Meet Gregory: From Army Electrician to Software Developer

Meet Gregory Dukes! His career path lacked direction until he decided to learn to code at Code Fellows. Find out how he made the decision to study ASP.NET, what his job search looked like, and how he went from new hire to lead dev in just three weeks on the job!

Hey Gregory—thanks for chatting with us today! You studied at Code Fellows to add .NET and C# to your skill set. What you were doing before the program, and what prompted you to change careers?

That’s a great question! Prior to starting at Code Fellows, I had been kind of all over the place. My resume includes things like Best Buy, Emergency Dispatch Call Center Console Cleaner, Electrician, Apartment Leasing, AT&T Wireless Warranty Support, and Meter Reader for Puget Sound Energy. I never really had much direction as far as a career path, until I discovered Code Fellows. I knew I didn’t want to work in retail or customer service anymore, and I was already considering going into IT anyway, so software development was on my radar already.

What made you choose Code Fellows over other schools?

Frankly, it’s the only school I even considered. The fact that I could use my GI Bill® to pay for it pretty much hooked me immediately, so I didn’t bother looking at any other code schools.

How did you decide which programming language you wanted to study?

I thought pretty hard about this very question. When I initially signed up, I was thinking I would probably go into JavaScript. During my 201 though, I attended an instructor’s panel and learned about the other language offerings. I ruled out Python and (at the time) either of the Mobile language courses, but the .NET course really sounded great. Plus, there was something appealing about potentially being a part of the inaugural cohort. Ultimately, I chose .NET because I wanted to add another language to my skill set on top of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

That’s awesome! Tell us more about your program. What was your favorite part of your time on campus?

I think my favorite part was the comradery. Being surrounded by so many different and diverse individuals, all exactly like me! Code 201 was hard. Code 301 was harder. Code 401 nearly broke me, and everyone around me was on the same ride. We helped each other, we taught each other, and we learned with each other. At the end, when it all clicked and everything came together in final presentations, we celebrated together. That was really cool to be involved in.

What was the most helpful skill you learned on campus that you’re using in your career?

“Did you read the docs?” Seriously, I spend a large part of my day looking up how to do a thing! Sure, Code Fellows gave me the basic skills and coding concepts, and that really is helpful, but ultimately the skill that helps the most is knowing how to look for answers and how to interpret what I find.

What did your job search look like?

So many emails! I think at one point I was subscribed to 17 different jobs listing websites, all sending me 10 to 75 “new” job postings every day. It was a lot of auto-fill and reply stuff. Some generated follow up emails, most didn’t. I tried to keep coding, too. I didn’t want to get rusty during my time away from the school. I went to several meetups and I jumped at every opportunity that Code Fellows notified me about. That’s ultimately how I found Four Winds—through an email alert sent out to Code 401 alumni who were in Code Fellows’ Career Accelerator program.

Tell us about your new job at Four Winds Group!

It’s great! I can’t picture myself at any other company for my first gig. When I was hired on, it was because I knew C#, had worked in Visual Studio, and could read and understand SQL. I was replacing another Code Fellows grad who was moving on to further his career at a different company. On the same week that he left, the lead developer put in his two-weeks notice, leaving me, fresh faced and terrified as the sole developer for this company! Promoted to lead developer in three weeks ain’t too shabby, huh?

Management has been really cool about it and they completely understand that there is going to be a learning curve as I and my new partner learn the existing code base and grasp the complexity of the database. We have already completed several complex tasks involving app support and are currently rolling out updates to our biggest client, which involves updating their live database to a newer version. As added bonus, we pitched the idea of a complete app rewrite from the old, 2005 desktop application, to a sleek new MVC web app. We are working on a small sample application as proof concept right now!

What attracted you to the role and company?

Initially it was simply the fact that the role was in C#, I really wanted to find a job that would keep me in the language I picked to study in Code 401. During the first phone interview with the CEO, I learned about the company, what they do, and who some of their clients are. I became excited at the possibility of travel to places like Boston and Kauai, and more practically at the prospect of being mentored by a seasoned developer and growing my new-found skills. Working in the same building as Code Fellows was a nice bonus too!

What does a typical day look like?

I come from Tacoma, so I get to work on the train, checking emails etc. and coding whatever I’m working on. During the day, we handle any application or database support that may come up, or else we continue to hack away at the new app version. It’s pretty low key, but so far it has been a blast. There’s enough to do that it doesn’t get boring at all. It’s also pretty great that Code Fellows is just one flight of stairs below us, so we often head down for code advice or to chat up our great instructors, or catch final presentations on Fridays!

We love that you’re still so close to campus, and stay an active part of our community! What’s been the most surprising thing about your new career?

I think it’s surprising to me how relaxed the atmosphere is. Now, I can’t confirm that this is industry-wide, but certainly here, it doesn’t feel like any other job I’ve had. I’m not “punching in”—my daily actions aren’t being scrutinized by my boss’s regional boss. I don’t have a daily production quota that I have to meet. Well, except the goals I get to set for myself!

You mentioned using your GI Bill to attend Code Fellows. How did your experience in the military influence your career change?

This shift into software development wasn’t necessarily influenced by my experience in the military, so much as facilitated by it. Access to the GI Bill is ultimately what allowed me to make this transition. The Army taught me how to be an electrician, but using my GI Bill to attend Code Fellows propelled me into an industry with so much more potential for growth and income.

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

DO IT!! Do whatever you have to do to make it happen, and push all the way to the end. Software development is a great career and the reward is worth the effort.

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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