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From bartending to software engineer at Lockheed Martin

Rory Fahy’s journey to becoming a Software Engineer started like many of our students: his background has nothing to do with Tech. He graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Biophysics and was bouncing between diverse jobs, from bartending, catering, and door-to-door sales. As he was intrigued by tech, he tried a Udemy Python course and loved it, that’s when he decided to give a shot at changing his career.

Rory was convinced by Holberton’s 2-year curriculum and more specifically the second year where he could select Machine Learning as a specialization. That’s definitely a good pick! Artificial intelligence is growing rapidly, in 2019, the demand for Computer Vision Engineers and Machine Learning Engineers grew respectively by 146% and 89%. The Wall Street Journal reports that the strong need for AI talent is expected to continue amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Rory also chose Holberton because he could manage his tuition payment by enrolling in an ISA. “Not having to pay the tuition upfront was what made it possible for me to attend the school” said Rory. Without the ISA program, “I wouldn’t be on the career path I am now.”

Rory also stresses the importance of Holberton’s “very specific framework for learning and problem solving that relies heavily on students collaborating with each other.” This is at the core of Holberton’s education, we want our students to become lifelong self-learners, which is very different from what traditional education does. The Framework is helping students to leverage all the resources that are directly available to them, to solve a problem, and to find an answer to a question. The last step of this framework is to ask the Software Engineer in Residence, which in traditional education would be the teacher and in the workplace would be the Manager.

Rory reckons that the Holberton program is not only about learning to be a good software engineer, but also to be prepared for job interviews. Sharing that “We had mock interview days with our cohort where we would switch roles acting as an interviewer or interviewee for a few hours” and how these mock interview workshops helped to improve his communication skills, also known as soft-skills. Google recently analyzed its workforce and found out that the similarity between all its top-performing employees was that they had amazing soft-skills, coding is not enough.

Fast forward, Rory was accepted into the Lockheed Martin Software Engineer apprenticeship program along with two other students from his cohort and is starting as a full-time employee on Monday. The company has a partnership with Holberton School New Haven to hire their students. While a small part of the technologies Rory is working with was covered in Holberton’s curriculum, most were not. But that did not prevent him from being successful at navigating them, “more importantly they [Holberton] taught me how to figure out what I don’t know,”, Rory said.

Now that Rory has finished the Holberton Foundation part of the curriculum, completed his internships, and has since been hired as a full-time software engineer at Lockheed Martin, he has three pieces of advice to share.

  • First learn to be comfortable with the feeling of being stuck on something, the feeling of not knowing how to solve a problem, and to doubt your ability to succeed, also known as the imposter syndrome. It, unfortunately, affects many professionals and even the best software engineers of their generation. This feeling, on top of being very unpleasant, is also taking up a lot of energy that could be invested in a more positive outcome. That’s why Rory thinks all software engineer wannabes should know about imposter syndrome, and that it is absolutely not unusual to experience it. Rory said that “it is extremely important to develop methods for managing this imposter syndrome and overcoming it. This is a skill that gets developed over time and is just as important as technical skills”
  • The second is about asking for help. While he believes in the importance of being an independent engineer and being able to learn on your own, he also thinks that one should not hesitate to ask for help when needed.
  • The third is that while he is delighted about his career in tech, he also thinks it’s not for everyone. The financial outcomes and the type of work that can be done are attractive, but a lot of hard work needs to be invested to reach that goal. And one needs to find the right balance between working hard and not burning out. After Holberton’s Foundations and before taking a position at Lockheed Martin, Rory took on 2 internships and was building a website for his cousin’s business on the side and realized that it might have been a little too much. He urges people to also take care of themselves while working hard, a fine balance must be found.

Thank you Rory for sharing these wise advices! 🙏