David LeWine: From Commercial Fisherman to Teacher to Software Engineer at Jana

Former math teacher David Lewine made a career change from education into software engineering

After a bit more than a year at the job, I’m still learning new things all the time and I have a sense of a lot of open possibilities that will afford continuous opportunities for learning new things — I still don’t know where this adventure will take me in the next few years, but I feel like the possibilities … will be fun, satisfying ones, and I like the sense that I am still in the midst of an adventure. —David Lewine, software engineer at Jana

I am still in the midst of an adventure —David Lewine, #fisherman, #teacher, software engineer Click To Tweet

David LeWine has always had a “why not” approach to life. While he was waiting to hear back from the law school, a friend convinced him to get a job as a longliner fisherman off the coast of Alaska. He spent a year going out to sea for four to five weeks at a time before turning his attention back to his law degree. During his second year, he found that his adventurous spirit and the thrill of fishing had gotten under his skin, so he left school and began working as a commercial fisher for the next decade.

Following his fishing career, David ventured back to New York City where he earned a high school teaching certificate and began teaching math at a public school in East Harlem. He leaned on his background in computer science to volunteer for his school’s robotics club. Soon enough, this experience inspired him to dive deeper into coding—he accepted a job at a private school in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he taught high-school level computer science, engineering, and chemistry over a 12-year teaching career.David LeWine: From commercial fisherman to #teacher to #softwareengineer @Jana Click To Tweet

While teaching at the private school, David found himself growing more interested in creating software tools for his students than in the actual teaching. It was this passion, coupled with his drive to have new experiences, that led him to ask himself, Why not try software engineering as a full-time career? Soon, he found himself in our full-time web development program.

In retrospect, David acknowledges that someone in his same shoes could have accomplished a similar career change from education without enrolling in a coding bootcamp, but it would have taken a level of perseverance and self-motivation he says he couldn’t have sustained on his own.

I needed the structure; I needed a task-master at times; I needed the Startup Institute network and I needed to immerse myself—through the group project at a Startup Institute partner company, the fireside chats, and the community of fellow students across all four skills tracks—in order to really be able to grasp what it was I was trying to do. I needed all of that in order to take the steps to accomplish the career change I initially envisioned.

I needed structure + community to make my #careerchange to #softwareengineering, says David Lewine Click To Tweet

David choose the web development course because it most directly applied to his existing skills and his career goals, but what attracted him to our web development course in particular was the chance to work closely to students in other the skills tracks—web design, digital marketing, and sales and account management. He explains that the support he received from the Startup Institute community at large was a huge contributor to his positive experience in the program. “It gave me a real sense of well-being and a sense that I was doing the right thing in taking the leap and trying to make a career change from education,” he told us. “[The community] made the anxiety and self-doubts I think we all felt much easier to bear.”

While David’s career trajectory had taken him from the seas of Alaska to the classrooms of East Harlem, he says that these experiences fully prepared him for his current position as a software engineer at Jana. His relentless drive gained from being a fisherman, and leadership knowledge acquired as a teacher, have both proven to be effective, transferrable skills into his new career.

The work ethic I assimilated as a fisherman included never leaving the work deck until the whole crew’s work was done.When you finished your job, you helped out whoever was still working on whatever they were working on. Being a teacher involves managing all of your students—keeping them motivated and on track with their work, giving them tasks that are challenging but within their capabilities, and giving support while demanding independence. I think this helps me work effectively with my managers.

A fisherman's #workethic + teacher's #leadershipskills help David Lewine as #softwareengineer @Jana Click To Tweet

David says that, particularly in web development, companies want to train you. Yet, they also expect people to learn quickly and independently. The work is challenging, but David has never been one to back down from learning something new. He explains that the knowledge and network he gained through our program, along with his diverse experiences, has prepared him to successfully overcome these challenges.

I feel fortunate to work at company where I have a great deal of respect for the quality of work and professional knowledge of my colleagues. They motivate me to excel in order to become a true peer of theirs.  When I began at Jana, my immediate challenge was to prove to myself that I could succeed at this new career.  As I gain more experience as a software engineer, I  notice my motivation shifting to a desire to exemplify virtues such as writing code that not only works but is good from the profession’s point of view.

My colleagues @Jana motivate me to write better #code, says David Lewine Click To Tweet

Want to transition your career into software engineering like David did? Download our web development syllabus to learn more about our full-time program.

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Christine spreads the Startup Institute magic as Marketing Manager. The lead editor in charge of The Whiteboard, Christine's main goal is that our media hub be a digital reflection of our remarkable community—celebrating lifelong learners, innovators, and difference-makers. An alumna of the full-time program, Christine transitioned her career into marketing after four years of teaching high school English in the US and in Thailand. She is an avid contemporary and jazz dancer, a lover of cheese, and believes wholeheartedly that a life without risk is a life without gain. She is always cold; if you stop to visit her at her desk, she'll have a blanket with her—guaranteed.


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