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Alum Profiles

Alum Profile: From Math Teacher to QA Engineer

Before starting at Epicodus in the summer of 2014 in the Ruby/JavaScript class, Christian Danielsen was a high school math teacher. “I’ve always dabbled with technology and the web, and was looking for a career change,” says Christian. He was intrigued be the challenge of coding, work he finds to be incredibly satisfying. 

Christian embraced the growth mindset while he was at Epicodus. “I’ve come to believe that if I’m willing to spend enough time reading and hacking away at something, I will eventually solve it, which is a pretty amazing/empowering feeling.” His biggest piece of advice to someone considering attending code school, echoes that philosophy: “Practice embracing being overwhelmed. It never goes away, and the sooner you get comfortable with it, the easier it will be to make progress and not worry about all the stuff you don’t know yet.” 

One month after graduation, Christian landed a job as a QA automation engineer for company right across the street from Epicodus where he is learning as much as he can about working for an agile software company and trying to chip away at side projects in his free time. 

From Football to Ruby: An Epicodus Alum Shares His Road to Programming

Photo courtesy of Mike Harris

Photo courtesy of Mike Harris

Before applying to Epicodus, Mike Harris was working as an intern for the Washington Redskins in their Football Operations Department and helping out his parents with their laundromat business. Always interested in how websites were made, Mike decided to try Codecademy courses on the side before making the switch to full-time learning at Epicodus.

Mike enrolled in the Ruby/JavaScript/Rails course, where he quickly discovered just how much time goes into making simple apps such as Scrabble-like games and to-do lists.

"The environment Epicodus has is like nothing you'll ever experience. The teachers are helpful, charismatic, and energetic, which positively affects us as students."

For anyone considering code school in the future, Mike advises recording "ah-ha" moments. Writing down new techniques and tricks helps work through how you get to learning breakthroughs. "Writing down how you solved errors is very helpful in the long run," he says.

Since graduating in May, Mike has plans to land a job as a junior developer and continue to grow his programming skill set.

Life After Epicodus: My First Year On The Job at DevelopmentNow

By Kathryn Brown

I remember the first moment I wanted to learn to code. I was in a client meeting at a local Portland startup, working with a team of developers to implement a difficult solution on our company’s fledgling SaaS marketing platform. We would have to pull an all nighter together to make it happen. I was the project manager. There was nothing that I could do to help my teammates. All I could do was wait. My portion of the work on the project was done, but I hated the feeling of not being able to pitch in during that crucial time.

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Brown

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Brown

That night, I kept my team company on gchat while I fiddled around on a few “learn to code” interactive web programs. By the next morning I had forgotten all of the intro lessons. I started asking around the office, “how did YOU learn how to code?”  The answers varied from, “I dunno, I just learned,” to “I wrote programs for my TI-83 calculator in math class because I was bored”. Each developer did however, give me the same piece of critical advice: if you want to learn to code, you have to do it all day, everyday.

So that’s what I did. I decided to leave my job to attend Epicodus full-time. It was the best decision I’ve made in my professional career. In addition to learning about the basics of http requests, relational databases, and CRUD, I also learned valuable real world skills that I would not be able to practice if I was at home learning how to code by myself.

Two of my classmates and I scored an internship at DevelopmentNow, a local digital product solutions agency, soon after my class ended.  The three of us were hired out of our internship, and we have continued to work closely on everything from startup MVPs to enterprise projects at scale together.

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Brown

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Brown

Now that I am coming upon my first year anniversary at DevelopmentNow, I decided to take a look back at the role Epicodus played in my success on the job.

Here are the notable ways that my classroom experience helped me during my first year at DevelopmentNow:

Real World Skills

I learned how to make decisions about API design, and how to evaluate tradeoffs between an app that functions according to scope and an app that looks great, but doesn’t function as well. After all, we only had a limited amount of class time to finish a project before we moved onto the next assignment. I also learned how to work on a project’s code base with multiple developers checking in code to github each day.  I’ll admit, I’ve still had to rebase a few times at work, but working with git is no longer a mysterious, scary concept that has me worrying that I will blow up the project.

Michael Kaiser-Nyman, the founder of Epicodus, always used to tell our class that the number one skill that sets successful developers apart has nothing to do with coding ability. Instead, it’s the ability to google effectively! After working on a handful of projects, I realized that he was right.  As a developer, I’ve found myself spending more time searching for a solution to a problem than actually implementing that solution. The more efficient you can search, the faster you can move onto the next challenge.


I was introduced to DevelopmentNow’s CEO Ben Strackany through Epicodus’s internship program. After Ben received my resume via Epicodus, I met him at his office and talked about my experience and my desire to work on an upcoming project: a backbone.js app with a rails backend. The first day of my internship, I joined two of my classmates on the couch at DevelopmentNow. We were each handed a shiny new MacBook Air, and given the task of setting up our development environment. In a few hours, we were ready to start working on our first feature for a client.

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Brown

Photo courtesy of Kathryn Brown

Together, we completed two sprints during our internship. We built a search feature, a social follower feature, and fixed existing bugs that required a deep dive into the app’s already existing social API functionality.

The internship period helped me get a feel for what it’s like to work on a real client project on behalf of DevelopmentNow. It also gave Ben a sneak peek into my skill set and thought process as a new developer before we both committed to working together in an employee / employer capacity.

Pair Programming

The most recent project that I worked on was an MVP for a local startup. One of my Epicodus classmates built the API, and I built the front-end website. Because of our experience pair programming in class, we easily slipped into pair mode when one of us became stuck on an issue. Instead of grinding on a bug all day, we would simply get together at a desk, and talk through the problem. Whether the issue was caused by a typo or a logic error, we overcame our roadblocks faster together, and as a result, we were less stressed when our development deadline grew near.

I’m really excited to extend a hand back to Epicodus on behalf of DevelopmentNow, to help other women transition from their former careers into development. Ben has generously offered to sponsor a female student to go through the groundbreaking all female Break the Code Android programming class this fall, and I’m working with the team at Epicodus to help facilitate this relationship. If you are interested in applying, check out the Break the Code page, where you can learn more about the program.

Thank you Epicodus and DevelopmentNow for making the last year of my career really rewarding!