How I Went from Graphic Designer to Front-End Engineer in 10 Months

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 Franklin Méndez, a 28-year-old Front-End Engineer at the customer engagement platform Reply Pro, living in Honduras. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here — and be sure to share your story here. 

Why I chose to learn to code 

“My first full-time job was at a startup that trained AI datasets for speech recognition. I had many different tasks, including design, and I also worked on the operations team. Eventually, I became the Head of Operations at that company. I learned MySQL [an open-source relational database manager] and Google Analytics, because it was part of the operations, ensuring the follow-up on the features that we designed and built.  

I ended up learning a bunch of stuff related to web development, like HTML and CSS. I couldn’t build from scratch, but I could modify the color of the buttons on landing pages. It was pretty basic, and I feared JavaScript at that point. I grew a lot working at that startup, but I felt like I was getting stuck in a loop. I liked designing, but I want to build and deliver projects, too. 

Learn something new for free

I discovered Codecademy searching on the web. I saw the free JavaScript course and I took it. I felt weird not having a teacher or someone teaching in front of a webcam, but I ended up being used to it. I also loved how you can interact with the web and incur instant feedback on what I’m doing wrong and how it should be done. So that’s how I decided to go with the Front-End Engineer career path.”  

How I made time to learn 

“I think I learned 40 hours per week, like a full-time job. I started at 8 a.m. and would go until I finish it. I set up weekly milestones, so I would decide, I need to finish this lesson or chapter this week. It wasn’t enough to only finish it, but I had to understand it. Sometimes the milestones got pushed a week.”  

How I saved up money to switch careers 

“I left my job in February 2022 and started Codecademy in March 2022. I had some savings at that point. Since that startup had some clients in the United States, I made some connections and also worked as a freelancer while learning to code. So, I was full-time during the week, learning to code. On the weekends, I fulfilled graphic design requests from some clients.” 

How long it took me to land a job 

“By November, I started applying to UI/UX jobs, just to just to ensure I had a job in case I didn’t get a front-end position. I had design experience from my previous roles, but some companies were like: ‘You weren’t a full-time UI/UX Designer.’ I started this new job in January 2023.”  

How I got in the door 

“A previous coworker moved to another company, and I had a close relationship with them, even when I left the company. He told me they had an open position for UI/UX Designer, but also, they needed some help with coding. So, I said, ‘This is great. I can continue working on what I know, but also start professionally.’  

I applied to that position. They sent me the take-home exercise for the UI/UX Designer role. I built it in React the same afternoon and I sent them a demo of the design I made. I made it the application so they can test it — it was a small application, just two pages dynamically working — but they liked that I coded it.  

The same day that I was finishing my last Codecademy project [for the career path], I got rejected from that position. But the email came with another offer to join as a Front-End Engineer. I said, ‘Okay! Let’s take that test.’”  

Want to learn the skills you need to break into UI/UX design?   

Read this blog with tips from UX Designers about the design tools and soft skills you need for the role. 

How I nailed the interview 

“I had to do a full-stack test to see my back-end and front-end coding skills. At that time, I managed Amazon Web Services and other stuff on the startup, but I was still struggling a little bit with JavaScript at that point. I was scared of that test; I wasn’t sure if I would get it. 

I ended up getting the role as a Front-End Engineer. It was a perfect match, because we use React, Redux, and all the tools that I learned on Codecademy. The only language that I didn’t know was TypeScript, but in the 10 days before I joined the company, I took the Codecademy course and learned it. 

For me, I have two examples of times when I gave a little extra to make a good impression in a job interview. When I got my job at the previous startup, I made small, three-minute videos summarizing 30-minute livestream demos that they had. Nobody requested it, I just did it. If you give that extra, your profile will stand out. Show all the skills that that you have from other jobs. Even having good time management can be a deciding item or your profile.” 

How I evaluated the offer 

“I only applied for working from home jobs. I started my first job remote, and I said, ‘I’m not touching any office.’ My first job was remote, so I have never gone to an office to work in my life. I’ve been three years now remote.”  

Are you committed to the WFH lifestyle?

Check out these high-paying and remote-friendly tech jobs. 

How day one and beyond went 

“I started with two other Junior Front-End Engineers on the same date, and they didn’t know Redux! They learned to code on other boot camps and platforms where they didn’t get Redux. So, I got that advantage; I could explain to them and grow as a team. It was nice.”  

What I wish I knew before I started learning 

“It’s not as hard as you think — it’s not impossible. Knowing how to manage that fear in the beginning can be crucial. Mark milestones, because if you don’t keep consistent, you won’t get it. If you don’t keep practicing, you’ll forget what you learned. I would take a week off and come back like, ‘Oh, what is this?’  

Also, you can make good connections with the Discord community. When I was learning Redux, I was working on the Codecademy portfolio project where you have to make a Reddit clone. It’s a collaborative project, so I met some cool people that had a better understanding of full-stack development. We were a good match, because I made the design prototype, and they were handling the most difficult parts and explaining how to manage with Redux.”  

Learn like Franklin

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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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