What you can learn from a 30-year-old’s first coding interview

Going from a U.S. Navy veteran chef to a programmer

Sean Choi
We’ve moved to freeCodeCamp.org/news
8 min readDec 5, 2018

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I have previously written about how I helped teenagers learn how to program. In that article, I shared some of the teaching methodologies that I found to be effective for engaging teenagers in learning to program.

In this article, I want to take a different approach and share a completely different personal experience in prepping a 30-year-old U.S. Navy veteran chef for his first coding interview.

Unlike the case of teaching a group of teenagers, the focus for teaching a grown-up is no longer being interactive or being fun. Rather, many grown-ups are goal-driven and they work hard when they really want to achieve something.

For the case of this veteran chef, the main motivation was to transition from being in a culinary arts career to a computer programming career.

However, I realized that a clear goal and motivation is not enough to easily learn programming and succeed in programming interviews. So, I wanted to share my experience with the problems I saw and some of my own solutions to those problems.

In addition, I hope this article engages other grown-ups to recourse the approaches that they have taken when first learning how to program.

Random Chef image from Pixabay

Why the Sudden Career Shift?

Just as provocative as the title sounds, my family members were all shocked when my younger brother, a 30-year-old U.S. Navy veteran chef, broke out the news a year ago that he would be going back to college to major in computer science.

It is not that my brother had a failed career as a chef. In fact, he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, which is one of the most prestigious culinary art schools in the United States and managed to land a pretty well paying job as a culinary manager at a Silicon Valley tech company.

However, a career in culinary arts is very physically demanding and accompanied by long working hours, which is spent mostly standing up. My brother is a disabled veteran with multiple metal rods in his ankle, so the physical demand was getting harder and harder for him to endure.

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Sean Choi
We’ve moved to freeCodeCamp.org/news

Stanford, SF, SV-based educator & researcher & engineer writing about interesting technical things. seanschoi.com