App Academy Alum Spotlight: Yelp Engineer Daniel Fletcher

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Daniel Fletcher was a USC English Lit graduate working for a financial firm in San Francisco when he decided to switch careers. It was summer 2016 and he’d been looking for something different. It’s not that he hated finance, or disliked the people, or even his then-team’s goals. He was just looking for something he would love. Or at least, he says, that would engage his creative side as much as writing and debating did back in college.

“I was the president of the debate team at USC and loved the hard logic involved in it. So when I was thinking [about moving on to a different career], I started to think about something what was at the intersection of creativity and logic.”

Since Fog City is in the hub of the technology industry, it’s not surprising heard the challenge he was looking for could be found in coding.

Early in his new life in the city, he made friends that were in engineering and the more they talked about its pros and cons, the more he thought about jumping into it. He was interested enough in tech that he bought a textbook of intro Java and started writing basic programs even while working at his day job. But he didn’t start seeing the real possibility of a new career until those friends started giving him introductory lessons in their free time.

“Each weekend they’d take turns giving intros on a [coding] paradigm, gave me assignments, like playing hangman, in the terminal. They’d give me code reviews and feedback about how to improve what I wrote.” Daniel he says he spent time learning that way for about four months, from June to October 2016.

Around that same time, Daniel got in an Uber one night during a bachelor party and one of them was an executive for the App Academy bootcamp. Dave Fort, a/A’s Director of Operations and Finance, quickly picked up on his interest and recommended Daniel stop by the office to find out more about it. Within weeks, Daniel went through the free JumpStart educational program, which gives applicants the best opportunity for acceptance, according to the bootcamp. After he completed dual two-week courses, he got accepted and was on his way.

All these moments coalesced into an avalanche of data that supported his original instinct to make a career change. It was almost like a nature and nurture situation. While the environment supported the switch and made him believe in himself, he also knew he was capable of going through the intense program and ultimately thriving.

Once he started at App Academy on January 2017, Fletcher said getting through it was the hardest part. The deadlines and fast pace of the courses were tough but ultimately a great way for him to develop coding survival skills. “App Academy was a full-time thing [for me]. I’d saved up money from my last job and was able to afford it [since students can’t work while going to the school at the same time].” The 23-year old native of Northern Virginia graduated in April 2017 and a few months after that, got a job as a software engineer at Yelp.

Needless to say, he hasn’t regretted his decision. The Cohort talked to him right after starting his job and he was ecstatic for the opportunity to come.  

“I’m elated at my new job and amazed this all worked out. I’m not going to lie — I’m a bit overwhelmed in my first week because there’s a lot of new information to take in. But I feel motivated and energized in the same way as when I started App Academy because I have a ton of opportunities to learn.”

Daniel said he was especially cognizant of taking in and retaining as much info as possible while also feeling buoyed knowing he’d come so far already. “[The job] is daunting and intense and exhausting at the same time. [But] I’m motivated by the opportunity to learn a field that a year ago was totally alien for me.”

To this day, Daniel says he appreciated his time learning other subjects and trying other jobs before starting a coding career. His background in literature, in particular, gave him a breadth of knowledge that helps him every day to think a little bit differently than other people from straight-CS programs. “I think knowing a little bit about a lot can be used by people as portals into subjects that may be interesting and can help [in software development,]” he told us

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