From the Source: Seth Lytton

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I originally went to school for architecture and then worked for like, half a year, and realized it kind of sucked. I went to CU Boulder, which was awesome. I had a bachelor’s in environmental design with an emphasis on architecture. It was super creative and really challenging, and stressful, and I just loved the school. But when I got into the real world, it was just… there wasn’t a lot of work when I got out of school, and I sort of watched the firm that I worked at just kind of collapse.

I was thinking about going back to school for computer science, and my boss told me: ‘Just don’t go back for architecture. Don’t be an architect.’ The housing market was so awful and they thought it would be a long time before it recovered. I would have had to go for like a two-year master’s and then do three years of internship, then take 10 exams in order to actually become an architect. And then you start out making like 50 or 60 thousand a year. So the cost-benefit didn’t really pay off.

I was really interested in technology. I would spend all my lunch hours reading about tech stuff. I mean, I grew up with computers and it was just always something I was interested in. But I took a computer science class in high school and was awful at it. So when I got to college, I thought ‘Well, maybe I’m just not smart enough to do it.’ So I just went down the architecture road, but after working in architecture and realizing there was still a large interest.

I went back to CU for two years. A year at Front Range to do pre-reqs, and then a year in CU to do more pre-reqs for a master’s. Then I had an internship at Tendril, which is like a green software engineering company in town. And then I left for two years and went on the road and traveled around in a van, which was awesome.

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We only lived in the van for five months or so, and then we started renting places around the country. My wife and I. It was just something we had both always wanted to do. At the time I had just finished all the pre-reqs for my master’s and she was working remotely, so it just worked out. Our original plan was to go for a year and then I would apply to school, but we started a small rock climbing training business that was like an online website, so I was trying to learn coding on my own and do it that way. During the internship a lot of people told me I didn’t really need to go for a master’s; that I could probably just learn what I needed to know on my own. So that’s what I tried, but it didn’t work out as well as I would have liked, which is why I’m here.

We started our trip in Boulder, and then we went to Idaho, then the Vancouver area, like Vancouver Island, and then Kentucky, Chattanooga, Vegas, then back here for a little while, and then Vegas again and back here, and then Vegas and then Florida. We were all over the place.

We wanted to see the country, and go climbing.

The first time I ever went climbing was probably when I was like eight, but I didn’t actually start rock climbing until I was 16 in high school. My school had a rock climbing wall, and it was an easy non-ball sport to get your credit. It turned out I was pretty good at it, so I just kept going.

While I was trying to learn coding on my own, I had a friend who went to Galvanize. She said it was pretty good and got a job right out of school. Literally like the first week out of school, making more money than I ever thought I would ever make. So I thought, ‘Huh. Maybe I should just dedicate six months and go for it.’ I did a lot of research and interviewed at a couple places. I was accepted at the Turing School and here.

The deciding factor was all the industry connections, and also it was here in Boulder and my wife and I wanted to be here.

I have a job lined up, I think. So I haven’t decided on a capstone project. I signed a contract so I don’t necessarily have to do one, so I’m trying to just pick something that’s not necessarily very flashy but will teach me the things I need to know for the job.

It’s at Salesforce. I think my official title will be associate software engineer, which is just the entry level role for a new software engineer. I’ll be working on the team that deals with all of their internal developer tools.

The job will be more Java-based, and Java isn’t a huge focus of the Immersive program. But on some level, programming is just programming. You take a problem, break it into pieces, try to write a structure for organizing those pieces, and then you write code to do that stuff. So while the syntax is different and even the way that it’s structured, like the language structure and the data is different, I think the concepts are pretty similar. And the syntax isn’t really that much different anyway, so I feel like I have the tools I need to just jump in.

I’ve been working almost only in Java for the last week and a half. It makes me feel stupid, but I think that’s a good thing. I think feeling challenged is kind of the whole point. If you’re not challenged, you’re not learning. It’s cool to see the similarities and frustrating to not fully understand the differences at times, but the more I do it, the more it makes sense.

I think that on some level both coding and climbing require a lot of suffering. They’re both really hard, and you have to put in a lot of work to be good at them. You can’t just like, do it on the weekends and get to be decent. It’s training, and they both require a lot of problem solving.

It’s funny because when you climb a boulder it’s called a problem. Like a particular way to get from the bottom to the top, and it feels like solving a problem. You know, you’ll walk up to it and it doesn’t seem like it’s possible, and then you spend three hours just falling off and falling off and falling off. And then by the end, maybe you’re not doing it, but you have a much better understanding of how you would do it, because you’ve done pieces of it and you start to put them together.

It’s the same with coding. Breaking something big into something smaller and taking pride in the little achievements along the way. Because otherwise, you’re totally demoralized. Sometimes the reality with climbing is you’re trying something that’s very hard, and you’re probably not going to succeed. My wife has been trying this one sport climbing route for three years now, and she hasn’t succeeded. But she takes heart in getting a little bit further each time. It’s similar to programming, where you don’t always fully solve the problem, but at least this piece of it is better.

-Seth Lytton, Galvanize Web Development Immersive student in Boulder, Colorado. You can find him on LinkedIn.

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