Carl M. Catagena has had an illustrious portfolio, especially in the music industry. The California-based engineering major has spent over a decade working with notable musicians in the likes of Avicii, Kendrick Lamar, and Carly Rae Jepsen.
He was also credited as either Engineer and/or Assistant Engineer on every track on Dr. Dre’s Compton, an album that received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album 2016 and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)’s Gold certification.
In spite of Carl’s success, the number of hours he was putting in was starting to take a toll on him, pushing him to leave the multi-million dollar industry in search of something that would work better for him. With the recommendation of a former colleague at Interscope Records, Carl discovered a new career track—one that he now absolutely enjoys.
“I was in the music industry from 2005 to 2015, about 10 years. I used to work with Dr. Dre, that was the last thing I did in the industry. I think it was the longest years that I’ve ever worked in my life, more than 158-hour workweeks. I don’t think I’ve met anybody else that worked like that,” he said.
“Then one of my colleagues told me about Sabio and said it has a great program. I found out that the founder Gregorio Rojas used to work for Myspace and other prominent places. I thought they could give me a good recommendation or they might have good industry connections. That was it, I joined Sabio and here I am now.”
“Sabio prepares you for the job market”
In November 2017, Carl enrolled in Sabio’s Full-Stack Developer course where he was introduced to the world of coding for the first time.
“I was doing long hours at Sabio, getting there at 8 am and leaving at 10 pm, doing 14 hours a day because I didn’t know any coding when I jumped into it. When I went through Prework, there was a lot of information at once but it was amazing,” he said.
“Mostly, I needed to understand the rhythm of what software engineering was. I didn’t know how long it would take to build something or what the expectation is when you get hired. I realized that even the best engineers take time to get somewhere so, at the rate of how things were going for me, it must mean I’m doing good and not falling behind.”
The eight-year-old school, established in 2013 by tech innovator Gregorio Rojas and partner, social entrepreneur Liliana Aide Monge, has made it its mission to help produce top-tier software developers. To date, it boasts an 82% success rate, producing nearly 1,000 tech professionals.
With close to two decades of industry experience, Gregorio now leads the team of instructors at Sabio, made up of real-life industry professionals who share a passion for teaching.
“I believe in wrestling with code before I lecture about the given concepts. People are able to generate better questions and gain a deeper understanding when they have seen a piece of software in action,” Gregorio, who is also Sabio’s CTO, said about his teaching style.
According to Carl, the school has demonstrated its commitment through the syllabus that readies aspiring developers for what awaits in the real world. This is seen through the continuous syllabus updates to match the industry’s needs and also extensive projects that students have to tackle to illustrate technical proficiency.
“When I started, we were learning the Angular stack but mid-course, our focus shifted to React, which was what the industry was looking for. It was pretty tough, but it’s very interesting to see how you can bridge the two together.
“If you work on something at Sabio, you’re practically set. I think it’s super unique. The scale of things that they build with their cohorts are robust and fairly complex, extending beyond simple apps,” he said.
Summing up his entire experience, Carl said: “The framework was only a few years old at that time so not a lot of people have that much experience in it anyway so, we’re basically all starting at the same level. It was interesting to see a cohort with a very mixed group of personalities, coming from different backgrounds, and doing this together,” he said.
This is in tandem with Sabio’s efforts to make software engineering education accessible to all. Over the past eight years, the school has launched many initiatives including Women in Software Engineering, Women Veterans in Tech, and Military Veterans in Tech. The positive results are showing; 75% of its graduates are either Latino or African American and 40% are women—10% higher than the industry average.
“We launched Sabio based on a lot of similar principles involved in community work. We are dedicated to supplying people from underrepresented groups—women, people of color, veterans—with the right resources so they can thrive,” the school previously said.
A Supportive Community at Sabio
Sabio’s founders initially bonded over their passion for community-improvement works in college. When the duo started this bootcamp together, they knew that they had to foster a learning environment that is both inclusive and supportive.
Aside from organizing events and talks, the school maintains active communication with students and alumni via Slack. This is where information about job openings, networking opportunities, industry insights, and more are shared.
“The school has active Slack channels where students and the founders themselves would post about job openings all the time. It’s not just career-related, too. Sometimes, people would post about their small projects, for instance, ones that involve Raspberry Pi. That opens up room for collaborations, which is great,” Carl said.
“I also got to meet a lot of cool like-minded people at tech events that I wouldn’t have known existed without Sabio. It’s really amazing. I’ve gone to a Walmart, Facebook, Google events, among many others.”
Loving the Software Engineer Life
After graduating from Sabio, Carl immediately began job hunting and met with hundreds of recruiters. Not long after, he found a job that he grew to love. Today, Carl is a software engineer at JMR Electronics Inc. where he has been for the past three years.
“I was first hired by this company in Northridge for a month, tasked to create a module in React. It took a month to build and they reviewed it and I passed the test point. Then I was put on a different project, in completely different languages; Objective-C, C, and Swift. I didn’t know any of them and the syntax is a little different but the company said it will be okay.
“So I inherited this project and I had to invent everything myself but it was amazing to be offered that opportunity. I have been a sole developer for this project for the past two years and a half and it has been great,” he said.
Being able to work remotely, Carl said his life quality has improved and he is able to spend his free time with family and friends—something he missed out on when working in the entertainment industry.
“It’s really nice that I’m working from home now. Northridge (where the company is based) is about a 45-minute drive with traffic and like an hour-long journey coming back. That’s two hours of my life that I get back, which I’m happy about.
“My most favorite thing is that I can definitely work fewer hours now. So many years of working extra long hours, not seeing my family and friends. Now I have all this time on hand. I can do everything now, I can even become an entrepreneur,” he said.
Carl is also working on his own startup at the moment and he is hiring from none other but Sabio.
“We actually just onboarded two Sabio grads. I’m familiar with Sabio so I know what the grads will come up with. I actually asked for a recommendation from Liliana and she led me to them. They’re great. When we hire from Sabio, we can trust that they’re already familiar with the process and structure that we have,” he said.
Carl only has one piece of advice for aspiring developers interested in enrolling at Sabio: “For a three-month program, there’s a lot of information at once but Sabio has instructors that can guide you. Once you get through it, you’re really prepared to enter the job market.”
Take the Next Step With Sabio
Read more success stories on Sabio’s blog where hundreds of developers from all walks of life shared their journey toward launching an accomplished tech career with Sabio’s help. Who knows, their stories might just resonate with you and motivate you to take the first step toward becoming a software developer.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.