From Aerospace Engineer to programmer: John Buscemi’s story

John left a career as an Aerospace Engineer for something he found even more exciting: programming. The perfect balance of fast-paced problem solving, creativity and teamwork, coding quickly became a passion for John – who tried to learn to code on his own but turned to The Iron Yard for help. He now works for Red Hat in Raleigh, N.C. as a Software Application Engineer. 

Here’s John’s story, in his own words:

John-Buscemi-The-Iron-Yard-Red-Hat-EngineerWhat were you doing before you decided to attend a code bootcamp?
Before The Iron Yard, I was an Aerospace Engineer. Specifically, I did structural analysis on jet engines that ranged from regional jets to larger passenger jets and military jets. Some of the specific engines were the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, Airbus A320, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. My job entailed running engine simulations on designs to see whether the engine may be structurally unsound. The best part of my job was that after months, sometimes years, I got to go to an engine test where I wasn’t looking at a computer model anymore, but an actual engine assembled with parts I had a hand in designing! Pretty cool, right? Oddly enough, coding is more enjoyable to me.

What inspired you to attend The Iron Yard? Why did you make the choice to attend?

People ask me this a lot…”You were literally a rocket scientist before this, WHY did you change?”

After working for a little over six years in the Aerospace field, things got a little stale because sometimes the design, test, build, redesign, test some more, test even more, do some more tests…can take a long time. And rightfully so, people’s lives are at stake. But I wasn’t satisfied with being stale. And South Florida wasn’t “home.” I wanted to be back in North Carolina close to my family.

So I left a good job in South Florida and moved back to Raleigh, N.C. Crazy right? I took some time off to evaluate where I was in life and where I wanted to go. I traveled (my biggest trip was to Australia for 3 weeks). I visited my family on the Outer Banks whenever I could. It was great, but I needed to figure out what to do for a job.

Programming kept coming up as an option for a career. At my previous job, I’d written scripts that automated some processes and always loved when I could get them to work. So I wanted to learn more, and I have friends who work in the advertising/marketing world where web development is HUGE. They told me to learn how to code. So I had started teaching myself some basics through Codecademy, but I couldn’t get over the hump of the basics. Then I found The Iron Yard and they had a campus in Durham, and it was perfect. A few more months off wasn’t going to hurt anything, right?

JMB_Headshot_Fun_SqTell us about your career path since graduating from The Iron Yard.
After graduating from the Ruby on Rails course, I was the TA (teaching assistant) for the next cohort’s Rails class. This provided a great opportunity for me to solidify my skills through helping others learn. I also got to spend time with the instructor, Mason, whom I consider a friend and mentor. Mason would give me advice on some personal applications I developed to help me continue to learn. My time as TA was invaluable.

Around week six of being a TA I got a lead on a job at Red Hat. I jumped on it. The job was a six-month contract-to-hire position, but through some crazy circumstances it actually turned into a full-time position. The timing was perfect, too…I got to finish out my stint as TA, have Thanksgiving off and then in mid-December I started at Red Hat.

I work on a team of Ruby/Rails developers where we manage/develop on web applications that Red Hat’s customers use to manage their software subscriptions. My team is excellent! All very smart and helpful. They are willing to sit down with me when I have questions and willing to let me struggle on my own so I can learn and contribute. I couldn’t have asked for a better job. I consider myself very lucky, but know that it was the education Mason gave me and the hard work I put in at The Iron Yard that got me here!

Where would you like to be in 5 years? 10? more?
Honestly, right where I am…just with more experience and programming knowledge. I see Red Hat as a job that I could have for a long time. My job is rewarding, it’s challenging, my managers are great, and the people are great.

What advice would you give to potential students considering The Iron Yard?
You get out what you put in. If you work hard, make sure you stay on top of the assignments, make sure you’re understanding why the code is working (or even better – what to fix when it’s not working) you’ll do fine. I could always coast through most of school, but knew that wouldn’t be the case for such a short, but intense, course. So my advice is not to coast! And if you feel you’re not getting something (which will DEFINITELY happen) talk to the instructors. They’re there to teach you!

How did your past experience in Aerospace Engineering help you learn to code?
Coming from an engineering background, I was familiar with the process of design, test, implement, analyze, test some more, refactor, test even more. I’ll tell you though, just having professional experience (dealing with teams, customers, adversity at work, etc.) really helped me in my interviews. I’m an adult. So I leveraged that in my interviews to help set me apart from others who may have more coding experience than I do.

What surprised you most about attending The Iron Yard?
How helpful the staff was. I half expected them to just be cashing my check and not be concerned with how I was actually doing in class. That wasn’t the case. Everyone was aware of my progress and made sure I was understanding everything I needed to understand…and helped when I needed it!

How do you stay up-to-date with programming techniques?
I subscribe to Ruby Weekly to stay up to speed on all things Ruby and Rails. I also attend local Meetups that go beyond just Ruby. For instance I go to a local Programming Bookclub Meetup where we pick a programming book to read. It could be about a new language to learn, or it could be more about best practices and techniques. We have weekly discussions over lunch on what we learned.

What else should we know about you?
I write and perform my own music. It’s singer/songwriter acoustic guitar type music. About every six weeks, I have a gig at a beer hall around the corner from where I live. I’ll play a mix of songs I wrote and some obscure covers of songs I like for anyone that walks in and wants to listen.

1 Comment

  1. Congrats on the new gig! Long time web developer here who would *love* to work on and hold a physical product. : D

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