"After working in finance for almost a full two years, it was quite clear to me that I needed a change of pace. When I looked around my office, I didn’t see anyone whose career I would want to emulate. I didn’t see any inspiration." —Zach Carroll, front-end engineer at Jet.com
Startup Institute alumnus Zach Carroll understands the value of hard work and the willingness to go above and beyond for a career he is passionate about. Bold and hard-working, Zach has pushed himself to not only learn new skills quickly and take a chance on a career he loves but to find build that career as a successful front-end engineer at one of New York tech’s household names—Jet.com.
Zach graduated from Cornell University’s Applied Economics and Management undergraduate program in 2011, where he concentrated in finance and entrepreneurship. Following his graduation, he accepted his first job at a global investment bank on Wall Street where he worked as a risk management analyst.
Two years into his Wall Street career, it struck Zach that he didn’t want to continue on his current trajectory. Instead, he wanted to try his hand at an innovative, tech-driven company. Despite this initial enthusiasm, Zach soon realized that changing career paths might not be that simple.
"After speaking with a bunch of people in the industry, I realized that I didn’t have the background that would make this sort of transition easy."
When he started looking into skill-building programs, he found that unlike traditional coding-only bootcamps, Zach found that our full-time program at Startup Institute offered the balance between technical skills development and a wider set of qualitative skills that he was seeking. He enrolled in our web design track because he wanted to learn how to code with a focus on front-end development.
Quickly, Zach found that his experience in excel modeling and data visualization from his days as an analyst were transferable skills, on top of which he could build his new coding skills. This background in excel modeling and its parallels in terms of logic, coupled with his commitment and drive to succeed, helped him in his early days of writing code.
“The first few times I wrote code and watched as it actually created something tangible online was so empowering, and really just fun,” Zach told us. “I’m so glad I tried it out because I still get that same feeling now, years later.” He loved the idea of building something he could visualize, especially the intellectual challenges involved in with combining this creativity and design with software development in an ever-changing digital landscape. He didn’t just complete the curriculum—he threw himself into it.
“If you want to learn a new skill, the only way to do it is to practice, to study, to learn, and keep pushing. Progress doesn’t usually happen linearly,” Zach explained to us. “That means that you need to stay motivated and keep pushing, even when it feels like you are stuck. Hard work does pay off. Startup Institute showed me that firsthand.”
Zach attributes this willingness to struggle through new material and push beyond what he learned with his instructors as the number one reason for his success coming out of the program. Upon graduating, Zach got hired by early-stage company Hukkster as the sole front-end developer. He joined the team as a junior engineer, but quickly developed a reputation for this work ethic and aptitude to learn on his feet, mastering new technologies with little guidance.
A year later, e-commerce company Jet.com (recently acquired by Walmart) recruited Zach to join their team as a front-end engineer, where he’s been building ever since.
"I love building things that people use every day. I love the experience of taking a static mockup or wireframe, and turning it into a real, usable and interactive product.
Taking eight weeks out of the workforce to try something new ended up being the single most valuable thing I’ve done for my career. I learned an entirely new skill set and was able to transition into a new field. The knowledge that this is possible has given me the confidence to know that I can make this kind of switch, that I’m not locked into a particular field just because I happen to be there now. Startup Institute gave me the confidence to never feel stuck down a path that doesn’t excite me career-wise."
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