The journey of a Pre-School Teacher to Software Engineer

Matthew Leng
5 min readMar 4, 2021
Photo by Gautam Arora on Unsplash

This will be my personal experience and thought process of what led me to decide it was time for a change in my life.

Let’s start back when I was around 12, I was exposed to HTML & CSS with a popular blog platform back then called Xanga and when MySpace appeared, it furthered my interest in manipulating the DOM, but at the time, I had no idea what the DOM was nor what exactly I was doing. I also did not know that it was not intended for users to have the ability to do things such as manipulate the DOM! The most important part about it though, was that I was had a lot of fun creating different layouts and themes on my Xanga page as well as my MySpace page.

Fast forward to my college years, I was enthralled to becoming an elementary school teacher because of all the experience I had working with children. This is what led me to pursue a Masters's degree in Early Childhood Education (Birth-Grade 2) in 2016. This is where I started to question my future and if teaching is my actual calling. I did feel very accomplished in my career since every single one of my students that went through my classroom, left having a large knowledge about the world around them while having better interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Yet, I felt something was “missing” in my life, I just at the time, did not know what it was.

I consulted with my peers, friends, parents, and other family members. The seed was planted in 2017 with a close friend of mine telling me what he does as a Software Engineer. I was hooked, this was the same person I would talk to about the different layouts and mark-up code while designing our respected Xanga and MySpace pages. I had no idea it was a profession!

So I was prompted with a small issue since I am still in graduate school, what should I do? Should I just drop every and turn all my attention to Software Engineering? I decided to finish the program and see how I felt the same a year after. While still being matriculated, I sought out resources to learn more about Software Engineering and if I still had as much enjoyment with it. I found many great resources such as Codecademy, FreeCodeCamp, and Udemy (where I purchased a course by Colt Steele) to learn from. Since my first hello world being printed on the console, I was basically hooked. I thought to myself, "I can create my OWN applications and have other people use them?!"

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Once I graduated with my Masters's degree in 2019, I did not think much about Software Engineering and focused all of my energy on teaching as I was still set to keep that promise to myself. When 2020, rolled around I had the same feeling as I did back in 2016, something was missing… I soon figured out what it was. It was my persistent desire of being a student, I love to learn, and being a student for most of my life, I just felt off not constantly learning something new. This is where it came back around to Software Engineering. I picked back where I left off, I started to do little projects with my knowledge of HTML, CSS, and Javascript. I went on to learn React and built a Pokémon game, a weather application, and a math game. I practiced making card components to populate with information from APIs.

I decided I wanted to do this as a career, I wanted to create tangible applications and solve problems. I was set on switching my career from being a Pre-School Teacher to a Software Engineer. This is where I was confronted with another problem, do I go the self-taught route or the Bootcamp route? They both have their pros and cons and this is where I made a list for myself. I gave myself a timelimit on 2–3 months of going the self-taught route and see how much I can learn and create.

Once the three months were up, I felt as though I learned a lot, but by my standards, not enough. Around this time, COVID-19 had hit and we were all set into a statewide lockdown. This is when I made the decision to go to a Coding Bootcamp to expedite my learning process. I did my research on different Bootcamps in New York City and decided I only wanted to learn Javascript and React, which narrowed down my options. I was set on two different schools and prepared myself to interview for them by practicing various algorithms from Codewars. I started my application process near the end of summer in 2020 and was accepted to Fullstack Academy. Although my application process for Coding Bootcamps was stressful, I was able to get through it and came out of it with being accepted to an incredible institution.

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

I started my Bootcamp experience in November of 2020 and finished in February 2021 (2011-FSA cohort woohoo!!) I believe saying it was a great experience would be an understatement as it definitely exceeded my expectations of a Coding Bootcamp. Within those 3 months, I learned a lot and my experience within that time taught me how to teach myself. Aside from learning many technical skills, I came out with better soft skills as well. I thought my time management was getting better prior, but through my experience, I was able to gain better practice. Being able to work in a team allowed me to get better at conflict resolution, communication, and creative thinking. Throughout this whole process I felt some of my peers had similar reservations as I did, but motivating them and seeing them flourish was also extremely satisfying. This leads back to the same satisfaction I had as a Pre-school Teacher, but with an addition of continuous learning!

Now that the Coding Bootcamp is over, I am searching for my first job as a Software Engineer. I am also progressing in my learning journey on the current NERD stack that I am familiar with while expanding it by learning other technologies that can make my projects more efficient.

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