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Rapper-Turned-Soldier Now a Software Engineer

When Edgar Pabon started at Amazon Music as a software developer earlier this month, it began the latest chapter in what has been a life of charting his own path. His self-directed approach led him to six years in the military, starting his own business, two and a half years as a rapper, and eventually to Hack Reactor.

Pabon, originally from the Bronx, enlisted in the army during his last year of college, because it seemed like the best way to get what he wanted out of the next stage of life.

“I had three goals,” he recalls. “The first was to be a part of an organization that was bigger than myself. Next, I wanted to gain leadership experience. Third, I wanted to be able to travel. I wanted to be a part of the adventure.”

Edgar Pabon has been a rapper, soldier, entrepreneur, and is now a software engineer at Amazon Music.

Edgar Pabon has been a rapper, soldier, entrepreneur, and is now a software engineer at Amazon Music.

He ended up spending six years in the armed forces, three as a reserve and three in active duty. He lived in several locations around the U.S. and in Korea. He ascended to the rank of First Lieutenant, and had platoons of 16-25 soldiers under his command.

“The military is a very results-oriented environment,” Pabon notes. “With everything you have a mission. You have to get that done in any way possible. It forces anyone, regardless of your rank, to mature.”

Along the way, Pabon spent two years as a rapper. “People tell me my style was more conscious, like a Nas or a Common.” You can get a taste of Pabon’s style from his catchy song Still Walkin.

While in the military, Pabon got his first taste of coding. He started an e-commerce business that sold products to military personnel. He used an online platform, Shopify, to set up the website. As the business developed, he customized the site using HTML and CSS. On further exploration, he found that coding appealed to him because it allowed him to create something out of nothing. With this in mind, he applied to Hack Reactor.

This school has completely changed my life. It’s hard to imagine being an engineer without Hack Reactor. I can’t imagine I would have gained so much knowledge and understanding in a short amount of time in any other way.
— Edgar Pabon, software engineer, Amazon Music

While both Hack Reactor and the military require an extraordinary commitment, foster strong bonds between peers and nurture personal growth, Pabon found the two experiences to be very different.

“At Hack Reactor, we worked all the time, it was intense and emotional, but it was enjoyable all the way through. As opposed to being forced to stay until midnight [in the military], I found myself choosing to stay until midnight. That was a huge difference. I loved it.”

Pabon was inspired by the motivated, sharp, and diverse classmates he had at Hack Reactor.

“You come into a class surrounded by such brilliant people from a wide variety of backgrounds. You have people like me who were in the military. You have people in the Peace Corps. There’s those who worked in business development, sales, finance, and also lawyers. We had people from Germany and Korea. It’s fascinating. There was a student in our class who was 19, another who was 18. These were some of the smartest individuals I’d ever come across.”

After graduating, Pabon mentored the next cohort of Hack Reactor students in our Hacker-in-Residence apprenticeship program. From there, he contracted at Compgun, a sales management startup, founded by Hack Reactor alumni. He built new features in the Compgun software using React, d3, c3 and Less. After that, he targeted companies with a strong support structure that allow engineers to grow, which is how he ended up at Amazon Music. There, he hopes to continue his personal and professional growth.

“I’m taking it step by step for now. I want to become the best engineer that I can be, and I’ll be continuing that trajectory at Amazon.”

In a career of ignoring convention and finding the next best step at each life stage, Pabon credits Hack Reactor as the key accelerant and pivot point.

“This school has completely changed my life,” he says. “It’s hard to imagine being an engineer without Hack Reactor. I can’t imagine I would have gained so much knowledge and understanding in a short amount of time in any other way.”

Looking to propel your career and personal growth to new heights? Apply to Hack Reactor or any school in the Reactor Core network.

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