How I Became a Programmer and Found My DojoMojo

It all started by living out of my car.

I co-founded the audience growth company DojoMojo two and a half years ago and I’m happy to say we’ve achieved a nice level of success. Brands on DojoMojo have acquired over 100 million emails and our team of seven developers are working together to build something amazing. But thinking about where I was five years ago is humbling because I was in a completely different space — physically and mentally.

Back then in 2012, I was a couple of years out from college, working as a waiter and living out of my silver Subaru Forester in San Diego. The hatchback was two inches too short to actually accommodate my outstretched body with the seats folded down. It was tough. But I have simple tastes and the sunny local weather wasn’t the worst place to live in a car — that is, until I was fired. Quick explanation: I’d skirted around a strange customer request, the customer emailed by boss, and boom, I was removed. As I did the sad, short walk from my former place of work to my mobile home, I wondered if that coding thing I’d started to study in college was worth looking into.

A few years earlier in 2006, I’d been a freshman at the University of Washington in Seattle on the Computer Science program track. But I’d found it an uninspiring place. The tech and applications I worked on were abstract and the people I studied with were boring. One day I was coding some reservation system in Java, felt disgusted, and pushed my chair away from the Acer desktop for good. It was a revelation that helped clarify my main desire to work with people, to learn about and serve them. It’s what makes me excited and gets me up in the morning. So I moved to a liberal arts program in order to find that. Unfortunately, like many liberal arts graduates, it left me squarely in the food service industry.

Training Camp

My re-entry into the field of technology started six years later. By then, I’d read programming blog posts, used the Stack Overflow online community, and worked on the self-taught Ruby Koans software. It seemed like a sudden thing, but the coding ecosystem had matured and there were now easier ways to consume interactive tutorials. While it was kind of fun putting my toe back in the tech waters, it was also lonely. I knew I was learning something, but didn’t know exactly what I should focus on to get a job, which was really the whole point of my dabbling exercise.

Around that time I learned about bootcamps, where they can make you job-ready in a few months. I knew that was exactly what I needed to take the next step.

Each day we would pair up and work through a set of problems that got progressively more complex, culminating in the ability to execute in a professional web development environment.
After a few weeks applying and studying, I ended up getting accepted into a few camps. They included Launch Academy in Boston, Dev Bootcamp (RIP), Hack Reactor in San Francisco, and App Academy in both New York and San Francisco. App Academy immediately stood out to me as the best option. The tuition schedule fit mine, in that I would not have money until I had a job and they didn’t need money until I had one. That this company would invest into me completely was an education model that gave me confidence in the program. They basically said:We will train you to get a job, and we’re so confident you don’t have to pay us until you get that job.  

I joined App Academy’s second NY cohort in October of 2013. It was far and away the most practical and purposeful educational experience of my life. Each day we would pair up and work through a set of problems that got progressively more complex, culminating in the ability to execute in a professional web development environment. I was working at a consulting company called Forio within 30 days of finishing the program. While I was first of my class to find placement, I believe with one or two exceptions everyone was employed within 90 days.

Feeling the Mojo

After I consulted for a customized nutritional supplement startup called Wellpath, the founders of that business gave me opportunity to help start a new company. It was going to be about facilitating partnership marketing campaigns and I jumped in excitedly.

The project started as a backend infrastructure play for largely manual processes, like sending emails to large groups of people. From there, the company grew to encompass more and more of the process. Now called DojoMojo, the company left beta over a year ago, and is now expanding to other services. We’re now tracking more amounts of data reliably, communicating with a plethora of external software, and leveraging that data into a beautiful customer experience. I’m happy to say that DojoMojo is becoming a model platform for brands to connect to grow audiences.

As for my day-to-day experience, I still find time to code but mostly manage developers, contribute to product direction, talk to customers, and recruit engineers. Honestly, I’m happy about where I am in my life and the base  for that is App Academy. The technical and career skills I received put me in a position to succeed and to learn how to find others who can as well

Which leads me to a really cool event that happened recently that brought my career experience full-circle.

Back when I was at App Academy, we’d be paired to do coding assignments all day, every day. Some days we’d finish late, and some days we wouldn’t even finish. But it was well-known that if you worked with this one student you’d be done by lunch. He knew his stuff and was really good. This past month, after some negotiations, I got to hire that student to join my team at DojoMojo. Since we’re just getting started, I am looking for more people with the desire to make a difference and I know where I’ll be looking.

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