John Holman is a graduate of #YesWeCode Coding Corps 2016 cohort. After earning his Associate's degree in business and beginning an internship at an EdTech company in the Bay Area, John found out about the world of programming and fell in love with coding. He decided to go back to school to pursue a degree in Computer Science, but because of high tuition costs, had to pause his education. Soon after, fortunately, John learned about #YesWeCode. After completing Dev Boot Camp and joining Intuit as an apprentice, he eventually signed on to the financial software company in January 2017 as a software engineer, where he's been coding ever since.
#YesWeCode: What do you like most about being a software engineer at Intuit?
John: I think the thing I enjoyed most about it was the kind of mindset it gives you. You see a problem and you're like "Let me solve that." Whenever I talk to mentors that are in tech, they say you're not hired to write code, you're hired to solve problems, and I think that's a really good way of looking at it. We're here to solve problems; real tangible problems. We're just using code to approach these problems, that's just part of the process. So it introduced a really nice job to solve cool problems every day.
What goals do you most want to accomplish in your career or in your work, are there any long-term goals you're striving for?
I want to start my own company someday, I have no idea what it's going to be. I know it's either going to be food or culinary or both, but that's where I'm at, I just want to do my own thing. Part of the thing with tech is that it's very empowering. Once you have that base skillset, you can kind of just go out and look around the world and be like "How can I solve this problem with tech?" It's super accesible, you just need an internet connection and a tech center and you can code.
What's next for you at Intuit before you begin the next phase of your business plan?
Right now, I was just promoted in February and I've just been taking some time to think about what I should be doing. I've been really trying to emphasize developing leadership qualities, so I really take it upon myself to help coach up new career interns and help them along in the journey. Lots of knowledge shares and deep dives into the tech. I'm trying to think beyond just the code and my actual job and think about how I can be a better communicator and team player and influence people and also just take advice and feedback better. I guess all stuff you would want to see in a good leader is the journey I'm on.
So you've touched on being a problem solver but what was the most gratifying-or is there an experience that was the most memorable part of your coding education?
It kind of just blends together into one big thing. There are certain problems, like something I'm really grappling with right now. There are certain issues that you find and it's something that you spend weeks on and you're like "Oh my god this is so hard" and you start questioning, like "Do I have the skillset? Am I actually an engineer?" It's crazy, you start questioning your career choice and every couple of months you find a bug or an issue like this that just makes you question everything. You know you've had this feeling before and you'll eventually figure it out and it will go away, but it still happens. So I'm thinking "How can I come to grips with the fact that this is a problem that's just going to really mess me up, and how can I surrender to this problem and then work through it without having this horrible, awful feeling happen to me." I guess it's kind of a meta-problem instead of a single problem.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. You touched on having to have persistence with your last answer, but what should prospective students know before beginning their coding/programming education?
It's a really serious commitment. Think of it as a lifestyle rather than just a job or a career that you're working towards. You're going to be writing about code, reading code, thinking code, talking about code. Also you need to be passionate about something outside of tech because, like I said, it's a lifestyle and a very obsessive kind of thing that you always think about, if you're just thinking in terms of "What's the next best framework or performance, etc." I think the most awesome thing about tech is the ability or opportunity to solve problems for people who most need it, because otherwise you're just building tech for techies. The real power is like "Oh now I can build a tech solution for grandma out in Uruguay." I think if you have a passion outside of tech, that's the most important thing because it keeps you going. Because when you get burnt out and hit that wall, you can move on to something else.
That's excellent advice. Do you have more any advice for students looking for a job in the tech field, specifically professional-wise?
Yeah I think pretty much the same thing, have a passion outside (of tech) to stay sane. It's a lifestyle more so than a single job, and you just have to keep grinding. There's going to be so many people saying " Oh no, you didn't go to Stanford, etc." You just have to build a network and support group, and I think with tech especially you have to have a holistic approach to it. You have to have a passion outside of tech, you can't give up, you have to meet people, make connections, go to hackathons, start writing content, whatever you can do to get your name out there to show that you've done the work. In the engineering world, people think it's a meritocracy and with that mindset they want to see code; literally, code and lots of it, so you've got to be writing code. If you go to school and say "Oh I want to be an engineer", if I haven't seen you write any code and I don't see any projects, why would I want to hire you?
What skills are the most important to acquire before you enter the tech field?
I think patience and humility, because you have to be patient to work through a lot of these things and it takes time to learn it; humility because you're going to feel stupid almost every day and you just have to accept it, it's the nature of the job. You're going to be humbled day in and day out and things move so fast.