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Posted in: Learner Stories

St. Louis, Missouri, USA  |  Age 30

After completing two tours in the Army, I enrolled in the music business program at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. I love music, so my initial goal was to parlay this into a career as a sound engineer/sound mixer. About mid-way through the program I took a course on commerce, which introduced me to the idea of working with the web, the future of music sales.

The coding courses were disappointing because we were being taught to customize plugins, not actual sites. I spent some time playing around with CSS and HTML on my own, but when I tried to learn Javascript, I hit a wall. I moved to LA to become a sound engineer, and was doing freelance web building, but I didn’t have the necessary skills for web design. I wanted to learn the programming side of it — to be able to build out an commerce site I was working on, I needed to know PHP and Javascript. A friend mentioned edX’s CS50x class, which sounded great and, as opposed to other programs I’d seen, didn’t require prerequisites.

The partnership between CS50x and LaunchCodewas a great experience. Initially some people had negative views of the class because they were skeptical; they didn’t think it was REAL. They didn’t think, “If I do these classes, I can start a new career that pays well,” but it’s as simple as that. Some people, myself included, had spent a lot of time and money on school, just to find that the position they wanted didn’t exist.

CS50x and LaunchCode approached the group with the simple idea that if you throw yourself into the coursework and ultimately understand the material in detail, they would have no problem with placing any candidate into any available position whether it be a hundred or even a thousand participants that passed the course. The idea that there were that many positions open within the St. Louis region, and the difference between being placed or not was completing a 6 month course, a lot of people were very skeptical, but I believed in it and took it as a challenge.

Even though my time was stretched with working a full-time job and spending time with my wife and five children, I still dedicated myself to CS50x coursework and made myself available two nights a week at LaunchCode. I finished the course by May, and continued going to LaunchCode during June to work on projects. In 5 months I’d learned C, PHP, and Javascript along with my working knowledge of HTML and CSS. While doing this, I also getting insight into the St. Louis IT scene. CS50x and LaunchCode really helped me go from zero to 60 so quickly, and showed me that people who stick with it can see results.

In August I got a call from Rosa at LaunchCode. The creative design studio YellowBrick had seen my work, and already had a sense that my capabilities would meet what they were looking for. Typically a LaunchCode student placement is a trial situation, but since YellowBrick was a smaller firm and this was the first time they working with LaunchCode, they hired me on a contract basis. I like the flexibility, as it helps me have time to build out my portfolio of projects.

Because of my new skills, I’ve also gotten involved with CodeCause, which gives LaunchCode alumni production experience by pairing them to work on nonprofit websites. I’ve contributed as a lead for designing the front end experience on two different projects. LaunchCode and CS50x both still run but on an individual basis. There are several independent groups that link together and learn the course material on their own time, but it wasn’t like at the beginning of the year where LaunchCode sponsored group learning in public meets.

I tell anyone who will listen about edX and LaunchCode because LaunchCode is still trying to fill positions. Some people, usually older in age, seem to think that there’s an age limit to learning, but there isn’t. Education is continuous. These programs are not going away: Put in the effort, study the material. If you haven’t started, start.

View Shawn’s work at www.shawnjon.es.