Tommy Gaessler graduated from our Intermediate Coding Bootcamp back in 2016. His initial interest in coding began early in life, inspired by playing Minecraft with friends and pursued through high school coding courses. After high school, he enrolled in the bootcamp and launched a career that he’s still enjoying today, now as a Senior Developer Advocate and Software Engineer at Zoom.
In this Q&A, read about Tommy’s career trajectory, his role at Zoom, and the robust advice he has for bootcamp students.
What drew you to software engineering?
Growing up, I loved building things, especially Legos and Minecraft worlds. My friends and I wanted to play Minecraft together, and in the early days, the only way you could do that was by coding a Minecraft server. I learned how to code a server and that sparked my passion for software engineering.
What led you to enroll in this program specifically?
I went to a college prep high school. I loved coding so I took all the coding classes they offered. Then I said, “What’s next?” I found out about Galvanize through the Denver Startup community. I learned they offered coding courses, and I chose to enroll in the immersive bootcamp right out of high school instead of attending college.
During the program, I built a solid foundation in software engineering thanks to my great instructors. Each day, we would build upon the foundation to keep expanding our skill set. I loved all the hands-on learning and building, vs. just reading out of a textbook like in traditional schooling. By the end of the program, we had learned all aspects of software development and were confident in building software applications.
I made lasting friendships with my classmates and connected with the startup community and entrepreneurs. Galvanize also hosted a number of meetups that I would attend to learn more about the software industry and expand my network.
What’s your role at Zoom?
My role is Senior Developer Advocate and Software Engineer. I love coding, but I also love working with people and other developers. Developer relations was a sweet spot for me.
I wear a lot of hats at Zoom, like writing production code, creating sample apps for our software development kits (SDKs) and APIs, product managing, writing documentation, helping sales close developer platform deals, speaking at conferences and meetups about the Zoom Developer Platform, growing the developer community, and more.
What do you like about your role? And on the flip side, what challenges have you faced?
I like how I can speak to developers around the world about what they are building and how Zoom can solve unique problems for them and power their innovative use cases.
There can be many challenges during your role, but having a strategy to overcome the challenges is critical. At Zoom, before we try to solve a problem, we take a step back and dive into the root cause of the problem. Once we fully understand the problem, then we work on solutions, which is the fun part because you can think outside the box and solve problems in innovative, scalable ways.
What’s your work environment like? On-site, remote, etc.?
At Zoom, we have the option to work from the office or remotely. It’s also great to connect with your team and friends in person at the office, collaborate together and celebrate the wins. It’s a nice work-life balance.
It’s nice to check in with you at this stage of your career. How do you feel about your career trajectory since you graduated?
Galvanize is the launchpad to your career in tech. I have been nothing but blessed with my career so far.
Every company is different, and every manager has a different management style. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and add value where you see opportunity to.
Do you have any advice for incoming bootcamp students?
I have a few key pieces of advice that worked for me and that I share with classes and students I speak to:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Don’t compare yourself with other people; only compare yourself with who you were yesterday.
- Grow your network. Don’t just attend meetups and hackathons, meet the speakers and judges. Add them on LinkedIn and stay in touch with them.
- Share your story; everyone has a unique path to becoming a Software Developer.
- There’s a saying in the startup world around raising capital for your company that can be applied to your job search. Ask for money and you’ll get advice. Ask for advice and you’ll get money. When you’re searching for a job, show your projects to your network or with employees of a company you’re looking to join. Ask for advice on your project. The worst thing that can happen is they give you advice on how to improve it. The best thing is they are impressed and want to interview you to join their company.
- Mentor other students or junior developers. Teaching helps deepen your understanding of topics and develops leadership skills. It’s important to give back and be humble.