Ilolo Izu, an April 2022 graduate of Flatiron School’s Software Engineering program, began his career on the “right” path. But, shortly after enrolling in graduate school, had a change of heart.
He shares his journey from pursuing medicine to becoming a Software Engineer below.
A Background In Medicine
If you Google Ilolo Izu, one of the first things you’ll find – right below his LinkedIn profile – is his Wikipedia page. The fact that it exists is a testament to his hard work and the fairly substantial list of achievements he’d already earned before coming to Flatiron School. He studied Allied Health as an undergrad at Texas A&M University, where he competed as a student-athlete in track and field, setting a world record time for the 4×400 meters relay indoor in March 2018. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science, a minor in business administration, and a long list of student activities and awards. But, a few semesters into his graduate studies to become a Physician Assistant, Ilolo realized something – he wasn’t on the right path.
“Living in a small west Texas town and studying 16+ hours a day made me reconsider what was important to me. I chose medicine initially because I knew it was a stereotypical good career,” he explained, “something that would gain some respect. Rather than finding something I was passionate about, I chose something I knew would give me a relatively good life.”
Deciding On Tech
Following this revelation, Ilolo stepped off the path that would have led him to a career in medicine. In the search for his next career, Ilolo’s thoughts returned to an early childhood interest – technology.
“I always have been a techie—whether modding video games like Minecraft growing up or even keeping up with the latest OS updates for all my devices or even trying to code my own game when I was in 7th grade from YouTube tutorials.”
But, what made him finally pull the trigger on the significant life change, was jealousy.
“I heard in a podcast that if a particular lifestyle or job makes you jealous, it’s a good inclination that it’s something you should try to pursue. After hearing those words, I took a big leap of faith into dropping out of grad school and pursuing learning to code.”
Having set his sights on pursuing a tech career, Ilolo enrolled in Flatiron School’s full-time online Software Engineering Live program. He chose the program primarily based on the testimony of previous graduates.
“Flatiron School had a solid reputation. I first heard of Flatiron when my friend working as a Software Engineer at Microsoft told me she had some coworkers who went through the bootcamp. This was really important to me as I knew that it wasn’t only about the skills that mattered, but also about the professionalism of each individual.”
Joined by a cohort of other learners, he committed to studying 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday. Ilolo says that, while he “loved the technical projects” during his program, his favorite part was making connections with other students.
“As an online student, it was especially important to me to connect with my cohort and build a sense of community. We worked closely together on a daily basis and held each other accountable for producing our best work.”
Despite being an online student, the cohort got to connect in person towards the tail end of the course.
“I was thrilled to meet everyone in person during our final days in NYC, and we still keep in touch to this day. The bonds I formed with my cohort members have been invaluable in my career journey, and I’m grateful to have had such a supportive and motivating group of people by my side during the program.”
Ilolo graduated from Flatiron School in April 2022 with a plan: to land his first role “within 3 months of leaving the program.” To achieve his goal, he started the job search early.
“I began applying to positions during phase 2 of the program to gain experience and learn how to handle failures quickly. The hardest part was the technical interviews. You always hear they are hard, but you never really understand it until you take one. Once I became strict with my schedule, consistency was the only thing that I needed for everything to fall into place.”
Ultimately, that persistence paid off. Within weeks of graduating, Ilolo landed his first tech job as an Associate Software Engineer at RippleMatch.
“I was able to [land a role] within the first month. Consistency and dedication to my schedule played a big role in my success during the job search process.”
Working In The Field
When we spoke to Ilolo in March 2023, he had only good things to say about his new career.
“As a Full Stack Software Engineer, I have the unique opportunity to dive deep into both the frontend and backend processes, enabling me to develop a comprehensive understanding of how everything fits together. Overall, the tech industry’s fast-paced and dynamic nature keeps me excited and motivated to continue learning and growing as a professional.”
And, if you’re wondering whether he ever thinks about his previous career path, Ilolo says that at their foundation, both fields actually serve the same purpose.
“Being a software engineer [allows] me to still help people through the projects I’m building, similarly to how I was helping people in medicine.”
Ilolo also has enjoyed the constant pursuit of knowledge inherent to the field.
“I love that technology is constantly evolving, and there’s always something new to learn and improve upon. I really love to learn and challenge myself. [Software Engineering] allows me to be a life-long learner.”
Reflecting On His Journey
Looking back on his student experience, Ilolo’s biggest takeaway was the importance of “enjoying the process” and making the most of one’s time in the program.
“During my time at Flatiron School, I learned that the journey is just as important as the destination. I realized that immersing yourself in the process and enjoying every step can make you a better engineer, designer, data analyst, or whatever you aspire to be. Utilizing the resources provided by Flatiron, such as the career coach, technical coaches, and fellow cohort-mates is crucial in achieving success. I found that everyone in the program is striving for the same goal, so working together and supporting each other is the best way to make it happen.”
As for his advice to other students hoping to transition into tech, he stresses the importance of making connections.
“Make the most out of LinkedIn. Posting regular blog articles, setting up coffee chats, sharing technical insights, and growing your network can all lead to great opportunities,” he said. “Strong communication skills are just as important as technical skills, and building connections can often lead to unexpected successes. At the end of the day, people hire people, to work with people!”
As for what’s next, Ilolo looks forward to continued growth.
“Learning to code has been a challenging but rewarding journey. It’s allowed me to combine my love for problem-solving with my tech-savvy skills to create something tangible. Looking back, I’m grateful for the experiences that led me to where I am today, and I’m excited for what the future holds as a developer.”
Ready For A Change, Just Like Ilolo Izu?
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Read more stories about successful career changes on the Flatiron School blog.