Graduated February 2016

Hear from Thinkful alum Jose Sanchez.

Building on biomedical engineering experience, Jose launched a new career in Web Development.

What made you decide to become a web developer?

My initial plans were to become a biomedical engineer. After completing my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering, I started working as a Biomedical Engineering Technologist at a small company right after college. They sold rehab equipment to physical therapy clinics and I was in charge of doing quality control on all the biomedical devices that they sold. It was not a bad job, but there was no programming involved.

That bothered me a bit, since the majority of my undergraduate degree was computer science. I spent a large amount of time learning computer science and by the end of my degree I learned to really enjoy writing logic-based code. After being at this job for a couple of months I started looking at how to advance my career in biomedical engineering to get into a place where I got to use my computer science skills. Almost every answer was to go back to school to get a masters degree. Only then could I apply for the best jobs that would give me the opportunity to build devices.

There I was, staring at another 20 to 40 thousand dollars of student loan debt, but I told myself I would do whatever it takes to get into a great place where I would be happy with my career. While preparing for the GRE, I had a 30 minute conversation that basically changed my career direction. I told a colleague that I was an engineer and I really enjoyed coding. She asked if I had ever considered web and mobile app development as a career. I hadn't, so she told me about what her friends who are developers do.

I went home that day to research web development and looked at how many jobs were available in Dallas. I was in luck — there were a ton of job openings with great companies. I decided I would try it it out and see if I like it. After building a couple of sites I was hooked, it was nothing but coding! On top of that I started to read about how much you could do with a strong command of web technologies since you could not only find a great job but you could also freelance on the side or freelance full time building web applications or mobile apps and help others build a wide arrange of projects. It sounded like there was always something new that you could build and that was a really attractive opportunity since it meant never being bored with the career.

Fast-forward a year and I am now working Full time at UTSouthwestern Medical Center as a Front End Developer. I also have my first freelance client — a small tutoring business that I am building a web application for.

How did you end up at UT Southwestern Medical Center?

The process of coming on with UT Southwestern was surprisingly straightforward. About four and a half months after I had started studying web development, I was on a break from studying and decided to go on to look up some Junior Frontend Developer positions. Every job listing said 1-2 years experience, with a long list of web technologies for the requirements.

Eventually I came across one that said the same things as the others but then also had a message at the end "willing to consider students fresh out of college if they have the right work ethic." Right away, I thought to myself, "hey, I'm fresh out of college with the right work ethic!" It was the first job I had applied for, and didn't plan on applying to other ones since I thought I needed to learn a lot more before someone would consider hiring me.

For a month and a half, I kept studying. Then, UT Southwestern reached out to interview me. I asked my mentor, Marius Banea, to help me prepare for it. He sent me a bunch of questions that I should prepare for and he critiqued my answers. The questions he sent me were actually pretty similar to what they asked me in the actual interview. I impressed them during the interview with my work ethic and asked a ton of questions about how development was done at UT Southwestern.

Shortly after that, I was hired.

What were those technical topics you went over with Marius in your mentor sessions to help you land that job at UTSouthwestern?

We did not go over anything technical in our sessions leading up to my interview. He sent me a document with some interview questions and I answered them to the best of my ability. Then, we went over them in the following session. He offered me advice on how to answer specific questions in a better way, specifically helping me articulate how to handle common problems in development. I only had a 3 days to prepare for the interview, so Marius recommended we go over everything that makes up the interview except the technical topics, since you can't really master any technical topics in that short of a timeframe.

When they asked questions about how I handle certain types of problems, Marius had prepared me for those with similar questions.

What projects you work on now?

Here at UT Southwestern, I work with web designers and back end developers to create and maintain web content for the organizations needs. Since we have to manage development of over 30,000 pages in total, I find myself working on something different almost every week. One week, I worked on creating a specific tab component to display content in a pleasant way. The next, I added JavaScript functionality to existing components to give displayed content a better look and feel. Other weeks, I go back through old pages and update the HTML to HTML5 in order to improve semantics, so it is more screen reader accessible.

Why did you pick Thinkful?

I started learning web development with TeamTreehouse, which did a great job of teaching the basics of web development, but knew I would need something more to get a job as a developer. Lots of people talked about bootcamps that teach you web development in a couple of months. That intensity appealed to me more than your average person, since I finished my bachelor's early by cramming extra classes into my schedule.

Those bootcamps also required me to quit my job and move, since the closest school to me was 3 hours away in Austin. That would end up costing me more then going back to get my graduate degree, which was not an option.

When I found out that Thinkful would provide me with a mentor who works as a professional developer, along with a curriculum that offered more advanced concepts at a fraction of the cost of going to a onsite programming school, my decision was clear. Tuition was less expensive, and I got 3 hours of time with my mentor each week — which ended up being more than enough time for him to teach me what I was doing wrong when I was stuck.

How did you reach your goals as a student?

Simple: I studied every single day. Simple doesn't mean easy — mentally it was very tough when I would come across concepts or problems that took a long time to grasp. I just kept pushing and told myself that I would take a break after I got my first job. On average, I studied 30 or more hours each week, all after I came home from work or on the weekends. It was very tough dedicating that much time, but I cut out everything that I could to spend more time studying in order to reach my goals as quickly as possible. On top of that, I tried freeing up extra time at work and the gym. All in all, I freed up about 2-3 hours a day that I could now spend studying.

Luckily, before starting my journey, I read a book called A Mind for Numbers by Dr. Barbara Oakley. It teaches you how to get better at studying math and science to learn more quickly. I employed almost every technique she described and the results were amazing. It made me really wish I had read that book before college so that I would not have been freaking out about final exams so much during college. After I got my first job, I kept my promise to myself and starting taking breaks. Now I don't study during all my free time — only some of it.

Do you ever find yourself applying your previous engineering knowledge as a developer? Did the theory help you with your Thinkful course?

My undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering was mostly electronic engineering and computer science, so I was always building electronics and then programming them in C or C++. Since I had an understanding of code before going into web development, I was not starting from scratch. I was already familiar with the core basic knowledge of programming which helped me out a lot when learning web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The problem solving that I used in school was exactly the same as web development. When you get stuck, you Google until you find something that helps.

Jose Sanchez

Location: Dallas, TX

Mentored by Marius Banea

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