How I Went from Pre-Med Student to Back-End Developer

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 Jenni Park, a 26-year-old Developer at a consulting firm, living in Chicago. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here — and be sure to share your story here.

Why I chose to learn to code

“My sister’s a nurse, and I was trying to follow in her footsteps and become a doctor. At the time, I was very passionate about it. I was volunteering at hospitals, shadowing doctors, working as a medical scribe, taking Organic Chem I and II — you name it, the whole nine yards. I took the MCAT and scored in the 97th percentile, and I got into a few medical schools. As I was reading my acceptance letters, I felt impending doom. I was overwhelmed by the idea and felt like I was making a mistake.

Throughout college, I always thought that computer science was something more I’d be more interested in. I really liked the idea of marketing, coding, programming, and building your own website. Going into my senior year, I decided to sit my parents down and I was like, ‘Don’t be mad. I’m pivoting.’ And they were very supportive, which was so nice. To have my family and friends be very supportive of that transition really helped me significantly to push myself to actually do it. I started off with my own personal research, searching what jobs can you get, and programming languages everyone should learn. I was familiar with SQL and Python, so I started off with that, and I just saw Codecademy all the time.”

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How I made time to learn

“Making this career change was very important to me, because not only was I trying to make my parents and my sister proud, but I also wanted to make myself proud. In my head, I’m always thinking, If I could sit on my phone for an hour, I could sit on the computer for an hour and get my brain juices flowing a different way. So, like every morning I was learning before I had to start at nine for work.

I wake up at six anyways, I could do my morning walk, scroll on TikTok, sit for an hour, drink my coffee, read through some articles, scroll through Codecademy, and do a little exercise here and there. Everything changes so fast in programming; new versions come out like every other week. If you don’t make time to practice, you’re going to lose it. My friends are also very driven and career-oriented, so it helps to be surrounded by that.”

Looking for a community to keep you accountable?

Check out Codecademy chapters and events to meet like-minded programmers around the world who are on a similar path.

How I saved up money to switch careers

“I was making enough to buy myself a McChicken a week, but I knew this was important to me, so I needed to save what I can. Even if it was just $10 a week, or no coffee for two days, I can do that. If I could spend $100 going out once a week, I can afford to do this. That was the biggest bet that I made on myself and I’m so happy that I did, because it was a catalyst [for me] to get my first job.

I just needed something that was affordable, and in my head, it made sense to do a monthly membership before I make that investment like getting master’s or doing a bootcamp. Granted I had a scholarship to go to a bootcamp, but I thought about it for two years before I did it. I was like, ‘Is this a financial investment that I’m not going to regret?’”

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Everything changes so fast in programming; new versions come out like every other week. If you don’t make time to practice, you’re going to lose it.

Jenni Park

How long it took me to find a job

“It took about three total months to land an entry-level job! Right now it has been a month and a half since finishing my [bootcamp] program and I have been successful at landing interviews with bigger tech companies like Uber!”

How I got in the door

“I met a gallerist through a family friend, and he needed to hire someone to help now and then. Since I wanted to learn, I thought, let me just go and assist. It was a work-from-home job. While I was doing that and learning how to use SQL and build queries through Codecademy, I suggested creating an inventory database to keep track of our clients, artists, galleries, and budgets. I offered to build this database for him, and he agreed, but without payment. He saw it as my personal project, something I could work on during my free time. It worked out well and they still use the system I created. Being able to build that little inventory database while working on my career transition really propelled me forward.”

How I evaluated the offer  

“I left the art job and got a job at a place where I used to intern, and I’ve been here for now almost three years. They were the ones who were like, ‘You should continue using Codecademy, and if you want to pursue school, we’ll support you and help pay for it.’ If you have an education budget through work, you should use it to pay for Codecademy. You get so many resources and certifications — that’s ultimately what landed me my first job, being able to say, ‘I accomplished this in this amount of time.’  

I decided to go back to school at Northwestern University for their six-month full-stack programming bootcamp. Everyone was like, ‘What’s your next step? What do you want to do next?’ And I was like, ‘I’m getting back on Codecademy!’ I want to learn machine learning and my dream is to work for an AI company. I had an open conversation with my workplace, where I explained that if [coding] opens doors for me, I’m going to walk through them. They said, ‘You’re more than welcome to do whatever. We’ll support you in any capacity.’”  

What I wish I knew before I started learning 

“On my GitHub, I started a little beginner’s JavaScript notes that you could copy the code and put into VS Code. While I was doing Codecademy, I kind of wished I had like a quick overview first of what was coming, like basic concepts we’re going to learn. I’m working on something like that for every programming language that I’ve learned — the only one I’ve completed so far is JavaScript. 

If you’re making a career change, a cover letter is really important. For every job I’ve ever applied to, I only have heard back from companies where I’ve submitted a cover letter. If we just look at my experience on paper, I have pre-medicine things and then I have very little data and programming stuff. In a cover letter I can be like, ‘Hey, I was this, I’m doing this. These are the projects I’ve worked on. This is what I’m looking forward to.’ Advocating for yourself in a professional landscape also shows confidence.” 

Learn like Jenni

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. 

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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