Ready for Takeoff: Learning to Code Helps GA Grad Land Job at Nasa

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Before her Front-End Web Development course at General Assembly DC, Kaitlynn worked for a small non-profit on Capitol Hill. By merging her Economics degree, business development experience, and desire to have a career in web development, she landed a job at NASA as a Software Engineer. 

What were you doing before your course?

Working at a very small non-profit on Capitol Hill, doing digital media production and content management.

What motivated you to enroll in FEWD?

Wanting to move forward in my career, and be more directly involved in tech innovation. I wanted the capacity to build something creative and functional, and I saw FEWD as a great foot hold to move towards that, and it has been.

Congratulations on your new job! How did you find your role at NASA? 

I was looking for new career challenges, so had begun posting and looking online (with a resume that had a nice suite of concrete, tech skills like javascript, which I picked up at GA) and was contacted by a recruiter.

What is your role at NASA?

Software Developer. It’s mainly a front-end web application development role.

Tell me about the hiring process.

A few interviews, one on site, with technical and other components. I think one of the things that really helped me was that I have a solid understanding of not just how you can do something they’d ask in a technical question, but why you’d choose one method over another, and the foundational concepts of relevant languages, and what is really going on under the hood of the code.

You had a very big transition between your current role and your new role. Can you tell me about that?

There will definitely be a learning curve, but it’s one that I’m hungry to take on, and ready for. This job actually integrates my degree (Economics), real job experience (business/ product development) and the direction I want my career to go (web development) together nicely, and at a time when I was worried that they seemed to be diverging more and more.

In some ways, I’m not sure what to really expect, but I’m very confident that I’ve got the tools to address whatever comes at me. At some point you have to stop thinking about the safety you’re walking away from and realize that the potential value of the risk you’re taking on – even just in the trying, let alone success to follow – is worth much, much more.

How does the political presence in DC overlap with tech?

The government certainly has a need for tech innovation (and good developers!) just like everyone else, and DC tech has done a great job of incorporating government as a professional sector into the content of meetups, panels and everything else because it’s such a huge part of the economy here. Plenty of tech companies are trying to serve the government, so there’s definitely a connection in that way as well as others. It’s easy to complain and  think of government in terms of popular caricature of big bureaucracy, and for good reason, plenty of the time, but how will that ever change unless innovative people get involved and try to help? That said, I’d love to spend extended-time working in both public and the private sector throughout the rest of my career, and I think there are chances to transition between both, especially if you know how to network and play your cards right.

How has General Assembly been a resource for you post-course?

The structure and community I got at GA definitely sped up and helped me stay consistent in learning. I did quite a bit of self learning before (and after, including still Googling things every day!) but my progress was pretty slow and tough to be as consistent as I wanted to be without buddies to work alongside who shared my desire to grow professionally.

Who is your favorite teacher, and why?

Johnny Austin from iStrategy Labs taught my FEWD class and has been great at encouraging me to take steps that were a little scary, validating my work when it’s good, giving me pointers when it’s not so good yet, and mostly helping me find strategic approach and tactics to understand the building blocks of the technologies I want master, which has helped me really benefit from the best of being a self-learner and being active in the tech community.

Learn More About Front-End Web Development at GA

Nelson Igunma interviews alumni from around the world as a Success Story writer for General Assembly.