Stephanye Blakely’s advice on going from your first to second software engineering job

Post update: Since her story was first published back in June 2021, Stephanye has moved into the role of Software Engineer at Amazon Web Services (AWS). We recently caught up with her to ask about her transition into a second software engineering job and how the Intermediate Coding Bootcamp prepared her for a long-term career in the field. After this brief Q&A, read Stephanye’s original story below, which details how her passion for gaming led to a career change during the early days of the pandemic.

What drew you to the role you now have at AWS?

I actually got into AWS through an apprenticeship program but was drawn to the role because of the innovative and diverse projects that Amazon had available. My current role at AWS is working on internal tools that are used by other teams at Amazon, including a current project to make an interactive app that works as an onboarding tutorial for teams

Do you think the Hack Reactor program helped prepare you for a long-term career? If so, how?

Hack Reactor definitely prepared me in a number of ways! First, the technology and tools taught in Hack Reactor (JavaScript, NoSQL databases, and Git workflows) are things that I use daily in my current role and the focus Hack Reactor had on understanding basic concepts also allowed me to quickly pick up other things that I use daily including the Java language. Also, there is a big focus at Amazon on ownership, so being able to talk about my work or present solutions in meetings was a great skill that Hack Reactor helped me to develop.

Do you have any advice for folks who are looking to transition from their first, into their second, software engineering job?

Make sure you’re doing your best to take on projects or tasks in your first job, or as a hobby, that really align with where you want to be as a software engineer — and that you’re working to understand those projects and solutions. If you want to work as a full-stack software engineer, make sure you’re getting experience in different parts of your company’s tech stack whenever you can. Being able to speak in depth about the things you’re interested in because you have experience in them conveys both knowledge and passion during interviews and can go a long way toward helping you land your dream job.

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Original story: 

Stephanye Blakely’s interest in software engineering began before she even knew what software engineering was. She took an early interest in text-based games like King’s Quest and Space Quest, and while she enjoyed playing them, she was even more interested in how they were built – and how she could build her own.

“I got into teaching myself little bits and pieces of languages just to create things,” said Stephanye. “I loved the fact that it was always a challenge. It was like solving a puzzle every time.”

It was addicting, too. For years, she continued coding as a hobby, using online resources to learn new languages and skills in her spare time. It was abundantly clear that she’d found something she loved, but she wasn’t sure if or how it could translate into a career.

Eventually, she decided to take courses toward a computer science degree, but the timing wasn’t right, and she had to leave the program halfway through. For another couple of years, she “bounced around odd jobs,” she said, before being laid off at the onset of the Coronavirus in the spring of 2020.

“I kind of took that to maybe be a sign that I needed to look toward more fulfilling work for myself,” she said.

She decided to go for it, applying and enrolling in our Intermediate Coding Bootcamp. She graduated three months later with a renewed sense of confidence in her long-held passion.

“The biggest and most important thing that I got out of the program was confidence in my own skills,” she said. “I’d spent all those years teaching myself little bits and pieces of programming, but I never considered myself to be good at it. It was only through this experience that I realized not only can I do this for a living, but the experience I had in the class is actually going to contribute to that.”

And it did soon after graduation when Stephanye landed her current role as a Full-Stack Engineer at DentalHQ, a company with a mission she believes in: offering alternative pathways to dental care for those without insurance.

In her role, she implements new features and does front-end work. She also performs day-to-day bug hunting, solving whatever problems arise for both the internal team and the customer. As a member of a small team (just seven employees), she’s been given significant responsibility from the start, which she views as an exciting challenge and opportunity to grow quickly.

Additionally, her position is remote, and much like she felt during the onilne coding bootcamp, this type of structure allows her to balance work with her responsibilities and interests outside of work.

Of those interests, gaming is still one. Whenever time allows, she dives back into it as a way to decompress, connect with her son through play, and enjoy herself while continuing to hone and expand her craft. While most of her work at DentalHQ is in React and JavaScript, gaming helps her stay up-to-date with C# and Java.

This approach to learning, including the idea that it’s a continuous process, is what helped Stephanye get the most out of her coding bootcamp experience and what helped her connect with others in her cohort.

“My cohort had people in it who were teachers, people who had been in marketing, and a lot of them didn’t have a background in coding. But I think the one thing that we all had in common was that we really wanted to reach the same goal,” she said. “The bootcamp is definitely a good path, especially if you’re trying to change your life.”

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Learn more about our Intermediate Coding Bootcamp, which is designed for those with intermediate coding skills. 

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