Cashier to Coder: Gail in St. Louis

Cashier to Coder: Gail in St. Louis

Moving Out of a Job and Into a Career

A year ago, I was a supermarket cashier with a bachelor’s degree in English. Today I’m a programmer for Express Scripts — a Fortune 22 company.

 

An educational nonprofit called LaunchCode changed my life. LaunchCode provides learning resources and job opportunities in technology, all at no charge to its students. When I found out about the organization, I was taking classes at St. Louis Community College, but my associate’s degree in software development was a long way off. LaunchCode jumpstarted my tech career and guided me to Express Scripts.

LaunchCode jumpstarted my tech career and guided me to Express Scripts Click To Tweet

My mom recommended LaunchCode after she heard about it on the radio. I kind of brushed it aside because at the time they were just connecting employees with potential candidates. Then I found out that they were teaching a Python class. I knew a little bit about Python, which is a good language for beginning developers, but I wanted to find out more. The class also taught web essentials, and I wanted to learn about that too.

I applied to LaunchCode and passed the screening tests, which look for aptitude and problem-solving ability, not computer knowledge. In July 2016, I enrolled in LaunchCode’s coding class, LC101. Like all of LaunchCode’s courses, LC101 was free.

Thanks to LaunchCode, I don’t need the degree for my current job, but I like to learn, and I like to finish what I start.

It came with a bonus, as well: I earned 12 credit hours at St. Louis Community College, helping me stay on track to earn my degree by the end of next year. Thanks to LaunchCode, I don’t need the degree for my current job, but I like to learn, and I like to finish what I start.

LC101 was intense, and it moved at a brisk pace. For 20 weeks last year, I spent six hours a week in class. Outside of class, I spent up to 15 hours a week reading assigned materials, watching videos and working on practice exercises and coding assignments. By the end of the course, I knew Python and Java, another programming language, and I could build simple web applications and write code.

By the end of the course, I knew Python and Java, another programming language, and I could build simple web applications and write code.

When I completed the class, LaunchCode worked with me to find a job. That’s where Express Scripts comes in.

Express Scripts needed Pega developers, but they’re in short supply. The company reached out to LaunchCode which created a short Pega class and identified a group of us as potential candidates. I was selected to take the class — and when I finished, Express Scripts hired me as an apprentice. When my apprenticeship ended, I became a regular full-time employee.

Getting hired at Express Scripts allowed me to quit the supermarket, and I love being here. I’m a problem solver, which is what a programmer does. I also was able to start helping out at LaunchCode, as a teaching assistant for LC101. They pay me for my time, but I’m so grateful to LaunchCode, I would do it for free.

 

This article was originally published in Express Script’s internal Newsletter.

 

///  Gail is just one of many dedicated, hard-working LaunchCoders. Tell us what your company needs are and meet hand-picked talent just for you to take your tech team to the next level!