How 42 Silicon Valley Gives You the Freedom to Change Careers

Career changes are inevitable within one’s lifetime, but it can be daunting to take on a new set of skills. At 42 Silicon Valley, we are ready to help students prepare for these changes. Even if you aren’t going to work in the tech industry, tech skills are useful for almost any job.  Future jobs in the United States are based on a knowledge-based economy, and the career landscape is changing at a rapid pace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics job outlook from 2016 to 2026, the demand for programming skills will increase by 24% in the next 10 years.  However, high-quality computer programming education in the US can be expensive and restricted to a single model or system of learning.

We spoke to some of our students to learn more about why they decided to change careers, and how 42’s unique method of learning is giving them the freedom to learn new skills at their own pace.


Michael Rivera 

Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts 

What were you doing before 42 and why did you decide to change careers?

I was a filmmaker and started around 2009 when I was in college. I was working in commercials and on tv shows. Over time, the gigs that I had were no longer fulfilling. I wanted to do something more than just sell a product to someone. A lot of times in film, you work with creatives who have a vision. My job was to make that vision come to life. I wasn’t making anything that was helping anybody.  I wasn’t making any tools to help people better themselves or their life. In tech, I can make something for people around the world and make it free. Finding some more fulfillment from helping people, you can write 1’s and 0’s to create a service and put it online with less overhead than filmmaking.

How did you hear about 42 and what made you decide to try it?

I’d been inspired to learn to code because of the craziness around Bitcoin and AI in the content I was viewing in my free time. I was gravitating towards this tech infused world. I also shot a series of documentaries in my home country of Puerto Rico, centered around the state of research on the island using new technology to recover one year after Maria. It was a life changing trip. While there, I made the decision to use tech to help people in the future.

I was looking up coding boot camps in Boston because I felt like I wanted to transition and just get into it right away. When I was looking up boot camps I was looking up reviews on YouTube. In the search results, “free coding school in Silicon Valley” popped up and I watched the video. Initially, I thought, “this looks fake, it looks like a scam.”

I reached out to students I thought were current at 42. Some got back to me, and I found out about the slack channel after I signed up. I  asked people questions and everyone said it was super hard, but it was the best thing they did. That was all I needed to take a chance. So I left the current gig I was on. I was in between apartments and decided not to sign another lease. Instead, I drove cross country, I had nothing to lose. Everyone I was standing outside the dorms with said they were wondering if it was real. The next day was the piscine and it was very real, it was hard.

Did you know how to code before coming to 42?

I had no coding experience, it took me 5 hours what takes me 2 keystrokes to do now. In January 2018, I started practicing Python online but with my schedule and things that were going on it was inconsistent. Part of me felt like I wasn’t going to go anywhere unless I dove in. I tried to set up my life so I had no obligations, so I could just go to 42 and code. It has been awesome so far.

What has your experience been like at 42 so far? 

It has been amazing. I have met a ton of people from all over the world, and have made good friends. Being able to go over to someone who has probably done the project you are working on before, being able to tap into their experience, you can’t put a price on that. The way people learn here, I feel like is the only way I could move forward learning. Just trying to figure things out, it has taught me to be a critical thinker, arrive to the answer and learn. Those critical thinking skills I am working on are leading me to the rest of my life.

There is a community here and everyone wants to code. I have a lot of experience as a filmmaker and that lead to me being the go-to guy in the room a lot of the time. Sometimes you get too comfortable and make mistakes. But now, I’m not the go-to guy in the room anymore and it’s nice to be challenged again. Every day is a really hard puzzle.

What is your dream job and/or career interests?

At the beginning of my filmmaking career, I was a freelancer. After that I worked at various ad agencies where corporate life merged with the creative world so I don’t want to go back to that. The plan is to be mobile. If I have a house in the woods in New Hampshire I will be good, and freelancing in either cybersecurity, ed tech or web dev. When it snows, I will go to Puerto Rico to take care of my parents and code there. The goal would be to be a remote freelance developer.

What does this new career path offer that your past one doesn’t?

