Going All the Way: How Kyle Armstrong’s Quest for Knowledge Led Him from Mechanical Engineer to Front-End Developer

For Kyle Armstrong, halfway just won’t do.

His desire to go all in was what led him to the University of Utah Professional Education Coding Boot Camp. And it’s still powering him today as a front-end developer. But Kyle’s coding journey started long before that—prior to enrolling in the boot camp, he was a mechanical engineer.

Finding the courage to take a different path

In college, Kyle was drawn to math, physics, and the science of building things. Putting all those pieces together, he decided to pursue a career in mechanical engineering. It wasn’t until late in his college education, when he started taking a few programming classes, that Kyle realized he liked programming too—and that maybe he was in the wrong major.

“I really liked how quickly you could think of an idea and program it into something. There is a very fast payoff to your work. Mechanical engineering often takes much more time to see your hard work payoff,” Kyle said.

With his newfound love of programming, Kyle started to reassess his options. But he didn’t want to switch his major so late in the game. Instead, he thought he would try for a career in robotics or something similar, where he could combine his knowledge of mechanical engineering with his passion for programming.

After graduation, Kyle got a job as a controls engineer working on water treatment plants and HVAC control systems. Slowly but surely, he managed to build programming into the role, teaching himself simple coding skills in order to perform his job more efficiently.

But Kyle wanted more. Switching his major had seemed impossible in college, but out in the professional world, Kyle was seeing a different story. “I saw that people switch careers quite a bit and that gave me the motivation to do the boot camp and change career paths,” he said.

When Kyle heard about the University of Utah Professional Education Coding Boot Camp—the school he’d graduated from—his next step became clear.

Taking baby steps

Kyle had no illusions about the boot camp being easy. He knew it would take a high level of dedication to balance the demands of his coursework with a full-time job—and with his growing family, including two kids, with another on the way.

But Kyle quickly discovered that his basic programming experience put him a step ahead of the other students. He also discovered he could do more than just balance his separate lives: he could interweave them. Building on his experience as a parent, Kyle and his classmates developed a boot camp project called Baby Steps. The program allowed parents to track their child’s progress, “kind of like a Baby’s First Year scrapbook,” Kyle said. Through the project, he gained a better handle on React—and he had fun.

Even with his background in basic programming, Kyle sometimes felt overwhelmed by all the knowledge he had yet to learn. He worried that, as a mechanical engineer who’d started programming later in life, he’d never reach the level of other developers.

But then he talked to his boot camp instructors and T.A.s. “They were able to help me understand that, even with how much knowledge and success they have, they themselves have a lot to learn and understand. Everybody is at a different level and is on their own journey to learn what they need to,” Kyle said.

Kyle’s next step was to find a great programming job.

To web development—and beyond

After using his boot camp projects to build an impressive portfolio, Kyle landed a job at SendOutCards: an online platform that lets people send physical, customized cards to their friends and family.

As a front-end developer, Kyle is currently helping the company build a component library. “That’s been a fun and exciting experience,” he said. Never one to settle for halfway, though, Kyle knows his journey is far from over.

He hopes to continue as a developer for a few years, then work up into a management position. “I really like overseeing and knowing the whole process: understanding what customers need, what we could do to help that. So I would like to be a person that could make those decisions,” Kyle said.

He also has a dream of starting his own company. Clearly, whether it’s baby steps or a sprint, you can’t hold this programmer back from achieving his goals.

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