Don’t Just Work with Developers. Become One.


Rolen Le is a Galvanize Full Stack alum who’s currently a software engineer at WellMatch.

What were you doing before you decided to get into programming?

I was in online marketing. I mainly specialized in SEM – Search Engine Marketing – then I slowly moved to promotional marketing. Running that operationally for LivingSocial.

What specifically interested you about learning to code?

At LivingSocial, you’re exposed to a lot of technology. If I wanted to run a promotional campaign, or do an integrated marketing campaign, I had to interact with the Developer Team. Being someone who worked so close to developers, it sparked my interest in programming and understanding how the site actually worked. They would be happy to help you out, but you had to be willing to learn. I realized if I had a stronger technical presence, I could better communicate with them exactly what I wanted about features and have deeper conversations from a product side.

I got a lot of exposure [to code] doing that and understanding how things were architected – it made me want to make the jump.

What was gSchool like?

It was balance of hands-on and independence, that skewed a little bit more towards independence, which I preferred. Although, you need both. You need someone to clearly explain concepts to you. But on the flip-side, you need time to practice and internalize it. There was a philosophy of the curriculum that was: I do. We do. You do. For example if I was explaining how to ride a bike. I would first ride a bike in front of you. Then, we do, where we would be doing it together, you’re on the bike and I’m pushing you, like when you are little and you get pushed with training wheels. Then eventually you take the training wheels off and learn to bike on your own.

What were some of your misconceptions about learning to code going into gSchool?

Programming is more about best practices and style. It’s very akin to writing. With enough time a website can be put together. But there is a craftsmanship and nuances to coding that exist. t’s not just what people think, “Oh, I’m a programmer and I don’t need to talk to anybody.” You’re sharing code with your teammates and your clients. There’s a people and art aspect of it, it’s a much more complex field than what the media or society portrays it as – it’s not just 1’s and 0’s. It’s much more about organization and teamwork.

What’s life been like for you post-graduation?

Enjoyable! I like my job, I have a great situation with the people I work with – they’re super smart. It’s a false conception that you go to gSchool, learn everything you know and you’re done. It’s just like any other job: just because you go to college and major in something doesn’t make you an expert on it forever, even at a professional level. Knowing that there is a constant ideal to strive for makes it very interesting to always be in this profession.

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