Alumni Stories

Gilbert Garnica: Forging a Tech Career

Gilbert Garnica was working at Amazon while attending college when the global pandemic brought things to a standstill. While he was forced to put his college plans on hold, Gilbert was determined to work on his education, a value instilled in him by his parents.

“My dad says you don’t want to be in a backbreaking job when you’re in your fifties and you’re in your sixties and you also want that financial stability.”

Shortly after pausing his college career, Gilbert found a flyer for Career Choice and, after doing some research, realized it would be an effective avenue to advance his career and enter the tech field. He already considered himself “slightly above average” in tech due to his interest in music production and his passion for gaming, so enrolling at Kenzie Academy became the natural next step.

The first few months at Kenzie were a smooth transition for Gilbert. After all, the concepts covered at the time proved to be interesting. But with a few months left in his program, Gilbert hit a wall of self-doubt.

“I remember it was around the time where we started functions that the brick wall kind of appeared. And I remember thinking at that time, we still have 2, 3 more months left … The way that I saw it was I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to finish it,” he revealed. “I still have to work all these crazy overtime hours just to be able to pay my car bill.”

Gilbert’s challenges in the latter part of his program admittedly had a lot to do with some of his personal struggles.

“I have a little bit of a problem focusing and being able to zero in,” he said. “A lot of the time, I’ll end up getting stuck in a negative feedback loop where I’m trying to just finish it to get it over with.”

Finally, as the obstacles became more apparent, Gilbert was able to focus on the factors that would eventually help him overcome them. First, there was his own determination, which pushed him to put even more effort into his education.

“A lot of that really had to do with me just really having to put a ton of extra time, rewatching the same old videos … I remember watching those videos over and over and over and over and taking detailed notes.”

Kenzie’s support and the help of his fellow learners also helped Gilbert identify different perspectives that propelled him forward. Whereas in the past, Gilbert was accustomed to getting really good grades but would feel devastated if he ever made mistakes, he was able to work through that fear.

“I feel that, as an adult, you kind of shy away from learning a lot of new things because you’re kind of afraid of failure … I think coding and Kenzie helped remove that barrier.”

“I was able to, not really get over the fear, but just say, hey, I need help. This is where I’m at. Can you guys help me?”

Gilbert’s drive to progress through even the hardest situations is matched by his passion for creativity. After graduating from high school, Gilbert was unsure what he wanted to do, but he was certain it had to be something creative.

“I knew I wanted to do something with music. And I wanted to do something where I could make enough money to be able to financially support myself, and if I could take care of my moms and my dads in their later years, I’d be able to do that no problem.”

He was surprised to know he could be just as imaginative in a field like programming.

“Finding out that you can do a lot of creative things in coding, with a lot of CSS — my favorite thing is to look at some of the subreddits where you see some of the programs that people make on GitHub. I really, really like the different gif animations that people make using CSS and HTML, and a little bit of JavaScript. I think it’s really, really cool.”

Reflecting on his time at Kenzie, Gilbert remembers the positive impact of being with like-minded individuals who all had goals similar to his.

“With Kenzie, pretty much everybody knows that they’re trying to get the best out of this education … You have a lot of people that legitimately just want a career change … Whereas when you’re in college, you’re also a student alongside kids who don’t even know what they want to be.”

Looking back, Gilbert can also identify the steps he took that eventually made the biggest impact on his time at Kenzie. His leading advice is to use the resources available to you.

“Use your resources, use your advisor, definitely use the extra homework study session that they have on the opposite days that you work. You’re going to get out of it what you put into it.”

– Gilbert Garnica, Kenzie Alum

Gilbert also feels it’s important to understand the true role Kenzie can play in an individual’s future. He admits it’s all about preparing for an environment in which you will be required to adapt to the ebbs and flows of the industry.

“Kenzie is about getting your feet wet and getting you comfortable to the point where you have the tools. It’s where if you legitimately put in the effort, you can get a tech job … It’s an industry where you’re constantly having to learn new things and you’re constantly having to refresh your skills.”

Now, with a completely new set of tech skills, Gilbert works as a DBA consultant at Cognizant. It’s a job that causes him to pause for a moment of reflection, where he thinks back to the previous positions he held which were physically demanding.

“I don’t think I could do that anymore. I do appreciate just being able to answer emails and attend scrum meetings and do little trainings here and there rather than physically working hard. I’d rather do that at the gym.”


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.

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