Alumni Stories: From Petco Employee to Software Engineer

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 the internship program at LEARN! 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 guaranteed internship seemed too good to be true. (Spoilers: It isn’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.