In our Beyond the Bootcamp series, we chat with members of our alumni community about their post-Flatiron career journeys. What new roles have they taken on? How did they get to where they are now? What advice do they have for new programmers following in their footsteps?
Before Flatiron School, Chris Guthrie worked as an Equity Analyst, but he wasn’t satisfied with the “volatile” life of a stock trader. He came to Flatiron School to turn his programming hobby into a programming career. In the years since graduating, he’s worked his way up to becoming Vice President and Senior Engineer at BlackRock, the global investment management company. Read on to learn how he made that transition and his advice for new programmers.
While attending college, Chris embraced the marketplace, trading stocks to support himself through college. Two days after graduating, Chris moved to New York City to find a job as a stock trader and ended up working for a proprietary trading firm for six years. “It was a very interesting experience,” Chris says. “I learned a ton about how our markets work, but, ultimately I decided that wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my whole life because it was a very volatile life – there’ll be some days where you would do very well and some days where you would do quite the opposite. It was a tough way to live.”
To some degree, Chris had been surrounded by code his whole life – his father was a developer. “I think I was like 3 or 4 years old,” Chris remembers. “My dad turned on his Radio Shack TRS80 and showed me how to program some stuff in BASIC. So from a very early age I was around code but not really actively coding. I just kind of knew it existed.” Fast forward to college, Chris began making small trading algorithms “so when I actually went to class, I could turn on a switch and the computer would trade for me.” But Chris never went beyond being a hobbyist until a good friend of his introduced him to Flatiron School.
Flatiron School caught Chris’s attention after he saw how his friend Tiffany Peon (profiled earlier in this blog series) transformed her own career. “I was astounded and blown away how quickly that was able to occur,” he says. “It was very clear the demand for developers in the market place is just explosive, and so deciding that I really couldn’t pass up that kind of value – a three month investment; the return on that is just tremendous. The amount of stuff you learn in a short amount time is just incredible.”
His favorite part of the experience was how Flatiron “didn’t mess around. On the very first day, they sat us all down and told us we had to push code in like two hours. We all had our five minutes of panic before we kind of settled down and tried to reach back to the pre-work we had done to figure out how to actually use Git, how to actually come up with a few lines or HTML, and so on.” Chris liked that the majority of the Flatiron program was actual coding, which is “really the only way you can learn how to code – by making mistakes, making them often, and figuring out the right way to do things.”
Chris started at BlackRock as a developer, primarily repairing legacy code and deploying emergency bug fixes. But he quickly began to stand out – early on, he taught himself Angular on his own and rewrote one of BlackRock’s legacy apps in the framework. “Looking back at the code, it’s hilariously awful,” Chris says, “but any project that you work on, six months later you’re going to point at it and say how bad it really is. But you have to start somewhere. The cool thing was that I was able to do it and it impressed a lot of people. That kind of cemented my reputation of someone who can figure something out, especially on their website where BlackRock was seriously ramping up.”
After working his way up at BlackRock, he was recently promoted to Vice President and he’s had the opportunity to work on a truly impactful project. “The biggest project that I’m working on right now has to do with really safeguarding the retirement accounts and investment accounts of people all over the world and especially in America,” Chris says. “It’s really cool that I’m part of potentially helping somebody’s grandmother, or someone’s dad from getting taken advantage of from an unscrupulous financial advisor. I’m building web tools that empower executives and other people at firms to make sure that the clients, whose money they manage, are not being take advantage of and have the correct portfolio allocation in their accounts.”
Chris admits it’s hard to forecast years out considering the speed with which technology develops. Even the project he’s working on now is “going to be in a very different place a year from now, and so we’ll have to see what happens,” he says. “But it’s tremendously exciting to work on, and I’m very proud of the work I’m doing and the work my team is doing to protect people out there in the world.”
Read more about our alumni salary, language, and job trends in our recent Beyond the Bootcamp survey.