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How I Went from English Teacher to Developer Advocate in Less Than 1 Year

01/02/2024
6 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 Pj Metz, a 38-year-old Developer Community Manager at ProjectDiscovery, an open-source security startup, living in San Mateo, California. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here — and be sure to share your story here.

Why I chose to learn to code

“I was a high school English teacher for 11 years. I loved it, and it had its challenges, of course. Number one being teaching in Florida doesn’t pay. The pandemic hit at the beginning of the last quarter of school, and my friends got together on Zoom and did these happy hours. I had a friend who worked at Red Hat who told the group he found out he was being underpaid by $50,000 a year. I remember being really shocked because my base salary was less than that.

Another friend said privately, ‘Pj, I do this job called Developer Relations or DevRel and essentially, I teach people how to use products. I think you’d probably be really good at it.’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know how to code. I write poetry and I teach Shakespeare — that’s what I’m good at.’

He said, ‘What are you up to this summer?’ And I go, ‘Nothing, I’m wiping down groceries and being afraid to talk to people.’ He sent me this video by Scott Hanselman about C#. I watched it and took notes while I was reading it, and then I found the rest of the 14 videos in the series.

A couple of weeks later, I went back to my friend, and I was like, ‘Hey, what else do you have? I watched all the videos already.’ And he goes, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ So we set up a plan, I started researching, and that’s when I found Codecademy.”

How I made time to learn

“My friend Brandon said, ‘You should stream yourself. Then you’ll have this repository of information and learning that you’ve done live on Twitch, and other people will come and help you, too.’ The plan became: I spent about four to five hours a day on Codecademy learning some C#. On Sundays, I would stream with Brandon building a website.

Pj and his friend Brandon started live-streaming their Codecademy learning journey on Twitch.

When the school year started, my schedule was packed because I was teaching AP for the first time, I was the Drumline Instructor for the marching band, and still trying to code. Sundays we were still streaming, but during the school week I could only do Codecademy at lunch.”

How I saved up money to switch careers

“My wife and I were teachers, so we had to be very careful with money. When I looked at Codecademy, I was like, Well, I could do a bootcamp and it’s $12,000. I could find courses at my community college and pay for those. But I’ve got nothing to do this summer. I just decided to buy Codecademy Pro, because it was 40 bucks a month at the time.”

Are you choosing between a bootcamp intensive and Codecademy?

Codecademy Pro helps you gain job-ready skills at a fraction of the cost. Learn more here.

How long it took me to land a job

“At first, I didn’t know if a career change was actually possible, but I knew that if I kept working at it, something fun would happen. Brandon introduced me to someone named Chloe Condon who worked at Microsoft as a Developer Advocate. She and I started hanging out on streams too. We started making Twitter bots together, and that’s when I started learning JavaScript.

Around November, I get the idea to make this a career change. I decided that this will be my last year teaching, and at the end of this school year, I’ll start getting a job. Chloe and I started streaming a show called The Show Must Go Off the Air. The whole point was we wanted to get the show canceled by getting me a job. The show was literally us just hanging out, and she would walk me through job applications.

In late February, someone from a fintech company reached out to me, saying they were hiring for their first Developer Relations role. I go through the process, and I get an offer, and I sign it on a Saturday, and on Monday, I put in my two weeks at school. I didn’t expect to leave in the middle of the school year, but for the money they were offering, I was like, ‘Okay, absolutely.’

Monday night, the company emails me and tells me that they’re rescinding the offer. They just said, ‘We’re no longer going to have this role.’

I’m like, ‘What am I going to do?’ I can’t just go start working at another school out of nowhere. I was thinking maybe I could pick up substitute teaching somewhere. But are they going to want someone who quit their last teaching job for apparently no reason? I remember looking at my wife saying, ‘I have two months and we breakeven on money.’ I took the weekend to get myself together and I started making a plan.”

How I got in the door

“My mentor Chloe was helping me make a plan as well, she’s like, ‘Recruiters are in my inbox all the time. I’m just going to pass them to you.’ I keep working on web development, taking whatever courses I can find on Codecademy. I took a technical writing course, and just did anything I could to make myself marketable.

Now I have a list of people to reach out to from Chloe. My day was spent messaging people on Twitter: ‘Hi, I’m Chloe’s mentee. I heard that you might be interested in chatting with me. Here’s what I’m working on. I’m trying to build a portfolio.’ I’m trying to show off my GitHub and be like, ‘Look, these are Codecademy exercises that I imported into GitHub. I know what I’m doing.’

About a month into it, I literally picked up an application to Dunkin Donuts near my house because I was about to start needing money immediately. That same day, GitLab reaches out and says, ‘We’re hiring a position that we’re calling Education Evangelist. Essentially, you’d be a part of our DevRel team, but you would be focused on students and teachers.’”

How I nailed the interview

“I couldn’t contain myself. I told the recruiter, ‘This is going to sound cocky, but this job is written for me. I’m who you’re looking for.’ And I got it.

I was able to point to specific skills they were looking for from the job application and show specific ways I had accomplished those tasks and could prove those skills.”

If you’re learning something new and you’re not confused by it, you didn’t learn anything new.

Pj Metz
Developer Community Manager at ProjectDiscovery

How day one and beyond went

“There was a big adjustment, because when I was a teacher, my life was dictated by bells, and I just did the same thing on repeat. Now it was like, here’s your eight-hour day; what I spend it on is my choice.

From then on, it was learning GitLab. I didn’t have to write any code for my job, but I needed to know how to read a lot of it. We write things in YAML, and we do a lot of static websites. I needed to brush up on HTML again and make sure I’m familiar with that. Anytime I had something new to do, I said, ‘What does Codecademy have in its catalog that could help me here?’”

What I wish I knew before I started learning

“I wish I knew that failure isn’t an end, it’s a step. It feels so bad to not understand. I remember the section on C# methods. I stumbled through it; I was clicking hints and ‘View solution’ all the time. I remember getting to the end of it and just feeling like I don’t actually understand methods at all. A month later, I went to do it again. I erased my progress, went back, and did it one more time. That’s when it started to click.

If you’re learning something new and you’re not confused by it, you didn’t learn anything new. You already knew it. So you have to embrace that confusion. At first, I was like, ‘I don’t get this. What if I never get it?’ You will — it’s just going to take time.”

Learn like Pj

6 courses

Not sure where to start? Check out our personality quiz! We’ll help you find the best programming language to learn based on your strengths and interests.

Want to share your Codecademy learner story? Drop us a line here. And don’t forget to join the discussions in our community.

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