An onramp to help people everywhere. I can create something and make it open source so anyone connected to the internet can do what they need to do. With films, you can make people feel something and inspire them to change the world. With tech, I can make tools that people can use then and there. In the past, I did a lot of commercial and documentary work. Documentaries are great because they make you think, you need to tell the story to get people’s attention. Sometimes I think to work as much as I did made me lose my love of telling stories. With tech, there will be someone online who feels the same way I feel about certain problems I’d like to solve. Why not connect and work with them?

Do you feel like 42 gives you the freedom to pursue your new career goals and if so how?

Oh yeah, I think it definitely does. You aren’t micromanaged, there are no training wheels here and I feel it is super important to not only learn how to code but it helps you become better with your time management. You have a lot more responsibility on yourself and that helps you grow as a person when you go out in the world and need to survive. No one will ask if you coded today, if you worked on your project today, or if you learned more than you did this morning. It lights a fire under you to get going, that is why I like it so much. It is definitely preparing me for the developer lifestyle I want to live in the future.

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of trying 42 to change their career? 

There is never a right time, of course. Plan your finances and get your affairs in order and make a move. I don’t regret anything so far. I have been here for five months and it has been the best decision, even though I don’t know what is in store for the future. There is a tendency to wait for the right time, like pay off credit card debt first, or study this first or to ask oneself, “what will happen if it doesn’t work out?” If the universe is trying to tell you something, listen to that, and take the leap. If you don’t like something, change it. Handle whatever you have to handle and just do it! Adjust on your way and everything will fall into place. If anyone wants more information about my experience at 42, feel free to reach out to me with questions.


Crystal Schuller

Hometown: Fort Collins, Colorado

What were you doing before 42 and why did you decide to change careers?

I was a freelance graphic designer, as well as a marketing coordinator for a corporate law firm in Boulder. Legal marketing was not my thing. It was a very traditional office culture. I wanted to move into a less established industry that focuses more on work and results. Tech made sense because graphic design as a field is changing. It is really starting to knit into tech, through avenues like web development and UX design. 

How did you hear about 42 and what made you decide to try it?

Boulder is becoming a tech hub, so I started to meet a lot of people in Colorado who made a similar career change. One friend in particular had the same background I did. We both had an undergraduate degree in art and a few years in graphic design. He decided to teach himself how to code because the design skill set just wasn’t competitive by itself. I was surprised because I thought coding was something you had to pick up at a young age to be good. He inspired me to get into it. I started meeting all kinds of people who had moved into programming later in their career. That made me feel like it was realistic.

I was living in London for a little while. I talked to a lot of people there about how affordable school is in Europe, even for foreigners. So I was looking into coding programs in France because it just seemed so much more economical. That’s when I saw 42 Paris. I was surprised to learn there was a US campus that was also free!

Did you know how to code before coming to 42?

Zero, absolutely zero. The most I did was maybe a quarter of HTML in 8th grade, that was my coding experience. 

What has your experience been like at 42 so far? 

It’s been a really unique experience. Being part of such a global community is a great thing. You can hear four different languages being spoken on your way to the laundry room. People’s career backgrounds are really diverse too. I have friends who are 18 who are doing this instead of college. I also have friends in the same group who are 30 and changing careers, and some who are seasoned developers already. It’s a great group to learn from and it’s amazing to have this available to so many different people at different stages.

What is your dream job and/or career interests?

I have no idea! In college, I went through so many identity crises. I changed my major 7 times and kind of landed on design because I needed to hurry up and graduate. I’m working towards UX design right now because that seems like the most intuitive thing to do with my background. UX is exciting to me because it’s a field that is still emerging. You can bring something new to it and bring your own perspective on how to approach it.


What does this new career path offer that your past one doesn’t?

It offers a lot more room to grow. In the marketing space, specifically the legal world, seniority and connections are everything. I was ready for something more hands-on. There are still social barriers in the tech space but if you are good at what you do, you can leverage that more than you can in more old-school industries.

Tech also offers creative freedom. Programming gives you the whole toolbox to build really amazing projects from start to finish. When I was just doing graphic design, I had only one part of that skill set. 

Do you feel like 42 gives you the freedom to pursue your new career goals and if so how?

I love that 42 is designed to welcome people with no coding background. That’s great for people who already have day jobs, and can’t spare a lot of extra time to study beforehand. The idea of going back to school was cost-prohibitive for me, so the fact that 42 is free made this move way more attainable. Being able to self-schedule is also really important. That flexibility is priceless.

