From Minecraft to Cyber Security
Time, energy, focus, and money- this is the cost of University.
You know the sacrifice. How many budget friendly Kraft Dinner meals in an 80’s dorm room have you indulged in? How many Red Bulls washed down with espresso to get you through a 24 hour study cram between finals? I know my friend, for we all have been there.
After four years, you receive a degree and are one step closer to the job title that has wafted through your dreams since high school graduation.
Here is a curveball: What if, after four years, you look at your degree and the career path it has opened before you, and think…
This is so not me
More difficult than deciding on a career is the daunting task of reevaluating it and starting again. How easy it would be to fall into a slump and let feeling overwhelmed, lost, and exhausted halt you in your tracks.
Or, how liberating.
This is what brought me to Jonah Grier, an alumnus of CareerUp’s Intern Abroad program who went through a professional redirect during his undergraduate degree and came out the other side more skilled, confident, and driven than ever before.
To know the man behind the journey, I asked Jonah to describe himself and give me some context on where it all happened.
“Well, I did my undergrad in Business at California State University Maritime Academy, which is a small quasi-military school, by some standards. My experience there, where we were expected to always be well groomed, were randomly drug tested, and had to perform watch rotations, made me really responsible with my own life.
I think hard work beats natural talent. One of my friends had the highest GPA in the class and that was a great motivator for me. I thought to myself, I want to surpass the people who are naturally gifted and don’t have to take notes.
By the end of university, I was very comfortable with recognizing what I bring to the table while acknowledging what still needs work.
As part of my degree, it was required of me to do a 120 hour internship. I applied to a number of positions locally, but I felt I was lying about what I wanted to do. For these Business Development Internships, I was being asked what my goals were and why I wanted the position, and I just felt dishonest with everything I said. My parents agreed maybe it [Business Development] wasn’t for me and essentially asked me, so what then?”
At that time, Jonah had been spending his evenings recreationally coding, not thinking much about it as a career. When it became obvious that Business Development was not the route he wanted to go, he wondered if it were possible to take his passion and make it a profession.
“Throughout Uni, I was doing all this coding in my off time. It started with Minecraft, actually: I was always making dirt houses. I would be doing a lot of back-end stuff- inputting data. But, maybe that’s where it started.
I had this concept that coding was hard to break into. Business school had felt like a lot of personal development and mannerisms, but coding is so structured. I was worried that the way I work, where I need to do things a number of times, would be detrimental. My groove is one that will take longer than others. But, there are lots of job opportunities: I was reading that there are 1.2 million jobs which are software engineering related opening up. Still, I knew I needed to get some experience.
And then, I got the idea to intern abroad from friends and saw CareerUp on Linkedin.”
Fast forward a few months from there and you have Jonah on a plane, flying across the world to Manila to complete an internship in coding. What he had autonomously taught himself between business classes turned out to be concrete enough to earn an internship abroad with an enthusiastic company. Jonah’s organization was genuinely interested in helping him learn and established a program to help him identify whether coding was truly the right road.
“The company I interned abroad with knew that I was figuring out what area interested me, so they started by syphoning me to different departments to help me decide. I started with project planning where I got to go to sites with managers and see the business development side of things, and then I eventually moved over to hard data and finally, coding.
With the In-the-field work, I was like, that sounds fun! It was cool getting to see that. When I moved to hard data, I was doing forecasting and getting quarterlies. Because I was so new to this, it felt like I was playing a Hide & Go Seek game searching for things and putting it into an excel file. But I did it, and I got better.
Then I did coding for a full month: the days were super stressful. My mentor told me to search for answers- he didn’t want to give them to me. He was definitely encouraging me to be autonomous. It was funny though, because there was a language barrier. At one point, I think he used the word cheese in the middle of a sentence. Haha. But it was great, I was always layering knowledge. There was no down time for me during the internship abroad because the work that would take my mentor a week I felt like would take me a month. In the end, I learned a lot of areas of coding like mobile app development, web development, cyber security, etc.”
The other side of interning abroad that we often promote is the cultural value or the soft skills. I wanted to know what else Jonah learned-if anything- about what is necessary for a successful career besides the black and white credentials. And of course, was his investment in an internship abroad a significant game changer in his professional journey?
“I think it’s so important to work with others cohesively, to feel comfortable around one another. If you are going to work, do the best you can in every way: Any department can be fun, it’s about the people. I have always believed in leading by example and your personality is part of that.
Taking risks is super important too. Before, I was doing Java and Minecraft; then I was taking statistics, online courses and math classes; Now, I am jumping into Grad School at North Eastern for their program Align- a competitive program for intensive coding training that gives you the content of a 4 year undergraduate degree in half of the time.
My internship abroad was a super well rounded, irreplaceable experience. It was totally worth it. Don’t look at the price of CareerUp, look at it as an investment in your life. The price was obviously high, and I could have made money in the USA, but the overall experience of moving and immersing yourself in a different culture is the best experience you could ever have of learning about yourself and how to be fluent in adapting to different environments.”
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