investors.

So far, so good. The problem is that it's not my turn to become a freelance developer now. Getting a job in Tech appears to be delusive in my situation too. Why are you so pessimistic? Who restrains you get going? I can understand why some people ask me such questions. We need to believe in ourselves and give all we have to reach our dreams. That is what I truly believe in too. And it is what I am doing each day. The problem is that it might not be enough. Here is the reason why I have to be patient. It is because of my health and financial situation.

Almost two decades of high-profile jobs in the IT industry left their scars on me. Weeks with 80 to 90 hours of work were not unusual. My different tries of creating my own business did not stand back regarding the workload. This mismatch between work and rest led to severe burnout back in 2017. About a year earlier, I was diagnosed with COPD Gold 2 disease. Together with my lifelong struggle against obesity, my condition soon became precarious. I knocked on heavens door at the end of 2019, but they sent me back. My time had not come at that point.

On November 11th, 2019, I got delivered to the ER at the Kantonsspital Aarau. I was unconscious and had severe sepsis. After the necessary emergency operation, I spent several weeks in the intensive care unit. That was hard. I had ventilation several times. It was also a challenge learning to walk again. You lose a lot of muscle mass lying in bed for weeks. In many situations, I gave up. But they wouldn't let me. God bless them! Who are they? The nurses, therapists, and doctors at the hospital. Not all heroes wear capes. These extraordinary people saved my life more than once.

My rehabilitation started in February 2020 at the Barmelweid facility near Aarau in Switzerland. I still weighed over 180 Kilograms at this time. Again I was lucky enough to be taken care of by the best healthcare workers you can imagine. Progressing slowly but steadily, I left the clinic in March 2020, coming home still having a long way to recover. The last two years were a constant rollercoaster ride. Problems with psychological issues such as anxiety and panic attacks alternating with inflammation in my legs and severe pain have accompanied me ever since.

While it's in my nature not to give up, this daily struggle to get better consumed almost all the energy I could muster. In particular, the tense financial situation since the loss of insurance coverage has taken a toll on me mentally. Of course, I could put some savings aside during my golden years as a well-paid IT engineer. When the private insurance coverage ends, you first have to use all your funds before the social security kicks in. That is ok with me. Social welfare must secure the minimal standard of life for people that can not take care of themselves. As long as I had money, I could sustain myself.

As a guy in his fifties, living in Switzerland and not having a family or kids to feed, you are not in the position to complain about a hard life. I am almost ashamed to speak out about my situation, but I decided to let you know if you care. We have one of the best social security systems on earth. No one is left behind. I feel very privileged and blessed. On the other side life here is expensive. Years of illness without an income take their toll even in Switzerland. Every month I need to ask friends for money and use food stamps to make it to the next check. That stresses me out and slows down my healing progress regarding my mental health. I want to change this as soon as possible.

My physical health and fitness are very concerning too and weigh on me. I need to eat healthily and work out regularly. Significantly reducing my weight is a key to finding back to better health. My legs still need care and attention every day. Pain in the back and hips make it harder to move enough. It took me another year progressing to enhance my activity. In April 2021, I reached the best fitness level since my release from the hospital. Walking without a walking aid or crutches was cool. Then all hell broke out again. Back and hip started to compete for the title of the pain of the day. Nevertheless, I forced myself to go out for a walk almost every day. Some stretching or lighter workouts were possible.

Later into 2021, the situation started to normalize again. That was because I found a secret weapon. CBD. The legal brother of Pot. I don't care if there is scientific proof for the effectiveness of CBD for pain relief. I took it and felt better. Ready to at least move enough to feel good. After consulting my doc, it was impossible to get that prescripted in my situation. Till September 2021, a friend of mine helped me out with CBD oil. During that time, I made good progress. I still use it at this moment. It helps but hurts at the same time because it is not cheap.

My weight is under control, down to 149 Kilograms. That is slow but ok. Despite the tense financial situation, together with my doctors, we found a way to have just enough quality food. Much more fresh vegetables and fruits, organic legumes, fish, and whole-food would be necessary. There is no need to say that this is a little costly here. Also, there where you are living, I guess. In my case, this means too expensive with the minimal budget you have on social welfare. I am thankful for the help I get. It is just not what I would need to optimize my healing process. A good thing would be if I would go swimming. If only I would have the power to overcome shame and leave my comfort zone. I'm working on it, and it is on my priority list. My therapist recommends that I get a rowing machine. That is what I will do. For me an ideal form of workout. It is effective while I still don't have to support my weight with a back that hurts or hip pain. I contacted some fitness centers around my region. Let's see if I can grab such a toy to use for a few months. I never was afraid to ask for stuff.

That is where I am right now. My plan is ready for action. So why not give it a go then, when my health seems to get better overall? I found out that I am not allowed to have an independent income without losing my eligibility for support. I had applied for permission to work part-time as a freelancer. The idea was to have some small gigs in web development or graphics design. I wanted to have the freedom of working at my own pace right from my home without the need to travel or get among crowded places. Slow but continuously growing the business and gaining experience. Become self-supporting and sustainable without losing the safety net of my coverage. All to come out of the welfare system for the better of both sides was the idea. It was worth a try.

Will you finally stop complaining? Yes. It is all good. Patience was never my biggest strength. So that means I have to continue getting better. Better in coding and designing, as well as regarding my health. While working on all this, I want to contribute way more to open source and the community. I started with #100DaysOfCode this January. I learned to know so many helpful, supporting, and kind people during this short period. Thank you all very much! Now it is my turn to give back what I got. During the second half of these 100 days, I plan to work mainly on my projects to learn by doing. That does not mean I will not take care of the basic concepts. HTML, CSS, Javascript are the main menu. I'm working on enhancing my Adobe Illustrator and AfterEffects skills. Finally, there is the need to maintain a business plan. A lot of work lies ahead, but I love it!

I host this blog on Hashnode. The project sites will be on GitHub Pages. Currently, I use the GitHub readme markdown file as my profile page. That may become a subject of change in the future. But for now, this is good for me.

That's it for this time. Thanks for reading it to the end. Take care of yourself, please!
Happy coding!

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