CommunityFrom Security Technician to Developer at Prodigy Game: an Interview with Techdegree Student AJ

Faye Bridge
writes on November 7, 2017

32-year-old, AJ Longstreet from Ontario joined Treehouse with only the intention of learning the basics of the Python programming language, but it didn’t take long for him to get hooked on the problem-solving side of coding. With his newfound interest, AJ continued to grow his skills and soon branched into JavaScript, where he found himself excelling with the language. That’s when he enrolled in the Full Stack JavaScript Techdegree. He dedicated all of his free time to learning, coding in the mornings before going to his job in the security industry, and when he returned home in the evenings. By the time AJ had progressed through his Techdegree projects, he was confident in his new skillset and ready to make a career transition.

When it came to applying for his first job as a developer, Prodigy Game was not only impressed by AJ’s coding abilities but also his love of learning, which is essential for any aspiring developer.  Today, AJ not only has a career he enjoys as a Full Stack JavaScript and Python Developer at Prodigy, he also gets to works at a tech company with a fantastic culture and is surrounded by a team he loves to work with.

We asked AJ to share his experience going from a technician to a junior developer and his advice for other aspiring developers.

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What first encouraged you to learn to code and pursue a career in the tech industry?

I wanted to learn Python to make it easier to filter data in text files. I flipped through a bunch of super boring courses online until I stumbled across Treehouse. The first set of videos I watched were with Kenneth Love, the only person I know who uses as many puns as I do. That started me down the rabbit hole, I ended up getting hooked on the problem solving that’s inherent in development. At the time, I was a senior technician in the security industry. I worked with card access, camera systems, and networking.

I ended up getting hooked on the problem solving that’s inherent in development.

You recently landed an exciting new role at Prodigy Game. Tell us a little about how your career has evolved since learning to code and the work you’re doing now.

I started with learning Python and Java at Treehouse, before branching into JavaScript. It started when I realized that all of the cool stuff on the front end was done in JavaScript. So I jumped into the Full Stack JavaScript Techdegree. The fundamentals of code styling and structure I picked up in Java and Python really let me excel in JS. I found a lot of freedom in the language. Fast growing new frameworks and the big ES6 update made me see it’s potential for the future.

I worked on projects every night when I got home and many mornings before I left for work. That was a big part of why Prodigy gave me a shot as a junior developer. They understand the importance of passionate learning outside of a school setting. They understand that this is a trade skill. it’s the real world application that matters, not just the theory in a lecture hall.

The Techdegree set me up with the skills I needed to join this team of devs, in a fast-growing company teaching math to students around the world. With over a million users a day on our application.

Prodigy understands the importance of passionate learning outside of a school setting. They understand that this is a trade skill. it’s the real world application that matters, not just the theory in a lecture hall.

Aj

What have you found the greatest challenge while learning to code?

Wrapping your mind around instantiation and data structures is hard. Really hard. It’s an entirely new way of thinking, you have to keep pushing until it clicks, there is no easy way. Once you get it though, it feels amazing.

What are your favorite aspects of working in the tech industry compared to your past career?

I was lucky enough to get into a company that values the company culture. It feels like I’m going out to visit a group of friends whenever I leave for work.

What advice would you share with aspiring developers?

Keep learning new things while you’re looking for that first job. Companies will respect the work you’re putting into learning. Show off the projects you make and git commit history. They will give you a shot if they know you enjoy the learning process, it’s a process that never stops in this field. And do code reviews, you learn so much from the experience.

Keep learning new things while you’re looking for that first job. Companies will respect the work you’re putting into learning.


If you’re ready to learn in-demand programming skills and start on a new career path as a developer, check out the Treehouse Techdegree Program and explore the certifications we offer.

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