How I Went from Technology Intern to Senior Software Engineer in 4 Years

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 Byron Jenkins, a 26-year-old Senior Software Engineer at Capital One and Adjunct Instructor at Temple University, living in Philadelphia. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here — and be sure to share your story here.

Why I chose to learn to code

“My dad is a retired boxing trainer, so I spent my entire childhood boxing. I didn’t know anything about computer science or coding. I just was genuinely fascinated by tech and how computers work. We had one computer in the house that I would get on all the time, and we had AOL dial-up internet. My mom would bribe me with computer access for doing good in school. My high school in the inner cities of Philadelphia didn’t offer any coding courses, unfortunately. So, when I was in 11th or 12th grade, I just was Google searching ‘how to create a website’ and I saw Codecademy and signed up.

I started learning how to code on Codecademy in various languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Python. I decided to fully commit to go to school for computer science or computer engineering. Once I understood the differences, I realized I was more passionate about software. That’s what confirmed my decision to attend college for four years and study computer science at Temple University.”

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How I made time to learn

“I would spend about two hours, if not every day, every other day trying to learn how to build a website and just powering through the challenges on Codecademy. At the time, in 2013, Codecademy didn’t have as many courses as they do now. I was just covering how to build a website with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and just getting my feet wet with Python.

When I joined college as a freshman, I thought I could take as many classes as I could and also work 40 hours a week at Best Buy. I failed five classes and bombed a prerequisite, which held me back. I took classes over the summer and during winter break to get credit to make up for the failed classes, because I didn’t want it to prevent me from graduating and impact job opportunities.”

How I saved up money to learn

“I had the completely free Codecademy account at the time.”

How long it took me to land a job

“During my time at Temple University, I interned at TD Bank, and then I transitioned from intern to part-time employee during my senior year. By the time I graduated in 2019, I had two job offers from TD Bank and JP Morgan. I proceeded with TD Bank into a rotational program. It was in the middle of the pandemic, so I had a lot of time on my hands. I wasn’t really satisfied with my growth at the time, and the work wasn’t challenging enough for me, so I started searching on LinkedIn for new jobs. Fortunately, during my time at Temple University, one of my professors was actually the VP at Capital One. I reached out and he helped me move over to Capital One.”

How I got in the door

“Since I was working during college, I didn’t have much time for extracurriculars and groups. I really wanted to join this iOS development class, because I was interested in learning how to build mobile applications for Apple devices. Unfortunately, the class was pretty much full when I tried to register. In my downtime, I taught myself Swift, and I ended up building my own mobile application. 

By my junior year, I attended a college career fair and spoke to every table. I’m naturally shy,* so my delivery sucked for the first five tables.  But once I got the nerves out, I got it down pat. Eventually, I landed an interview with Burlington Coat Factory and TD Bank for software and technology intern positions.”

*Do you dread in-person networking? Read this blog for tips on how to feel more comfortable talking about yourself.

How I nailed the interview

“I did something very nontraditional that was kind of bold. I went to the interview with an iPad, which had a drawing of the idea I had for the app. It was a color-coordination game, where you have to use math equations and geometry to draw a circle. I was just showing them how I went through that process of designing it, and then walking them through how I released it, and continuously built new versions. I explained how I went from an idea, to development, to release. I didn’t realize this at the time, but the app I created encapsulated pretty much what you do every day as a software engineer. You’re putting out new versions and tracking versions of your software.

This is the sketch that Byron used to talk about his app during an interview. “After initial development, I had trouble programmatically splitting the circle into separate parts, while maintaining the position and behavior,” he says. “The sketch helped me understand what math I needed to do in order to achieve the desired behavior.” 

A lot of interview questions are geared towards experience, and I didn’t really have much experience besides that eight-week internship. Being able to talk about building my mobile app helped me answer situation questions like, Name a time where you struggled.”

How I evaluated the offer

“I attended JPMorgan’s Code for Good hackathon to get some more experience. I impressed them and they invited me over for a job interview. As I mentioned, I failed many classes in college, and JPMorgan had a hard GPA requirement that I didn’t meet. I remember thinking, Wow, I didn’t meet the minimum requirement for a GPA but I still had a job offer after going through your interview process. I was a little upset by that, and it’s one contributing factor for why I decided to stay with TD Bank. It’s also a primary example of how networking and attending events can help you bypass many barriers.

I also had to think about the salary difference, which wasn’t much. At the time, I was working at TD Bank part-time while in school, so I was factoring in what I could be making for my senior year of college. I didn’t want the JPMorgan offer to impact my part-time opportunity or a chance to continue full time.”

I explained how I went from an idea, to development, to release. I didn’t realize this at the time, but the app I created encapsulated pretty much what you do every day as a software engineer.

Byron Jenkins
Senior Software Engineer at Capital One

How day one and beyond went

“The day to day for me was going into the office working on what I love to do: code. It was surreal, because I worked very hard to get there and finally graduate college. I felt that joy and relief, like, I made it. I finally got my foot in the door. But I constantly put pressure on myself. I’m not done. I want to contribute more. I have to make a good impact.”

What I wish I knew before I started learning

“I wish I had more awareness and more knowledge about coding events or hackathons that could give me exposure within the tech space. And as an adult, I wish I knew about the alternative paths and opportunities that are out there to learn to code.”

Learn like Byron

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