Alumni Spotlight: A Career Transformation from Food Scientist to UI Engineer

Tech Elevator’s alumni network continues to grow. With more than 3,500 graduates from our remote and physical coding bootcamps across the country, there are many incredible alumni stories to share.

This is a continuation of our Tech Elevator Alumni Spotlight series, in which we highlight some of the remarkable career-changing journeys of our graduates. We hope these stories will inspire and empower more individuals to make the change they’ve been dreaming about and start their journey toward an in-demand career in tech. For this post, we sat down with Patrick Dolan, a 2022 graduate of Tech Elevator’s Pittsburgh Campus and former Tech Elevator Academic Fellow. We discussed his path from food scientist to software engineer, his overall bootcamp experience, and how he’s using what he learned during the bootcamp in his new role as Junior UI Developer at Highline Solutions.

Alumni Q&A: Career Change Journey 

How did you find out about the job opportunity at Highline Solutions?

Highline Solutions reached out to Tech Elevator and then the Pittsburgh team recommended me.

What motivated you to try a coding bootcamp?

I’ve always been a builder. From a small child, through art school, and as a food scientist, I’ve always been motivated by making things, especially outside my professional career. I’ve always had a project, or 7, that I’m working on, and as those grew in complexity so did the need to program. And I loved it. Additionally, when I moved to Pittsburgh, I fell in love with the city, but there wasn’t much opportunity for a food scientist, especially after the Kraft-Heinz merger. Pittsburgh was, however, a blossoming tech city, and since I already knew I liked to program, it just made sense. I chose Tech Elevator specifically because of their Pathway Program, and word-of-mouth recommendations.

What surprised you most about your experience with Tech Elevator?

The staff at the Pittsburgh campus genuinely cares – and you can tell. Both as a student and Academic Fellow, it’s a sort of magical place. I really wasn’t expecting that.

Did you have an incoming vision of what the bootcamp would be like? How did reality stack up to that? 

I thought it would be this grueling, arduous, technical slog. And I thought I would be the worst student to ever grace Tech Elevator’s doors. The reality is that it’s a super welcoming community, there are a diverse set of backgrounds, and it’s one of those formative experiences that will be with you forever.

What was easy about the bootcamp, if anything? What was hard?

For me personally, overall, it was easy, because I had enough experience with programming that although some of the concepts were new, the patterns were there. However, I can only imagine what it would have been like without my previous experience, which was something I always kept in mind, especially when I worked as an Academic Fellow.

As for what was hard, public speaking is hard.

Had you ever thought of coding as a career before the bootcamp?

I always thought I wasn’t smart enough to make it a career. I saw my friends doing it, and they were all super smart, so I felt like it was out of my reach. Also, I always had this sort of naive notion that my occupation needed to be expressive and hands-on, but now I feel that my primary form of expression is actually programming, because you can build anything!

What would you tell other people about Tech Elevator? Or about coding bootcamps in general?

You should do it. If you are the type of person who is curious, hungry for a change, and comfortable feeling confused at times while you’re learning a lot.

What did you learn at Tech Elevator that you apply to your job today?

There is the technical component, for sure. Beyond that, the things that have been really invaluable are things like knowing how to work with others, like we did during our Capstone Projects, how to utilize sprint rituals – also done during capstones – and how to talk the talk, or rather, how to use the lexicon of the industry.

To close, can you tell us one thing we might not already know about you?

I’ll say it. I play the accordion.


Ready to Kickstart Your Own Career Transformation?

Your new career in tech could be yours in as little as 14 or 30 weeks. If you’re looking to take the next step in your career and think being a software developer is the path for you, you can take our 25-minute Aptitude Test to get started.

Written by Jennifer O’Brien, Campus Director, Tech Elevator