3 Crucial Steps This Homeless Man Took to Become a Web Developer
Homeless to employed in 3 months!
9 months. That's 36 weeks, or 270 days. That's a long time to be homeless. After my apartment caught on fire I was really left with nothing, but I didn’t let myself stay there. The one good thing about hitting rock bottom is there’s only one way left to go, up. When I saw that PDX Code Guild accepted the G.I. Bill®, I made the decision to move across the country from my home state of Kansas to Portland, OR to break into a new career path in technology. With very little financial cushioning and a lot of reluctance from my family and friends, I took the leap.
(GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.)
Hi, I'm Cody, and here’s my story.
I served as a Logistic Specialist in the US Navy, 2nd class. I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, and when I got back to Kansas in 2011 I worked odd jobs here and there, struggling to figure out what I wanted to do. I decided to teach myself to code. The work was interesting and there's a growing market for web developers, and I wanted in on that.
I spent a lot of time self-teaching, but just couldn’t seem to land a job. Teaching yourself to code to an employer is like a big question mark. What does this guy really know and how well does he know it? I didn't have enough credentials or experience for an employer to even take a chance on me.
About 5 days before Christmas in 2017, a few homeless guys started a fire on the top of my apartment building. I don’t know if it was to keep warm or to cook food, but it got away from them and lit the building on fire. Strangely no fire alarms went off, my alarm was a handful of firemen pounding on my front door yelling for me to get out NOW. The top floor collapsed into my apartment and I basically lost everything. I was able to salvage some clothes but that was about it. My laptop was toast. Luckily I had renters insurance, which was my saving grace. After the fire I just felt lost, I couch surfed and stayed with an aunt for a while just feeling really unsure of what to do next. I found PDX Code Guild in a Google search, and saw that the program accepted the G.I. Bill®.
My decision to move from Kansas to Portland wasn’t exactly supported by my friends and family. It was a huge risk to be in the financial state I was in and to move to a place where I didn’t know a soul, but I knew I needed to get into a tech hub and that this could be a great opportunity for me.
Moving Into a Homeless Shelter
When I first got to Portland, I stayed in a hostel for 5 days while looking for housing. It was a rude awakening to realize how much more expensive this city is compared to Kansas! Working with a couple of veteran programs, I was directed to a homeless shelter. I mean, it was that or living out of my car. Moving into a shelter was incredibly humbling and it really made me question if I was doing the right thing. My friends and family back at home were really worried about me, but I just knew I couldn’t go back to Kansas. This program would give me the skills I needed to get a good job, and the credentials to back up what I’ve learned. All through the 3-month program I lived in this shelter. It wasn’t terrible, I was always at school or working my part time job in a cafe, so really I just slept there. I had to keep pushing forward.
My mom cried when I told her the news. Heck, I even cried. Everyone is really happy for me. My friend told me “You deserve this after everything you’ve been through.” It just feels really good. The work is exciting, and I’m just really grateful that I didn't give up and throw in the towel when things got hard. It taught me a lot about my own strength and about what I'm capable of. If I could give advice to anyone struggling right now, feeling a loss of direction or discouraged, just don't give up! Three months was all it took for me to completely change my life around. It's incredible how empowering it is to realize that you CAN change you're life, just pick a direction and GO! Things have a way of falling into place once you decide that you're not going to give up. Besides, rock bottom makes a great launching pad.
3 Crucial Steps If I could give advice to anyone looking to break into the tech industry it would be this-
1. Get to a tech hub
I had a really hard time breaking into any sort of tech scene in Kansas. Not only did I not have much experience, but there weren’t a lot of jobs or opportunities in this field, and the opportunities that were there were much more competitive than what I could offer at the time. Portland is a great place for tech. There are a ton of tech companies here, start-ups and established businesses that have been around awhile. There are a ton of meet ups held pretty much every day of the week! Tech meet ups are a great way to network, work on projects, ask for help and get to know each other. Meetups are really helpful when you’re just starting out, and Portland is full of them!
2. Have credentials to back you up
I tried to teach myself to code, and I learned a ton online, but I can't understate the importance of having PDX Code Guild on my resume! The curriculum they offer is laser focused on teaching not only the basics, but the in-demand skills that employers are looking for now. The teachers all come from great backgrounds in the industry which offers a lot of guidance too, especially when trying to pick a direction to go within tech, They have really established themselves as a top destination in the country for coding, and with 3-month programs it was much more attainable for me than taking 4 years to get a degree. Not to mention the huge plus for me, it's one of the few coding bootcamps that accept the G.I. Bill®!
3. Invest time in job searching
I never stopped looking for a job. I tell people, looking for a job is a full time job. I was on every job board every day, posting my information and applying. The job I finally got an offer for was posted for less than 2 hours before I applied for it. I got an email back a couple of hours later to schedule a phone call, then an in-person interview a couple days after that. I got the job offer in under 10 days from the time I applied. Once I had that offer I found a place to live within a week. It all happened really fast, it’s incredible. Now that it’s all said and done, I’m grateful for the struggles I’ve been through, because they taught me a lesson about just how much I’m truly capable of, and about being relentless in the things I want. I hope anyone reading this who is feeling stuck can draw some hope from my story, and recognize that things can change so fast, and just keep running at your dreams! Use the resources around you and get an education! There’s so much opportunity waiting for those who are persistent.
If you’re interested in a career in tech, PDX Code Guild is hosting a FREE live intro to coding class on October 16th! Learn more and register here: https://pdxcodeguild.lpages.co/pdxcodeguild/