by Alexander Bous
It would be an understatement to say that the bar of expectations were set high as the youngest of 4 to immigrant parents, who were also mechanical engineers. Eldest: Entrepreneur with several successful businesses; Second: Contract Law Lawyer; Third: Doctor of Neonatal Genetics; Fourth (Me): cooked since I was 15. Although the decision to make a career of cooking didn’t hit me for a few years, I had known that I did not want to follow the footsteps of my parents or siblings.
At the age of 19, I decided that I wanted to attend college at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Before I could finalize my decision, I knew I had to tell my parents. They reacted just as I thought they would. “What?! NO, NEVER! Never in my life did I ever think my son would become a cook.” Our family comes from a culture where there are three acceptable career paths: Doctors, Lawyers, and Engineers. Coming from a family where I already had a sibling fulfilling each of those roles, I felt that I had nothing to prove to anyone except myself. I ended up attending CIA and working in the industry for 15 years. Having held every role in a kitchen and marriage, including being a parent, I decided it was time to put my ego aside, think about what’s best for my family, and transition careers.
The Most Important Thing
Early on in my cooking career, I had a mentor that drilled a simple phrase into my head: “The most important thing in life is to figure out what is most important.” This simple saying spoke very loudly to me; how can you work towards a goal if you don’t know what the goal is? Every task I would work on in life would ring those words in my head; So what was most important to me? “A happy family and nothing else” is what I have defined as what is most important. Now it’s time to figure out how to get there.
The First Step: Codeup Open House
After spending too much time on autopilot, it was then that I realized the only thing keeping me in the restaurant industry was that it was the only thing I really knew. I needed to break the mold to be able to achieve the most important thing. Having always been computer savvy and a self-proclaimed problem solver, I soon realized that I was better with computers than I thought. It seemed to come more naturally to me than others, which was when I realized I needed to find a career that would allow me to use my skills in computers. There was only one clear answer for me, and that was Codeup. I spent time at their open house, and I was sold. Not only were they kind and caring individuals, but also extremely smart and talented developers and teachers. It seemed like the right answer.
The Second Step: “Good”
After getting through the admissions process and getting accepted, I decided to make the best of my decision to attend and set a plan of action to take in as much as possible. I made note cards, studied ahead, built random projects I found online, and ran code kata’s everyday. Sounds impressive, but I can assure you, there was much failure involved. If I was struggling, “Good” would tend to be my response because with failure comes the opportunity to get better; it meant that there was something that I needed to work on. As the difficulty level strengthened, so did the number of “Good” moments. There were moments when doubt and worry went through my mind as well. I was worried that I had made the wrong move. I turned to my classmates with the plea for help, they responded similarly as well. “What a relief,” I thought. It was good to know that I wasn’t the only one in class struggling because it made me realized I tricked myself into thinking that I was couldn’t do it.
Finding a Job with Only Cooking Experience
After graduating from Codeup and being fully aware of my imposter syndrome, I could not shake the thought of why someone would hire me. I would have to constantly remind myself that, with the skills I had from my previous work experiences and the new skills I learned over the past 18 weeks, I was more than capable. With the help of the Director of Product, Stephen Salas, I was able to find a job within one week of graduating.
Goal Achieved: Now What? Maintain and Gain Skills
I got the knowledge, got the job, and got the work/life balance. Now what? Now it’s time to continue to learn and advance with your newly learned skills. One thing I realized after going through the Codeup program was that there are a lot of similarities between learning to code and learning to cook. At first, basic skills require a lot of effort and struggle, but eventually they become second nature. After the basics are understood and the muscle memory is built, then comes the never ending list of more advanced skills. When people ask me what the best part of Codeup is, I tend to respond simply with, “they taught me how to learn”. I look at new projects that I am given and when I have no idea where to start, I say “Good”, another opportunity to get better.