Meet our 2021 IGNITE program apprentices

This spring, we welcomed our third cohort of IGNITE Apprentices to Dropbox! Originally launched in 2018, the IGNITE Engineering Apprenticeship Program provides opportunities to new software engineers from non-traditional CS backgrounds for mentorship and hands-on learning. Apprentices are brought on for 6 months, and if their apprenticeship goes well, are given the opportunity to join Dropbox as a regular employee afterward. To date, we have had 17 apprentices go through the program, with 13 IGNITE alumni still at Dropbox today!

This year, eight apprentices joined us from California, New York, and Missouri, working within engineering on teams across Core, Platform, and Store. We chatted with each of them to learn a little bit more about their unique backgrounds and what drew them to Dropbox.

Woo Son

What industry did you work in before you switched to engineering?

I was a medical student in training to become a doctor before I decided to switch engineering.

Why did you decide to make the switch?

As a first-gen immigrant from Korea who grew up in a very rigorous academic environment, I always thought I was supposed to become a doctor. However, when I got to medical school, I quickly lost interest. I felt a huge disconnect between my day-to-day life as a student, which mostly involved memorizing flash cards or worrying about test scores, and witnessing so many structural problems of our healthcare system that seemed impossible to solve. I constantly felt exhausted yet useless at the same time. So I ditched my original plan and started over. Having studied biomedical engineering in college and having worked in health tech afterwards, I naturally gravitated back towards engineering. And I’ve never looked back since! I love that I can be creative in my work as an engineer. In addition to that, I am inspired everyday by the possibilities for my work to make an impact in solving problems that once used to be impossible to solve.

What makes you most excited about working at Dropbox?

I’m loving learning more and growing as an engineer through the apprenticeship program, as well as meeting (hopefully in person at some point) and connecting with other apprentices and engineers at Dropbox!

Miguel Michel

What industry did you work in before you switched to engineering?

Prior to the switch, I wore many hats. Most recently I was a rock climbing instructor and I coached the youth climbing team at the gym I worked at. Before that I was a sales associate, a bartender, a server, a dog trainer, etc…(oh yes there’s more).

Why did you decide to make the switch?

Although I enjoyed the work I was doing and the people I worked with were fantastic, I was feeling stagnant and wasn’t being challenged enough. In short, the job was too easy and unfulfilling. Then the pandemic changed everything and I ended up without a job. About a week into lockdown I began to reflect on what I enjoy doing and what is important to me. I recalled dipping my toes in Python when I was in high school and really enjoyed it! So I immediately hopped on my computer, did some research, and once I saw the plethora of free online resources I dove in headfirst. I was immediately hooked and have been enjoying this process ever since.

What makes you most excited about working at Dropbox?

What really excited me was coming into a place that invests heavily in their people/culture, being surrounded by brilliant folks who are willing to provide mentorship and help me jumpstart my career, and having the opportunity to contribute to projects that can help millions of people manage their work and their files in a better, more intuitive way.

Arielle Domantay

What industry did you work in before you switched to engineering?

I was in the entertainment industry. My main focus was video production/post-production. I did various jobs in film and TV like background casting and PA gigs.

Why did you decide to make the switch?

Being in the entertainment industry is very unstable and can be draining creatively. The film industry especially was not how I thought it was going to be. I wanted to make art/films instead of being a film business person. So, I went looking for another field. The main things I looked for in a new field were stability, building, collaboration, and creativity. I found out about software engineering from my partner and old co-workers (who were in the entertainment industry and went the route of attending a coding bootcamp).

What makes you most excited about working at Dropbox?

I’ve learned more industry-level skills like code in production and applications made for a lot of users. There is so much that you can learn from school and on your own, but they can’t teach you everything; many lessons are learned on the job, like collaboration and communication. Also, I was really excited to meet new people. I’m an introverted person, but even I miss social interaction.

Regina Furness

What industry did you work in before you switched to engineering?

Before switching to software engineering, I worked in retail. I was a scan file coordinator, and the head of the department responsible for handling price changes.

Why did you decide to make the switch?

I decided to make the switch because I was not passionate about the work I was doing before. I was introduced to HTML in middle school and went on to take an introduction to programming course in high school, which cemented programming as a passion of mine. I always wanted to go to college for computer science, but that didn’t end up happening, so when I decided I wanted to switch careers it was the first thing that came to mind. I love the unique blend of creativity and problem solving that is involved in programming.

What makes you most excited about working at Dropbox?

I’m able to work on things that will impact so many people! I can’t wait until some code that I wrote is actually in production. I’m specifically excited to be working at Dropbox because of the company culture, and the way the products allow people to work more efficiently and focus on what is important.

