How a Civil Engineer Became a Tech Startup Founder in Seattle

Since graduating from Flatiron, Jacilyn’s founded the startup Takubid, which has one goal: bring construction management into the 21st century.

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At Flatiron School, our success is our students’ success — when students get jobs, we’ve done our job. But, students’ stories don’t end after they graduate. In this series, we chat with Flatiron School’s alumni community about their journey into code and how it transformed their life.

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Jacilyn H., a recent Flatiron School online graduate, was a civil engineer for a decade, following the footsteps of both her father and brother. She had a career in construction management because she wanted to be outside and avoid the daily grind of sitting at a desk. As she continued her career, Jacilyn saw an industry resistant to change. Construction management was behind the curve technologically. And on top of that, it didn't do a great job of supporting women in the industry. So, curious by nature, Jacilyn looked into programming despite never having coded. She quickly took a liking to it, and shortly thereafter enrolled in Flatiron School’s Online Software Engineering Bootcamp.

Since graduating from Flatiron, Jacilyn's founded the startup Takubid, which has one goal: bring construction management into the 21st century.

In the interview below, Jacilyn explains how her civil engineering experience and new coding skills are improving an entire industry. Read on to see how her career switch didn’t mean starting completely over, and how you can use code to solve problems both for yourself and what's around you.

Changing careers

Jacilyn was a Seattle civil engineer for a decade. In that time, she discovered the industry failed to embrace modern technology and attitudes. “In construction, we do everything archaically, and the old-school mentality is across the board,” Jacilyn said. “They’re not very pro-women and they don’t want any ideas changed.”

What Jacilyn needed was a well-earned vacation. While in Hawaii, she decided to take an introductory HTML course. She had always wanted to learn how to code, but the prospected was intimidating. “I always thought computer science was interesting, but that I couldn’t do it,” she says. “I thought I wasn’t good enough and I thought it'd be too challenging.” After deliberating, she decided to ignore her doubts — and found her new passion.
After realizing she wanted to continue her education, she discovered Flatiron School’s online program. “Once I realized what was available online, it was a game-changer,” she says. “The floodgates opened.”

Key Takeaway → Don’t accept the status quo, especially in your career. Whenever you recognize problems, try to find solutions. Identify steps to improve your situation and what you can do as a catalyst for change. If you're willing to try something, your efforts will pay off.

The Flatiron School experience

Jacilyn chose Flatiron School’s Online Software Engineering Bootcamp because of the flexibility it offered her while working a full-time job. Flatiron’s curriculum let her learn at her pace and on her own schedule. “I really like the lesson structure, the lab structure, and all the resources,” Jacilyn said.

She describes the online curriculum as “gamified learning” based on a series of challenges: you learn how to solve problems, take tests, and learn how those tests work. As you 'level up,' the curriculum gives you a new set of challenges. “The labs can get harder, but you realize that — no matter what — there’s a solution here and I can figure it out,” Jacilyn said.

Whenever Jacilyn found herself stuck, she knew she had a support system and a community to help her work toward a solution. She often used Flatiron's Ask-a-question feature, found help in her Slack community, or watched a video.

That support helped Jacilyn constantly. Over time, she was beginning to see how the pieces could fit. She was thinking like a software engineer and was empowered to learn even more. “The sense of accomplishment and what you can make with code is incredible,” Jacilyn said. “It’s so empowering.”

Key Takeaway → Overwhelming does not mean insurmountable. A coding bootcamp, or any program, should build you up as it introduces new challenges. Your new knowledge, paired with effective, lesson structures should empower you to tackle new challenges.

Finding community

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Jacilyn was immediately accepted into the tech community. “It was extremely welcoming and a great group of people,” she says. “Everyone was extremely encouraging.”

Even though she's a civil engineering veteran, Jacilyn prefers the tech community over the construction community. At construction events, she continues to face the same challenges as a woman, but at tech events, the community happily welcomes new members.

In fact, the Seattle tech community has already taken steps to improve inclusivity and diversity. “I find it extremely welcoming. I can come in as a student, and people are open to sharing their knowledge,” Jacilyn said. Compared to construction events, people at tech events are much more approachable.

Key Takeaway → Your community should enable you to succeed. If you find yourself in place that doesn’t embrace change, maybe it’s time to start thinking about finding a new community. Spend time searching for Meetups and local events that seem more aligned with you and your goals.

Using code to solve problems

Jacilyn recognized a ton of problems with the construction industry, but she didn't want to abandon civil engineering cold turkey — instead, she endeavored to make the construction industry better.

Her first step was to enroll in Y-Combinator’s free startup school. She wanted to build on her existing skillset and so she'd be ready for her next steps. She was soon accepted to Hatch by DigitalOcean, a program that offered free cloud infrastructure and training to help startups and small businesses. Even after Flatiron, Jacilyn continued to grow new skills and learned to identify needs and find solutions.

In time, Jacilyn successfully founded Takubid, where she worked every day to solve an important problem in an industry she knows needs solving. Today, on a Ruby on Rails platform, Takubid offers remote online services to construction managers daily. She's far along on her goal and her vision: fix the construction industry through code.

Ready to start your own career change? Learn more about our in-person and online bootcamps here.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of November 28, 2018. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.

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