Alumni Stories: From Taproom Manager to Software Engineer

It’s a common experience to start out in an industry excited about what the future holds, only to realize as we get a little older that, for various reasons, it doesn’t fit our needs as much as we’d hoped! This is something that Josh Maurer experienced in the hospitality industry. He knew he was interested in technology, and after some initial hesitation, he decided to join us here at LEARN. In our weekend Jumpstart program, Josh got the reinforcement that it was the right decision for him. He discovered that LEARN’s philosophy and education approach aligned with his values and goals and knew this was where he needed to be.


Tell us about you! What were you doing before LEARN, and what was the catalyst that set you on this path?

Directly before LEARN, I was in the hospitality industry (I ran a brewery!). It was honestly a lot of fun and a great experience, but it didn’t quite align with what I wanted to do in the long term: to have more flexibility in my career and spend more time with my kids. Being a single dad, the hospitality schedule can be tough to work around. I also have always enjoyed technical fields and computers and have dabbled in coding a bit on my own. I really enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of coding! All these things played a role in deciding to start down this career-changing path I am on.


What were you expecting coming into the weekend program, and what surprised you about the experience?

Having never taken a weekend coding class or workshop before like Jumpstart, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into or what to expect. Though I will say that once I looked at the schedule and course materials, I had to prepare myself for what I expected to be a very full and intense weekend. I prepared myself to drink from a firehose of information for three days straight. The instructors delivered with that firehose of information, but it was presented in a highly retainable manner. Two things surprised me about Jumpstart, both in a very good way. The first one I touched on above was how the information was delivered to the students over the weekend. Even though there was A LOT of information given, the presentation methods and notes helped me retain and reference it while we worked through the projects. The second thing was pair programming. I had never done that before and was a little skeptical going into the weekend. However, by the end of the weekend, it was hands down one of the best and most helpful parts of Jumpstart.


What was your biggest takeaway – this can be coding-specific or more abstract!

My single most significant takeaway from the Jumpstart weekend was that it really lit a fire of excitement in me. Excitement to learn to code more and start digging deeper, excitement to make the career change jump; even though there wasn’t an exact and specific endpoint, there was a very definitive path for me. Excitement about being creative and learning the tools to make my ideas come to life on the screen and excitement about being in a learning environment with many like-minded people, which helped to keep me focused and driven. These are just a few of the many things I was excited about after Jumpstart weekend!


What has your path been like since Jumpstart? 

Since Jumpstart, I have joined the Alpha 2023 cohort at LEARN Academy. We are preparing to go through our preparedness interviews and will start our capstone projects soon.


How did LEARN stand out to you amongst all of the available programs?

I am currently going through LEARN Academy using the VETTEC program. When I was initially approved for the program and looked through the eligible schools, one of the things that stood out was the internship at the end of the course. I had not seen that with any other schools I was looking at. Getting that hands-on industry experience was a considerable point that made LEARN stand out. I view it as an essential addition to classroom learning. The other thing was the focus on pair programming. I had not seen many other schools focus on this technique, but after Jumpstart, it was something that I wanted to do more of and go through a course that promoted it and focused on it like LEARN does.


Any advice for folks considering making the leap and taking the program?

“Do it!!” I say that because I hemmed and hawed over making this career change leap, honestly, for about 2 ½ years. I always seemed to find a reason that I couldn’t at the time or something else I had to get done first, or ‘once I got all these things in order,’ it would be time to make the jump. That never happened, and I just kept putting it off. The perfect timing and circumstance never came to be. I had to prepare the best I could and jump straight into it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything at this point! It has not always been easy, and some days are more complicated than others, but a quote I once heard comes to mind when I think about these days, “Anything worth doing is going to be difficult.”


What advice for people who have signed up and are about to begin the program?

When I heard the phrase that I am about to say for the first time, I thought it was super cliche, but in all honesty, it is something that I believe truly helped get me to where I am currently and will continue to help me through this entire journey. “Trust the process.” It seems so simple, like something that you would find written on a wall in someone’s home, in nice, cursive, vinyl lettering, but it truly does amaze me every day how much I’ve relied on this phrase. It is an excellent reminder that sometimes there are good days and some that may not be, but when I look back at how much I’ve learned, how it all fits together, and how far I’ve come, following the process has been one of the fundamental ideals that have gotten me here.


Is there anything else you want to share with us?

The education environment at LEARN academy is one of its strongest assets. I have never been to a school or through a course where I have felt included and that everyone involved wants the students to learn, grow, and succeed with as much joy, passion, and enthusiasm as I have at LEARN academy. From the top leadership all the way down to the TAs when I was going through Jumpstart and every instructor and everyone else in between. Every single person has been absolutely fantastic in so many ways! From wanting to help out when there is an issue, pass on their knowledge, have a networking conversation, make it a comfortable environment to ask questions and fail up, and so many more examples that I could go on for hours! I am genuinely excited and grateful to be a part of what LEARN academy has done and what it is continuing to build.


Our Jumpstart program is the best way to get immersed in our culture and curriculum for two and a half days. We cover the fundamental aspects of building websites and give our attendees a real glimpse into what our classroom experience feels like. Our actual instructors run Jumpstart, and it’s not uncommon to meet current and past students pitching in as teaching assistants. For Josh, this was a valuable chance to confirm that he was on the correct path. Regardless of your goals – be they to found your own one-person shop or join an emerging tech company on their engineering team in Detroit, MI – Jumpstart is an excellent chance to test the waters and determine your next steps. Sign up and find out for yourself!