How I Went from Quality Assurance Intern to DEI Program Manager

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 Neiko Lampkin, a 28-year-old DEI Program Manager at the cybersecurity company Expel, living in Alexandria, Virginia. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here — and be sure to share your story here.

Why I chose to learn to code

“Back in January of 2018 I enrolled in a year-long workforce development program called Year Up. The way that the program works, you study for the first six months and then the six months following they partner you with one of their corporate sponsors for a six-month internship. Prior to Year Up, I had done a lot of retail and food service jobs.

I had never heard of the company Expel before, but I was brought on to be a Quality Assurance Intern, so I was testing our workbench platform and building out an automated test suite. I got there on the first day and I realized, I’m not exactly sure how to do my job here. Over the course of a month, I started to understand how the business operates, but still didn’t have those technical skills needed to effectively perform my position at that time.

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With full transparency, I went to my manager and shared with her that I was experiencing a little bit of impostor syndrome and that I felt like the skills gap between what I needed to effectively perform my job and what I brought to the internship just wasn’t there. She encouraged me to look into coding boot camps and online platforms that offered coding skills workshops. I came across Codecademy, and I started taking some of the courses. That was really the first time that programming began to stick with me.”

How I made time to learn

“They allotted me time during the internship to study Codecademy and go through the courses. I also spent a little bit of time outside of the internship working on it because I was eager to learn. Because the internship was only six months, I wanted to learn it as soon as I could, that way I could transition from being an intern who’s still learning the skills to being an intern performing the skills.”

How I saved up money to switch careers

“My manager saw the progress I made over a few weeks, and shortly after, I shared that I was interested in the Codecademy Pro paths, which are more costly. I told her, ‘I’m committed to being here, I want to convert this internship into a full-time position. If there’s a way that we can deduct the cost of the intensive* from the stipend that I was being paid through the workforce development program, I’d be willing to do that.’ We were able to work out a plan to make that happen.”

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How long it took me to land a job

“Six months later, once that internship was over, they decided to bring me on full time as a Software Engineer in Test.”

How I got in the door

“Codecademy was really one of the first programs that helped me retain the concepts that I struggled with learning. It was also one of the tools that was instrumental in me being able to convert that internship into a full-time position.”

I wish I knew that I didn’t have to compare myself to anyone else and that everyone’s journey is different.

Neiko Lampkin
DEI Program Manager at Expel

How I nailed the interview

“I think there were just certain intangibles that they saw in me and appreciated. One was having that learner spirit, constantly wanting to learn, investing in learning, and really being committed to understanding how to do the role. If I’m being completely honest, they probably could have hired someone with more technical skills than I had at that time. A lot of the soft skills that I brought to the job were some of the things that made them feel very confident in my ability to continue to learn, perform, and grow within the role. I also had a desire to build relationships with a lot of people there and make the company better.”

How I evaluated the offer

“What really made me not even have to second guess the offer was just their culture and commitment to taking care of their customers and their employees. It’s something that I think is shown through the way leadership handles running our organization; they’re very transparent.

[Expel] has been instrumental in helping me develop psychological safety, because I was entirely new to this space. When I got to Expel, it seemed like everyone knew way more than I did. Being able to admit mistakes or failures and learn from those things has created a culture where, if I do fail, I can feel comfortable having a conversation about it.”

How I switched from engineering to DEI work

“There were a few experiences that solidified the way I want to grow my career. Going through Year Up, I was able to develop strong connections and relationships with people who came from many different backgrounds and lived experiences who faced so many challenges in obtaining career opportunities. That was something that I wanted to change.

Another experience was when I attended the conference AfroTech back in 2019, the first year that I was working at Expel. I remember being in the expo room where they had all of these companies who were recruiting at AfroTech, and they had their Black ERGs present and all of these things. It was a very welcoming experience for me, and it was the first time I felt sense of belonging in this space. Leaving the conference, it was clear to me that this was something that I wanted to cultivate moving forward.

I did software engineering for about a year and a half, and I really enjoyed the challenges that came with being a software tester. It enabled me to collaborate with multiple teams and really get to know the product. I realized after doing some reflecting that I was just a lot more passionate about solving people problems, specifically focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion work.

My manager was fully supportive of me shifting careers, so she went to the leadership team to figure out how they could build out a role or support that interest in any way possible. Now I’m the Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Program Manager at Expel. While I’m no longer doing programming, it was a doorway into limitless opportunities.”

What I wish I knew before I started learning

“I wish I knew it was okay to not know everything. I put a lot of internal pressure on myself to know everything and I created unnecessary anxiety for myself. I felt like even though I was an intern, I had to compete with some of the Junior Engineers that I worked with who went the traditional four-year degree route. I wish I knew that I didn’t have to compare myself to anyone else and that everyone’s journey is different. Just take it a day at a time and focus on learning and getting better.”

Learn like Neiko

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