Iron Journeys: Meet Shannon Riester, front-end developer

Shannon traveled Asia and Australia after realizing a museum-based career wasn’t for her. She heard about the benefits of programming from some friends, tried a few online classes and fell in love. But Shannon knew she needed more support if she was going to turn this into a career. She turned to The Iron Yard and found her path.

Check out our conversation with Shannon here, or read the transcript below.

Eric: Hey, we are here in Austin, Texas, with Shannon.

Shannon: Hi! Eric: Thanks for joining us.

Shannon: Thanks for having me.

Eric: You are an Iron Yard alumnus.

Shannon: Yes.

Eric: You graduated from the frond end class.

Shannon: I did. I graduated this summer.

Eric: Awesome. Let’s rewind. What were you doing before The Iron Yard?

Shannon: Before The Iron Yard, I was actually traveling a lot in Asia and a little bit in Australia. I was fortunate enough to quit my job and focus on where I wanted to take my career and my life. I was really unhappy working in the museum setting that I was previously. I love museums and I love art, but it really just wasn’t what I was hoping for in terms of fulfillment and satisfaction. I did a lot of soul-searching, digging around.

Eric: Favorite place in Asia?

Shannon: Probably Tokyo.

Eric: Tokyo. I’ve heard so many good things. I have to go there one day.

Shannon: It’s really awesome. It’s really cool. It’s really cool at night too when everything’s lite up. I was doing a lot of that. Started taking some online classes, just at the community college for a little bit of Java, Java Script and like HTML and CSS. I fell in love with it.

Eric: How did you decide you wanted to do that? Was it a friend? Did you just say, “I’m interested in this.”

Shannon: Actually, it was two friends that had graduated from another coding school. They had great success stories. Neither of them really did any computer science of engineering undergrad decree, like me. I looked into it and just really decided that this was for me.

Eric: Yeah. You took some online classes at a local community college?

Shannon: Yeah.

Eric: How did you decide you wanted to come to a code school as opposed to just teach yourself or continue online?

Shannon: That’s why I was, “Maybe I can try doing it abroad.” I don’t know, trying to make it work that way. That’s why I decided to take the online courses. I tried teaching myself and reading a couple of books, but it was … That’s not for me. I need to talk to people. I need to ask questions. I need to have that interaction to know that, one, I’m on the right track, instead of stumbling around, trying to figure it out. I really needed the direction to say, “Here are these steps that you need to take in order to really be successful.”

Eric: What was the experience like? Did The Iron Yard help you with all those things?

Shannon: Yeah. That and more. I mean, The Iron Yard was just … From everything, from beginning-to-end. Any question I needed, any sort of emotional support, the staff, I mean, everyone, really made sure that they covered all grounds. I mean, you still have to work really hard. I knew that going into it, but there wasn’t anything that was missed.

Eric: Very cool.

Shannon: It was great.

Eric: How did you decide on The Iron Yard? You said you had some friends who went to other code schools?

Shannon: Yeah.

Eric: Did you search around? How did you land on The Iron Yard being the one for you?

Shannon: Yeah, I did. I did a lot of research online. Asked a bunch of questions to my friends and they actually recommended The Iron Yard over their code school just because they were hearing better-and-better things as time had progressed. I did a lot of online research, as much as I could. Everything I read, I really loved. I really liked how it was Texas Workforce Commission.

Eric: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Shannon: I was, “That’s the only school with that to back it up.” I was, “That actually says a lot about the school.” It made me feel really good. Then, when I moved back to Texas, I met Carly, the Campus Director, and I was like, “This is it. This is for me.”

Eric: Very cool. You graduated in the summer. What happened after class? What are you doing now?

Shannon: After I graduated, I had a bunch of friends. We’re a really tight knit group.

Eric: In class? Friends in class?

Shannon: In class. Yeah. We decided to be on each other every day like, “Hey, are you coming to class?” There was a transitional period between cohorts. The Austin campus was, “You can study here as much as you want. It’s not a problem.” We had this free space to study in, free Wi-Fi. We would be there for support. “Did you apply to jobs? Look over my resume and cover letter.” Then also, we were, “What are you learning that’s new?” Or, “Show me this.” I had a back end friend, he would show me like some Ruby, or I’d help him with Java Script. It was that consistency and working hard together made it a little bit less scary just because it’s such a big change to … I felt really safe when I was here. I knew exactly what I was going to do that day. I mean, the homework that I had to complete and all those steps. Then, just jumping out into the real world, I’ve done that before. It’s really overwhelming because there’s so much. Having that and also just having the staff here, Carly and Quincy, they would just check in. They’d be like, “How’d your job application? How are things?” Making sure that I was still on top of it and giving me really good encouragement feedback. That was how I got through to where I am today, I think.

Eric: What are you doing today?

Shannon: I’m working at Clearhead next door.

Eric: Cool!

Shannon: It’s a digital optimization agency. It’s amazing. I’m like the front end intern, but it’s full-time, paid, and most of their interns move forward into, I don’t want to say “a real position,” because it’s real. It’s a higher, full-time position.

Eric: Yeah. What is your day-to-day look like? Shannon: They’ve actually decided to push me forward a little bit harder. They said that I was the best applicant that they had had for this position.

Eric: Sweet!

Shannon: I know. Felt pretty good. My boss has been, “Hey, we’re going to see how far you can get.”, instead of taking it slow and going that route. I’ve been learning their testing platforms and now I’m just about to finish my first beginning-to-end test that I’m going to submit. I’ve only been there … It’ll be a month on Friday. It’s really awesome.

Eric: That’s so great.

Shannon: Yeah, it’s really cool.

Eric: Very cool. Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Shannon: Sure. Thanks for having me.

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