Launcher Stories - Meet Alan

Alex Schwartz

By Alex Schwartz

February 1, 2022

How does a high school band director switch careers into the world of web development after nearly ten years as a music educator? Launch Academy alum Alan Dust talks about overcoming the fear of leaving a steady career, making the decision to attend Launch Academy and what it was like on campus, and his new role as an Associate Consultant at Acorio.

Video Transcript

My name is Alan Dust. I was in Cohort 22 in Boston for Launch Academy, and now I'm working at a company in Boston called Acorio. 

Before I attended Launch Academy,  I was a high school band director mainly. I taught fifth grade through even the college level for about 10-12 years and 10 years in the public school. I lived in Wisconsin for a little bit of it. The last couple of years before Launch Academy I was actually a school administrator. I was the director of Fine Arts K-12 of the entire school district. The career change for me was, first of all, terrifying because I had a really successful career going on, and loved and still love teaching and music. So it really all happened about five years prior to Launch Academy where I decided that I needed more variation in my life, so I went out and tried to find some hobbies. 

One of the things that I really found out about myself is that I have an entrepreneurial spirit. I came up with a couple of app ideas and watched some YouTube videos, tried to plug and play, tried to figure out what was going on and created a couple applications but didn't really know what I was doing. So I kept digging in a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit more. I actually had students that attended Launch Academy and they told me all about it and it piqued my interest. I just decided, you know, my career can become a hobby and my hobby can become a career. I'm a little bit unique in that I knew somebody who was already successful in the program. I know that a lot of people have doubt about that, you know, because they don't necessarily know about non traditional schooling or a bootcamp.  So I think I was unique in having had that comfort and knowing that people were successful before. 

The reason why I stayed in my career,  besides the fact that I did love what I was doing - you get scared to change. I mean, change is scary, you have doubts in terms of do I actually have the skills? Am I going to like it? I guess my biggest doubt or biggest fear was - am I never going to be able to use these skills that I've developed over the past...oh my goodness...with all the schooling that I went to and everything like that, you know, almost 20 years. Will I actually be able to use that still or is this going to be totally different? One of the cool things about my position right now is that they're allowing me to actually teach a new cohort of (Acorio) Academy students how to work with the service now platform and so I get to use my teaching skills and that's really cool. Coming to Launch Academy, I really had no idea what to expect. It was a totally different experience for me. I was 33 or 34 and thinking - is everyone going to be younger than me? Were there going to be people who already have CS degrees? Would I succeed? 

The way that Launch is set up with the Ignition process I thought is kind of genius because we all get to communicate with each other and get to know each other kind of behind the scenes a little bit before the first week. It was really important for us to actually get to know our personalities, to get to know where we're coming from because we do a lot of pair programming. You did a lot of group projects and things like that. These are people that I still talk to and still pick their brains and we all found out really early that we all kind of took that leap of faith. Fantastic experience.