From Bartender to Software Engineer in Denver

Sergio M. was a bartender in Las Vegas when he realized he needed to change careers. Serving drinks was fun for a while, but it was pretty repetitive and left Sergio wanting more. He decided he needed to change his career and his life. His inspiration would come in the form of advertisements for coding […]

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Sergio M. was a bartender in Las Vegas when he realized he needed to change careers. Serving drinks was fun for a while, but it was pretty repetitive and left Sergio wanting more. He decided he needed to change his career and his life. His inspiration would come in the form of advertisements for coding websites. Sergio was surprised that this opportunity even existed and you could have a career as a software engineer. After doing some research, he chose Flatiron School to help him on his journey to become a software engineer. Coding gave him the ability to transform his job into a career and life he loved. Not only did he find a challenging and rewarding job, he also started a new life in Denver. In under five months, Sergio had reinvented himself as a software engineer.In the interview below, Sergio tells us how hard he worked throughout the Partr-Time Online Software Engineering Program. He balanced life, work, and school to achieve his goals. He was rewarded with a job as a software engineer in Denver, a city that has embraced its tech scene and bootcamp graduates.

What were you doing before Flatiron School?

For a while, I was working as a bartender in Las Vegas. I saw a couple of ads for a “learn how to code” website and that turned me on to the idea that this could be a career. When I was doing research for schools, I was in a situation where I couldn’t actually go to an in-person bootcamp. So I started looking at online bootcamps. Based on my research, speaking to other alumni, and Flatiron School’s online bootcamp was the best one.

What was your experience going through the Online Software Engineering Program?

It took me about four to five months of just, every day, going from my 9-5 bartending job, coming straight home, coding, and getting through the curriculum. I kind of trucked right through it. But, I thought it was amazing that they had their own Slack channel that you can access at any time. Toward the end of the program, you had an online Career Coach and technical coaches to help you. That’s what made me enjoy Flatiron so much. I think the Career Coach is the most important part because I had no idea how to get a job in tech. I went to college, didn’t finish my degree, but I really liked coding and I really wanted to code. So, the career coach turned that into a good resume, and a good interview.

Flatiron School changed my life.

Did you know about coding beforehand? Did you have any coding experience before Flatiron?

I had a little bit of experience with code. Way back in the MySpace days they let you use custom HTML and CSS. So, that kind of got me started in middle school or high school. I knew about coding. But I never really knew if it was an actual job because they don’t offer a software engineer degree, just a computer science degree. So, seeing those ads ignited a few things within me.

Did you move to Denver for your current job? Where you applying to jobs all over the place or just Denver?

I moved to Denver for the job. I wanted to be in Denver. It was between Denver and Los Angeles because that’s where I’m originally from. But, around 70-80% of my applications went to Denver and I think I had to turn down an offer in LA.

Why Denver in particular?

My ex-girlfriend and I visited and it seemed like a great place to be. I knew they had a rising tech scene going on. When I came to visit, just walking 16th Street there’s a few startups and there are people in Starbucks with laptops working on code. And it kind of emanates that tech city vibe.

Do you find it less stressful? Do you have a better quality of life?

Absolutely. Bartending was fun, but it wasn’t the best move as a career. It’s pretty repetitive and I worked with people that had been doing it for so long that it made me feel tired of it. Now, it’s awesome. I work with different people everyday. I work on something new everyday.I’m always being challenged mentally, which is something I wanted after doing a repetitive job.

Do you think how you were taught at Flatiron School helped you succeed in your career?

One of the main goals of the curriculum was learning how to learn as opposed to “Here’s this thing, this is how you do it, now go do it.” The teachers would ask you why should we do it, how we should do it, or “we could it this way, but we’re going to do it this other way that saves work.” I liked the fact they emphasized teaching you how to learn. It’s definitely carried over to other aspects of my life. I wanted to learn how to play guitar, so why not just go on Google and find out.

Does the tech scene in Denver embrace bootcamp grads?

One thing I noticed was, while going through Flatiron in Las Vegas, they encouraged going to Meetups every week and they were few and far between. There was maybe one or two a week. It was kind of a bummer I couldn’t go to as many as I wanted to. But, in Denver, there’s almost too many to count. There are seemingly 20 Meetups a week and multiple events per day. If you’re looking for anything tech related, it’s definitely easy to find. At my organization, I’d say half, if not more, were from bootcamps. They were really accepting, I was kind of nervous in the beginning thinking that I went to a bootcamp compared to these guys who had a four-year computer science degree. I was wondering if they were going to look down on me or talk to me in a condescending way. But, it wasn’t like that at all. Everyone’s on the same level, everyone’s learning, and there’s always new stuff to learn. There’s probably a couple of newer things, like JavaScript and React, that I had to show my colleagues. It’s a really good, collaborative environment. My fears of being “not good enough” went out the window on the first day.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of October 26, 2018. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.

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