Apprenticeship: The Path to a Development Career

My name is Sam, and I’m entering my second career at only 24 years old. I could not be more confident that it is the right one. For those of you interested in hearing about the day-to-day of my experience in my new career, don’t worry! My next posts will dive into that. First, I want to share a little bit about how I got here.

The Path of Discovery

I graduated college at 22 with a degree in economics from a good state school. I loved my classes, learning how to mathematically model how and why people think the way they do, but the whole time I was aware the jobs I would be qualified for were not where I wanted to be.

I graduated and got a job as an analyst in the grocery industry. I spent a lot of time pulling data into excel and analyzing how to help manufacturers sell more of their products. It was a good job, and I was pretty good at it. I knew it was a good job, but I knew I was not in the right spot.

While on this job, I received a task that would have taken me a couple days. I kept looking at it and thinking how redundant and tedious it was. I was thinking a machine could do it. So, instead of spending those two days doing the tedious task, I wrote a program that would do it for me. I was decent in excel, but hadn’t really used VBA. I learned what I needed to in order to make it work, and shared it with my colleagues.

Not surprisingly, the whole team dreaded this task whenever it came up. They didn’t want to spend two days doing it either. I realized there were other applications for the tool, and as it was used, it kept making my job and other people's’ jobs easier. I then talked to some people who made an add-on component within the company and had my tool added to it. This allowed analysts nationwide at my company to use my tool.

I had learned some software development before, but this was the taste I needed to get me to dig in. I spent the next year learning. I built small web toys experimenting with my knowledge. The next big step happened when I started going to meetups. People on StackOverflow were helpful, but it is not the same as meeting people in person. I met people who were doing this full time and others who were learning like me.

I sat at a table with these people and they helped me solve problems that would take me days, or even weeks. I heard presentations about how people were using various technologies in various settings. I talked to people about their careers, and how they learned. It was phenomenal.

As I got to know these people, I found myself wanting to learn more. I wanted to be able to do the things they were doing. I would ask what I should learn and how I should do it. The answer was almost always to just try and build something with it.

The Path to My New Career

Then I heard about the Apprenticeship Program at Gaslight. They designed a program where I would spend time building real projects at a real company. I would work with other apprentices and learn together. We would work on a real team with software developers in the field. We would have a mentor to talk to about what we were learning. It was meant to take people from a basic knowledge level to junior developer. I knew this was exactly what I was looking for.

Even the interview process was exciting. I spent time building a project, and then I was able to pair with an experienced professional. We stood at one computer together and added a feature to my project.

Now, I’m a month into the apprenticeship and I am learning every single day. At times, I feel like I’m drinking from a firehose, but that is part of the excitement. Every single day, I sit next to somebody and we build something cool, while we learn some new technologies.

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