Alumni Stories: From Petco Employee to Software Engineer

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Meet a former Petco employee (and fish fanatic himself!) turned software developer whose interest in coding rekindled during the pandemic. Ari Brashir She is a vibrant part of our community – and not just because of her hair color. Her bright and exuberant personality and clear desire to learn and encourage her peers leave a distinct impression on everyone who meets her. It wasn’t a big surprise when the company she interned for extended a job offer her way. She recently shared details about her experience here at LEARN, including some important steps she took towards the course.

Tell us about you! What did you do before LEARN, and what was the catalyst that led you down this path?

Before LEARN, I spent the last few years working at Petco as a person who does all the maintenance on the fish tanks. I loved being around the animals, but the work was very physically demanding, and a lot of the customers treated me very badly, so a change had been on my mind for a while. During the pandemic, I got back into coding as a hobby after talking to a friend who works in the industry. I took some online courses to teach myself HTML and CSS, built some simple projects and loved it. That’s when it hit me that I could do this for a living, and I decided to pursue it wholeheartedly soon after.

How did you navigate the ongoing demands of life while completing the program? We know it’s a big ask, spend four months of your life focusing so intently on this new GoaI am!

I’m not going to lie; It was incredibly difficult. I left my job while studying, so I would finish class on Friday, stay up until midnight trying to complete as much of my homework as possible, then go straight to work the next day. I clearly remember taking breaks from work to hide in the supply closet to solve problems with my classmates. If I didn’t fully understand a topic in class by the end of the day, I would stay up late at night completing every stretch goal for that topic until it finally clicked in my head. Failure was not an option for me – financially, physically or emotionally. I truly believe that you get out of the program what you put into it, and I put my whole heart and soul into it each and every day.

Could you share with us more about your current role; How did you find it, how was the interview process and how do you enjoy it?

I found my current position through the internship program at LEARN! My current company is a relatively small startup, and part of my internship was helping them design and design the look of their app. To be honest, there was no interview process for me – they asked to hire me a week before the end of our internship because they liked the work I had done for them so far!

How has LEARN been a resource for you in your job search?

Considering I got my job through LEARN’s internship program, they were the resource! I also had no LinkedIn or professional resume before participating in the program, and now I have over 500 contacts just from the advice given to me by the instructors!

How did LEARN stand out for you among all the programs available?

I researched reviews from students and previous employers who hired LEARN graduates and found nothing but positive reviews. I was also drawn to the relatively short time frame (most programs seem to have a minimum of 6 months), and the promised internship seemed too good to be true. (Spoilers: it’s not!)

You identify as part of a marginalized group; How did that affect your experience attending bootcamp and launching a career in an industry that historically hasn’t been so welcoming to diverse groups of people?

Although it’s not something I feel very comfortable revealing on a daily basis, I am part of the LGBTQ community and felt very anxious about this fact when I first decided to join the program. However, the environment within LEARN is so positive and supportive that it was something I felt I didn’t need to hide After getting to know my classmates and instructors, I’m so happy to say that my overall experience with both the program and the industry has been incredibly welcoming – I definitely feel that your skills and personality are what get you the job at the end of the day, regardless of anything else.

Any advice for people considering taking the leap and taking the program?

I highly recommend trying some code yourself or attending a 3-day bootcamp if moving into tech has been on your mind – but if you’ve ever coded before and know it’s something you’re interested in – just do it! Working in technology has provided me with the quality of life I’ve always wanted, and I no longer have to wake up every morning trying to convince myself to go to work. It’s beyond life changing, and you get so much more than just technical skills from the program – you get an entire community to support you every step of the way.

Any advice for people who have signed up and are about to start the program?

My biggest advice to people who signed up is don’t compromise on the prep work! LEARN is here to give you the basic skills you need to get a job in the industry, but there’s a lot more to being a good developer than just the basics. Take advantage of the free resources they send you, brush up on your HTML and CSS skills, and maybe even practice some Javascript basics so you’re ready to go! By no means will doing good prep work make this program easy – but it will help you immensely as you move into building full course projects.

Is there anything else you want to share with us?

LEARN has been such an integral part of my journey to becoming a developer – and I can’t thank everyone who helped me along the way enough. I really hope to come back and work with the company as a guide someday!

Ari BrashirThe journey of becoming a software developer is an extraordinary journey that showcases the impact of persistence, hard work and community support. The challenges of completing our program full-time are certainly there but they serve a very real purpose. We want to ensure our graduates have the skills they need to succeed. By relying on our resources and putting in the effort, Ari successfully transitioned into her new career as a software engineer. In conjunction with her dedication, our resources supported her journey, including the internship program that connected her to her current job. Her experience also underscores the welcoming and supportive environment here, enabling people from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in technology. If you think this might be the right next step for you, apply to our program today! We can’t wait to meet you and support you in the next steps of your journey.


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