De'Shaun Broadnax Learner Story

How I Went From Freelance Web Designer to Developing Apps for NASA

02/01/2023
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 De’Shaun Broadnax, a 21-year-old Associate Software Engineer for Embedded Flight Systems, a NASA contractor working on the GOES Satellite Network, living in Winter Park, Florida. 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 really entrepreneurial kid because my dad was an entrepreneur and I wanted to be like him. Even as a little kid, I was like, ‘Every business needs a website, dad, how do you make one?’ He had just seen an ad for Codecademy and suggested that I go on it. 

I went on the Codecademy website, and I was like, This is really complicated. I don’t know what in the world is going on. It was just HTML/CSS. But I completed the course, and I was like, ‘Dad, can I make a website now?’ And he was like, ‘No, you have to figure this next thing out.’ So basically, HTML/CSS, and JavaScript is how I started with Codecademy. 

Find a plan that fits your goals

From that point on, I started doing websites for small businesses around the area. It was super fun, and I didn’t understand why people would be so willing to give their money to me as a middle school child. I felt like it wasn’t super hard to make websites: I was putting some words on the screen and making them pretty colors for like $20. As I did that, I started to learn more and grow more, and the passion kind of stuck with me. I got a little bit more serious in high school with coding.

I think I liked coding so much because I grew up doing music, so I just have such a creative side, and this gave me the opportunity to just make anything. I was able to go on the computer and make stuff, without limits — so it was the ultimate creativity for me.”  

How I made time to learn

“I started to go to actual web design classes in high school, because my school offered them. In tenth grade, I took an introductory level web design class, because I didn’t know where my skill level matched up to where other kids in high school were — I had only coded on my own. 

On the first day, the teacher gave us an outline with all of our assignments for the semester on it, and I finished it in a week. They told me I should be in the advanced level instead, so I switched classes, and did the same thing again. My teacher said, ‘Well, you should be taking college courses. If you join the college classes, you’re on track.’

So my senior year of high school, I finished my high school credits so I could take all college computer science classes. It was really fun, I loved it. My cybersecurity class I was the only one in it, so I basically had the computer lab to myself.”

How long it took me to land a job

“When I was in high school, my grades were not good outside of computer science. So when I was thinking about college, it was a toss up between studying computer science or music. I felt like, if I was going to get a job, then the obvious choice would be computer science.

I moved to Florida when I was 17 and I went to college at Full Sail University. I had to quit the job I had, because it was too much with my coursework. So I had no money and I couldn’t get a job because of school. I thought, This has made me money in the past, let me try and make websites for people. I went on a road outside of the school, and I just kind of walked up and down going door-to-door to the businesses trying to sell them a website. After a while, I started to get some clients.”  

How I got in the door

“One of my freelance clients knew somebody at NASA. We were working together on something one day, and he was like, ‘I think NASA is hiring interns, would you be interested?’ And I was like, ‘Of course.’ He told me to send him my resume — but I didn’t have a resume, so I made one. I got the internship with NASA’s GOES [Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite] Program.

So I was an intern [at NASA], and my then supervisor’s supervisor let me know that they would be putting out a job application and they wanted me to apply. They had an interview with me — but it wasn’t a technical interview, it was pretty much just, Hey, welcome to the company. I graduated [from college] in July 2022, and they just kept me on after the internship as an employee.”*

* Check out these tips from people who landed full-time positions through internships and apprenticeships. 

What I actually do all day

“I work for a NASA contractor called Embedded Flight Systems. I work on the GOES Program, on the team that basically collects data from the satellite that watches weather for our hemisphere. I do a lot of support for the engineers that are at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. I work on all the apps that have to do with the center itself. The languages I use at work are generally C#, JavaScript, HTML/CSS, jQuery, AJAX [Asynchronous JavaScript and XML] — a lot of using APIs and C#.

Right now I’m in a job where I’m the only junior on my team, everyone else has worked there a long time. I am 21 and just trying my best, but I still feel imposter syndrome to this day.”

What I wish I knew before I started learning

“I had no idea that there was so much potential for me. All I knew was that I love to do this, and I want to do it. I got to work at NASA by learning what I love, and by applying it in the way that I love to apply it. Now I’m able to do what I love, professionally. The circumstances that you’re in don’t necessarily define the path that you’re on. It can look like the world is completely against you, but sometimes what you have going for you is bigger than what you can see.”

Learn like De'Shaun

3 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.

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