Shadowing the Shadower | Dexter

Sometimes you meet someone who has known what they were going to do for they whole life. Whether they knew it or not, they have been following their career path from a very young age. Take Jordan for instance, my best friend’s husband. He recalls having a career day in school where each student would choose a career and create something. Jordan made little Nutella wafer sandwiches because he wanted to be a chef….well 20 something years later, Jordan is a chef at the Ritz and couldn’t love it more. If only it was that easy for all of us.

Source: Huffpost

Another person I have recently been introduced to is Dexter. He’s our new Product Manager here at Betagig and the second I started to talking to him, it was obvious that he too was one of those kids. Turns out that when he was 11 years old he started his own website. And maybe a lot of kids at that time did the same thing; but his was a legitimate website that ran ads which he used the money from to buy video games. Unfortunately, he wasn’t aware of the dot com boom that was about to happen. I sat down with Dexter at lunch to learn a bit more about his journey and found out that the entrepreneurship didn’t end there…

Betagig: What were you doing before you came to Betagig?

Dexter: I come from an engineering and PM background.

Betagig: What was your major in college?

Dexter: I studied applied math. But I bounced around a lot before that. I didn’t know what I wanted to do…So I actually started in physics with a math minor, and then I switched to pre-med because I thought that I wanted to be a doctor. I did that for a couple of years before I realized that it just wasn’t for me. I didn’t like the forecast of spending another 7 years in med school and then even that’s not a guarantee. I realized I wasn’t really in it for the right reasons. I wanted to go into a field where I could kind of make an impact as soon as I got out of college and not have to wait years and years and years to start my career. So that’s when I changed my minor in math into my major, applied math and finished my degree in 2011.

Betagig: So what was next for you?

Dexter: When I left, most of the jobs that were hiring, at least the ones that caught my attention, were in programming. I had programed before. I actually created my own website when I was 11 for Anime and I would run advertisements on it and would use the money to buy video games.

Betagig: Wow, so you were really in it from the beginning?

Dexter: Yeah, I was doing it during the original dot com boom. But I was just super young. And then after college I taught myself how to program. I had taken some classes in college but I didn’t really like them. So I taught myself how to program java, javascript PHP and within a month I landed a job at a voice over IP Telecom company in LA. I worked there for about year and then I left and started my own consulting company, which I run to this day. And then I actually started a school within my old high school to teach kids how to program. So it’s a four year program called App Academy. We created a four year curriculum and we got every year approved by the University of California for elective credit. I manage pretty much all aspects of it. It’s two years of web development, full stack and then one year of Android and then one year of game development.

Betagig: Is that in LA?

Dexter: Yeah, Pasadena. It’s still running, it’s a cool program and a really unique opportunity.

Betagig: That’s so amazing. Some schools actually teach legit skills now. Could you imagine learning something like that in high school?

Dexter: That’s actually the reaction we got from parents. They were like, “wow I wish something like this was around when we were in high school.” I worked there for about 4–41/2 years and built the program out. The first year we had about 30 kids and then the year I left we had about 300. It got to a good point where I felt comfortable handing it off.

Betagig: So what made you go into consulting and then into App Academy?

Dexter: Honestly, the first place I worked was not the greatest. And I realized that I could do a lot of the same type work I was doing and make a lot more money. So that really interested me.

Betagig: That really is amazing. What have you been doing since then?

Dexter: So I left and worked for the last 9 months at an early stage tech incubator based out of Chicago, but I worked in LA. So I worked remote as an engineer and then eventually PM engineer. I managed the dev teams that we had dispersed throughout the US. We also had an offshore team in Italy. So it was a lot of crazy weird hours. The company was fully remote and there’s some unique challenges with never seeing people face to face.

Betagig: What made you decide to transition from engineering into product management?

Dexter: The role I had App Academy was pretty much do whatever needed to be done in order to make this a successful project. Then as time went on, I realized that there was title to that, which was product manager. I started looking into a little more and I found that I had more experience in that field than I realized. I ended up taking a course with another incubator in Downtown in product management. I did that eight week course, loved it, because it was product management but more in the context of working with developing teams. Ever since then I’ve just felt like it’s a natural fit.

Betagig: Have you ever done a job shadow before?

Dexter: When I was really young, I shadowed my dad. He works at JPL as an electrical engineer. That’s the main one that stands out to me. Oh, and I’ve shadowed students, UCLA has like student shadowing when you’re a senior in high school. There’s a few unique opportunities for like EOP and AP and you get assigned to a student for a weekend or a day. You come up and go to class with them and see what their day to day is like. That was really cool

Betagig: So you job shadowed here last week and that was technically your interview. How was that process better or worse than a normal interview?

Dexter: It’s actually funny because when I was at App Academy, I was in charge of recruiting and hiring the teachers and also designing the interview process. And what I would do for the interview process is have them come in, and not necessarily job shadow, but they would have to complete some sort of task and then teach it, that reflected the needs of the position. I’ve always believed in that more experiential style of learning and demonstrating your skill set. So for this, it was easily, easily (and I’m not blowing smoke up your ass or anything like that) the best interview process I’ve ever had. You go into feeling so much more comfortable than you normally would. Usually you’re worried about, especially when it comes to software engineering, there’s so many departments that just try to throw you curve balls. If the engineer is having a bad day, they will find a way to trip you up, they’re not going to help you out…

Betagig: Well I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it and think it works. What would you say is the best part about your job?

Dexter: What I enjoy most is making teams work more efficiently, making them happier, and make products that people want to use.

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