Kevin Carter didn’t have a clear career plan, jumping from one job to another to support his family, especially with a newborn baby. But when the pandemic caused massive layoffs in 2020, Kevin was among those who lost their jobs.
Fast forward to 2021, Kevin has turned the tide, now holding a lucrative career as a Technology Associate at an insurance company. The secret to his success: Kenzie Academy. In his words, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before attending the program?
I was an assistant retail manager for an apparel company. Prior to that, I was a computer lab manager in an elementary school, a customer experience specialist for Tesla and a college intern at Walt Disney World.
I started college with no clue of what I wanted to accomplish…I didn’t graduate with my Associate of Arts (AA) until 2019. In the interim, I worked to support myself and my wife whom I met in college.
What motivated you to explore a new career or upskill in your existing field, and why did you decide to pick this program?
I always had a passion for technology and solving difficult problems. While I was a college intern at Disney, I found [that I wanted] to become an Imagineer!
My wife and I had our first child in 2019. While I made just enough money to get the two of us by, I didn’t know how I was going to support our growing family. Then COVID-19 happened, and I was laid off from my job. I was distraught but I took this opportunity to go back to school and follow my dreams.
How did you finance your education, and what were some of your biggest considerations when making this choice?
I used the Income Share Agreement (ISA)…I already had student loans from an AA degree… I figured that if going back to school doesn’t pay off, the risk would be mitigated if I didn’t find a job that paid [above the income threshold].
Editor’s note: Kenzie Academy no longer offers the income share agreement as a financing option. If you want to learn more about the available payment and financing options at Kenzie Academy, click here.
What did you like about the program? Are there any highlights that stood out to you?
The culture at Kenzie Academy is incredible! Kenzie Academy is full of knowledgeable, inclusive, and friendly people…It really felt like a second family and everyone was so willing to do whatever it took to support each other.
The facilitators and coaches were the most effective teachers I have ever known. Any questions I had were promptly answered, and they took the time to work with me to make sure I understood the concepts. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them!
How did you fit the program into your schedule?
I was able to take advantage of the time afforded to me from the lockdowns to focus on school. When places started opening again, my wife was able to go back to work. And so, I stayed home with our son.
I would sit in class with him on my lap. And I would research, design, and code in between our playtimes and lunches. I would complete my work while he slept and stay up late every night.
Can you give us any examples of projects that you worked on during the program?
Do you have any advice for someone considering this program?
Research heavily before starting…Make sure that your chosen career path is what’s right for you.
If you show up every day and put everything you have into your growth as a technologist, you will succeed!
How did the program support you in finding a job?
Their Job Placement team really helped me in entering the tech job market. It was like no job search I had ever experienced. They helped me forge a great resume, trained me in tech interviews and how to network, and gave me great pieces of advice on how to negotiate.
They have tons of employer partners as well… While I didn’t find a job with one of their partner employers, the skills I learned from the program—especially the networking piece—helped me find a job within three months of graduating…Results vary for everyone, of course. But know that Kenzie Academy will be there every step of the way.
Was the job search process different from what you expected?
I expected to apply online and that I would probably have to do some technical interviews or portfolio reviews. But I had no clue what the job search would look like. Kenzie Academy prepared me exceptionally well to tackle the interviews.
How many companies did you interview at? How did you choose which one to work with?
I Interviewed with probably five companies out of the hundreds that I applied to.
I chose Liberty Mutual because of the reputation of its program. I found a mutual connection on LinkedIn who saw a comment on a post from a recruiter looking to find candidates… I’m so thankful for him for reaching out to me. Networking. It gets you jobs!
How are the skills you gained from the course useful in your current career?
Having a UX background allows me to understand and communicate with the design team to build beautiful, intuitive, and powerful tools. I have gone forward to teach myself more languages and I am working towards a full stack certification.
But the UX and front end-related work I have done has taught me how to communicate effectively and fully understand the problems we are trying to solve. It has also taught me how to learn. It is so important to be able to hop into a course or a book and absorb all the new information.
What do you think is different about your life now versus before the program?
I am more confident in myself and my abilities…I came from nothing, but now I know that I will be able to build a strong foundation for my children and my children’s children.
What I have learned at Kenzie not only prepared me for a job in tech but also helped me organize my life…I tackle life’s problems the way I tackle my work. Find the root problem, debug, and come up with a solution. My mind is more organized, and so my family is more organized.
What do you find fulfilling about your current line of work ?
I absolutely love solving difficult problems. I am constantly thinking of things to build and find myself coding for fun…I’ve challenged myself to write programs, then go back and rewrite them concisely, clearly organizing what each component accomplishes and figuring out how it ties to the rest of the program.
I have started a little mentoring group with one of my dear friends, where we teach ourselves new languages. And I have begun to make study guides to help coach and mentor other aspiring designers and engineers. Software engineering and UX design have become my passion and what I love most is that I am intellectually stimulated and satisfied with my work.
What do you enjoy about working at your current company, are there any specific perks you enjoy (work hours, pay, time off, etc)?
Liberty Mutual has tons of great benefits: time off, great pay, and flexible work schedules…I am so excited to contribute, support, and grow with this company!
Do you have any job search advice for someone considering a career in your field?
Don’t get discouraged. Keep your head up and your nose to the grindstone.
Know where you want to go and why, and don’t limit yourself to one particular niche. It’s good to have that interest, but one thing my instructors taught me is [to] fall in love with solving all types of problems.
Because at the end of the day you won’t always work on something that you’re super excited about…Don’t get burnt out by the limitations and expectations you set for yourself. Learn what your strengths are. Learn what your weaknesses are and turn them into strengths.