Meet David: Navy Veteran Turned Data Developer
When Navy veteran David Fazio starting looking for long-term career paths that built on the technical training he’d received in the Navy, all signs pointed to software development. He shares how his military experience prepared him for a coding bootcamp, and his advice on acing the job search after graduation.
Why did you decide to become a software developer?
I spent five years in the military working in the Logistics ecosystem. After I got out of the Navy, my background landed me roles that were technical in nature, but still working on supply chain systems. The companies that were interested in me where usually outside of the local Seattle area and required longer commutes than I envisioned for myself.
I had taken several contract roles over the years and wanted something more stable and long-term. I was unsatisfied with my daily work and it began impacting my quality of life. This motivated me to start taking different online career assessments that showed a probable match with software programming as a profession. This sounded very exciting, but I wasn’t sure how to make a successful career transition. Code schools were a new concept during this time.
When were you first introduced to coding?
The first time I was introduced to coding was a few years ago when a neighbor working as software engineer would tell me about his job when we would hang out. He was working in Ruby, and I recall the confused look on my face when he tried to explain a string object. It seemed so far out of my reach.
What were you doing before this?
I started grad school at the University of Washington and had a realization that another degree would not be the answer to finding passion in my previous career. I spent the next year shifting gears and mapping out what I really wanted to do professionally, and how to build a roadmap to get there.
We’re glad you decided to study at Code Fellows! What attracted you to this program, in particular?
The cohort class model was a big factor in my decision. The program provides a shared learning experience where students can build lasting, professional relationships. I have met some exceptional people who are not only my peers, but close friends.
What was the most challenging part of your class?
I had to reevaluate how to learn. My background relied heavily on me using an operational approach to thinking that involved clearly defined steps to complete a task. Programming requires a mindset of being okay with abstract, conceptual thinking and a level of ambiguity. This was a learning curve for me and found a lot of growth as a developer.
Favorite part of the program?
My lightbulb moment was awesome and memorable! I was in the middle of my 401 group project working on testing when it hit me. I had just helped build the backend architecture of a database with my team. The second portion of my 401 class was creating and connecting a front end to our application. It’s extremely satisfying to see your hard work transform into a tangible product.
Tell us about what you’re doing now. What does a typical day look like?
I’m working as a junior data developer with a startup focusing on big data services. My schedule changes often and can include work that involves manipulating large data sets, resolving bug fixes, participating in code review, and presenting in live demos. It all depends on the scope of project and business needs.
What’s your favorite part of your new company and career?
I’m on a technical rotation track that allows me the opportunity to learn and play with different technologies. This was a big selling point for me. I get to be a programmer and utilize other skills that are of interest. Every day is challenging, yet rewarding.
What’s one thing that helped make your job search successful that you would recommend to other grads?
It’s paramount to build your brand and start developing your networking skills if you haven’t already. Networking is how people get jobs these days.
What has it been like joining an industry that has historically not had a ton of diversity?
It’s similar to many other industries for those of us who are minorities, women, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized backgrounds. I’m aware of the challenges and hurdles in the tech landscape. It’s a constant reminder that my performance and quality of work need to exceed daily expectations.
Tell us about your background in the Navy. Did your experience help you in this kind of bootcamp?
My military experience focused on the logistics and supply chain of radar technologies in global markets. It prepared me in the sense that I was familiar with working in a fast paced, collaborative, and constantly changing environment. Being a veteran gave me the confidence to know this goal was achievable with determination and hard work.
What would you tell someone who wants a career in the tech industry, but doesn’t feel like they fit the mold?
The program attracts individuals that feel this way because they are the ideal candidate. This is a healthy and normal reaction. I suggest going to a Meetup, visiting the Code Fellows campus during an open house, or attending a monthly Code 101 workshop. It’s important to do your homework and see if this program is right for you.
Any advice for incoming students?
Make sure to get plenty of rest when you’re not coding and be honest with yourself about the time commitment the program will require. Spend an equal amount of effort working on your career development and branding yourself appropriately in the later stages of the program. This should be a memorable experience. Remember to have fun!
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