How I Went From Working Odd Jobs To Becoming a QA Manual Tester in 1.5 Years


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 Bobby Hutter, a 32-year-old Quality Assurance Manual Tester at Grin, living in Charlotte, NC. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here — and be sure to share your story here.

Why I chose to learn to code

“I went to a trade school for film production, and I thought I had a plan for how to make it as a screenwriter and director. I was kind of left wringing my hands thinking, What am I going to do?

One day, I found this show called Silicon Valley and started watching it. What I loved about the show was that the characters are nerdy people whose lives are not without problems — but none of the problems are fiscal in nature. As somebody who was constantly struggling financially, that seemed very compelling. They were passionate and nerdy, and I identified as a nerd. I thought, Maybe I can find my comfort zone here.

I had an idea for an app, which led to a bootcamp giving me a scholarship, and that’s when I got scared. I struggled to keep up with the course because it was moving too quickly. I couldn’t build my idea, because what I needed to learn in order to build the app was way too complicated.

I tried other odd jobs that were technical in nature, but nowhere near as hard as programming. For example, PC building at a repair shop or Mac software support. It just became apparent to me after about six to eight months that there’s no room for growth. The only thing that was ever going to change was the technology itself, but my paygrade and my title? Those were going to be static. That’s what motivated me to get back into it.”

How I made time to learn

“I really wanted to learn after work, but I quickly discovered that, after working nine hours, followed by a 20- to 40-minute drive through traffic to get home, I had zero motivation to work on coding. I mentally associated home with comfort and rest.

I found out that the Panera Bread that’s on my route home actually offers a ‘Free WiFi and Coffee’ program for $10 a month. I thought, I’ll pay $10 a month and it’ll be like a drop-in office space. Monday through Friday, I’d stop at that Panera on the way home, and I’d dedicate two hours to learning to code. During the pandemic, they closed at 8 p.m., so I also had that external motivator of knowing I have to get this module completed or I have to get this portion of this course done.

Once I realized that about myself, I was just like, Okay, while I have energy in the car, it’s not going to be wasted on fighting through traffic. Instead, it’s going to be spent mentally on Codecademy. That’s how I started the Computer Science course.”

How I saved up enough money to take the leap

“I started the Computer Science path while I was working at a mom-and-pop hardware repair shop. I did the month-to-month plan, and as much as it was a little bit of a sacrifice given how much I was being paid, I knew it was for the better.

The money wasn’t the biggest deal, it was the time investment. When I lost my job during Covid, I was a quarter of the way through the Computer Science course. I did get a severance package, so I just thought, Marathon mode: I’m going to replace my job with Codecademy and be a full-time student. Either I’m going to complete the course and start applying for jobs, or I’m going to run out of money and start applying for jobs anyway. It turned out to be neither.

I started doing gig-economy work for Amazon delivering packages, so fortunately I was never looking at rent and wondering how I was going to pay it. But I was at the point where, if a light on my car dashboard came on, then I’d have a little panic attack.”

How I got in the door

“I work at an online creator and influencer resource management company called Grin. They function as the bridge between creators looking to reach sustainability through online marketing, and brands that are interested in online advertising and looking for creators.

I am starting off as a Quality Assurance Manual Tester. My job is to know the ins and outs of the application, from both the creator’s perspective, as well as the brand perspective, so I can identify anything from UI issues to things on the backend not rendering as they should.

I got in the door because I was studying the right language. Grin was transitioning to Python to run their automated test suite. I was applying for a QA test role, but I already knew SQL and Python, and I had prior experience with automation test frameworks like Selenium just from personal interest. I listed those on my resume and gave them full disclosure about my level of knowledge.

I didn’t even know about the job. I had just added every single Codecademy certification that I had completed to my LinkedIn, and a recruiter reached out to me three days later.”

How I nailed the interview

“I was asked questions about joining tables and searching for something where you only know 25% of the information that you’re looking for, so revisiting the SQL course was definitely my best move.

I was asked the difference between Python’s built-in test framework, as opposed to something like pytest*. I was honest and told them, ‘I don’t know either well enough to be able to know a difference, though I would assume it would be scalability.’ I tell this to everybody: Don’t lie in an interview, because they could easily ask you a question on the spot that highlights the fact that you don’t actually know.

There were at least three technical questions where I would preface my answer with, ‘I don’t know this, but…’ In retrospect, I think that my honesty was appreciated. Everything that I was asked that I didn’t know about, I made sure to let the interviewer know, ‘I’m happy to learn it. And I’m eager to learn it.’ I think I communicated passion and sincere interest.”

*Never heard of pytest? It’s a framework that’s designed to test software written in Python. Pytest is an example of a tool used for integration testing; and it tends to be slower, but easier to use, than the built-in framework. In other words, Bobby was correct that the difference comes down to scalability.

How I evaluated the offer

“I’m transparent about all things finances: I was making $12 per hour at the mom-and-pop PC repair shop, and I was barely getting by. Grin offered me $29 per hour. It was more money than I ever thought I could even ask for, and it’s a fully remote company.”

How day one & beyond went

“I was scared to ask questions and terrified of disclosing how little I knew, but I also didn’t want to be the guy constantly mentioning tech buzzwords just to seem like I knew what I was talking about.

My first week, I was asked to write a document in a specific format that is apparently super common in the realm of quality assurance, and I told my manager that I’d never done it before. He embraced it! It was a surprise, but he said, ‘Oh this is going to be great practice for you. I’ll tack on two extra days to your deadline.’ My noviceness isn’t being punished. The hardest thing for me was getting comfortable with asking questions. It wasn’t until the second week that I embraced saying, ‘I don’t know this!’”

What I wish I knew before I started learning

“There are plenty of areas within the software development realm where you don’t need to be at a genius level of comprehension. I wish I’d had that knowledge before, because it would have gotten me to the application point sooner.

Personal financial pressure aside, what got me to apply was a friend saying, ‘You should not be the one to determine when you’re ready for a job. You’ll get that feedback from whoever you apply to when you interview.’ I thought everyone was a supergenius, when really everyone is just being afforded the time to get up to par. At no point is anyone being asked to scale Mt. Everest. The goals are all realistic, and you don’t have to be a Python master to get a job.”

Learn like Bobby.

See the courses and languages that helped him most.

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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