Alum Q&A: Troy Ciesco, React GraphQL Academy

By: React GraphQL Academy
Last Updated: June 19, 2019

Troy is a front-end developer at Sinoc, Inc.. His skillset surrounds using React and associated technologies to build and deploy scalable web apps within the Amazon Web Services framework. He spent six years in the US Army Reserves as a team leader, and helped introduce more efficient processes for the entire company using a number of technology solutions. He was born, raised, and still resides in Connecticut, but he travels as much as his bank account will allow.

1. You came to React GraphQL Academy (formerly ReactJS Academy) after spending six years in the US Army Reserves. Tell me about your previous roles:

In the Army Reserve I was a Military Police soldier, so I trained on both law enforcement and combat support. On the civilian side, I've done a number of different jobs, the longest of which was three years working in a municipal planning and zoning department. That's where I started using web development in a professional setting, although it wasn't in my job description.

2. How did you get started in programming? What made you decide to pursue coding as a career?

I was always good with computers and video games growing up, and when I reached adulthood I became the person my family, friends, and co-workers came to for help with websites and computers. I started to teach myself web development skills and soon realized that I enjoyed that more than my job at the time.

3. How did you decide to attend React GraphQL Academy? What were your goals for the program?

Other than the fair price and chance to explore a different country, I chose React GraphQL Academy because it was clearly designed for developers who already have some professional experience. This was the biggest selling point for me. My goals for the program were to gain a stronger foundation in the React ecosystem and meet developers from around the world.

4. For you, what were the pros and cons of attending a one-week bootcamp?

The pros:

  • There's no fluff. All of the extraneous information is removed because of the accelerated timeline.
  • The pace. You won't get bored. It can seem overwhelming, but you'll get through it and learn a ton. I felt that the fast pace helped me retain the information, learning and using the teachings in quick succession.

The cons:

  • Regarding the program itself, I have no cons to share. My only complaint is that I met some awesome people there (coaches and students) and I wish I could have spent more time with them!

5. What was most helpful about the environment and teaching style at React GraphQL Academy?

Having multiple coaches helped because they explain things in different ways. Getting multiple angles like that makes it more likely that the information will connect with students. Related to that, it was really interesting learning from people with different cultural backgrounds than my own. Also, the fact that they open source all of their teaching material means that you can focus on learning by doing instead of writing down every single word they say. Even now I still look at their code base to remind myself of different topics.

6. Where are you working now? What is your day-to-day role like?

I work for Sinoc, Inc., which is a blockchain research and development company based in Connecticut. I'm a front-end developer, but of course one tends to wear multiple hats at a startup. Other than coding, I help with recruiting/hiring and collaboration with university researchers on blockchain-related studies.

7. How did React GraphQL Academy help prepare you to land a role as a developer?

I already had my role as a developer, but it's put me in a great position to help plan high-level business decisions because I have a better understanding of how different goals can be implemented. And since we're a small team, the fact that I have the confidence to develop a lot of different things in the React ecosystem means that I have a lot more autonomy.

8. What challenges did you overcome to get to where you are?

I guess the biggest challenge my initial decision to go out on a limb to switch industries in 2016. I had a pretty comfortable job that would have set me up for life, but I wanted something more intellectually stimulating. I also don't have a college degree and I hadn't even taken a computer science class until 2018. There's been times I had to make sacrifices to give myself the time to learn web development, but it's been worth it.

9. What are your goals and plans for the next 5 years?

Keep learning, help grow Sinoc exponentially, and use technology to make a positive impact in the world.

I also told a friend when we were 20 that I was going to be a millionaire by 30, and she reminds me of that fact constantly. That's in less than five years, so I should probably figure out a way to do that as well - preferably while making a positive impact in the world at the same time.

10. What advice do you have for people who are interested in attending a bootcamp?

Teach yourself first. Get yourself at least to the point where "you know what you don't know". I think if you went to a bootcamp with basically no knowledge at all (aka "you don't know what you don't know"), you wouldn't get nearly as much out of it.

Now if you're attending a one-week bootcamp like React GraphQL Academy, which is geared towards professional developers, you should already be at the "you know what you don't know" stage. In that case, my advice is to be creative in finding a bootcamp that works for you. I originally conducted my search in New York and Boston because they're a few hours from me, but nothing there really fit. I had to branch out and look in London to find a perfect one in React GraphQL Academy.

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