25 July 2019

"My life has not been the same since I started the Gaslight Apprenticeship Program."

Simply put, the Gaslight Software Development Apprenticeship program changed my life. I graduated high school in 2010. Which is not that long ago, at least I like to think that. But the technology landscape was totally different. mySpace was still hot, facebook wasn’t even a thing yet, blackberries were the phones to have and normal people had not seen an iPhone in person yet. Most importantly third party phones apps were not really a thing. A few years before that, my H.S. sophomore year, I moved back to the United States. Even though I was born here, my mother moved back to the Dominican Republic as soon as she had me, so I did not speak english AT ALL, when I came back. I did not have many friends or things to do when I first came to Ohio. That lead to me starting my first website with a friend. But this is not going where you think it’s going. It is not another one of those stories where the person starts coding as a kid or teenager and the becomes a successful developer. It is quite the opposite of that. Our website did not require any programing knowledge at all. To summarize it, it was pretty much a Microsoft word file that we figured out how to put online. We ran that website for a year until I started working at McDonald’s and actually getting paid.

I graduated high school and I never thought of being a developer. The term web developer wasn’t even a thing back then, people use to call them webmaster or web designers. I went to college for a while (nothing related to programing) then, after a year and a half I got a decent job and dropped out of school in order to work. The business closed down soon after, so I started a couple of businesses. Some were not successful at all and some were successful for a while but not life changing. I went on to working whatever job I could get in order to pay for my rent and the bills. I worked in retail, I washed dishes, I worked at factories, warehouses, pizza places, and everything in between. And every job I got I seemed to hate it more than the last one. The pizza places weren’t too bad but i was lucky to average $11/hr or $12/hr after tips.

After about 6 years working these types of jobs and many failed attempts to change my life for the better. I took things to another level and decided to learn to program. I tried learning while working full time but It just didn’t work out for me. I felt like every weekend I was learning the same stuff. That’s because I had already forgotten everything I learned the weekend before. Eventually I came to the realization that I was doing everything backwards. I realized was putting most of my effort into the wrong things, the low paying/anybody-can-do jobs. So I quit my main job at the time and got a different job where I only worked part time, on the weekends. That allowed me to put most of my effort, Monday through Friday, into my future, becoming a developer. I followed Brian Tracy’s 12 step method to accomplish any goal: I wrote down a new life schedule and a monthly budget that I followed religiously until I accomplished my first big goal. Getting my first job as a developer. Since I was only working on weekends, the money was more than tight. It was 700/month to be exact. But every single dollar was accounted for.

After about 7 months of quitting my job and only working weekends I was finally making progress as a developer. But, at that time, I did not have any mentors who I could ask for advice or help. So I did the obvious thing to do and I googled for suggestions on how to get mentors. That led to me attending every software developer related meetup in my city and cities nearby. That’s how I found Gaslight. They seemed to have the strongest javascript following on meetup.com in the area and I started attending their events. I remember how financially taxing attending their meetups was for me at the time. It was about 3 hours round trip plus paying for expensive downtown parking. Looking back, attending these Gaslight meetups turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made in my life and that’s not an exaggeration at all. I learned about their apprenticeship program the first time i went, and eventually, I was told I was being considered for an apprenticeship program that coming up in about 3 to 6 month from the time I was told.

A few days later, I got an email from Chris Nelson (Gaslight apprenticeship manager), asking If I’d be interested to start sooner, the next Monday, due to someone else cancelling(I think, to be honest I didn’t care too much about the reason). Starting the apprenticeship at that time meant I had to move to a new city, get an apartment, etc. Even when the job wasn’t guaranteed. However, the answer was obviously yes. I drove down to Cincinnati and spoke to Chris about the all the details. I officially accepted the offer, and I acted cool and chilled until I left and got in the elevator and the doors closed. That’s when I finally got hysterical and started jumping. As corny as It may sound, I felt Chris Gardner(played by Will Smith) when he finally got the job in the last scene of the Pursuit of Happiness movie.

The apprenticeship put me in Kroger Digital and I had the opportunity to be part of 2 amazing teams during my time there. There was a lot of learning, mentoring, anxiety, imposter syndrome, work, fun, etc. All of which helped me become what I like to call, a “Real Developer” and Kroger ended up making me an offer and hiring me as a full time employee.

In summary, my life has not been the same since I started the Gaslight apprenticeship program, and again, that is not an exaggeration at all. Now days I work as a full time, full stack developer and help other self taught developers through my youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/omarsuriel

Heads up! This article may make reference to the Gaslight team—that's still us! We go by Launch Scout now, this article was just written before we re-introduced ourselves. Find out more here.

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