After teaching the English language to children in Japan and China for over six years, Kodi Shiflet decided to pursue another career path as a software engineer. His decision came amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which paralyzed thousands of schools from fully operating.
Recognizing that tech jobs are the future of work, Kodi enrolled at App Academy’s 16-week Software Engineering Immersive program. Today, Kodi works as a software engineer, earning more and enjoying more flexibility, thanks to the remote nature of tech jobs.
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before attending App Academy?
I spent three years [teaching English] in Tokyo and 3.5 years in Beijing. While in China, my friend and I also ran a non-profit project that helped a local orphanage for children with physical and mental disabilities. My background is very much in helping children whether in the classroom or through various volunteering projects I’ve been involved in.
What motivated you to explore a new career or upskill in your existing field, and why did you decide to pick this program?
The pandemic put my career in China to an abrupt halt. I know tech is only becoming more and more integrated into our lives and even in classrooms where I specialize. With the pandemic, I needed a new career that could be done remotely.
So, I dove headfirst into research about software development. I found out about bootcamps. After doing my research on various ones, I thought this [App Academy] was the right path.
Eventually, I would like to merge my past career of teaching children and my new career as a software engineer.
How did you finance your education, and what were some of your biggest considerations when making this choice?
App Academy offers a deferred payment program where you don’t pay back until you get a job. I thought they must really believe in their product to do this and that’s also a reason I chose them.
What did you like about the program? Are there any highlights that stood out to you?
The biggest thing I loved is being surrounded by others that were on a similar journey. We all came from different backgrounds and have our own reasons for being there. But when you’re on a new journey, especially a big one like a career change, it’s great to surround yourself with the right people…The instructors truly cared about our success and would spend extra time answering our questions and making sure we understood the concepts. It felt like a family, not a school.
How did you fit the program into your schedule?
I spent 80 hours or more a week dedicated to the program. App Academy was my life for 16 weeks. But honestly, that kind of intensity and fast learning prepared me for my current role. There are things I still need to learn and big projects but mentally, I was already ready for that.
Can you give us any examples of projects that you worked on during the program?
I worked on making a Facebook clone. It really got me to start looking at websites differently because now when I visit any webpage and click a button, I start thinking about what’s going on behind that button. Or, I look at URLs and think about the information that’s contained within that route.
Do you have any advice for someone considering this program?
Be prepared for the program to be your life. It will demand a great deal of your time. Schedule anytime you can for yourself. I would still go for a walk or exercise when I could even if it was 30 minutes. There will be stressful times, so you should have something you love doing that can be a stress reliever.
How are the skills you gained from the course useful in your current career?
It really prepared my mindset to learn new languages and technologies at a fast pace. Also to be curious, which I think is the biggest factor to your success. Curiosity will get you very far. Ask about how things work, research new concepts, seek out knowledge or other ways to do something.
What do you think is different about your life now versus before the program?
My life now is financially better off and more flexible. I love to travel and my company is okay with me working overseas. My fiancé currently lives in Turkey and with my current career, I can visit her for a couple of months at a time and still work. All I need is my laptop and WiFi. Our company actually grew during the pandemic and found a lot of success despite the horrible situation. I have more security now.
What do you find fulfilling about your current line of work?
What’s fulfilling is that our company works with transcribing speech to text, so transcriptions, subtitles, live captioning, and so on. We also make thousands of jobs for people all over the world as human transcribers. So creating a world that helps people find employment and technology that allows more accessibility with a lower error rate than even big companies like Google and Amazon is huge.
What do you enjoy about working at your current company, are there any specific perks you enjoy?
I love my manager, mentor, and peers. Everyone cares about one another and we’re like a family. We have lots of events whether it’s company-wide or something like a team offsite. I work closely with some of the founders and having them know you by name is pretty cool. The pay, PTO, home office budget, and several other perks are all great. But it’s all about the people for me.
Do you have any job search advice for someone considering a career in your field?
You will face a lot of rejections and that’s okay. Get used to it quickly. I’ve applied [for] over 1,000 jobs within seven months before getting my current role. Every interview that turns out to be a “no” is just a learning opportunity. Just keep at it. Keep putting in applications. Keep studying and you will land a role in this industry.
Lastly, use people you know, network, reach out. Whether it’s a new contact or a fellow cohort or a friend that works at the company even if they aren’t in the tech part. I got to the final round interview at Tesla from a referral from someone that works on the factory line. So think outside the box.