Meet Aubrey, graduate of gSchool and data scientist at Keen IO

By: The SwitchUp Team
Last Updated: February 3, 2015


What did you do before attending gSchool?

Before attending gSchool*, I studied music and education and was planning on becoming a teacher. I ended doing humanitarian work in Central America, working as a barista and then finally landing at Apple repairing iPhones, iPads and teaching workshops while building websites on the side.

*gSchool is now Galvanize.

Why did you make the switch into programming?

My experience doing humanitarian work was inspiring but also frustrating in that it showed me the limitations of helping others on a one to one basis. I decided that a more effective approach would be to find a way to combine my love of technology with my desire to help others. I wanted to use technology to help more people.

What's your favorite part about programming?

Being able to create something out of nothing is amazing…and very addicting! It's an incredible feeling to help people bring their dreams to fruition - whether it be a clients business site or a charity project. Technology is constantly changing and I love that I always have challenging and stimulating work.


How did you choose and decide on attending gSchool specifically?

I was drawn to the intensive and immersive learning environment that gSchool offered. The fact that it was 24 weeks and not just 9 or 12 weeks was another determining factor. I had spoken with graduates from shorter bootcamps that expressed regret over the short time frame of their chosen school. The gSchool graduates that I spoke with were very happy with their experience and successful in their careers in a relatively short timeframe. Also, the money back guarantee didn't hurt!

How did your prepare to start learning at gSchool?

I did a few Codecademy, CodeSchool, and TreeHouse classes on HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Ruby/Rails. I also read Extreme Programming, How to Count, and The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking. Most importantly, I sat my significant other down and said I'd be "unavailable" for the next 6 months while in school. ;)

What surprised you about your learning experience?

Looking back, what surprised me the most was how much I actually learned. At times I felt like I was drinking from a firehose. Now I realize just how much I knowledge I did acquire. It's incredible!


What's the best advice you can give to a potential student?

Don't be afraid to make mistakes or ask questions. This is your chance to learn so take every opportunity that is presented. Create study groups with fellow students and find mentors in the field. It's a marathon, not a sprint - don't burn yourself out in the first few weeks.

If you could start over the experience, what would you do differently?

I would have started asking questions earlier and not caring if I "looked stupid". Ultimately, it doesn't matter what your fellow students or even instructors think - what matters is what you learn and understand. Everyone learns at a different pace and that's ok. Embrace it and carry on.

Another very important thing I would have done is get more sleep. I was so worried about trying to learn everything fast that at times I would not get enough rest - unfortunately, that makes it very hard to focus and comprehend.

Share a failure and success story about your experience.

I bombed my first one-on-one coding assessment with one of my instructors. I stayed up all night studying and was exhausted. Instead of being able to focus and show what I really knew, I ended up being thrown off my something easy and wasn't able to get back on track. It was then I realized how important it was to be well rested.

One of my favorite moments was presenting my final project, MentorMeet, at our Galvanize community demo night. It was great to present the project I had invested so much time in and have people come up and say they were excited about it as well. Knowing that even though it may not "look awesome" (I'm not a graphic designer after all), I learned so much in the creation of it.

What was your favorite project that you worked on?

My favorite project that I worked on was my personal project called MentorMeet. The basic idea is that you sign up to get mentoring in a language of your choice. Once you receive mentoring, you turn around and give help to someone else. My belief is that you learn from teaching as well and everyone should always be giving back.


What kind of job support did gSchool provide?

gSchool provided a lot of connections for local and national companies. They brought in people from companies not only from Colorado but throughout the country to speak to our class. In fact, I have my current job because the CEO of Keen IO, which is based in San Francisco, visited gSchool Boulder. Interview prep was also a huge part of the curriculum towards the end of the course.

What are you doing now?

I'm working at Keen IO in San Francisco. We are a Data Analytics company with some pretty awesome APIs for collecting, storing and querying data. Lots of data! Often we call ourselves "Data Scientists". I've been able to work in JavaScript, Python and even a little Ruby to help create and maintain tools for our customers. It's fun because I didn't know Python and had very little JavaScript experience before joining. Now I'm able to learn on the job. It's great!

In addition, I have the great privilege of creating our "Learner Program" in which we will bring on students right out of bootcamps/colleges and give them an onramp to their first job as a developer. We aim to create a robust apprenticeship style program where people are able to learn by being embedded in development teams.

What inspires you?

Learning new things and working with people really inspires me! It's amazing the feeling of success after struggling with a challenging problem. Being able to talk through problems and hear the input and ideas from other people is motivating. We have different life experiences and see things from different angles. It's exhilarating when you work together to make something not just good, but great!

What do you want to do five years from now?

I started out wanting to be a teacher, so I see myself continuing to develop our Learner Program at Keen IO and still being involved in my project MentorMeet fostering online, community learning.

Aubrey Howell is a developer of people and software at Keen IO. After finishing up gSchool in August 2014, she joined Keen IO to create the Learner Program which is their apprenticeship style program for onboarding and training new developers. When Aubrey's not coding, you can find her sipping whiskey, writing music, chasing rainbows, getting her newest tattoo or reading. She also founded an online community learning project, MentorMeet, which is a place where developers of all different levels connect and share their knowledge. Read more gschool reviews on SwitchUp!

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