I’d like to introduce you to Jonathan Nguyen who came to Bay Valley Tech’s tuition-free code academy after working in trucking for several years. He recently completed the seventh-month software developer training program and is now working in a software-based Manufacturing Execution Systems role at E&J Gallo Winery.
Q: Johnathan, thank you so much for your time. First of all, a huge congratulations on your new job! I know you have worked hard to make this day a reality for you and your family. Can you tell us your story and your career path before accepting this position at Gallo? How did you become interested in learning about software? Can you clarify what a Manufacturing Execution System is?
Thank you, Phil! I hope my journey can inspire others to achieve their dream careers as well. Before joining E&J Gallo, I was working as a delivery driver in the food service industry. Driving is physically taxing and requires long hours, leaving little time for family and other priorities than I would have liked. Although the job itself paid well enough and brought bread to the table, it came at a cost. Being physically away from my family for so long often brought me feelings of guilt. I’ve known for quite awhile that I needed to change my career, but that can be quite difficult when there are already so many bills to pay. I’ve been interested in technology and the potential career opportunities in the field for some time and a couple of years ago decided to seriously explore ways to break into the industry.
I began searching for online courses that would give me an introduction to computer science. After completing a few tutorials about developing web-apps, I was excited to learn more. The feeling of accomplishment that comes from creating an app, hosting it and bringing it to life for the public to use is one of the best feelings ever. Learning software development alone is very challenging, however, if it wasn’t for the amazing support of our local tech community and Bay Valley Tech’s staff, I would not have been able to get where I am today professionally.
Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) monitor and track the process of producing manufactured goods on the production floor. After the system collects the data, we analyze data in order to improve and streamline manufacturing operations and output. I enjoy helping the Winery improve our processes and working with the software-based MES will open up other opportunities to work on more software development-based projects in the near future.
Q: Did you ever have any doubts about transitioning to a professional office environment without a four-year university degree? Who were the people in your life that encouraged you to pursue this new career path, and where did you find the determination to become one of the top students in your code academy cohort?
Yes, I had a lot of doubts in the beginning. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure if leaving a career of 10+ years and jumping into a whole new field was realistic. Although the journey has been challenging, it was the constant support from my family, friends and Bay Valley Tech team that made the transition possible.
Witnessing first-hand how much my girlfriend enjoyed her job and work-life balance, made me realize that I needed to pursue a rewarding new career that would enable work-life balance for myself as well. I wanted to be able to spend more time with my daughter. My girlfriend was very supportive and encouraging as I put in hundreds of hours into my code academy lessons over the past year.
Although acquiring the new skills needed to change careers takes a fair amount of work, I was highly motivated to create a better situation for myself and my family. It wasn’t all work though. Acquiring new skills takes time and determination. I enjoy solving programs and building software projects, so the process was fun as well. Lacking a four-year university degree and coming in with very minimal experience compared to my classmates, I knew that, at times, I would need to put in twice as much time as others. However, I did not let the lack of a degree hold me back. The extra time that I invested in studying definitely paid off!
Q: How did you hear about Bay Valley Tech? How have code academy instructors, classmates and the tech community helped you gain the tech skills and confidence to apply for this position at Gallo? Do you think you could have accomplished this career transition so quickly by yourself?
The director of the Tutoring Club that my daughter attended knew I was looking for a way to get into a tech career and handed me a flier about Bay Valley Tech’s tuition-free code academy. Most tech training programs cost thousands of dollars, so when I got home, I immediately signed up for the next available cohort.
Everyone at Bay Valley Tech has been so supportive and helpful. The instructors not only taught us technical skills that local companies were hiring for, they were also great mentors who gave honest feedback and even helped us network with employers. And as I progressed, my instructors encouraged me to mentor other classmates. There is a saying that goes, “You don’t really know something until you are able to teach it to someone else.” Being able to share my new knowledge and encourage other Bay Valley Tech classmates has helped boost my confidence level as well. My transition into this new career would definitely have been much, much slower without Bay Valley Tech. The vast majority of people who try learning software development without such a program eventually give up, unfortunately.
Q: What helped you succeed as a code academy student and what advice would you give to others facing doubts about seeking a new technology-based career?
There are two things that contributed to my success – going beyond the minimum requirements for each assignment and assisting my classmates with their assignments. Doing extra work exposed me to new concepts and tools, significantly expanding my knowledge base. Helping others with their lessons, not only made me feel good about giving back to our Bay Valley Tech community that had helped me so much, it was also a great way to reinforce my own knowledge of coding.
My advice for new students is don’t be afraid to ask for help or clarification. Most techies are thrilled when others take interest in their chosen field and are happy to help. Also, it is crucial to set aside time and invest in further education, as the results and outcome will definitely be rewarding.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your new position versus your previous jobs? How will this new career impact you and your family’s lives?
I enjoy the challenge of the work itself as well as the opportunity to grow. In my previous job, I felt like I was stuck and unable to move forward. However, with my new position, the opportunities are limitless as there are so many different projects to work on!
Q: Johnathan, you are an inspiration to all of us, and we really enjoy having you as a new member of our local tech community. How are you planning to help others in your local community and the tech community going forward?
I was fortunate to be accepted into Bay Valley Tech’s free code academy which has opened the doors to many new exciting career opportunities. A huge thanks to the program’s corporate sponsors and funding partners. I definitely plan on paying it forward and giving back to the community. Bay Valley Tech has built a culture of helping others, and it would mean a great deal to me to continue mentoring newer students and encouraging them to pursue their tech career dreams. I plan to be an active participant in our local tech community and help build up the Central Valley’s tech ecosystem. Now that I have better work/life balance, I also plan to volunteer at future tech and non-tech events in our community,
About Bay Valley Tech Bay Valley Tech is an innovative free code academy, training students in modern programming skills and connecting them with prospective employers. Bay Valley Tech also supports the broader tech community by sponsoring hackathons, software meetups, Women Techmakers, high school tech events and the Valley Agtech Summit. www.bayvalleytech.com