Mike Lambert came to us with a passion for coding and desire for a career where he could continually learn and be challenged. His love for code was ignited a few years back when he started building spreadsheets and ended up making one that could essentially do his job for him. This led him to start studying programming on his own and eventually realize that he wanted more out of his career. Mike left his role to join our program and become a software developer. He now has a position where he’s mentally stimulated, part of a community that he enjoys, and feels fulfilled in terms of his seemingly never-ending curiosity to learn.
Mike also exemplifies many of the characteristics of our students - he’s bright, curious, and feels driven to seek out an intellectually challenging career. After doing very well in our program, is now in a role as a Software Engineer at CDK Global, where he finds himself enthused about the work he does.
Mike is missed at Alchemy. We wish we could have learned more Mandarin from him before he graduated (he’s quite fluent!). However, we’re so happy he’s now one of the many alums who have gone on to secure roles they absolutely love for their challenging nature. We’re thrilled they feel excited to show up to work each day to what’s not just a job, but rather a career.
Learn more about Mike’s journey below in his own words:
1. What were you doing for work before attending Alchemy?
Prior to Alchemy, I spent roughly seven years in the wholesale insurance industry, where I worked my way up from an entry-level position to an Assistant Vice President role.
At that same time, I began to do some honest introspection, evaluating what I really wanted out of my career and life in general. In doing so, I realized that my ambitions and goals were not well aligned with my (then) current career path. Personally, I am more motivated by the opportunity to learn new things and collaborate with others towards a common goal than I am with large financial packages or other sorts of status symbols. I realized that a career in software development held the potential to bring me real, lasting satisfaction.
3. Had you considered other coding schools? What made you choose Alchemy over the others if so?
I definitely did a lot of research before choosing Alchemy. My wife had attended Epicodus the year before, so I had quite a bit of insight into their program. I also contacted graduates and current students from other coding schools via LinkedIn. Alchemy put me in contact with a graduate of their program who was kind enough to grab lunch with me and give me an honest opinion of the program. Additionally, I attended the Alchemy Social Hour and chatted with quite a few people in the community.
Ultimately, I chose Alchemy for a few reasons:
- The Methodology: In speaking with Marty, I could tell that he had a very clear methodology, focusing on a single language to teach solid development skills. Alchemy is not interested in graduating students with a cursory understanding of many languages and frameworks, but rather they want their students to leave them with a deep understanding of good principles and practices. They are not trying to graduate junior developers who end up relying on the companies that hire them to invest and turn them into competent programmers. They are trying to graduate engineers who can add value to organizations immediately.
- The Community: As soon as I walked in the door at Alchemy, I felt that this was a community that I wanted to be a part of. Everyone is really into embracing their inner software nerd and they all share my values in terms of learning and collaboration.
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 in December 2018. I was pretty nervous about landing a job, especially because there was a constant voice in the back of my mind that kept on asking me whether or not I had made a mistake in making this huge career change.
However, it ended up not being so bad. I applied to quite a few roles and spent a lot of time networking and perfecting my elevator pitch. I got an offer by the end of February for a role that I started on April 1st. I was pretty lucky in that I didn’t even apply for the role, but rather the recruiter reached out to me after being given my resume from an employee who had heard about me from Shannon in career services.
5. What is your new position?
I am a Software Engineer at CDK Global. More specifically, I am a UI developer on the accounting team for the new Drive Flex product. We make the software that auto dealers depend on in order to run their businesses.
6. Can you tell me about the types of technologies and languages you are using in your new role and did Alchemy prepare you well to learn/use them?
I am really lucky in that I am using most of the very same tools that I learned at Alchemy. Our front end is developed in React with testing done using Jest. I definitely feel that Alchemy trained me extremely well in how to use these tools. I started my role not just able to write code that works, but with a good understanding of best practices for things like state management and testing, which have allowed me to add value from day one. In fact, I actually just developed and co-taught a three-part Intro to React course that was offered to the incoming intern class, as well as anyone else in the company interested in learning React.
7. Why are you excited about it, and how is it going to impact your life?
I am excited about my new role for a few reasons:
- I wake up every single day knowing that I am going to be learning something new.
- Although I am working in a very large organization, the project that I’m involved in is still relatively young. It feels a bit like a startup that is just beginning to scale. So, I get to contribute not just in terms of lines of code, but also in helping to develop an operational framework that will help take the project to the next level.
- I feel listened to by both management and my peers. When I have an idea, my manager and those around me are fully open to discussing the merits and/or pitfalls of the idea, and, in some cases, how we could potentially implement it.
Although I definitely felt supported and encouraged throughout my prior career in insurance, the nature of this role brings me a greater sense of satisfaction than I had felt in my past career trajectory.
8. How did working in the App Lab help you on your journey to employment?
It’s a huge leg-up to go into a job interview being able to talk about your work developing an application for a company with close to half a million users. (Big shout out to YoYo Chinese!) For example, rather than talking about what I had read about agile practices, I was able to discuss the agile methodologies that I was practicing on a daily basis. I also learned a ton about developing with code quality standards that are probably pretty rare at even the best companies out there.
9. What do you miss most about being at Alchemy every day?
It was really great being part of a community that shares my values and genuinely wants to see me succeed. I miss nerding-out with my former classmates and colleagues, but am happy that I can see most of them on a monthly basis at the Alchemy Social Hour. Also, my skills at Set, the card game, are starting to suffer a bit now that I’m not playing it several times a day.
10. If there’s anything you would tell someone considering an education to be a software developer, what would it be?
If you’re thinking about attending a code school, I’d make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons, which should revolve around your love for software development. Ignore most statistics about job placement rates or starting salaries and focus on the skills that you will be gaining and the community/network that you will be joining. If you’re primarily motivated by money or ease of employment, I’d recommend that you look into a career in sales, because the jobs are always easy to get and the overall earnings potential can be much higher. However, if you love to learn, work with others, and deep down inside of you there is a huge nerd that is yearning to be set free, then a career in software development may be a good choice.
11. Was career services helpful for you after graduation?
Absolutely. I think that the fact that I didn’t even apply to the job that I ended up getting says a lot on its own. Shannon did an amazing job networking on my behalf and I ultimately would not be in my current role if it wasn’t for her efforts.