This week in our Iron Journeys video series, we meet Christopher Vanderkolk, an Iron Yard Austin code school grad. Before joining The Iron Yard, Chris worked in retail for over a decade. After realizing his career had become stagnant and craving a challenge, Chris turned to software development.
Check out our conversation with Chris below to see what it’s really like to be a student at The Iron Yard. (Transcript below video)
Eric: All right, we are here in Austin, Texas with Chris. Welcome to the show.
Chris: Thank you.
Eric: It’s not really a show, but we’ll just call it that.
Chris: We’ll still treat it like a show.
Eric: Yeah. So you’re currently in class.
Eric: What class are you in?
Chris: Back in engineering, with Java.
Eric: Okay, cool.
Eric: Yeah? Jabba, Java, Star War.
Chris: It’s like a Jawa
Eric: Yeah. It works. We’ll take it. Cool. So what were you doing before you decided to learn software development?
Chris: I was in retail for 11 years.
Chris: I spent ten years with Trader Joe’s.
Chris: Then I was like, “Okay, this is enough. Maybe I need to mix it up, do something like the opposite do something really small. Spent a year doing something else through retail it just wasn’t the right fit.
Eric: Yeah, so what was the process you went through switching from retail to software development. I mean that’s kind of a big jump.
Chris: Yeah it’s a jump. So part of it was I played around with coding when I was kid, I was the kinda like hole away with like an html book when I was 12. I’m just like I’m gonna make this work-
Eric: That’s totally awesome.
Chris: Then always kind of like that doing that, doing a little bit of server administration, doing my own websites like that kind of stuff.
Chris: I took a break. I cashed in all my computer chips for music chips, I just focused on music and retail. About a year ago I started stagnating at my last job, I was like okay something gotta change. I feel like I maxed out like 10 years is long enough to maxed out at any job, well not any job.
Eric: That’s a decade.
Chris: But I felt like I had really done every single aspect of what I could do. It got to the point where I felt each day I was kind of floating and not in a good way. I wasn’t challenging myself I wasn’t growing I didn’t feel like I got a lot out of my day.
Chris: When it came to time to, okay what do I wanna to do? A big thing that kept on coming back to was building apps and coding API scriptings a big thing. On the side I did small work consulting for small businesses for work flow efficiency, and what speaks to scripting more than that.
Chris: So part of it was like oh this would be perfect, You know what I’m in right know but also like holy crap I’m kinda good at this.
Chris: So I started like, last summer playing around with code academy playing around with some of the other things. I felt like a kid again, it felt fun and it felt good so that was a really big impetus to me like all right time to-
Eric: Okay, this is the direction-
Chris: I know I definitely want to go to a coding school.
Eric: Yeah, so how did you decide on The Iron Yard. Did you research multiple coding schools?
Chris: The vibe here, so if I compared this one I did, Hack Reactor. I did crap there’s another one downtown here Maker Square.
Chris: A lot of them were specifically Java Script focused which is not something I particularity want to do. The vibe was different, it seemed like a lot of the other places wanted to like turn them out get them through the program and see them later. Where as here after my first meeting with Carlie, I was like okay these people want to stick with you. I wanted a mentor, you know cause I’m good at this and I wanted some one who could take me to the next level.
Eric: Right so you realized, okay I know this is something I can do. But I really want to invest and have someone, an expect show me what its gonna take.
Chris: 100 % .
Eric: To get me where I want to go.
Eric: Very cool. And did you meet with the instructor before you decided to join the Iron Yard.
Chris: By the time I decided, I was like I want to do The Iron Yard my instructor wasn’t actually hired yet. So I was like in a weird limbo for like a month or two.
Eric: Oh right because we were starting too, we were gonna offer-
Chris: This was the first time-
Eric: Java course.
Chris: Exactly, the first time it was offered. But the nice thing was my first talk with Gill my instructor was like total luck. He communicated very early on, I’m here to mentor you and its like good. I didn’t want to just like come to school and go home. I wanted like to be part of a team again.
Chris: Like I really missed that.
Chris: I wanted to be apart of a family.
Chris: That you know all supports each other and lifts each other up. And that really felt the vibe here.
Eric: Has it proven to be true?
Chris: 100 %.
Eric: Very cool.
Eric: Very cool. Your just a couple days into your class right?
Eric: So what’s it been like I mean are you, do you feel like your just diving in?
Chris: I’m so excited especially today I mean I feel like I’ve been stomached a bit to start so that’s been part of it. But the other part of the excitement is like, I’ve been waiting for something to like you know turn on all those little light bulbs. It feels like I’m just getting into it and I’m already really excited.
Eric: Yeah. So great things are ahead.
Chris: Yeah man like synapses are firin, new stuff is happenin and I’m already feelin really excited and galvanized you know?
Eric: Yeah awesome. So I know your only three days in but have you thought about the types of things you might want to do?
Chris: Oh totally.
Eric: When you graduate?
Eric: I’d just love to hear about that.
Chris: I really am passionate about making work flows more effiecient.
Chris: But on like a personal level, as far as like information architexture concern I want to get into information architecture. If I want to get into API scripting and automation to help small businesses to do really easy tasks, that look hard but are not actually that hard.
Eric: Yeah yeah yeah.
Chris: There’s a lot of stuff that’s just as easy, I mean here’s a very specific example. I like just programed, and this is not apart of the school. But for a client, she has a shopify store setup and I automated a API post call. So when ever she post’s to Sound Cloud like pod cast’s it’ll like post a blog post automaticaly to her shopify paige.
Chris: And it’s simple on a technical level, but it’s like there are 30 steps.
Eric: Right that just saved her half an hour.
Eric: That’s really cool.
Chris: So from a personal level that’s the kind of stuff that gets me really excited because I want to enable people to be their best most efficient most awesome selves all the time. So I feel like as a coder, or back in engineers specifically like that’s kind of key to making a career.
Chris: You know.
Eric: Totally. Very cool. Well thank you so much for taking the time, and I hope the rest of class is as awesome as the first couple days.
Chris: Thank you, I think it will.