I think 42 is great because it’s more nimble than 4-year universities in what it can cover. For example, you can do the PHP piscine in another language, like Ruby or NodeJS, if that fits more with what you’re trying to pursue. That’s really cool. I’d like to see more of that. 

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of trying 42 to change their career? 

I’d say one of the best things about this place is the opportunity to network in a genuine way. You can go to a tech conference or a meetup and you might make one friend, but you’ll mostly get a bunch of business cards.  Here, I’ve made countless real friends in all areas of tech. It happens organically. You don’t think “I need to make a friend in cybersecurity,” you think “Oh this guy’s cool.” 

The friends I’ve made here are so much more than contacts. I’d love to spend a career working alongside them. I think having that sense of community really matters more to overall happiness than what kind of work you end up doing. So I’d say stay open to meeting new people and be willing to take your skill set in a direction you weren’t expecting.


Reinhardt Venter 

Hometown: Welkom, South Africa 

What were you doing before 42 and why did you decide to change careers?

I did computer networking for about two years, but it didn’t pay very well in South Africa. After that, I did sales with energy saving equipment for households and factories. I took over one of the franchises, and it was big money but also very stressful. Deciding to go back to sailing, I sold everything, took a few trips and it took off from there. Yachting is not an easy industry to get into, it is all about who you know. Afterward, I worked my way up to become a first officer on super yachts and I did that for about eight years.

I have my 200 Ton Captain’s License, which is a Master of Yachts. I loved it because you get to travel and get to see the world, the downside of it was not having your own time. There wasn’t any family time, I had to work during Christmas and New Years. I wasn’t able to attend weddings or even funerals. Basically, there wasn’t a future for me. I realized that coding would give me access to a better future.

How did you hear about 42 and what made you decide to try it?

My friend, Jarrod Hatting, applied for the piscine and told me about it. I looked into it and it tickled my fancy, and I decided that yes, this is what I want to do. At first I thought 42 was fake, because it was free, and offered free accommodation. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What is the catch?” 

Did you know how to code before coming to 42?

I did not know how to code before 42. Before deciding to come, I looked online to wrap my mind around it. I just looked at YouTube videos, I didn’t take any classes at all. The Youtube videos will give you a different library, here you need to create all those functions yourself, which is more intense but also gives you a better understanding of how it all works.

What has your experience been like at 42 so far? 

It has been tough. I obviously I am going to get through it, but it is going to take some time. You have to manage your own time, be diligent. You basically have to want it. But the rest of the people I have met here have all been friendly and helpful. 

What is your dream job and/or career interests?

I am really interested in AI because it offers so many possibilities. Being new to the industry, I am not sure where exactly I want to go, but I know that AI is the future. There is so much you can do when it comes to machine learning. 

What does this new career path offer that your past one doesn’t?

A future. Because with yachting you do the same thing over and over. With programming you have to think all the time, it is about continuous learning.

Do you feel like 42 gives you the freedom to pursue your new career goals and if so how?

Yes, definitely. It teaches you how to think, plan, and decide which pathway to go on. Depending on your future goals, you can choose to work for a big corporation or for a startup. 

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of trying 42 to change their career? 

Basically, if you are thinking about it, go for it. Take control of your life, take responsibility, and change your life for the better for you and your family. There is a lack of developers, and there are a lot of opportunities in this field. Just imagine the end results, imagine your life with this new career, feel it.  Put the emotions into it and it will become your reality.


William North 

Hometown: Howell, Michigan, 40 minutes outside of Detroit.

What were you doing before 42 and why did you decide to change careers?

I was a pharmacy technician for about 5 years when I ended up discovering the school. At first, I thought it was a hoax, and I just continued with my job for a bit. Then I came to the realization that it doesn’t matter how good I do in my job, I will always be a technician. There was no room for advancement, I could become a senior tech, but that’s it. I kept on looking into the school because I always played around with computers. 42 looked like a good opportunity to move on and do something else. In between getting here in February and quitting my job in July, I did some online technical support.

How did you hear about 42 and what made you decide to try it?

