Alumni Stories

From Cook to Software Engineer: Shaquon Kelley

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“My name is Shaquon. I used to be a cook, now I’m a Software Engineer.”

For Shaquon Kelley, Kenzie Academy was a path to a new career. After working as a cook at a local restaurant, Shaquon decided he wanted to pursue a career in tech. He’d been researching self-taught methods of learning to code and took a free OpenCourseWare class through Stanford University.

Shaquon quickly learned that the self-taught approach wasn’t going to be substantial enough to launch a career in the industry. He craved a structured learning environment in which he could gain the skills and certifications he needed. So, he looked into a few bootcamps and coding schools to fill in the gap. Shaquon was getting ready to commit to a bootcamp in San Francisco, Calif., but decided to do a quick search and see if there were any schools in the Midwest he could attend instead. As an Indianapolis native, Shaquon was ecstatic when he found Kenzie’s Software Engineering program.

“Kenzie Academy was honestly my dream school,” Shaquon said. “I was in a dark place when I decided to turn my life around and get into coding. I literally dreamed of a school with the qualities Kenzie has. It’s almost like this dream manifested itself before me like a balance to all of the unfortunate events that were happening in my life.”

Following his time as a Kenzie learner, Shaquon served as a User Interface (UI) Facilitator. This experience deepened his knowledge of UX Engineering, gave him leadership experience, and confirmed his desire to work in tech.

“We have a range of ages from 18 all the way up to 60 and every single person is coming in with a different background and set of experiences,” Shaquon said. “Teaching someone one way may totally fail for the other person and vice versa. So every day I was focused on figuring out the difference in learning styles. In doing so, I learned so much about how to speak to people, how to be patient, how to be caring, how to listen, and how to tailor teaching style to better match a learning style.”

Shaquon recently began his next adventure as an apprentice at Next Chapter and Dropbox in San Francisco. During the apprenticeship, he’ll be learning in an immersive environment at Dropbox’s San Francisco facilities. Following his apprenticeship, Shaquon will begin working for the company in a full-time capacity. Shaquon said he’s taking the many lessons he learned at Kenzie with him into his new position.

“Kenzie prepared me for this role in so many ways,” Shaquon said. “I’d say one of the top things that I’ve noticed so far is my maturity as a developer. I’m able to look at problems and easily figure out what it takes to get the job done. For problems I haven’t encountered, Kenzie has taught me the idea of autonomy, which is being able to be self-guided. I think that’s one of the most important traits to have as a developer because you need to be able to guide yourself when you are in your role.”

Shaquon shared a few pieces of advice for those who are just beginning their Kenzie journeys or looking to pursue a career in tech.

“To someone beginning their [program] at Kenzie, I would say that the journey is extremely hard but believe me it’s totally worth it,” Shaquon said. “It’s worth every keystroke, every late-night knee-deep in documentation, every failed test, every bug. You will experience many bad feelings along the way — fatigue, anger, sadness, and doubt. But please, as you go through this journey, remember to constantly envision your goal. Know that these rough patches in your story are there for a reason. They build character and they help make you resilient and strong. Remember you’re building the story of a winner and once you reach that finish line, the success will feel that much sweeter.”

Ready to jumpstart your career as a UX Designer or Coder? Learn more about our 12-month Software Engineering and UX design programs, or check out our free beginner’s coding program Kenzie Free.

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