Meet Mackenzie Berliner-Glasser, known around Alchemy Code Lab as Mack. He’s a grad now employed at Workday as a Software Engineer II. He navigated our program with a great deal of heart, emotional intelligence, and care.
Mack graduated in December 2018, after which he became a teaching assistant. In that role, he helped us onboard a new cohort and worked to help students thrive in the program.
One reason Mack was successful was that during the rigor of our 23-week program, he took care of himself as well as his education. He took the time to exercise and do healthy things for himself which helped manage the stress of a career change and a challenging learning environment. He also had a high level of self-awareness and excelled at networking.
Networking was key to how he landed his current job at Workday. He was also promoted from Software Developer I to Software Developer II in less than six months.
Every time he’s asked if he enjoys his career as a developer, the smile on his face says it all. And like most of our grads, he was able to successfully transition to working remotely and collaborating with an online team post-Covid.
We miss seeing him every day, but we’re thrilled he’s thriving and happy. Keep reading to learn about his journey from before the program to where he is now...
What were you doing for work before attending Alchemy?
Before Alchemy, I was working during my first year out of college as an Americorps member for Playworks, a national non-profit that supports learning, community, and health by providing safe and inclusive play to low-income students in schools. My school was in the Portland area.
Tech wasn’t always something I was interested in. I was initially introduced to it in college studying public policy. We used several mapping tools to help gather datasets for our projects. Some students used python to collect more interesting data at a far more rapid pace than the rest of us. At the time, I thought this tool was fascinating, but it felt foreign since I hadn’t been introduced to how it works. Fast forward to a year after graduation: As an Americorps member, I had a small office next to the student library at the school I worked at. One day I noticed that some of my own elementary school students were in their technology class learning to code. I figured, if they can do it why can’t I? It was turning point and I decided to learn.
What made you choose Alchemy over other code schools?
I definitely looked at multiple schools. But honestly, I didn’t consider other ones and here’s why: When I applied to Alchemy they required that I sit down with both the school director (Megan) and the lead instructor (Marty). Through these conversations, I learned more about the culture of the program, beyond the project-based instructional approach. I was immediately attracted to the sense of community and support the Alchemy program came with.
Tell us more about your job search.
I graduated in the winter cohort of 2018 and started my job search immediately. Luckily, I launched my search while also working as a TA at Alchemy. Juggling that, plus networking, resume work, personal projects, and trying to keep a normal personal life was challenging! All in all, it took about eight months of persistence to find the right fit. Every second of that search was worthwhile because I got introduced to various work environments and couldn’t be happier with where I landed.
It is so crazy to say out loud, but I am a Software Engineer II at Workday and have been there for a year and a half.
Have you advanced since starting at Workday?
I was just recently promoted! Initially, I had a steep learning curve, and I worked really hard to build on the skills I developed at Alchemy to master what I need to perform my job. Every day I tell myself how fortunate I am to work with such smart and hard-working coworkers, who help me to continue to grow my skills.
In my role I wear a lot of hats, but I primarily work as a front-end developer. The main tech stack that I work with every day is TypeScript/React and Java. I think Alchemy does a great job of teaching you how to learn as a developer. That’s a key skill. Coming into my job there was a lot I was unfamiliar with, but was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I was able to learn, collaborate, and produce despite new and challenging technologies.
How has your new career impacted your life?
I do love my work. I’m getting paid to code, and to continue to learn. I work with an amazing group of people at Workday. My team is caring, smart, skilled, and collaborative, and it challenges one another to become better people, not just developers. I’m just a few years out of college, and this work opportunity has offered me something bigger than a steady salary and job security. It’s given me a sense of purpose, and a sense of belonging to a company that invests in me. So I’m a very happy guy!
You were a TA for a while. Was that helpful for you?
Absolutely! Being a TA was quite a challenge. I think it really helped me learn to better articulate myself technically, to ask the right questions and to take a step back from the code to try and understand from a higher level what is going on. It also taught me to mentor others just starting out. While I was always stressed out and spending a lot of my free time sharpening my own technical skills, I think that my time as a TA made me more hirable. You can teach people technical skills who are eager to learn, but the soft skills and how to use them are what is truly important.
What do you miss most about being at Alchemy every day?
I miss the community. It’s a rare opportunity to find a group of people who are all similarly invested at the same time in making a life transition, learning to become a developer. It’s definitely a bonding experience. After graduating and landing a job, you don’t forget that feeling of being a part of something special together.
What would tell someone considering a career change to software development?
First, I would say if this is something you want to do you have to go all in. These types of intensive programs work best for people who seriously invest their time and focus to get the most out of them. While it’s a very challenging learning experience, if you give it your all it’ll help you ten times over. Second, don’t forget to breathe! Make sure you’re taking breaks and getting a reasonable amount of sleep, and don’t neglect yourself, your family, significant other, pets, plants, etc., whatever it is that’s important to you in your life.
Were your Alchemy instructors helpful?
Yes! The instructors at Alchemy were amazing. They do a great job of ramping you up quickly. Before you know it the training wheels are off and you’re creating applications! The thing that helped me the most during my time at Alchemy was being challenged by the instructors to ask the right questions instead of “Help, it’s broken!” They teach you a new way to approach problems so that by the time you have formulated the question in your head you usually have an idea of what to try next. It’s a very important skill to be able to spend time (sometimes a lot of time) figuring it out for yourself.
What part of career services was helpful for you?
Shannon! She’s an amazing person and always roots for you. During my job search she kept me motivated to continue coding, to research companies, and most importantly to get out there and network! If I didn’t take her advice, I wouldn’t have landed my current dream job because I actually heard about it through someone at a ReactJS meetup.