From English Teacher to Programmer

Grant recently got a job as a Web Programmer in Tokyo, Japan after completing a majority of Bloc’s Web Developer Track. Read more about his journey from teacher to developer and how you can be on your way to a new career with Bloc!


Tell me: what were you doing before Bloc?

Before Bloc I was an English Teacher.

Why did you end up taking Bloc?

I discovered my passion for writing code late in life — or at least that’s what I thought when I was younger. As a senior physics major, I was chosen to be a member of an international research program, where I worked in China for six weeks writing code. Though it sounds cliché, I honestly fell in love with programming after my first “do loop.” When I returned from China, I continued my research, writing more sophisticated algorithms and picking up various skills such as using the command line. Although I have a strong passion for physics, after graduation I regretted not studying computer programming. However, being young and naïve, I told myself that it was too late. With the cost of a college degree, how could I rationalize going back to get another bachelor’s degree? I ignored my feelings and decided I should do something with my physics degree.

I decided to enroll in the graduate mechanical engineering program at the University of Minnesota. In graduate school there are few required courses, so naturally I found myself choosing courses which allowed me to write more code. After doing well in one such course, I was offered a paid research position, writing algorithms and running them through a super computer. I also did a considerable amount of work with simulation driven product development. Though I studied mechanical engineering, my thesis was based on computer simulations, hardly resembling what one might consider traditional mechanical engineering. Ultimately, what I enjoyed most was writing code and was once again left with that same sense of regret after graduating.

On top of being a student at Bloc, I am also teaching English at a very prestigious junior and senior high school in Tokyo, Japan. I’m blessed to be residing in Japan, where I’ve wanted to live ever since first meeting my Japanese friends a decade ago. I absolutely love teaching and have an amazing job with fantastic perks. My passion for learning and study naturally led me into education. Helping others discover knowledge is one of the most fulfilling things a person can experience in life. Overall, I’m quite fulfilled.

After reading this, you might question why I wanted to start a career in web development. Ever since my time in China doing research in numerical computation in 2010, I’ve become increasingly obsessed with writing code and, in recent years, web development. I find nothing more fulfilling than writing some code, having my computer get angry and flash error messages, spending hours debugging and reading through Stack Overflow posts and documentation, and then finally getting it to work. I wanted a job that would let me do this every day; I wanted to be a developer.

How did taking Bloc change your life?

At the time I am writing this, I am still a Bloc student — about 70% of the way through the Web Developer Track. I have just accepted a development job offer from a Japanese company working with cryptocurrency. I don’t know the specifics of the job yet, but cryptocurrency is booming in Japan and I’m very excited to be getting into it.

Looking at my first message to my mentor, my goals were to 1) learn Ruby on Rails 2) find a job within a year 3) continue to live and work in Japan and 4) to receive a salary similar to what other junior developers in Japan. I have achieved all of these goals and so much more. Armed with a wealth of knowledge I gained at Bloc, I am ready to set new goals. I want to continue to work internationally and the beauty about code is that it’s the same everywhere, no matter what language is spoken.

What advice would you give to other Bloc students that are currently looking for a job?

  • Network, preferably at a meetup
  • Write personalized cover letters for every job even if you really, really don’t want to (nearly every job I applied to replied)
  • Do coding challenges every day for as many months as you can. Don’t try to cram study this skill because cram studying just doesn’t work.
  • Write code every day. Make “no zero days” you mantra. Furthermore, log all of your hours. I have an email thread logging my exact times and I input them into my motivational study log. Once you get on a 30-day study streak, you won’t want to break it, and you’ll find 15 min in your day to study even if you’re really busy.
  • Besides personal motivation, study logs are really awesome for job applications.
  • Have a good resume. If it doesn’t look good, you look unprofessional.

Which project (portfolio, capstone, etc.) are you most proud of?