Meet David: From Sworn Peace Officer to Software Development Engineer II

Meet David Lim! He spent 13 years in military and public service and realized he wanted the more predictable and stable schedule provided by a job in tech. He shares how he used his GI Bill® benefits to study at Code Fellows and land a role as a software development apprentice at Amazon.

How did you first hear about Code Fellows?

A close friend of mine who had about 20 years of software development experience recommended that I consider attending a coding bootcamp to learn software industry-relevant skills.

What courses did you take?

I attended the introduction to web development (Code 101) and I liked the classroom structure. I decided to continue and attended the following courses in succession: Code 102: Intro to JavaScript, Code 201: Foundations of Software Development, Code 301: Intermediate Software Development, and Code 401: Advanced Software Development in Python.

What were you doing before applying to the program?

I was working as a sworn peace officer.

That’s quite different from software development! Why did you decide to switch, and what attracted you to the tech industry?

I served in the military and public service for a total of 13 years, working odd hours, wearing body armor, carrying a firearm, and going to dangerous situations. Those 13 years had placed a significant toll on my family life and personal health. While working graveyard shifts on patrol, on slow nights, I taught myself how to do basic coding. I found I enjoyed coding, and I began to plan out how to become a software developer. In early 2017, I left my career and attended Code Fellows to learn more advanced software development, using my veteran education benefits.

What made you choose Code Fellows over other programs?

Code Fellows was one of the few software development vocational schools that accepted the GI Bill®. Additionally, the curriculum, class structure, and the time frame met my personal needs.

What was your favorite part of your time on campus?

My favorite part was learning alongside many other talented students who came from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Many of the students I learned alongside with were coming from different careers. These students had foresight to recognize a great career opportunity and had the courage and initiative to take the significant step toward a future career in software development.

What was your favorite project?

My team and I created a “pseudo-Turing test” by web-scraping a celebrity’s Twitter “tweets”, storing the tweets, and used Python to programmatically create fake and believable tweets. The celebrity’s fake tweets were then presented to users alongside the celebrity’s real tweets on a webpage. The user then selects which tweet they believed was authentic. If the user selected the fake tweet, it would automatically be posted to a fake celebrity Twitter account.

Sounds like a fun project! What’s the biggest thing you learned from building that app during project week?

It was a fun project and I had great teammates. Our team happened to consist of all veterans. I found in working in a team with other veterans, there was a very natural collaboration that resulted in a very effective team effort, which produced a great product.

How did your time in the military affect your process in learning to code?

I served as an Airborne Ranger in 1st Ranger Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment. During my time as a Ranger, I learned how to persevere through difficult challenges and solve dynamic and challenging problems in stressful environments. These skills helped me through the challenges of learning software development. Every day during my classes at Code Fellows, I was always faced with challenges which required a lot of grit and humility to work through.

Tell us about your new job!

I am a Software Development Engineer (SDE) Apprentice at Amazon Web Services (AWS), the leader in cloud computing. At AWS, I get to work with the Simple Storage Service (S3) team, where I work alongside and learn from the world’s best software and systems engineers.

What does a typical day look like?

Contrary to popular belief, software developers are not coding every moment or even most of the day. A lot of projects require research, creating documentation, meeting with team members, and coordinating with other teams to determine the best plans for creating the best experience for the customer.

What’s your favorite part of this process?

My favorite part of this process is getting a chance to solve tough problems with awesome engineers.

In what ways did your education at Code Fellows (technical or soft skills) help you in your current job?

The Code Fellows courses I went through not only taught me how to solve problems through code, but I learned industry-relevant practices on how companies and teams work together to develop applications.

How did your previous work experience help you as you learned to code, and now as you start your new role?

My previous careers in public and military service taught me how to identify problems, develop solutions using available resources, and implement leadership and communication principles to progress towards a positive outcome.

Any advice for someone else starting to learn to code?

There are a lot of great resources available out there right now, but it can create the problem of too many choices to pick from. I would recommend attending a Meetup where one can meet other software developers to get an idea of which path to follow.

Any favorite meetups you’d recommend?

Meetups were hugely important in my development as a software engineer. I first started attending Puget Sound Programming Python (PuPPy) and JS Hackers, where I found great camaraderie with both new and senior developers. These meetups inspired me to volunteer as a chapter leader for non-profit organization Operation Code in Seattle. Through our Operation Code meetups, we’ve created an exciting meetup that welcomes all levels of developers.

If a veteran was considering attending Code Fellows, what would you tell them?

If you’re not sure, check out one of the basic 100-level classes to see if the teaching style works for you. I’d also recommend taking a tour of the school and interview other students and instructors.

Want to use your GI Bill® to attend Code Fellows like David did? Learn more about using your military benefits at Code Fellows »

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.

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