How I Went from Coffee Entrepreneur to GitHub Support Engineer in 9 Months

5 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 Daniel Hardej, a 31-year-old Support Engineer at GitHub, living in Perth, Australia. Got questions for Daniel? Join us for a live virtual event with Daniel on September 18. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here — and be sure to share your story here.

Why I chose to learn to code

“I graduated from university in mechanical engineering. Initially, I worked in the oil and gas industry for a couple of years, and in the meantime, I was starting an e-commerce coffee company. When the coffee company started going well, I left my job to work on that full time.

At the start of last year [2022], we started thinking about selling the company and closing down the business. I just started looking for new jobs knowing that I wanted to get back into tech and engineering. I was okay at coding at the time. I thought, This will be a good time to just start chopping up again. Codecademy was the perfect place for that, and it was the beginning of the one-year plus streak that I’m on at the moment.”

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How I made time to learn

“Fortunately, coding was like the one stable thing I had at the time. It was almost a form of meditation. As we started trying to sell the business, my day-to-day commitment wasn’t as intense, so I could fit in at least 20 to 30 minutes of a bit of studying. There’s no secret recipe, shortcut, or life hack. It was just the consistency that really helps. I was setting aside some mental energy to do at least 30 minutes of each thing that I was learning.

I had a physical paper planner with the same to-do list every single day, starting with Codecademy. I did loads of the Codecademy projects — in particular, I remember the ones for the Machine Learning career path, and the Build Deep Learning Models with TensorFlow skill path.”

How long it took me to land a job

“I think I applied to nearly 300 jobs over the course of last year, and probably had nearly 50 interviews. At first just I was applying for anything that I found vaguely interesting, even if I wasn’t cut out for it. Applying for jobs is a skill in itself; the more you do it, the better you get at figuring out what you want to do and speaking at interviews.”

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How I got in the door

“I was on LinkedIn and the GitHub job was just in my ‘recommended jobs’ roundup. I’ve used GitHub for ages since university, and I was putting a lot of my personal study projects up on there. But it never even occurred to me that I could work at GitHub until it was suggested to me to apply.”  

How I nailed the interview

“It was a long process with about six interviews in total. One thing that stood out was that it was actually quite fun interviewing. Every single person I spoke to was really cool, and I was fortunate enough to get along well with some people who I work directly with today. The interviews were definitely designed to challenge you, but also just get a feel for your personality.

The technical interview, which is typically the more daunting part, was quite collaborative and friendly. One of the senior engineers who I work with basically presented these problems. She said, ‘Take a few minutes to read through, and ask me any questions to clarify. At the same time, talk through what you’re thinking and tell me what your ideas are. How would you go about solving this?’ The only limitation was you just can’t ask, ‘What is the answer?’ That was a pretty good representation of how people work at GitHub as well. Everyone’s constantly pinging each other on Slack or asking if you have 10 minutes to spare just to do a Zoom meeting to chat about something.”

Applying for jobs is a skill in itself; the more you do it, the better you get at figuring out what you want to do and speaking at interviews.

Daniel Hardej
Support Engineer at GitHub

How I evaluated the offer

“I was always open to going back into a corporate job where I would have a boss again, as long as I had a manager who I could trust and there was a mutual respect. The other thing was I wanted to work for a product I believed in. I already used GitHub and I was happy becoming a champion of the product and of the company as well.”

How can you showcase your passion for an organization or product? Learn more.

During a job interview, talk about how the company’s mission connects to your personal journey and values.

How day one and beyond went

“I felt like I came in quite prepared. A big part of the job is using Git and GitHub itself, which Codecademy has really good courses on, as well as working with the command line and with Linux administrative tools.

I work on support engineering, so it’s focused more on delivery of solutions for customers. The products we work on are GitHub’s core productivity tools and [AI developer tool] Copilot as well. It is cool being on the inside because we get access to the pre-release features of Copilot. We get to try and play around with the beta version of all these things before they’re publicly available, which is awesome.”

What I wish I knew before I started learning

“The tricky thing isn’t necessarily learning the coding itself, but it’s deploying and managing your code. You can write code for a beautiful website or an iOS app, but how do you go from just having it in your own computer to being able to publish and deploy production-ready code? There’s not a clear way to learn the full cycle of building, modifying, deploying, reporting bugs, fixing them — and then deploying it again.

For anyone trying to get a tech job, you have to be a little bit delusional applying for jobs. Anything that can help you figure out what you’re doing or just practice interviewing is good for you as well.”

Learn like Daniel

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