Alumni Stories: From Petco Employee to Software Engineer

Alumni Stories: From Petco Employee to Software Engineer

Apr 18, 2023

Meet a former Petco employee (and self-professed fish fanatic!) turned software developer whose interest in coding was rekindled during the pandemic. Ari Brashear is a vibrant part of our community – and not just because of her hair color. Her bright, effusive personality and evident passion for learning and encouraging her peers leave a distinct impression on everyone who meets her. It was no great surprise when the company she interned with extended a job offer her way. She recently shared details of her experience here at LEARN, including some important steps she took in preparation for the course.

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

Before LEARN, I had spent the last several years working at Petco as the person who does all the maintenance on the fish tanks. I loved being around the animals, but the job was very physically taxing, and I was treated very poorly by many of the customers, so a change had been on my mind for a while. During the pandemic, I revisited coding as a hobby after talking to a friend who works in the industry. I took a few online courses to teach myself HTML and CSS, built a few simple projects, and LOVED it. That’s when it hit me that I could do this for a living, and I decided to pursue it wholeheartedly soon after.

How did you navigate the continuing demands of life while you completed the program? We know it isn’t a small ask, spending four months of your life focusing so intently on this new goal!

I’m not going to lie; it was incredibly difficult. I kept my job while in school, so I’d finish class on Friday, stay up until midnight trying to complete as much of my homework as possible, then go right to work the following day. I distinctly remember taking breaks at work to hide in the supply closet to work through problems with my classmates. If I didn’t fully understand a class topic by the end of the day, I’d stay up late into the night, completing every stretch goal for that topic until it finally clicked in my head. Failure wasn’t an option for me – financially, physically, or emotionally. I genuinely believe you get out of the program what you put into it, and I put my entire heart and soul into each and every day.

Can you share with us more about your current role; how did you find it, how was the interview process, and how are you enjoying it?

I found my current role through an internship! My current company is a relatively small start-up, and part of my internship was helping them plan out and design the look of their application. Truthfully, there was no interview process for me – they asked to hire me the week before our internship ended because they loved the work I had done for them so far!

How was LEARN a resource for you in the job search?

Considering I got my job through LEARN’s internship program, they were THE resource! I also didn’t have a LinkedIn or a professional resume before attending the program, and I now have over 500 connections just from following the advice I was given by the instructors!

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

I researched reviews from prior students AND employers who had hired LEARN alums and found nothing but positive reviews. I was also drawn to the relatively short timeframe (most programs seem to have a minimum of 6 months), and the internship seemed too good to be true. (Spoilers: It wasn’t!)

You identify as part of a marginalized group; how has that informed your experience of attending a bootcamp and launching a career in an industry that historically hasn’t been as welcoming to diverse groups of people?

Although it’s not something that I feel very comfortable disclosing on a day-to-day basis, I am part of the LGBT community and felt very anxious about that fact when I first decided to join the program. However, the environment within LEARN is so overwhelmingly positive and supportive that it was something that I felt I didn’t need to hide after getting to know my classmates and instructors. I’m so happy to say that my overall experience with both the program and the industry has been incredibly welcoming – I absolutely get the feeling that your skills and personality are what get you the job at the end of the day, regardless of anything else.

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

I would HIGHLY recommend either trying out a little bit of code on your own or participating in the 3-day bootcamp if switching to tech has been on your mind – but if you’ve ever dabbled in code before and know that it’s something that interests you – JUST DO IT! Working in tech has provided me with the quality of life I’ve always wanted, and I don’t have to wake up every morning trying to talk myself into going to work anymore. It’s beyond life-changing, and you get so much more than just technical skills from the program – you get an entire community who will support you every step of the way.

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

My BIGGEST advice to people who have signed up would be DO NOT slack on the prep work! LEARN is here to give you the foundational skills you need to get a job in the industry, but there is SO MUCH MORE to being a good developer than just the foundations. Utilize the free resources they send you, brush up on your HTML and CSS skills, and maybe even practice some Javascript fundamentals so you’re ready to hit the ground running! By no means is doing good prep work going to make this program easy – but it will help you immensely as you move on to building full-on projects in the course.

Is there anything else you want to share with us?

LEARN has been such an integral part of my journey toward becoming a developer – and I cannot thank every person who’s helped me on my way enough. I sincerely hope to return and work with the company as an instructor someday!

Ari Brashear‘s journey to becoming a software developer is a remarkable journey that showcases the impact of perseverance, hard work, and community support. The challenges of completing our full-time program are undoubtedly present but they serve a very real purpose. We want to ensure that our graduates have the necessary skills to be successful. By relying on our resources and putting in the effort, Ari successfully transitioned into her new career as a software engineer. In partnership with her dedication, our resources supported her journey, including the internship program which connected her to her current job. Her experience also highlights the welcoming and supportive environment here, enabling people from diverse backgrounds to pursue a career in tech. If you think this might be the right next step for you, apply for our program today! We can’t wait to meet you and support you on the next steps in your journey.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find answers to the most common questions you may have. If you still can’t find the answer you’re looking for, just Contact Us!

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Can I work while attending LEARN academy?

We have had students hold part-time jobs while attending the coding bootcamps at LEARN academy. They tell us that it’s not too bad if your work is on the weekend, but working more than one night per week is really tough. It is tough but possible.


