Location: Seattle, WA
Background: Marine Corps and Army veteran, then attended Antioch University for art degree
Goals: Secure a full time job as a web developer
Results: Developer at Portent Interactive
Tell me about what you were doing before you started learning with Thinkful.
My background is pretty varied. I was an engineer in the Army and led an explosives team in the Marines. After I got out of the military, I got an art degree at Antioch University. I did studio art and sculpture, but I was also really interested in interactive, digital art. I started teaching myself a little bit of web development, and found I really liked it.
Finally I decided, if I was really going to do this, I needed to get serious. I took some time off to learn to code full time. Basically, if I didn’t learn how to do this, I wasn’t going to eat. I signed up for Thinkful and spent all my time on that and other online resources. I went to every tech meetup you could possibly go to, and a bunch of hackathons and networking events.
Wow! Were you intimidated at your first hackathon?
Yeah, before the first one, I told my wife that I was just going to watch because I didn’t think I was good enough to really do anything. I ended up on a team building a baseball game. I told them “I’m just a student, not an expert,” and they said “Don’t worry about it!” Our team didn’t win anything, but what we built worked which was really exciting. One of the guys I was with worked at Yahoo and he gave me lots of advice. Thanks to Thinkful, I had my curriculum, so I could take everything I learned and run with it. By the time the next hackathon came around, I was actually able to code something.
How did Thinkful help with your learning?
The mentor sessions were the best part. When you’re learning alone, sometimes you start wondering, what the hell am I doing, I probably can’t do this… I had to relearn a lot of math just to understand algorithms. But when I was with my mentor I could unload and be like, “Hey, I don’t understand any of this!” and he’d be like, “Don’t sweat it! We’ll start from the beginning.”
What was your favorite project?
The personal website was the best because you have complete ownership of it. You post your website, and it’s a representation of yourself. Being an artist, that appeals to me. It was also the hardest in some ways, because you had to decide how to present yourself to the world.
And tell me about your job at Portent. What’s it like working as a developer full time?
Portent has about 30-40 employees. I’m the only developer working on my project right now, a redesign of an online magazine. It’s way bigger than anything I’ve ever worked on before–there’s a huge codebase. It’s challenging, but it’s a great job.
What’s your advice for finding a job as web developer?
Going to tech meetups and networking events was key. I also kind of turned myself into a brand. I bought my domain, used the same handle on all my social media, and made sure that all of my work was at the top of the results page that comes up when you search for my name on Google. Now I get at least six emails a week from recruiters, just because I have so much content out there.
I’d also definitely recommend getting a mentor, and not being afraid to totally screw up–it’s a website, you can always fix it!