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By Sarah June FischerFebruary 3, 2018

Meet Stuart! From Front-End Developer to Full-Stack Software Engineer

After 8 years as a front-end developer, Stuart Kershaw decided to pursue full-stack engineering positions in the competitive Seattle market. The high bar at interviews convinced him to follow through with a long interest in Code Fellows. After finish Code 301 and Code 401, he was offered a position as a Software Engineer with a successful Seattle startup.

What drew you to Code Fellows initially?

I was a front-end developer seeking education to help land a new position in the Seattle market. I thought the curriculum at Code Fellows and the opportunity to jump in at a course relative to my experience could be a perfect fit. I also wanted to take advantage of a physical campus and benefit from the resources that a local institution could provide.

What were you doing before you enrolled?

Building websites for the hotel industry. I worked as a front-end developer utilizing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, but with limited exposure to the backend.

What made you decide to study at Code Fellows instead of learning on your own or at another school?

I was drawn to the opportunity to learn full time in an immersive classroom environment. I tend to learn best by doing and I wanted to dive in with a rigorous schedule and challenging coding exercises. I wanted to work with and learn from others as well.

What was your favorite part of your time on campus?

The whole experience was incredibly humbling. I was amazed by how deeply we explored challenging new concepts and how well the other students grasped complex new ideas. I saw people without previous technical experience understand concepts that I’d struggled to comprehend. It was eye-opening to find myself so immediately on equal footing in the classroom, and it changed the way I think about the industry.

That is a great insight to gain! In what way did it change your thinking?

I think there’s a perception about the tech field that a special set of rare and innate abilities are required to gain entry to the club. You can even fall into that belief as a working member of the field, when thinking about the developers working with “more challenging” platforms or areas of the stack different from your own. My experience at Code Fellows showed me that these divisions in ability simply don’t exist, so you should never limit yourself or think that anybody else is limited in their pursuits in technology. It’s amazing how quickly others can learn the skills that you may feel set you apart. What matters most is studying hard, practicing the craft, and always learning new things.

Tell us about your new job!

I’m now a Software Engineer with Knock Rentals.

Our tech stack closely matches the technologies I learned about in Code Fellows, with Python, Postgres, Node, React, Angular, and other aspects of the curriculum.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I’m still pretty fresh to the team, so I’m ramping up and learning about our various APIs and interfaces. I’m updating the web app with new features and I have big projects on the horizon that I’m excited to get started with.

What drew you to this job in particular, and what are you most excited about learning from your new role and team?

When I found the job listing with Knock, it just seemed like a perfect opportunity. I’d spent the past many years working in a large company with proprietary technologies that often felt disconnected from advancements in the industry. I’d also been working remotely for five years, and it was important for me to find a great team to put down roots with in an office. Knock utilizes a full-stack of technologies that I’m passionate about working with, and a close team of developers with very high stakes and ownership over the product they’re building. I’m excited about the opportunity to work full-stack and contribute to such useful software with a team that I enjoy learning from and working with every day.

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

Code Fellows excels at creating context and understanding around the “whys” of a particular technology. I learned to look beyond a shiny new framework or library to build a critical understanding of any problem that a library might solve.

As you learned to code and got started in your new job, how did your previous career help you?

I learned a lot about communication and the project life-cycle previously. I think it’s important to demonstrate to a potential employer that you’ll prioritize communication. You don’t need to have worked in technology to bring that to the table.

Any advice for someone else who is learning to code?

I’d definitely advise to build incrementally with fundamentals. It’s tempting to jump right in with a flashy new library but it’s more concrete to build upon fundamental concepts in working toward a solution. Programming is a beautiful craft, but it isn’t magic. Everything works for a reason and it’s important to demystify anything that seems “magical” to help build understanding.

What would you tell someone if they were thinking of attending Code Fellows?

You can do this. Don’t be discouraged by any barriers you might perceive about your own experience or abilities. There’s a wide range of backgrounds in the classroom, and wherever you’re coming from, you’ll be on equal footing once the class gets underway. Be ready to commit. The challenge is intense and it’s important to be in a good work/life space to reserve the mental energy that you’ll need to make the most of your time. Invest in yourself. Like any good investment, the returns will appreciate over time. I’m amazed by what I was able to learn in such a condensed time and I’ll be building upon my experience at Code Fellows for a long time to come.


Thanks for sharing about your experience, Stuart! If you’d like to take a similar journey as Stuart did at Code Fellows, learn more about our program »