What is the class schedule?

LEARN academy’s 4 month bootcamp is Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.


What do you mean by "full-time"?

LEARN academy’s full-time course is Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. Students spend the first 12 weeks working in the online classroom and the final 4 weeks in their remote programming internship.


What is the background of the typical LEARN Student?

There isn’t really a typical student at LEARN academy. Most have not taken computer science classes in college, although some have. Some have not gone to college at all, but many have undergraduate degrees in something other than computer science. Past graduates have been in the entertainment industry, waitresses, massage therapists, in the military, and just about anything else you can think of.

Can I call you or drop by to talk?

Absolutely! We love chatting with potential partners and students. It is always best to make an appointment first so we can make sure someone is available to answer your questions. You can email us hello@learnacademyorg.


Is there any required prep work?

Students who are accepted and enrolled in the 4 month bootcamp are required to attend and participate in a workshop, called Jumpstart, offered by LEARN academy prior to the first day of the program. These workshops are free for students and included in the price of the tuition for the bootcamp. LEARN academy offers multiple workshops leading up to the start of class that students can sign up for.


I don't live in San Diego, can I still apply?

Yes! LEARN academy’s live-remote courses allow students to take our courses from just about anywhere in the United States. However, we are not able to support International students at this time.


How long should my application be?

One of the things we look for in an application is – did we get to know you? It’s almost impossible for us to get to know a candidate if each of the essay answers is only two sentences long. It doesn’t need to be a novel, but before you submit, check to make sure your personality is coming out in your writing.


How old do I have to be to attend LEARN academy?

Code school students must be 18 years old by the date of the first class as we are not legally able to accommodate minors.


What does the application process look like at LEARN academy?

Once you have submitted your application, the team at LEARN academy will review it and be in touch within a week of your submission date. If we feel it is a good fit we will ask you in for an interview. It is an informal interview. A chance for us to get to know you and for you to ask any questions you might have about the coding course. We know that it is vital to your success to find the course that is best for you and your learning needs. We use the interview to find out if we are the best fit for you! If at that point we both agree that it is a good fit we will invite you to secure a seat in the class of your choice.


Can I work while attending LEARN academy?

We have had students hold part-time jobs while attending the coding bootcamps at LEARN academy. They tell us that it’s not too bad if your work is on the weekend, but working more than one night per week is really tough. It is tough but possible.


What is the class schedule?

LEARN academy’s 4 month bootcamp is Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.


What do you mean by "full-time"?

LEARN academy’s full-time course is Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. Students spend the first 12 weeks working in the online classroom and the final 4 weeks in their remote programming internship.


What is the background of the typical LEARN Student?

There isn’t really a typical student at LEARN academy. Most have not taken computer science classes in college, although some have. Some have not gone to college at all, but many have undergraduate degrees in something other than computer science. Past graduates have been in the entertainment industry, waitresses, massage therapists, in the military, and just about anything else you can think of.

Can I work while attending LEARN academy?

We have had students hold part-time jobs while attending the coding bootcamps at LEARN academy. They tell us that it’s not too bad if your work is on the weekend, but working more than one night per week is really tough. It is tough but possible.


What is the class schedule?

LEARN academy’s 4 month bootcamp is Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.


What do you mean by "full-time"?

LEARN academy’s full-time course is Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. Students spend the first 12 weeks working in the online classroom and the final 4 weeks in their remote programming internship.


What is the background of the typical LEARN Student?

There isn’t really a typical student at LEARN academy. Most have not taken computer science classes in college, although some have. Some have not gone to college at all, but many have undergraduate degrees in something other than computer science. Past graduates have been in the entertainment industry, waitresses, massage therapists, in the military, and just about anything else you can think of.

Can I call you or drop by to talk?

Absolutely! We love chatting with potential partners and students. It is always best to make an appointment first so we can make sure someone is available to answer your questions. You can email us hello@learnacademyorg.


Is there any required prep work?

Students who are accepted and enrolled in the 4 month bootcamp are required to attend and participate in a workshop, called Jumpstart, offered by LEARN academy prior to the first day of the program. These workshops are free for students and included in the price of the tuition for the bootcamp. LEARN academy offers multiple workshops leading up to the start of class that students can sign up for.


I don't live in San Diego, can I still apply?

Yes! LEARN academy’s live-remote courses allow students to take our courses from just about anywhere in the United States. However, we are not able to support International students at this time.


How long should my application be?

One of the things we look for in an application is – did we get to know you? It’s almost impossible for us to get to know a candidate if each of the essay answers is only two sentences long. It doesn’t need to be a novel, but before you submit, check to make sure your personality is coming out in your writing.


How old do I have to be to attend LEARN academy?

Code school students must be 18 years old by the date of the first class as we are not legally able to accommodate minors.


What does the application process look like at LEARN academy?

Once you have submitted your application, the team at LEARN academy will review it and be in touch within a week of your submission date. If we feel it is a good fit we will ask you in for an interview. It is an informal interview. A chance for us to get to know you and for you to ask any questions you might have about the coding course. We know that it is vital to your success to find the course that is best for you and your learning needs. We use the interview to find out if we are the best fit for you! If at that point we both agree that it is a good fit we will invite you to secure a seat in the class of your choice.


Still have questions?