Anthony Psyk on making the leap from bartender to software engineer

Anthony Psyk had long been interested in software engineering, but life’s obstacles made it so he couldn’t see a clear path into the industry. Things changed suddenly when COVID-19 shut down the casino and bar where he worked in Las Vegas. He decided to pursue software engineering seriously at that point, after years of stop-and-go self-study.

He graduated from our Intermediate Coding Bootcamp and accepted an offer to be a Software Engineer at Health Note six weeks later. Below, read about Anthony’s coding bootcamp experience, what aspects of his former bartending career he uses to his advantage as a software engineer, and what he’s working on now as part of the Health Note team.

How did you find your way to software engineering? And what keeps you interested?

I suppose I’ve always been interested, to some degree. But I didn’t really know anybody in my personal life who has a job as a software engineer. I’ve always known about it on some level, even when I was younger, but I really fell in love with it when I was in university. I took a computer science course, and I was just like, ‘Oh, this is a lot of fun. This is something that I could probably do, maybe in another life.’

I was going to school for math at the time, and I wasn’t able to pursue my education any further. I had to fall into the service industry here in Las Vegas, just to make the ends meet. Then when COVID hit, and all the casinos out here shut down, including the one where I worked, I was like, ‘This is the time to actually start to pursue a career in this.’

I had bought some books over the years. I had a book in C++, so I was doing a little bit of self-study, but nothing too serious. So that’s when I began to take it a little bit more seriously and pursue avenues to get into it.

Does anything stand out about your time in the coding bootcamp?

I think the biggest thing that Hack Reactor prepares you for – and it’s something that I’m really realizing now on the job – is that when you start a project or any coding challenge, you have to be okay with that ambiguity of, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but I can figure it out.’

It’s about being comfortable with ambiguity and being okay with feeling a little overwhelmed and not sure what to do at times. And then having a process of getting out of that.

You’re now at Health Note. What do you do there? What kinds of projects are you working on so far?

Health Note is a relatively new startup and its mission is to automate patient intake through the use of intelligent questioning software and to dynamically generate physician notes from that data. They have a chatbot app that asks patients questions tailored specifically to them, in a questionnaire-like format that is accessible to non-tech savvy patients. Health Note is all about eliminating the majority of the manual work for physicians so more time is focused on the patients.

I’m currently developing a tool that is complementary to the core app. The goal of this tool is to significantly reduce the onboarding time for clients and eliminate redundant work for the company as a whole.

I know you’ve only been with Health Note for a short time, but thus far, what aspects of the job do you like? And have you run into any challenges yet?

Yeah, absolutely. The tool that I am working on uses frameworks and libraries I hadn’t used before, so getting started was tough, to say the least!

As far as things I like, I think what has really struck me here so far is how good the mentorship program is. My direct supervisor is always willing to lend a helpful ear. He’s always available to answer my questions, and that’s generally the culture all around. Everybody is really approachable for questions and happy to provide help.

What’s your work environment like? Do you work remotely? 

I’m completely remote. They sent me everything that I need, including a work laptop, a keyboard and mouse, a monitor, and cool company gear. So I’m in my little bunker here at my home.

Remote work was something that I specifically wanted to get into. I think after working seven years at an in-person job, it’s a complete 180. And that was intentional. I wanted to really change things up and try something new. So far, it’s exciting and challenging, and I’m happy to be doing meaningful work at the end of the day.

Is there anything from your years in hospitality that you’ve been able to carry over into your new career in software engineering? 

Not on a technical level, obviously, because I worked as a bartender. But one thing that did really help me out when interviewing was the fact that bartending got me out of my shell. I was a pretty introverted kid, but when I started tending bar and helping guests, I was directly talking to people, because you don’t get tips by just standing there and making drinks. And it’s cool bartending in Vegas, in particular, because you meet people from all over the world, and you get to hear their experiences and perspectives.

So when it came to interviewing, and now when I’m talking to other people at the company, I realized I developed some really strong social skills. This is the type of soft skill that comes with a lot of practice, which makes me grateful for my bartending career.

There were a lot of takeaways from working on the Vegas Strip and interacting with coworkers of different personalities and maneuvering around all of that. It definitely helps. And I knew it would help me, but I didn’t realize how much, as it allowed me to perform really well during behavioral interviews.

Do you have any advice for someone who’s about to start their first day of the coding bootcamp? 

It’s a difficult program, and you are going to feel stressed going through it, but that’s okay. I went into the program with hardly any foundational knowledge. If you put the hard work in and make a point to see the program through to the end, you will be rewarded immensely.

I came from a completely different industry and didn’t finish my degree. A lot of the people that were in my cohort had a degree of some kind, even if it wasn’t tech-related. I thought that was going to be a barrier for me, but after a lot of hard work, I was able to get an amazing job at a great company. If you don’t give up, despite the fact that it gets really stressful at times, you’ll have a lot to take away from your experience at Hack Reactor.

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Interested in learning how to code and changing your career? Anthony graduated from our Intermediate Coding Bootcamp. In this blog post, read about all of our coding bootcamp options, including our Beginner Coding Bootcamp for those with zero coding experience.

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