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Alumni Interview

What’s the “Right” Experience to be a Career Changer and Learn to Code?

Monday, January 31, 2022

Interview with Alchemy Grad Joe Klause

Do you feel like you don’t have the right kind of experience to become a software developer?

Then you need to meet Joe Klause.

Before attending Alchemy, Joe earned an arts degree from the New England School of Music, was a professional trumpet player, and also spent five years running an ice cream sandwich business. He had an exciting, eclectic career but he was also regularly working 12-14 hour days and still not making enough money.

"I realized I needed to do something else from a financial standpoint. I wanted to feel more stable.”

So how did you choose Alchemy, out of all the options?

“I ended up having this conversation with the husband of a musician friend of mine, who is a manager at Nike. He asked what I enjoyed about my work. For me it was all about managing and developing more efficient processes to run the [ice cream sandwich] store."

He said, ‘You sound like a software engineer already. And if you do this then you should go to Alchemy because I've hired someone from Alchemy before and they're great.’ So pretty much five days later I was signed up to do the program. And I haven't really looked back.

Joe Klause

Software Developer

Do you think Alchemy prepares people with the tools necessary to jump into their first software development roles?

"Yes. After graduating from Alchemy Marty [Alchemy’s CEO] worked with me as a mentor, and I was basically developing an app by myself. I built two-thirds of that—writing components and a full stack app—before I left for my next job."

"When I moved into Sprinklr, I became the lead developer because I was able to leverage the skillsets of working alone by myself. I had a concept of architecture and the large scope of a code base because I'd created one essentially.”

“I also got to hire two people recently. And I interview people from all different code programs and backgrounds. The thing that I noticed about the Alchemy grads that I interviewed - they kind of go narrow and deep. They know the thing that we are hiring for. The narrow and deep thing is what gets you hired.”

“It's great to have a breadth of knowledge, but the actual tasks that you're assigned to do require depth of knowledge in one direction.”

Fortunately Alchemy stays on top of what technologies people are hiring for. And are constantly adapting their program in order to stay current, stay at the crest of the wave.

How did our Career Services team help your career change and job search?

“Career services helped me to frame my previous life and work experience in such a way that it was applicable to software engineering."

"I think that Career Services allowed me to put words to being a classical musician: I'm in graphic languages, I understand different types of languages, how to communicate, how to see disparate parts and bring them together and synthesize them. And the management styles of my ice cream sandwich business and how running a business day to day, and managing people–how that is effectively the same no matter where you go and what you're doing.”

What advice would you give to students just starting or considering the program? Would you have done anything differently?

“If you get lost in it then that's a good sign. Focus in and do the work. I just did all my homework.”

“Don't worry about the fact that you might not understand it at first. I saw a lot of people struggle because they're actively trying to pull out of their brain the thing that was just demonstrated to them...and practice bad habits instead of looking at the source code and trying to understand it and code along with it. It's really just focus in, do the work, and don't get distracted, on a day to day basis.”