3 Lessons Helped Aaron Gladstone Jump into Software Development

Hands typing code into a computer.

When hunting for a job after completing his undergrad studies at Baylor University, Aaron Gladstone felt down on his luck. He studied film and digital media and wasn’t sure which direction to take, so he fell into something completely unrelated: the grocery store business.

Aaron Gladstone smiles at the camera.

After just a short time as a department manager at grocery chain HEB, Aaron yearned for a career change. “Every day in retail was a challenge,” he said. “I dreaded going to work, and I couldn’t envision a future for myself in the retail grocery store business.”

He decided to change his path yet another time, to something more practical: coding. The web development space offered more opportunities and room for growth than Aaron’s previous direction. He enrolled in the Houston Coding Boot Camp.

Aaron’s final career move was certainly a change for the better.  These are the top three things that Aaron learned at the boot camp.

1. Teamwork is your biggest asset to learn new things 

With no experience in programming, Aaron felt intimidated by the wealth of knowledge awaiting him. “During the first couple weeks, I wondered if I’d made the right decision,” he said. “I kept asking myself Am I in the right place? Is this really for me?

As the boot camp went on, however, Aaron built rock-solid relationships with his classmates that changed his outlook.

“Whenever I’m in a new environment, I’m very shy at first,” he said. “As the class went on, I made some friends and came out of my shell. Everyone leading boot camp was really friendly as well—the teachers and TAs were truly dedicated when helping us.”

The supportive team environment was unlike anything Aaron had experienced before—and it helped him stay motivated throughout the intense course. 

2. Computing goes beyond the computer—and into everyday life

The projects Aaron worked on while at the boot camp focused on making daily tasks more manageable. One of his projects was created so drivers can more easily track their mileage. Users can use the app to know when they’re due for their next maintenance appointment.

Aaron and his team also produced a calendar app with a Kanban tool—a highly visual scheduling concept originally developed by an engineer at Toyota. Users of the app can schedule to-dos, keep track of progress, and review completed tasks. 

“Our team produced a horizontal layout calendar that helps people with long-term projects,” said Aaron. “It’s a very useful app that’s applicable to all industries.”

3. Forget what you know about coding stereotypes 

Prior to the boot camp, Aaron pictured the typical coding stereotype: an antisocial loner with their nose in a computer. He was surprised to discover just how social it would be—and how that worked to his advantage. 

“A lot of people envision programmers sitting alone in front of their computers all day,” said Aaron. “The biggest lesson that I took away from the boot camp was that coding and computer programming is about the people.”

Throughout the program, Aaron was constantly surrounded by peers. He and his classmates frequently met and communicated about projects, and helped each other through subjects they did not yet fully grasp. 

The social aspect of the boot camp helped smooth the hurdles Aaron faced. Instead of being something he dreaded, the days began to fly by as Aaron collaborated with his team on difficult projects.

“The group I was with really empowered me,” said Aaron. “I went from not believing in myself to gaining the confidence I needed to see out my projects.”

Today, Aaron is a systems operations manager at ePlan Partners, a software product company specializing in the homebuilding and construction industries. Applying his knowledge from the boot camp in his position with the company, Aaron now looks forward to work—and is excited about his future in the programming field.

This story was originally published on techbootcamps.utexas.edu.

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