Focus and determination: Tony’s journey from the military to software development

Tony Gaeta was born and raised in St. Petersburg, FL. After graduating with a degree in criminology from the University of Tampa, he served as as a military intelligence officer in both Iraq and Afghanistan before returning home and working as an intelligence analyst in the Tampa Bay area.

A few years into his career, he decided he wanted a completely new challenge. “It [intelligence work] was interesting, but not nearly as exciting as you might think,” he said. “I had always had a knack with computers and scripting, and I heard that The Iron Yard was opening a campus in St. Pete, so I decided to visit.”

tony-gaetaTony ended up visiting on Demo Day, and as he heard the student stories and saw the projects that were demonstrated, he was hooked. In fact, before he even enrolled in class, he had already pinpointed the exact company he wanted to work for after he graduated as a software developer. Determined to land his dream job after graduation, he reached out to the VP of the company and asked for a meeting. “I told them I was going through The Iron Yard and that I wanted to work with them when I was finished,” he said.

Of course, Tony’s decision wasn’t made lightly. “The thought of quitting a cush job and spending a lot of money, while unemployed, to become a junior level web developer was nauseating,” he said. “But the risk of staying in a career field that I had no passion for was too great.” He began our Back-End Engineering with Ruby on Rails course in January 2015.

“I kept getting frustrated during the course, but realized that any stress or frustration I went through made me a better programmer in the end,” he said. As he went through the course, he kept in contact with the VP he’d met with before class and remained focused on his goal. In fact, about a week before graduation, Tony met with him again and demoed his final project app. He was offered a job.

Tony graduated from our Tampa Bay campus in May 2015. Two weeks later, he accepted a position as a software engineer with Spatial Networks. Today, he’s a full-time software engineer for Fulcrum Mobile Solutions.

What’s Tony’s advice to other students hoping to launch new careers in software development? He actually wrote an awesome blog post about his process. He also reiterates the importance of continuing to practice your coding skills after graduation.

“In the military, I knew exactly what they wanted. Here, I have to put myself in my customer’s shoes,” he said. “Learning doesn’t end the day you graduate from The Iron Yard. It’s a constant and ever-changing environment. You have to set aside time to learn new things and practice these skills.”

Want to read more of Tony’s blog? Click here.

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