Kevin Grayson started our program after leaving a pretty successful and lucrative career behind. Why? Because he felt stagnant in his role and rarely found opportunities to grow professionally. He decided his best bet to enter tech was through a program that was taught in person in a community he felt was vested in his success. And we’re so fortunate he chose Alchemy. He was a great addition to our program and we enjoyed having him here.
We miss him here at Alchemy but it is so gratifying for us to see him leave for the role he wanted most: Software Engineer in Data Products at Vacasa. Not only did he secure his dream role, he also became a proud father shortly after he started his position. It’s pretty incredible to see our graduates get the security they need to support their growing families.
Learn more about Kevin, why he became a software developer, what he was doing before Alchemy, and what it was like for him to secure his first position after graduation:
1. What were you doing for work before attending Alchemy?
Before Alchemy I was in property management. Specifically, I oversaw staff, operations and financial performance of class-A multifamily assets (think large apartment communities, high-rise building, etc.)
Despite some positive aspects of my previous career, over the years, I always felt like I was solving the same problems again and again. It was a grind for sure and every free minute was spent on meetings, reports, sales, staff, vendors, and customer needs. While I saw the occasional opportunity to improve processes with my love for technology, many customer-facing roles aren’t conducive to automating things; there’s nothing predictable about daily interactions with thirty or more stakeholders. It finally dawned on me that what I really enjoyed was breaking down problems and streamlining solutions with tech—without the noise.
3. Had you considered other coding schools? What made you choose Alchemy over the others if so?
I didn’t visit other schools in person but I did quite a bit of research online. Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Portland, everywhere. I was curious about online-only programs but quickly realized that full-time, in-person learning was the right choice for me. With that decided, due diligence led me to Alchemy and a call with Marty plus an in-person visit with Megan confirmed that this was where I wanted to learn full-time. The curriculum, the impression I got upon visiting, and the amount of in-person support available to students were the things that made Alchemy stand out. Also, Alchemy’s continued success quite literally depends on your success in the job market. With that in mind, I knew they were going to share a vested interest and make my outcome a priority (and they did).
4. When did you graduate and can you expand upon your job search a bit? How long did you actually work on landing a job?
I graduated at the end of September 2018. I didn’t really expect to land a job until January or February when many companies wrap up the holidays and their budgets for the new year. It took me five months of applying and interviewing and I received multiple offers including the company I had considered my top choice in PDX. Side note for those thinking that five months is a long time: I was consistent but somewhat selective in my applications as I really enjoyed being a TA during that time. Had I been applying to jobs full-time I’m confident I could have shaved a month or two off the search.
5. What is your new position?
Software Engineer, Data Products at Vacasa.
6. Can you tell us about the types of technologies and languages you are using in your new role and did Alchemy prepare you well to learn/use them?
Alchemy definitely prepared me in terms of specific tech like MongoDB, Node, React, and that kind of thing. I’m confident in my use of those tools because I had great hands-on learning with them during the program. In retrospect though, what I really valued at Alchemy was learning HOW to learn while in tech. So much of your experience on the job is specific to your company’s configuration and their tech stack that you really have to be curious and experimental in your efforts. I think that Alchemy fully embraces that as part of the grind; you always had an instructor to help you remove blockers but it was more that you were given the knowledge needed to succeed and then encouraged to solve your app’s specific problems by being resourceful in various ways before seeking assistance. Having that ingrained in my head is invaluable to me now since that’s the reality of the job. You have to be tenacious and have a love for that next error message and Alchemy really helped me push forward in that regard.
7. Why are you excited about it, and how is it going to impact your life?
I’m excited about the continued learning and I love the fact that I’m behind the scenes making someone's workflow more efficient and enjoyable. It’s very satisfying to hear another team say “If I just had a tool that did ______, I could...” and you can say, “Cool, yeah, we can build that for you.” It’s a lot of work and never easy but so many of life’s pain points can be reduced or eliminated with some sound logic and a team of developers. It impacts my life because not only is the knowledge yours to keep, once you have this programming mindset, you don’t approach life—or obstacles—the same way that you once did.
8. How did being a teacher's assistant help you on your journey to employment?
Being able to articulate technical concepts to people who don’t yet have the knowledge you do is both challenging and rewarding. It really confirms what you know and what you don’t. In general, the act of teaching reinforces the stuff you know and forces you to iron out the details of the things you don’t before moving forward; after all, nobody wants to lead others down the wrong path. Most importantly, it makes talking tech much more natural, it is a testament to your leadership abilities, and—at least in my opinion—it makes it pretty clear that you really are in to this whole coding thing. Sort of a practice-what-you-preach kind of thing.
9. What will you miss most about being at Alchemy every day?
The general camaraderie. When I was a student it was between me and the members of my cohort and when I was a TA, it was between my fellow TAs, instructors, and the students we taught. Either way you always had people excited to be trying new things, building something, solving problems, and lending great support. I’m lucky to have that at work now too but the Alchemy experience was a special one.
10. If there’s anything you would tell someone considering an education to be a software developer, what would it be?
Don’t let the idea of something new and foreign intimidate you. If you want to be a software developer, all the tools and resources are out there to become one and you can do it, regardless of your background or what you’re doing today. One thing I would advise though is to really ask yourself why you want to become one. The “why” will be the thing that keeps you going when things get challenging. And it will, without a doubt, be challenging (but in a good way!).
11. Was career services helpful for you after graduation?
Absolutely. The tech industry has so many different avenues that people new to the industry are unaware of. Without guidance from career services (thanks, Shannon!) I wouldn’t have been able to talk to the industry professionals I did, dial in what I wanted in a role, the culture of a company, or a number of other things. It’s easy to find reasons not to do the things you know you need to do. Fortunately, with career services, I always had someone pushing me to take the next step that was in my best interest.