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Software Engineering Immersive

Eddie DiDonato

From managing a bar and crafting delightful cocktails guaranteed to please the crowd, Eddie DiDonato’s career as a beverage director took a back seat after the pandemic hit. With no signs of bouncing back, he realized that he needed to venture into an industry that could withstand economic downturns, like tech.

And so, he started learning how to code by himself.

But after coming across General Assembly, Eddie knew that structured and accelerated learning is the way to go to jumpstart a long-term career. Upon completing the General Assembly’s Software Engineering Immersive program, he has turned his career around as a front end engineer for Lucid Software, earning over $80,000 per year. Read more of his story below.

Tell us about your background. What were you doing before attending the program?

I was a bartender/beverage director. I did a fair bit of traveling and competed in national cocktail bartending competitions.

What motivated you to explore a new career or upskill in your existing field, and why did you decide to pick this program?

My company immediately laid nearly everybody off when the pandemic hit. I quickly came to the realization that I wanted to look into [having] a more sustainable career and develop in-demand skills.

I started learning to code on my own. But I knew that I would need to get on an accelerated path. What attracted me to General Assembly was their focused curriculum and their “Outcomes” program that helps you find work after the 12-week course.

What did you like about the program? Are there any highlights that stood out to you?

What I most enjoyed was the emphasis that General Assembly placed on creating a solid foundation of basic programming concepts. And this was something that set me apart in my technical challenges when I eventually got hired.

Highlighting frameworks like React introduced me to one of the most powerful and widely used tools in the industry. Assigning nightly algorithms reinforced my foundations of programming concepts. And General Assembly also prepared me for the technical interviews.

How did you fit the program into your schedule?

I was unemployed and was fortunate enough to have a supportive family to lean on while the course was in progress. The hours were intense—9am to 8pm every weekday for 12 weeks—so I opted to fully commit myself to the program.

Can you give us any examples of projects that you worked on during the program?

I created a smart inventory manager for the home bartender, called “Pop’s Liquor Cabinet” (named after San Diego’s smallest bar). It allowed users to keep track of their collection of spirits and sort them by price, name, category, or the amount [of alcohol] left in the bottle. [Users] could also store and update tasting notes about the spirits for reference.

Another full-stack application I created is CoLab, a message board-style application with the concept of bringing together artists from different media for collaborations. Each artistic medium has its own message board to post [projects], network with other artists, share ideas, and deliberate about upcoming collaborations.

Do you have any advice for someone considering this program?

Use the resources available to you. The hours are long, but you have 12 weeks to become the best developer you can be, which means you might have to make sacrifices in other areas of your life.

If you’re struggling, know that you are never alone. The instructors will help you get back on track if you lose momentum, so don’t be afraid to reach out when you need help.

How did the program support you in finding a job?

General Assembly’s Software Engineering Immersive course comes with a built-in Outcomes program that helps you get hired upon completion of the program. It includes several workshops focusing on interviewing, resume polishing, personal brand building, portfolios, etc.

A career counselor will meet with you periodically and help talk you through areas for improvement. My counselor helped me narrow down what positions I should be looking for and coached me through my interviews when I had opportunities.

Was the job search process different from what you expected?

When I started looking for work, the job market wasn’t as robust as it initially was. General Assembly did a good job of managing my expectations by leveraging their data on average time spent looking for work by students in their Software Engineering program. I felt well-equipped for what to expect from the job search.

How many companies did you interview at? How did you choose which one to work with?

I completed technical challenges for about a dozen companies, interviewed with about six companies, and had two offers, including Lucid. From the moment I began interviewing with Lucid, I felt that they had a strong company culture with good values and that my strengths aligned well with the nature of the role.

How are the skills you gained from the course useful in your current career?

The strong foundation of programming principles I learned in General Assembly is part of the skillset that I use every day at work. This foundation has given me the flexibility to grow into my role.

There are many concepts within React that we learned at General Assembly, such as state management and building flexible, reusable components, which I use daily to perform well in my role.

What do you think is different about your life now versus before the program?

I was working late nights on my feet in a very exciting but unsustainable work environment. We saw when the pandemic hit just how vulnerable the bar and restaurant industry is in situations like these and how undervalued people are.

And when I began to try and teach myself how to code, the many technologies, languages, and frameworks to choose from were entirely overwhelming. The program gave structure to my learning process, provided me with a valuable skillset, and reinvigorated my ability to quickly learn and understand new concepts.

What do you find fulfilling about your current line of work?

My team works very closely with our Brand Creative/Design team and with other areas of marketing. I find it most fulfilling to see someone’s vision become a reality. Working on projects that help us meet our marketing goals makes me feel fulfilled in knowing that I’m contributing meaningful work that truly benefits the company.

What do you enjoy about working at your current company, are there any specific perks you enjoy?

The company culture is very welcoming and inclusive. Unlimited sick time means they understand how nobody can plan for health conflicts and that they trust us to use these days appropriately. [Lucid Software] clearly wants to return to the office, at least in a hybrid format, but they pay attention to the science and the national trends and make decisions with our safety in mind.

Do you have any job search advice for someone considering a career in your field?

Put yourself out there, even for jobs whose descriptions might not perfectly meet your criteria. At the very least, you’ll get to practice interviewing, so you’ll be better prepared to nail that perfect opportunity.

Also, expect to fail, and don’t let it get you down. If it’s any consolation, you’ll likely continue getting rejections even long after you’ve been hired and be able to laugh them off at that point.

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