Zooey Tue Nguyen graduated from college with a chemical engineering degree and went on to work in engineering-related fields before discovering cybersecurity and information technology. Before attending Divergence Academy, she worked in various positions, such as quality control engineer, sales engineer, and aviation mechanic in the US Army.
We spoke to Zooey to learn why she shifted from engineering to tech and how Divergence Academy was instrumental in this transition.
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before attending the program?
I graduated from college as a chemical engineer and worked as quality control engineer, human resource personnel, and sales engineer. Then, I moved abroad to work as a field engineer in the oil and gas industries. I then became an aviation mechanic for the US Army. During all these years, I have been in the engineering field.
What motivated you to explore a new career or upskill in your field, and why did you decide to pick this program?
COVID-19 has impacted our society a lot, and during this time, I re-evaluated myself and found out that I have endless curiosity regarding cybersecurity and information technology. I went out of my way to do research and educate myself and signed up for IT bootcamp programs to show that I am a driven self-starter and self-learner.
How did you finance your education, and what were some of your biggest considerations when making this choice?
I am lucky to have the GI Bill from the VA to help fund my education. The endless resources from school have helped me to push through and finish my course. That was the key to succeeding in this bootcamp.
What did you like about the program? Are there any highlights that stood out to you?
I came across the contact for the Skillbridge program when I was about to transition out of the Army. The location of the training program was where I wanted to move. I liked this instructor-led virtual experience. I felt like I was actually in class with other professionals. The resources provided by instructors and the offline support were the highlights as I found them very helpful.
How did you fit the program into your schedule?
I dedicated all my time to this program. I joined the program right after moving away from the US Army base, so I had time to focus on my training. I went to class every day, so I want to say I was lost in this bootcamp life for a bit, but I was blessed with choosing to walk that path.
Can you give us any examples of projects that you worked on during the program?
I was part of a group of three people who worked on a Net Tool Project. I found the project very informative, got to practice what I learned in theory, and enjoyed the team spirit. We got stuck and got lost together, but we figured things out. That was a fun time.
Do you have any advice for someone considering this program?
If you are curious about something and have had that itch in you for a long time, go for it. If you want to make an impact and join a strong team, or work from home to take care of your family, I highly recommend this program if you are interested in breaking into the IT field.
How did the program support you in finding a job?
The soft skills I learned from the Friday Lunch and Learns were significant as they helped me expand my network and find a great job. The dedication to finish the training while continuing to learn and grow was the first milestone for me because it helped me find the right opportunity.
Was the job search process different from what you expected?
Definitely. I had to job hunt and network and had the opportunity to attend job fairs any chance I got. Doing a job search is a full-time job in itself. I used many resources, platforms, websites, and networking, too.
How many companies did you interview at? How did you choose which one to work with?
I had six interviews and countless job applications. The employer I chose allows me to challenge myself to another level. I will continue learning, collecting badges, certificates, and broadening my knowledge while working with my team.
How are the skills you gained from the course useful in your current career?
The sky’s the limit. I have a basic foundation, but I still face a lot of challenges on my journey. The ability to search for a new definition or ask my network for possible answers helps me motivate myself and keep going. I listen to technology podcasts, browse for tech news, and read books. All of those make my day a lot busier and more meaningful.
What do you think is different about your life now versus before the program?
I feel less overwhelmed when reading something new in the tech field. I don’t freak out like I used to because I got used to drinking from a firehose of knowledge. I never thought of spending 12 hours a day with a laptop without exploding, but I made it through. I am more outgoing than before joining the program
What do you find fulfilling about your current line of work?
The role of a software developer is the path that I chose with this employer. It does not totally align with my bootcamp training, but it helped me establish a foundation in IT and from here, I choose to walk the path that is laid before me.
What do you enjoy about working at your current company, are there any specific perks you enjoy (work hours, pay, time off, etc)?
I enjoy working in the early morning. I have a lot of homework and studying to do when working with this employer. I feel like this is a very interesting path, and I don’t regret joining this position.
Do you have any job search advice for someone considering a career in your field?
Keep networking, attending private and public job fairs, creating profiles on at least five job search platforms. Set job alerts for the locations you are interested in and for the positions you want. Each interview is a learning experience and the right opportunity will always come around.