I was browsing a website where people share memes and someone posted about their time at 42 with pictures. When I first came across it, I downvoted it because it wasn’t funny. Then I started looking into it to get an idea of what it was all about. I looked at their website, and I looked into Xavier just to see how legitimate it is. It took off after that, I took a month off and did the May piscine when I was still working as a pharmacy tech. I didn’t get in, because I had no idea what I was doing. I came back in August, but I had a better idea of what I was doing and was able to get in.

Did you know how to code before coming to 42?

No, not at all. I was a fresh start when I came here in May and August, I had no idea what I was doing. 

What has your experience been like at 42 so far? 

It has been a bit of a slog to start with, as I am doing more and more of the projects, reading over how everything fits together. Fillit is considered a gateway project, it really shows if you know how to do anything yet, and this is an actual project you have to work with someone on. After that I worked on print_f, it is another function one but it clicks much better now. I am getting better. 

What is your dream job and/or career interests?

I thought I wanted to get into operating systems so I started looking at that branch in the curriculum and it seems really cool. The more I am here I realize I really want to do cybersecurity. My path would be the same if I was doing the operating system path but I will be doing a lot more imperative programming, a lot of network administration, versus the operating system. It is still open and available to me as an option, but not as high on my priority as the cybersecurity branches.

What does this new career path offer that your past one doesn’t?

More opportunity to go around and do things. As a pharmacy tech, the only advancement besides senior tech was to get into a hospital pharmacy. In cybersecurity, I will still be in an office building. But if they need me to go to the mainframes, those are located somewhere else. So overall, more open opportunities to travel and for advancement.

Do you feel like 42 gives you the freedom to pursue your new career goals and if so how?

You can get into algorithms, graphic design, you can get into cybersecurity, you can do anything here. The world is your oyster here as long as you love computers. 

I definitely feel like I can pursue this goal because I have everything I need that is currently available here. My uncle is an IT manager for an accounting company that runs for the big three. He is awestruck by everything I have explained to him about 42’s curriculum. I don’t know what I am doing yet. If I get more cyber algorithms under my belt, and more imperative programming, I will be able to get a job easily. 42 also provides a social environment. You are getting interpersonal skills immediately through having to work together on projects and grade each other. You are part of a community as soon as you walk in the door.

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of trying 42 to change their career? 

You can’t succeed or fail without trying. If it turns out being something that helps you, awesome. The way I see it, there is no pressure. Just take some time off of work, and give it a shot.


Maya Soni 

Hometown: Pasadena, CA

What were you doing before 42 and why did you decide to change careers?

I graduated from UC Davis with a BS in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior. While debating the pursuit of a Masters or Ph.D. in my field, I worked as a full-time tutor. I predominantly worked with high school juniors and seniors as well as community college students. I really enjoyed tutoring English, as that was my minor in college, as well as math and science. Also, I enjoyed helping students prepare for standardized testing, for I, too, struggled with the SAT and ACT due to test anxiety. I felt that my shortcomings, in regards to standardized testing, truly afforded me an advantage in helping like-minded, struggling students. During this time, I decided that I did not want to really specialize in just one specific subfield of neuroscience (though, I still really love the field), but would rather continue learning a vast array of fields.

How did you hear about 42 and what made you decide to try it?

One of my friends sent me an Ars Technica article profiling 42 because I had expressed an interest in learning more about computers and programming. A school that offered free education, and housing, sounded too good to be true. I decided there was no harm in trying the piscine, so I came for the pursuit of knowledge. I thought it would be fun to pick up some technical skills.

Did you know how to code before coming to 42?

Nope. I would have considered myself a computer power user, but I didn’t know how to program – that is a different beast.

What has your experience been like at 42 so far?

42 has been such a unique experience. The piscine was very challenging for me. I was not used to failing. I even ran away for a weekend but returned due to my friends messaging me concerned regarding the fact that they hadn’t seen me for a day. Ultimately, I completed the piscine because of the community I had created for myself here.

I became a cadet because I became aware of how much I had learned while taking the final exam. As a cadet, I had to learn self-motivation and a new kind of discipline. In a traditional school, there are due dates, so I knew when things had to be done by, but at 42 it is self-paced. I oscillated between doing 100+ hour weeks and barely hitting the minimum 38 hours that were required. After a year, I was asked to join Bocal. It is very fun being able to help shape such an innovative school.

What is your dream job and/or career interests?

