An Engineer’s Pivot into Web Development
Where it All Began
Like many, I struggled with what to study in college. I enjoyed math, science, and logic puzzles and craved working with new technologies. I wanted the skills to produce. It could have been websites, robots, companies...it didn’t matter as long as it was building the future. Ultimately I decided to pursue engineering.
I started by pursuing my Bachelors in Computer Engineering. I graduated from Virginia Tech in 2015 and realized that I still didn’t have the tools I wanted to conquer the future of technology. I immediately pursued my masters in Computing from Marquette and graduated in 2017.
Little did I know at the time, Computer Engineering didn't teach me web development, Drupal, or the infrastructure of the internet. Instead, my time was spent learning complicated signal processing, building circuit boards, and programming small-scale functions for specific microchip hardware. These skills were difficult to translate into real world opportunities. I had dreamed of working at companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google where they "built the future", or even the NBA and Twitter (which use Drupal) but they weren't interested in the skillsets that I had built throughout college. They wanted proven, real-world experience with the web.
My education afforded me career opportunities testing software for large corporations. Some would say I had “made it”, but I still wasn’t doing the creating and building I set out to do when I started my education.
My testing work lived and died in a silo. When I did rarely get to do development, it was hidden within our company’s private needs, never seeing the larger public. Struggling to reach a wider audience, I decided to continue to expand my technical capabilities looking for the path that led me to producing work that directly impacted the masses.
The Persistent “Pull”
My desire to create something public and worthwhile still yearned to break free. My entrepreneurial spirit hadn’t been satisfied. I had some of the technical skills, but didn’t know how to put them together. I knew the foundations of code, but didn’t know how to code for the web or build an actual website. I had a set of keys and wanted to open a lock, but had no idea which keys to use.
I was fortunate - A few stars aligned which facilitated my journey into web development. I had moved back home to Northern Virginia, where several hometown friends told me about a course they had taken with Debug Academy where they learned Drupal web development. I was intrigued, but there was a big problem: I had never even heard of Drupal before. Still, I saw the websites built by Debug Academy and their alumni - personal portfolio websites, websites for government and non-profit organizations, and more - and I knew that it could connect the pieces. I had visions for entrepreneurial websites and businesses, and Debug Academy would help me get there.
I enrolled in Debug Academy’s 3-month, part-time Drupal course. At the start, I felt comfortable. I had familiarized myself with the basics of HTML and CSS prior to the start of class, but we quickly advanced beyond my knowledge area.
Most notably, for the first time in years I wasn’t surrounded by “engineers”. I was pursuing this passion with people from all backgrounds. There were notably more female students in my small Debug Academy class than there had been in nearly all my engineering courses thus far. It really made me feel like I was in the most inclusive and accepting environment I’d been in in a long time. Debug Academy welcomed everyone with open arms, regardless of our backgrounds, and transformed us from students into a development team.
I quickly realized this course wasn’t what I had grown accustomed to throughout my college education. Rather than work on individual projects, I was developing as part of a class “enterprise team”. I learned to use Git to cooperatively code with my classmates. (Git had baffled me throughout college. It took some hands-on projects and jargon-less explanation by Debug Academy instructors for me to learn how to use it properly.) I implemented responsive website designs. I learned SASS, Twig, PHP, and basic Drupal architecture.
In 3 months, I learned the building blocks of the web. In just 3 months, I learned what I had failed to learn throughout my entire college career. I finally knew how to create a real, live, professional website from start to finish.
I graduated from Debug Academy’s Drupal Web Development course in 2018. In just two years, my career was transformed from that of a tester to that of a developer. I went from working on private company applications to public-facing websites visited by millions of people. My title transformed from “Software Tester” to “Senior Drupal Web Developer” within months of completing the course.
Perhaps that was most surprising to me. I didn’t have to “start over my career” in web development. Debug Academy helped me navigate the journey without skipping a beat, and I came out the other end all the more prepared for the career that I expected when I enrolled in my engineering education back in 2011.
At the same time, I don’t feel like my engineering background gave me an edge over any of my classmates, either. We all came from different stages in our careers but with one shared goal, to get started with a career in website development.
See What Debug Academy Can Do For You
The next Debug Academy Drupal course is coming up in September 2020 and I highly recommend anyone interested in web development check it out. Sign up for a free course preview, or book a call to speak with an instructor.