The teacher becomes the student: Isaiah turns to code school for new career

Isaiah Fasoldt has a penchant for problem solving. For five years, he aimed to solve problems in education by working with Teach for America in one of the poorest districts in the country. When he decided to shift his career, he turned to programming so he could take on a new kind of problem solving with new skills. He enrolled in the Back-End Engineering program at The Iron Yard’s Indianapolis campus (you may remember his blog post from last summer), and today he’s a software developer. Read on for his story.

Tell us about your career path so far.

I did my undergrad at Wheaton College, which is a small liberal arts school west of Chicago. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I ended up majoring in philosophy and ancient languages, and I had a minor in history.

After that I, again, wasn’t sure what to do, and I’d done some work with a program getting kids from inner city Chicago ready for college. I applied to Teach for America, I got in, and my wife and I moved out to New York. I taught for five years.

I really appreciated the opportunity to do it, but I think skill-wise it probably wasn’t the best fit for me. I tend to be somebody who always likes to tackle new challenges. I found teaching to be really challenging, but not especially different. It was just difficult, but it was more because of things that I couldn’t control, rather than problems that needed to be solved.

I taught special ed at a second chance high school. It was the poorest congressional district in the country, in the South Bronx. I loved the kids, but it was just a difficult environment to teach in.

What did you do once you realized your job wasn’t a good fit?

I figured that out somewhere in between year three and four, but I kept teaching. I had a daughter around that time, and then my wife and I just decided that we wanted to go back to Indianapolis, to be closer to her parents. She got a job, so we moved to Indy for her job. We lived with my in-laws.

I wasn’t really sure what to do, but I had a friend who did a code school in New York City, and he had a really good experience.

My brain is a problem-solving brain. I really always liked formal logic. I always liked maps. I did a little bit of stuff on Codecademy, and then I heard about The Iron Yard, and got really interested, contacted them, went to one of their “Meet the Iron Yard” events.

How did you know that an in-person code bootcamp was right for you?

I have a masters in education from a school in New York City. A lot of that ended up being online. The reason why I think I chose The Iron Yard, and what made me interested in it, was I contacted some of the alumni on LinkedIn about their experience, which made me feel confident about the choice.

What was the enrollment process like for you?

I submitted an online application first. I had talked to Emily (campus director) over the phone about the best way to proceed. I interviewed with the operations manager and then with Chris Vannoy, the instructor.

For me, the interview process was a two-way interview. I wasn’t just trying to figure out if I could do this, but the team wanted to help me make sure it made sense for me given what I wanted to do. Getting to talk with Chris about what the program would look like and the challenges involved was really helpful.

How was your experience in the classroom?

Because I had such a healthy respect for the difficulty of the program, I prepared a ton beforehand. I started the program, and I was doing consulting work on the side, but I had a lot of time on my hands. I took a lot of time, I did all the pre-work. I did extra stuff that a friend of mine had sent me. I was, I feel like, really well prepared, from a base level, to start the program.

What happened after graduation?

Our campus director really was a great guide to us. She knew exactly what was needed, and what the market looked like. She was able to guide us in terms of making portfolios, and how to send out, essentially, cold call emails, but to the right people. She has connections with everyone.

I landed a couple of interviews right after graduation. One came through a mock-interview that The Iron Yard set up. The other was a connection I had made at Demo Day. I had more opportunities, but those two companies were really good options and so I pursued them the most. In the end I chose to go with a startup instead of a larger company. I really liked it, because I think sort of what I was looking for was a smaller company, and a place that would give me a lot of responsibility right away.

What is your title, and what are you doing now?

I’m a software engineer for Doxly. It’s a small company. There’s only five on the development team right now. Essentially, I touch every part of the app. They give us a lot of flexibility and ownership over what we want to do, which another thing that I really appreciate about working with Doxly. Even though I graduated from the back-end engineering program, there’s no real distinction between the back-end and the front-end engineers. I do front-end of stuff, I do back-end stuff, I edit databases. I think it’s a good fit. 

I was actually offered an opportunity for my dream job as a diplomat for the foreign service soon after I started at Doxly. But I was enjoying my time at Doxly so much, it made the decision pretty easy to stay.

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