I don’t have a singular “dream job.” One thing that I think I’d really enjoy doing is working with BCI, Brain Computer Interface. I’d love to be able to merge the knowledge of my previous field, neuroscience, with the skills I have gained here at 42, programming.

What does this new career path offer that your past one doesn’t?

Knowing how to program has brought so much flexibility and opportunity for my future. There are so many jobs in the field.  


Do you feel like 42 gives you the freedom to pursue your new career goals and if so how?

42 has given me such an amazing foundation. 42 starts by having you learn C, which is a mid-lower level language. But, to make it more challenging, we weren’t allowed to use many pre-build functions or libraries. Though, tedious and frustrating, this creates a phenomenal foundation of understanding. I have slowly learned to really like and appreciate C; I’d be happy to work in this language. I have also seen that I have the ability to learn new languages incredibly quickly due to the knowledge that I have acquired from this school. This gives me confidence that I could handle a job in nearly any mid-high level language presented to me.

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of trying 42 to change their career? 

Why not try? Free education and free housing, what is there to lose? But, be prepared to fail. Constantly reminding yourself that you are here to learn rather than to pass. Success isn’t a passing grade but the knowledge obtained in the process of completing the projects. 


Alexander Kozma

Hometown: When I was 7 I moved from NJ to LA. We moved to Parkland, FL when I was 16 and when I was 23 I moved back to Southern California.

What were you doing before 42 and why did you decide to change careers?

Before 42 I was a musician, specifically a bassist. I spent probably most of my 19-21-year-old life going and playing lots of shows. When I was 16 I joined a band called “Burden of Sanity.” At 19 I dropped out of college because the manager of a band called “Forge” reached out to me. I joined Forge and was in it for a year and a half. We played shows from South Florida to Louisiana and back. It was a lot of fun. I always liked computers. When I was on tour I would be playing around with servers and stuff for games and doing mod development. It has been one of my two big passions, there is music and there are computers. I have taken both pretty far.

How did you hear about 42 and what made you decide to try it?

I was between bands, and I was worried about my future. I thought, I want a house at some point and kids and I want to support them. Since I was always interested in computers, I decided to look into tech schools. 42 seemed like the most legitimate out of all of them, in terms of what they provide for their students and the integrity of the program.

Did you know how to code before coming to 42?

I had minor experience. I had dabbled in C++ and C# and as much web development, like HTML and CSS, as any millennial.

What has your experience been like at 42 so far? 

It has been great. Honestly, the ability to work at your own pace has worked out really well for me. I actually put in more hours than if I had a traditional class schedule because the ability to just come in the lab and work on stuff for as long as I want to gives me room to maximize my work flow cycle. 

What is your dream job and/or career interests?

I would really like to work in networking. Database architecture is something I would like to explore more, and honestly, I am open to a lot of different opportunities. 

What does this new career path offer that your past one doesn’t?

A constant challenge. It is cool how coding is an endless Rubik’s Cube puzzle where I can sit there and come up with a way to solve it, and there is another one and another one. I can sit here and play with logic puzzles everyday. My brain was craving that. While programming I listen to music that is complex because my brain likes to pick things apart.  It helps me unconsciously deconstruct something and allows me to free up my thought process while I am working on something. 

Do you feel like 42 gives you the freedom to pursue your new career goals and if so how?

Absolutely. The great thing is, in addition to completing projects in the curriculum, I have time to work on a couple of side projects as well. I am working on a capsule to get approved in the Samsung Bixby marketplace, and I am working on a first-person shooter video game. I am also working on my levels so I can try to get into 42 Accelerate. 42 gives me room to explore all my interests in life.

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of trying 42 to change their career? 

I would definitely encourage anyone to come here who wants to see how 42 Silicon Valley is breaking the education mold. It is truly an amazing place, so give it a shot. 


The Freedom to Learn What you Want to Learn

People come to 42 for a variety of different reasons. Some for a career change, others as an alternative pathway to a traditional 4-year school, or to pick up some new skills before you take your next step. No matter the “why” behind your journey, we offer the freedom to learn what you want to learn. We know that tech is a really broad field, so it takes time to figure out what you want to do and the best approach to getting there. No matter what you decide to do with your career, 42 is a supportive community that is here to cheer you on!

,

published by Stacey Faucett – July 3, 2019