Betwixt Code and Music

Landing the Gig

January 17, 2016

or The Big Payoff

This stuff works! I am now a software engineer and have a job that I love. Let me walk you through my basic timeline and process for making this transition. It is possible with some community support and a can-do attitude!


My desk at Call-Em-All

Timeline of Mike getting a job

A few years ago

  • Started getting the itch that I wanted to look into other fields. I had used templates to build a few websites over the years, and I really enjoyed it!

August 1st, 2014

  • Moment of clarity strikes me that I could definitely be working in a different field the following year.

Spring Break 2015

  • A friend from college tells me about his experience leaving the teaching profession. We briefly brainstorm and I determine that I would be well-suited for web development.
  • I revisit (I had done a short course four years earlier). I get through all of the HTML/CSS/JavaScript modules, taking notes like mad on the things that I need to study more.

Early June 2015

  • Phone/Email conversation with a recent grad (colorturtle dot com) of the Greenville, SC campus of the code school The Iron Yard (TIY). I ask many questions about the process and am rewarded with helpful, frank answers. He lives in the Dallas area and works as a Front End Developer for a local shop. After some research into The Iron Yard, I excitedly discuss this with my wife. She agrees that I could switch careers and make it work.

Helpful hints from my TIY friend:

  • Go to meetups to meet people and hear the jargon.
  • Learn more JavaScript beforehand than you think you need.

    • Suggested book - Eloquent JavaScript (eloquentjavascript dot net)
  • Start a blog and use twitter.
  • Understand that you will be well-suited for a junior developer role upon graduation.

Mid-June 2015

  • Video interview with Aaron Larner for a spot in the “Front End Engineering” class at The Iron Yard-Austin.
  • I work out a possible move to Austin starting on the first day of school here in Texas, staying with my friend Dave Reyes in a house that he just bought. (The plan is to come home most weekends, a three-hour drive.)
  • After hearing that I was accepted to TIY-ATX, I resign from my teaching job and continue to code every day.

June-July 2015

  • I dig into the pre-work for my course at TIY. I go through all of the Codecademy HTML/CSS/JavaScript modules again, taking notes over every section. I learn by writing, so I was putting a lot of code on paper during this time.
  • Each day has time set aside to learn code beforehand to make it as automatic as possible for me.
  • I go to a few meetups and tell my story to people. They are usually fairly astonished that a band director would get into software development. Overall people are supportive and happy to see a new face. Yay meetups!
  • I meet Chirag at a meetup at his nod co-working space (noddfw dot com) in north Dallas. Turns out he is a drummer, and his first teacher was one of my best friends from high school. We later discover that Chirag and I share a birthday with each other (and Harry Potter).

August 2015

  • Last teaching gig of the summer with a good friend at the University of Texas-Arlington, then officially on to a life of typing on my laptop and making pretty things.
  • Sunday before TIY classes start, my 10 year-old daughter gets baptized. Afterwards we have a family lunch along with some of our best friends. During this meal I have to get in the car and head to Austin. My wife prepares for her semester of classroom teaching, two graduate school classes, and four kids in four different schools. This was not an easy day.

The Iron Yard - August 24 for twelve weeks

  • I make a habit of blogging regularly. I take up the habit of a daily walk each morning. I keep my head down and work hard. FaceTime with the wife and kids each night keeps me motivated to learn as much as I can. (See many previous blog posts about things I worked on in Austin.)

Here’s where things start moving!

Friday, November 13, 2015

  • Graduated from The Iron Yard-Austin

Thursday, November 19

  • Found out about a position with Call-Em-All in Frisco, TX from Gautum. I met him through Chirag on Twitter (later in person at a meetup). He pointed me to a great site called LaunchDFW (launchdfw dot com), which I had been watching every day, but somehow missed this position!
  • The company makes it easy to send out automated phone calls and text messages as a broadcast. Go try it for free! You might find it useful!

Tuesday, November 24

  • Submitted an application to Call-Em-All (cover letter, resume, LinkedIn profile).

Monday, November 30

  • Call-Em-All sent me a link to do a written interview which I completed a few hours later.

Monday, December 7

  • Invitation to a telephone interview with Call-Em-All.

Tuesday, December 8

  • Hour-long telephone interview with both the Call-Em-All President and VP of Engineering after which I send a follow-up email.

Wednesday, December 9

  • Received an email with a coding challenge from VP of Engineering which I completed and sent back a few hours later.

Monday, December 14

  • Call-Em-All set up an on-site interview for me to meet the engineering team

Thursday, December 17

  • Tour of Call-Em-All and interview with President, VP of Engineering, and the entire engineering team. Loved the team. Great interview!
  • Later that afternoon they call back and offer me the job. I accept! One more surprise: they are renting out a theatre on my first day of work to let all employees and their families watch the new Star Wars movie together!

Monday, December 21, 9:30am - Official start of new career!

What I did not include above:

  • Coding every day
  • Some other places where I applied
  • Constantly learning and trying new things
  • Continuing to attend meetups and learning more about the community.

All of this is not to say that everyone switching careers and going to code school can expect similar results. However, a positive attitude and some help from the community goes a long way. Meetups were (and continue to be) extremely helpful to get acclimated to the language of a new field. If you go out and tell your story, then you will also likely meet some people that might end up being very influential to you!

Also, it helps the company that offered me a position is looking for great people that share similar values and attributes. I wanted to work for a smaller company that knew what they are all about; a place where I can get to know the people and have a great team spirit. Whatever you are looking for in a job, figure it out and go for it!

I cannot stress this enough: get outside of your comfort zone and meet new people, learn new things, push yourself further than you thought you could go. You might find that the rewards are tremendous!

Michael D. Mathew.

Written by Mike Mathew who lives and works in Dallas building useful things. Sometimes he posts on Mastodon. Mike also wears many hats at Presto Assistant where he is a co-founder, owner, and product engineer.