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From Firefighter To Developer

By June 27, 2017 2 Comments

After spending 10 years as a firefighter, and time in the US Army the last thing I saw myself doing was moving 2000+ miles away from home and starting from scratch. My name is Ian, I am a developer and this is how I got here.

I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a firefighter. This was my dream job, and at 20 years old, I achieved that dream. I began working as a career firefighter for a small department near my home. As time passed and I wanted more out of my career I found myself transferring to a new and much, much bigger department near Boston. As much as I loved my time there I found that there was something I didn’t enjoy. The politics that came along with the job made it an environment I couldn’t see myself spending the rest of my career in. After 10 years in a career that I loved I put in my letter of resignation and resigned on November 20th, 2016. For the first time since I was 15 years old, I was unemployed.

To say that I was nervous would have been an extreme understatement. After much discussion we settled on Utah to be our destination. In an effort to fit everything in two fairly small cars, we sold everything that we could.

The drive from New Hampshire to Utah was a mixture of stressful, amazing, beautiful and horrible all wrapped into one package. Due to avalanches and insane snow storms, a trip that was supposed to take 6 days ended up taking 10.

I knew that I wanted to be doing something in the tech industry. It is a field I’ve always had a passion for, but never had the means to pursue it. I began looking at CS degrees and quickly found that not only could I not afford the program itself, but I couldn’t afford to not have a job for 2+ years, maybe more.

The first bootcamp I contacted didn’t respond back to any attempt I made. Emails, phone calls and contact forms from their site all left unanswered. Needless to say, they scored very low on my list.

The second bootcamp ended up sending me a few pages of work to complete before I was accepted into the program. They called this a ‘coding challenge’. The information contained would have taken me weeks to complete and they offered no help when I asked for assistance.

 

The third bootcamp I contacted went slightly differently. In my first contact with them they offered that I come down to the campus, meet the staff and get a feel for thing. I ended up sitting on a class for about a half hour before I sat with the CEO and chatted for about the same amount of time.

From the hour that I sat on campus, my questions we answered and I was assured that I’d have a helping hand every step of the way.
I enrolled with them and a few short weeks later I was sitting in class learning about Ruby, Rails and all sorts of things I didn’t even know existed.

 

At the end of the 12 weeks, was I an absolute pro with no questions floating around in my mind? Not a chance. Bootcamps give you a foundation to build off of, but like every other educational avenue, a majority of the work falls to you, the student. If you sit in the back of class, eat the free snacks and watch YouTube the entire time, that will reflect on you and your work.

 

If someone asked me what path they should take, I’d have to tell them I have no idea. Every single person needs to evaluate their own situation and decide what sacrifices they are willing to make and what ones they aren’t willing to make. Regardless of the choice you make, your path will be full of challenges, but without hard work and focus the choice is irrelevant. This field is not a lazy man’s game. Like Einstein said: “Any fool can know, the point is to understand.”

Ian Mercaldi

Author Ian Mercaldi

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Brayden says:

    Proud of you, my brother.

  • Brian says:

    Ian, I am in the same boat as you were. I am on my 12th year as a career firefighter, and looking to get more into programming. Thanks for the insight on what you did because I am a little nervous about putting in my letter.

    Thank you

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