Taking the Leap: Dallas Graduate Austin Parham, Former Cruise Director Turned Amazon QA Technician

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.

–Henry David Thoreau

The job market can be intimidating, even for aspiring professionals who know exactly what they want to do. It’s even more unsettling for those who are changing careers or don’t have their options entirely nailed down. Anxiety and fear about facing the working world, along with intense competition for jobs in the tech sector, can make it hard to know where and when to take the plunge.

Austin Parham had those concerns before joining Coding Dojo. After college Austin found himself bouncing from job to job, a common experience for someone without crystal clarity about their future.

I always had this drive to go back to school and learn more. I knew college wasn’t going to be the end of my education. I thought the only route available to me was going back and getting my grad (degree) — taking the pre-reqs for a year and a half, then two years of grad after that. But in research I found that it really comes down to the experience that people are looking for, not so much the education itself.

Austin considers himself a creative person, an evaluation that encouraged him to look into engineering and web development. That led to an open house at Coding Dojo in Dallas, where he was impressed by the intensive schedule, class structure, and the clear camaraderie between students.

For Austin, who says he didn’t have deep experience with computers going in, the promise of rigorous classwork in a positive learning environment compelled him to enroll in the Coding Dojo bootcamp.

It’s a very intimate setting where your instructors are right there with you. This wasn’t going to be something where they’re trying to sell me something upfront, then they’re out the door the second they have my money… They were saying, ‘We’re going to work you, it’s going to be hard.’ And if it was hard, then that tells me it’s something worth striving for.

Austin encountered some expected angst in his first couple of weeks at Coding Dojo. Part of that nervousness was relieved when he passed his first exam in Week 1, but it came back in full when he started working through the three-stack curriculum. With his unfamiliarity of code and algorithms, diving into the syntax of HTML, Ruby, Python, and MEAN brought his doubts back up to the foreground.

But then he figured out the secret of learning to code: patience and curiosity.

The first stack was definitely a way to teach you how to learn. Initially I thought I needed to know 100% of everything that they were saying. I needed to know exactly what everything is doing before I move on to the next page. But I found that Coding Dojo was more about reiterating and applying what you’re learning over and over again, to get that repetition. It’s kind of a process of osmosis. The more you play with it, the more it all kind of clicks eventually.

The spirit of collaboration among students was another appealing aspect of the program for Austin. Even with the competitive nature of landing a job in the tech sector, at Coding Dojo he found an entire community in the same boat as he. And they were all eager to share as much knowledge as they took in.

The tech world is open-source primarily because everyone knows that you’re not going to know everything. So it’s okay to ask for help, to understand where to go and look for help. Your cohorts are going through the exact same thing you do. It’s all about that teamwork atmosphere, because that itself is a skill that companies are looking for as well. So ask those questions — learn how to approach people with those questions and collaborate together.

Near the end of the program, Austin and a number of his fellow students started a job-hunting support group, with the goal of shortening the time lag between graduation and gainful employment. They prepared each other for the practical realities of 21st century job-seeking: online portfolios, resumés and social media presence, among other things.

Austin’s efforts paid off when he was hired to work in quality assurance at Amazon in March. The marketplace giant paid for his relocation from Texas to Southern California. Austin loves the work and is aware it’s the first positive step towards his ideal occupation. 

I definitely want to absorb as much as I can. I do want to be able to code whatever I want, when I want. You might have an idea what you want to do but broaden your horizons when it comes applying time. This isn’t the end of your education. There are many different paths to get to the same result. Getting within the company to learn how the industry does it is #1 – so accept every interview.

For new students at Coding Dojo, Austin has a simple piece of advice for those who ask: Keep asking.

Trust the system and always ask questions. Never leave anything to question. The more questions you are proposing, the more you’re learning, and the more your cohorts are learning. Use each other. You’re not going to be coding alone.

Do you have questions? If so, ask a Coding Dojo rep today!

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