How I Went From Working at a Call Center to Full-Stack Engineer in 6 Months

7 minutes

Learning to code so that you can land a job in tech can feel daunting. That’s why we’re sharing inspiring stories from Codecademy’s community — to show how people like you (yes, you!) can embark on a learning journey and end up with a totally new career. We hope these stories serve as a reminder that there’s no single path to a more fulfilling work life.

Today’s story is from Juan Paredes, a 26-year-old Full-Stack Engineer at healthcare data marketing company TI Health, living in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here — and be sure to share your story here.

Why I chose to learn to code

“When I first got to Mexico, I was hired as a Sales Representative in a call center. I was there almost 3 years, and I got promoted to Operations Supervisor. I always loved everything about computers and their technologies. I like to think about how things are made, so I decided to check out free coding courses.

I first started with a free course on a different website, but that website was in Spanish. I was looking for something in English that had all the documents and everything in English. I saw that Codecademy had some free courses, and I liked the way the lessons give you all the documentation — so I’m doing more reading than watching videos.

I did the free JavaScript course and then I decided to pay for the subscription. I started with the Front-End path, and before I ended it, I managed to find my first job as a developer.

Those courses helped me to just do small projects, and I thought, Well, I have so many more ideas for things that I think I can make. That was the crucial moment when I decided that I wanted to be a developer. Me and my wife decided that I should switch careers to something different. I’m currently studying software engineering at the Mexicali Institute of Technology.”  

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How I made time to learn

“It was pretty hard to make time, but it was satisfying when I was learning things that I never knew I could have learned. I had moments that I thought coding was never for me, because I felt frustrated. I was working a full-time job, going to college, and then having responsibilities back at home, like paying bills.

I always managed to have at least an hour or two for coding and learning about things. I was working as an Operations Supervisor during the day, I was studying, and then in the evenings, I just took like two hours every day to learn. Sometimes I would wake up earlier so I could check a few more things off; and sometimes I would go to bed later so I could have the time to learn. It helped just having my wife telling me that I can do it.”

How I saved up money to switch careers

“I have my savings, so with that money, I just decided to pay for a Codecademy Pro membership. The other thing that convinced me was that there was a promo for 30% off at the time.

I had to make a difficult decision, because when I was an Operations Supervisor at the call center, I was getting paid well. When I got my first job as a developer, since I didn’t have any experience, I was going to get paid almost half the amount I was getting. And also, I had to go to the office, so I was spending money on gas. I talked with my wife about this and we thought, Well, we’ll have to make a sacrifice at some point in our lives. I knew it was temporary to help me get the experience I needed.”

How long it took me to land a job

“It was in December 2021 that I paid for Codecademy Pro, and by May I got a job, even without finishing the [Front-End Engineer] path. So it was just 5 months. When I came back to finish the Front-End Engineer Path, everything was easier because I had hands-on work experience.”

How I got in the door

“I never felt ready to start applying for jobs, I just went for it. I actually felt pretty confident on the front-end with React. The first developer job position that I applied for was — let’s say it was kind of basic. I applied and they gave me a code challenge that was just to build a simple React app. It was a little bit hard, but I managed to do it, and I got hired. Then, 3 months later, I had enough experience to get the job that I have now.”

How I nailed the interview

“The interview process for this job wasn’t long. I had to go to a first interview, where I just talked with the HR team. Then I got to the technical interview that was with a Product Manager about what technologies I’d be using. Then he told me he was gonna send me a code test to build a full-stack app, but it was on back-end technologies that I didn’t have experience with. So I had to learn [the PHP web application framework] Laravel in like 2 days.

I was a little nervous, because I never had that type of code challenge where I would need to make a full-stack application. I sent it in, and after 9 or 10 days I didn’t get a response*. I thought I didn’t get the position, but then the HR team got in touch with me asking me if I could meet the CEO of the company. I was pretty excited — I wasn’t expecting that honestly.”

*Feel like you’ve been ghosted by a company after an interview? Here’s exactly what to do if you don’t get a response in a reasonable timeframe.

How I evaluated the offer

“When I was working at the call center, I was working from home for 2 years. And when I got my first [developer] job, I had to commute through traffic. Mexicali is a small city, but there’s a lot of people who have to go to school or work on the road in the mornings. It was like a 50-minute ride from my house to the office, and then 50 minutes back. It was very frustrating.

The new job offers 100% home office. I also get better pay and more benefits — like life insurance and all those kinds of benefits for the employee.”

How day one and beyond went

“I felt really good. They introduced me to the team, and I had a few meetings with the CTO who is from California. It’s pretty good to be a part of this team — I’m very excited.

I was really nervous on the first day, because I had to go to the office so they could provide me with the computer and all the things that I’m going to need. After I came back home, I had to configure my computer setup. I felt a little bit dumb because I have always been a Windows user, and they provided me with a Mac. So I didn’t even didn’t even know how to copy and paste things! I had my personal laptop and I was Googling everything, like how to copy on a Mac, how to take a screenshot. I was on a video call with one of the team members and I asked them, ‘Hey, how do I find this folder?’ But he told me that he went through that experience too, and now feels that Mac is way easier than Windows.”

What I wish I knew before I started learning

“You’re not going to remember 100% of what you learn, but if you have an idea, you can go back to it. Nowadays I go back to Codecademy documentation, because it’s very organized. Instead of going to Google to find things I always have the Codecademy Docs open.

Sometimes I was frustrated, and I didn’t want to learn — but that feeling is temporary. My advice to other fellow learners is to just try to learn as much as you can. If you learn something today, you might not use it today or tomorrow, but you might use it in a month.”

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