From Engineering to Developing: Hacking A Way to a New Career

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Andrea Cremese, BEWD Graduate

Working as an engineer on major New York City projects, Andrea wanted to shift careers. He loved the problem solving and design of engineering and construction, but wanted a different challenge. Andrea decided to take BEWD to introduce him to the world of web development and he hacked his way into a new career.

What brought you to GA?

I wanted to change careers from the architectural engineering industry into technology in the fastest and most productive manner possible. GA provided a solid foundation for me to achieve this.

What steps did you take to secure a developer position?

Before the course, I spoke with as many professionals as possible – privately, at career fairs, at meetups, to learn whether tech was really for me and to help me decide what position I wanted to pursue. Reading job postings was also pretty important at the outset. Once this was clear, I did as much of the pre-work as possible before day 0.

After the course, I researched the material required to pass an interview and be effective as a starter developer. I also continually work on expanding my skill set and attaining new certifications for various development languages.

And, of course, touch and mess with code every day.

What challenges did you run into during your job search?

Time management is a big challenge, especially with another demanding career going on. At some point I had to prepare flash cards for a phone app in order to be able to study on the subway and use that time as well.

During the interview phase, keeping up your motivation is also important.

Also, Javascript closures are pretty nasty to understand at the very beginning.

Tell us about your experience as a “traditional” engineer and how it helps you in your current role.

I have designed and engineered glass, aluminum and steel structures in the UK, Germany, Italy and Hong Kong. I subsequently led the technical and financial bidding activities in New York for a prime fabricator and installer of skyscraper facades.

In the face of complex challenges, it’s important to know how to dissect a problem into smaller bite-size chunks that are each approachable and manageable. In most cases, a walk in the park is the best way to fix a tough technical problem that seems having no solution.

My previous career taught me how to work in teams and realize how a team moves towards a solution, and how to be proactive without stepping on each other’s toes.

Engineering also taught me a lot about when it is time to research something for another hour and when it is time to call for help. And to drink a lot of water while working at my desk, that is fundamental!

How did you hear about the position that you are currently in?

I met Fino Consulting at Uncubed in Spring 2014 in New York City. During the career fair I was able to talk with the firm’s technical staff. On technical grounds, I was quite impressed by their even approach towards languages and stacks. From a business perspective, I was impressed by the growth that the firm had achieved.

Following Uncubed, I applied to Fino Consulting and I was granted a spot in their very competitive internship program over the Summer. At the end of the 10 weeks internship I was offered a full time position in New York City.

What’s it like going from a class that’s typically not set up for career-changers to have completely shifted roles / careers?

It is a very interesting process, as some of the members of your class are already in technology and therefore provide first-hand information about the industry.

On the other hand, it requires a more rigorous commitment. You have to be more proactive in seeking the information that is required to “fill the gaps” and follow through with studying them.

Also the support of family/friends/partners and in general the people around you is vital.

What have you learned about yourself over the past year?

Not to be afraid to say “I don’t know, but I can find out and learn how to do it”, especially after having been in certain industries, is a skill to be learned early on in Software Development.

On a broader level, being comfortable facing large technical unknowns is a skill that I had to re learn. It is the nature of the tech industry AND of career changing, and it might be challenging after being established in an industry.

Any advice for aspiring web developers who are job seeking?

There is “no one size fits all.” so gather as much information as possible in order to find the most appropriate way for you (and if being a developer is the most appropriate thing for you in the first place). Go to as many meetups, interviews, hackathons as possible to refine your positioning. Speak with as many people as possible in the industry.

Also, balance dark hours coding in front of the laptop with social/non technical activities. They are both required, and the balance is likely to need to shift along the path.

Learn More About Back-End Web Development at GA

Brianna Plaza is a Alumni Stories Lead and Technical Marketing Producer for General Assembly.