Brandon Seamster

What industry did you work in before you switched to engineering?

I worked as a mathematics tutor in LA, helping out students from K-12 and college.

Why did you decide to make the switch?

I decided to make the switch because I have always loved to build things and solve problems. Software engineering is at the intersection of these two interests and the pandemic gave me time to make a pivot in my career path.

What makes you most excited about working at Dropbox?

All of the wonderful people I have met at Dropbox so far!

Matt Ramotar

What industry did you work in before you switched to engineering?

I worked in health services research consulting.

Why did you decide to make the switch?

My first coding experience was a hail mary that involved teaching myself R at the eleventh-hour over a holiday weekend, and the end product received three national honors, including the Presidential Plenary awarded by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The project lead — a professor at Harvard Medical School — and I wanted to submit an abstract on healthcare disparities, but a couple of days before the deadline, our programming team let us know they wouldn’t have the bandwidth. I was able to get the lead programmer to send me the datasets, and I convinced our project team to let me run the analyses. More and more, the executive team expanded my role and gave me chances to take ownership of more involved work. What always happened: I’d learn new technologies to help meet the needs of the project. As the former coordinator of academic medicine’s largest research group, I wasn’t planning on a career in tech. But I fell in love with coding.

What makes you most excited about working at Dropbox?

Dropbox evolved from a tech company to a cool tech company in my mind when I discovered Dropbox Paper. The core team at my former job had grown from four of us on the East Coast to nine across five time zones, and our main focus was a project that involved revamping our products, disseminating them to 21 hospitals, and working with local teams to successfully roll them out and study their effects. One of the problems at the top of my mind was this: What tools can I stitch together to help us work together better, and how can I develop this system to maximize buy-in? The system that helped us build the plane while flying it and land on schedule was rooted in Dropbox Paper. It was free. It was simple. It offered many integrations. And our team already used Dropbox for file-sharing, so it didn’t require account activation. Dropbox helped us work together better. And what I’m most excited about is having opportunities to contribute to that mission.

Kate Matheson

What industry did you work in before you switched to engineering?

Before joining the IGNITE cohort, I had been working as an elementary school music teacher, working with kids from TK (Pre-Kinder) to 2nd grade. It was a blend of the education and music industries, the latter of which I had been focusing my career path on.

Why did you decide to make the switch?

After spending a few years in the music industry, I discovered that pursuing it as a career wasn’t going to fulfill me in the way that I needed. I spent some time searching the world and myself and began to develop a love for programming. The more time I spent delving into the world of Software Engineering, speaking with people in the industry, and learning the foundational skills of the trade, the more I realized that this was the amazing path I needed to focus on pursuing.

What makes you most excited about working at Dropbox?

Dropbox really caught my eye for two reasons. One: The direction. The more I looked into what Dropbox was building and envisioning for the future, the more excited I became. The mission of providing a few key products/services and focusing on making them the absolute best really spoke to me as bot a user who likes things to be simple and an Engineer who likes to make the process for both users and other engineers as refined and usable as possible. Two: The values. I’m someone who wears her heart on her sleeve and oh boy it’s a big one. Seeing and hearing firsthand how much Dropbox values its positive social impact, emphasizing both local communities and worldwide human rights, made me feel like Dropbox was a place that I could bring more than just my work self. It was a place that would help me give back to the world I care about so much. And if the people inside of Dropbox were so kind and caring that the whole company fostered this idea of giving back and promoting positive impact, they were the people I wanted to work with.

Travis Williams

What industry did you work in before you switched to engineering?

I worked for a small CPA firm in San Francisco preparing tax returns for a couple of years. Fun times. Before that, I was a radio tech in the Marine Corps for five years. Better times.

Why did you decide to make the switch?

I had an interest in coding long before I actually made the switch. I guess technically you can trace it back to the good ol’ MySpace days. Within just a year of working in the accounting industry, I started contemplating getting out (public accounting is tough on everybody). After COVID hit and we started working remotely, I found myself with more time to investigate a career change. Then the 2020 tax deadline was extended for three months, resulting in an extremely taxing tax season (pun intended). So I then officially committed to jumping into the software engineering industry.

What makes you most excited about working at Dropbox?

I’m especially grateful for the chance to grow in such a welcoming environment. Every Dropboxer I’ve spoken to has been incredibly nice and helpful, and I’m excited to finally truly enjoy my career.

To keep up with upcoming apprenticeship opportunities, as well as other current job openings, you can check out our new jobs site.

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