From Sales Career to Software Engineer -- A Developer's Story

By Krystal Raphael - -
From Sales Career to Software Engineer -- A Developer's Story

San Francisco 2014 - I was an ambitious outside sales rep tasked with navigating the city, avoiding parking tickets and persuading clients I had the perfect product for their customers. It was a heavy consumer-facing role involving a lot of talking, wooing and minimal computer savviness. Then I disappeared later in the year, reemerging in 2015 armed with the skills to craft web full stack applications. I'm often asked how this happened and what was the process like. The following is my account of going from complete novice to career front end developer.

Moving from the steady and reliable sales circuit to the world of computer science was far from an overnight decision. Sure, being a computer programmer comes with a computer programmer salary, but my desire to demystify the odd and intriguing world of the software engineer was driven by much more than cash. As the days passed, my curiosity grew and I found that my conversations with programmers became less about what they did and more about how they did it.

Daily, my feet beat the streets, but at night my mind was not on the next days sales meetings. Instead, the interactive online coding courses on how to program, Codecademy and the digital version of Eloquent JavaScript became my best friends. I wanted to make this into a career. So, I did my due diligence and began contacting computer science department heads to see what it would take to get into a master's program. The feedback was consistent - Just take these five to seven upper division courses then you can apply. (Not to mention the 2 years a degree would take). The process was going to be long, expensive and seemly unrealistic. Then I discovered coding bootcamps.

As any normal person would be I was skeptical so I did my research. I read every review, blog post, question and comment I could find on the various bootcamps in my area. The price tags were steep but I could learn to code, land a job, and it would cost less than getting an additional degree. After speaking with some alumni from Hack Reactor, I decided to bare down and consume all things JavaScript. A couple of months later I was accepted into the HR's October 2014 cohort.

The first day was very similar to the first day of high school. I was really excited to be there but also had no idea what was going on. Almost immediately, I was exposed to things I had never heard before. Knowledge was oozing from everywhere, and it was a constant stream. This wasn’t your simple coding classes. This was a bootcamp, a coding bootcamp and I was all in.

The curriculum is 12 weeks and designed to simulate a real job environment. The first 6 weeks were a blur. Every other day a new topic was introduced and small assignments or projects along with it. Along the way, programming best practices are slowly ingrained. Pair programming, computer science principles, a deeper understanding of JavaScript, how to properly research problems to come up with solutions, asking the right questions, white boarding, algorithms, frameworks, product development tools, TDD/BDD, and more. Material wasn't just given to memorize and regurgitate. Base concepts were explained and that information had to be used to constantly think through problems and find creative solutions. Getting back into an educational mindset was a challenge, especially in this type of learning environment. Although my brain felt overworked, I knew at the end of this coding school was a world of entirely new opportunities.