After graduating from Launch Academy in 2018, Boston 20 Alum Galen White's career has taken off - most recently landing her in a new position as a Front-End Software Engineer at Facebook. We chatted with Galen about her career since graduation and the impact Launch Academy has had on her development as a Software Engineer.
What has been your career trajectory after graduating from Launch Academy?
Currently I am a Front End Software Engineer at Facebook -- this isn’t my first role out of Launch Academy, though. I participated in the Career Kickoff event during Launch Academy, and got my first job in Tech as an Engineering Intern at One Door. After my internship I joined Facebook as an “Escalations Engineer”, later renamed to be “Stability Solutions Engineer”. In February 2021 I made the switch to Software Engineering in a Front End role.
What career milestones or accomplishments since graduating are you’re particularly proud of?
I feel like my career itself is an accomplishment! I went from managing a bakery to dual wrist surgeries to Launch Academy to Software Engineering at Facebook in just 4 years! I'm proud of every step in the process, and incredibly thankful to everyone at Launch Academy for helping me on my way.
Has your career path been what you imagined after graduating from Launch Academy?
Before Launch Academy I had never held an office job, let alone a job in tech. I didn’t have a concrete goal in mind other than that I loved the programming I had done so far and wanted to keep doing more of it. My career since Launch has been full of code and errors and user interfaces, and I love it!
What projects that you’ve worked on since graduating have been a source of personal enjoyment or professional pride?
My first team when I joined Facebook had an idea for an internal tool. Working on this project became a major source of pride because of the number of firsts it incorporated: I got to see how multi-person projects worked, proposed a new name and logo (and implemented them), turned a spoken “vision” into mockups and then into code, and stepped in as project leader to “sell” the tool to other internal teams. I'm proud not only of the result (the tool is actually useful) but also of all of the steps it took to get there. It was my first taste of being considered a front-end specialist, and it cemented my goal to get into Front End Software Engineering.That's not to say that the process was smooth or error-free, but I had the chance to grow from every mistake in an environment where learning and career growth were encouraged.
Looking back, how did your time at Launch Academy help you prepare for your current role?
I can't think of a single aspect of my role that Launch Academy didn't help prepare me for. I considered a couple of different bootcamps initially, but only Launch Academy sounded like it would push me to my limits and force me to grow as a person and a programmer -- and it did!
What technologies are you currently working with? What was it like learning new technologies after Launch Academy?
My last role was equal parts SQL and React, and I'm excited to grow my React and other front-end skills at the birthplace of React itself, Facebook! Learning new technologies after Launch Academy was an adjustment, because Launch Academy's lectures and articles spoiled me by continually growing off the knowledge we had learned before. After Launch I had to adjust to learning from sources which assumed a deep amount of background knowledge that I didn't usually have. However, I would think back to how the curriculum at Launch would introduce a brain-bending concept on Monday, and by Wednesday it would feel like I'd known it forever. All it takes to learn new things is a willingness to put yourself into that "Monday mindset" and know that Wednesday will come eventually.
What advice do you have for people who are just starting out on their coding journey?
Before you attend any bootcamp make sure you enjoy the process of learning and the mindset that when a computer does something you didn't expect it's because YOU told it to do the wrong thing. There are so many free intro classes online that you should try a few to see which helps you learn the most, and never stop asking "why?" Also, don't be afraid to tell interviewers or coworkers what you did before your coding journey began. Spend some time really thinking about your previous experience and how it will benefit you in programming. Keep those jobs on your resume and use them as conversation starters. Launch Academy will help you with this process when crafting a presentation for Career Kickoff, but if you think about it beforehand it can help grow your pride in what you've accomplished. As an example, before committing to coding as a career path I spent years as a Chocolatier in a small chocolate factory. It can be hard to see what tempering chocolate can contribute to programming, and it could be tempting to leave it out of your work experience. However, if you explain the technical steps involved (with alternatives and trade-offs), the debugging process if your chocolate begins to bloom, and how you grew as a leader by teaching others the "tricks" you discovered, you can convince someone (and yourself!) that your previous experience is an asset, as well as an interesting conversation topic. To hear more of Galen's story, check out her video in the Alumni Story series.
You can also check out Galen's Breakable Toy from her time at Launch here.