Jessica Benson’s Kenzie Academy journey began after years of being a newspaper reporter, traveling, and working in the service industry. When the pandemic began, she lost her bartending job. For a moment, Jessica considered getting her old career back, but when her daughter mentioned her own idea of transitioning into tech, Jessica was interested too. They both enrolled at Kenzie Academy.
Kenzie Academy: More Than a Bootcamp
I usually describe it as a beefed up bootcamp. Somewhere in between a bootcamp and going to college. If you want something that’s going to give you more than just the typical bootcamp but you don’t want the 4-year commitment of going to college to get a degree, Kenzie is the nice, sweet spot. It’s a nice, middle ground sweet spot for people who want to jumpstart their careers but want more than a coding bootcamp because it’s hard to jumpstart a career with just 6 weeks of training. It’s not enough, not for coding. Coding is such a complex thing. But not all of us have the ability to commit ourselves to 4 years of school.
Life Before Kenzie
Before Kenzie, I had been bartending, working in the restaurant business in a tourist town down here in Tennessee and I actually lost my job during COVID. So that was pretty stressful. I lost my job, ended up on unemployment, and so I really think mentally, being in Kenzie helped because I had that lifeline. Previous to that, I had a background as a newspaper reporter actually years ago. I had gotten burned out from doing that and dropped out and spent time traveling and working in the restaurant business.
Weighing the Options and Enrolling at Kenzie
Well, I had for a long time been really wanting to get my career back on track — my professional career. I didn’t want to go back to the news business or media. So for years, I had been really just trying to figure out what it is I wanted to do when I grew up. And while I was still tossing around some ideas, my daughter was looking to do the same thing. She had been a hairdresser and she was looking to transition careers into something professional. And she came to me with this idea of the school for herself and was like, “Oh. Look. Check this place out. I’m super excited about it.” And I was like, “Oh. That looks pretty good. I might apply too.”
The Mother/Daughter Kenzie Experience
It was interesting because we each had different strengths in the program. The first half of the program, she was just a whiz and I really was having a hard time grasping some of these new concepts. So she really helped support me in the beginning … There was something about the backend that just clicked with me more. So she ended up relying heavily on me in the second half of the program … It was a great experience going through it with her. Like I said, it brought us closer together.
Starting at Kenzie
It was actually a very easy process, which was nice because I didn’t really have a lot of time to fool around with anything that was going to be difficult to get started. They made it very easy to get into the program and to get ramped up in the beginning. And once you get started, you’re in there.
The “It Clicked!” Moment
In the beginning, we did React … I didn’t do so well there … But when it did finally click, I felt like I had learned the concepts and I was actually able to create things on my own. I ended up being the product owner of our capstone project and was able to pull that off. And I knew what I was doing. That was the moment where I was like, I’m not just running this project, but I actually know what I’m doing. I know what’s going on. And that was a big light bulb moment for me that I can learn these complicated concepts. Sometimes, it just takes a little time and you might not get it the first time or the first five times, but when it clicks, it clicks.
The Value of Past Experience
I feel like it’s actually come full circle. The job I have now, I actually joke all the time that it’s just like bartending with a computer. I do a lot of written communication. So I feel like I’m using all of the skills that I’ve learned over my entire lifetime: my writing skills, my juggling skills, juggling tickets, and having to prioritize everything. That’s what you do as a bartender. That’s what I do now in my current job. I feel like it all has led me to where I am now. It’s not like broken pieces on the chain. It’s one continuous, interesting journey. And I can’t wait to see where I go with it next.
Jessica Benson Today
Now I work for a company called Radency. They’re based out of New York City, but the team I work for is based out of Atlanta. And I’m 100% remote. The company, basically it’s a digital marketing company for companies that are looking to attract talent. Their motto is, “From hi to apply. Everything in between.” Basically, we build career websites for companies. So my job is to maintain these career websites.
The Jessica Benson Trajectory
I really feel like things fell into place nicely. It was a little bit of a rocky road. It took a while to land a full-time job. But when I look back on it now, it’s like all the right things happened at all the right times for me. So you just got to have faith in the process and realize when there are pitfalls that that’s part of that process and you just have to have faith in it, that you’re going to end up in the place where you belong.
Advice for Anyone Considering Kenzie
I would tell them to 100% do it. Do it. And my advice would be to try to set yourself up so that you can dedicate as much of your time to Kenzie as possible.
A new career in tech could be on the horizon for you! Will you take the opportunity? Kenzie Academy’s programs can help you build a foundation for a bright future in a growing industry. Apply today and begin your journey.
*This alum graduated from a previous, non-credit bearing, version of the software engineering program.