Arash Soheili

Chemist to Software Engineer

Coming from Iran

My family migrated to the U.S. from Iran when I was 9 years old. We left during the Iran-Iraq war. There was weekly bombing in Tehran at the time. I always remember a bomb that dropped only a few blocks from our house. Our windows never shook so hard. We went and visited the site the next day. It was devastating and it could have been us that day. Luckily there was a different plan for our family.

The College Years

I started college at University of Maryland with plans to go to medical school. But based on friendly advice I decided to major in a hard science like chemistry as a backup option. Soon after taking organic chemistry, the backup plan became the primary plan. I loved how organic chemistry challenged my mind and I was good at it. I never liked hospitals anyway.

After college I took my chemistry on the road to New Jersey working for Merck. It was an absolute great time and I had so much fun. I also learned a ton from so many great chemists that had Ph.D's from Harvard, Yale, Caltech, etc. It was then that I knew I had to get my doctoral degree as well. After 3 years at Merck I started graduate school at Columbia University in New York.

Graduate School at Columbia

Graduate school in organic chemistry at Columbia was a tough but rewarding experience. It was a lot of hours spent in the lab trying to bend molecules to my will. As it goes in chemistry, I failed most of the time. But every once in a while through hard thinking and long lab hours you got it right. In those moments you feel like the king of the world. You try to hold on those moments as long as you can because they don't come that often.

After graduating from Columbia University I went back to working at Merck. By this time the company had dramatically changed from back when I had worked there before starting graduate school. Science no longer seemed the number one objective for the company. It was clear to me that I would probably not stay for the long term. It was at this time that my interest in technology was picking up.

Android Cowboy Blog

Eventually I started the Android Cowboy blog on Wordpress having no web experience at all. I was blogging about Android tablets which at the time wasn't as well developed. Many blogs covered Android phones but tablets were still new for Android. I thought it could be a good niche for me. Android Cowboy blog was a success and it got me into web development. I eventually sold it many years later not having time to keep up with blogging. But the blog made me realize there was a possible opportunity for me in technology and away from Chemistry. I didn't like the direction that pharmaceuticals were taking and a career in technology was becoming more interesting to me. Eventually I took the leap.

Working at MarketSmart

Luckily a starup company called MarketSmart eventually answered my call. I went to the interview and it was clear form the people and atmosphere that it would be a good fit. They felt the same way. I accepted the job and officially started my web development career.

Since being at MarketSmart I have learned a lot about programming and becoming a software engineer. I picked up Javascript since you can't develop for the web these days without it. I got exposed to more front-end frameworks like AngularJS. But I found my passion in back-end development and Python. Currently we have two applications on Python and I have grown to really like the language and use it as my primary choice for programming.

That's my journey so far from an organic chemist to a software engineer. If life was a single straight road then it would be predictable and boring. I prefer the curves and hopefully it will lead to somewhere great. I'll be blogging about my adventures through this process and I hope it might inspire others. See you on the web.