Iris Huang’s career change to Software Engineer Apprentice at Airbnb

Captivated by an interest in cryptocurrency, Hack Reactor graduate Iris Huang left behind her career in finance and entered the world of software engineering. Read about her time in our Intermediate Coding Bootcamp, what she’s up to now in her new role at Airbnb, and what advice she has for others looking to change careers.

What drew you to a career in software engineering?

My first encounter with software engineering was when I took a required class for my freshman year of college. It was an Introduction to Technology class related to business because I was majoring in accounting and finance at the time. When I was taking that course, I found myself really interested in the coding part of it, because I enjoyed logical thinking and the ability to see the results from coding right away. That gave me huge satisfaction.

However, I wasn’t fully devoted enough to switch majors or go after that career until later on when I got into cryptocurrency. That’s what brought me back to the route of software engineering because I wanted to learn more about cryptocurrency and its decentralization. That’s how I got into JavaScript, and that kind of paved the road to Hack Reactor later on.

Why did you make the choice to go to Hack Reactor specifically?

I’d love to answer this question from three perspectives.

  1. I’m really into seeing what the outcomes are, so I think Hack Reactor’s outcomes and results are spectacular. That’s what caught my eye at first.
  2. Second, I also have a friend who’s a Hack Reactor graduate, so I reached out to him and asked him for some advice and to hear about his experience with the program. He gave really high recommendations and praised the program a lot.
  3. Third, it was the program’s focus on practical frontend, backend, and full-stack projects. I wanted the ability to get exposed and have those projects on my resume. I was also interested in the computer science fundamentals being taught, as well.

What did you get out of your time in the coding bootcamp?

I think most important is the ability to learn new technologies and implement them quickly. Plus, the size of the projects was useful and helped with the job search.

What is your role at Airbnb? What kinds of projects are you working on?

Currently, I joined Airbnb through their Connect apprentice program. For a six-month period, they provide us the opportunities to get exposed to different projects and talk to various teams, and hopefully, at the end of the apprenticeship, this opportunity will convert into a full-time position with Airbnb.

Right now, I’m two months into the program. So far, I’ve worked on three different projects that cover the front end, back end, and then the mobile development side. During this process, I’m learning new programming languages such as Java, Kotlin, and Typescript, and I’m also working on some new internal libraries that Airbnb uses. It requires that I learn new technologies or programming languages really quickly, and be able to implement them and finish a project’s milestones on time. So, I see lots of similarities between what I did at Hack Reactor and what I’m doing now.

What do you like about your new role so far? What challenges have you run into?

What I really love about my current role is that I’m able to explore different technologies in a real-world setting. And that’s part of the challenge, too. For example, for our backend projects, I didn’t know Java, so I needed to learn it right away and use it to build some backend API requests. But I really love those challenges at the same time. I just enjoy learning different technologies; it’s very stimulating for me. And everyone I meet at the company has been really knowledgeable and helpful so I can thrive and grow.

What’s your work environment like? Are you in an office, or do you work remotely?

At Airbnb, we can basically work anywhere, so right now, I’m working remotely at home. But people also have the option of going to the office, as well, for people to meet each other. But mostly it really depends on each person. I actually live pretty close to the office. However, I do have colleagues who live in other states, and some are living a digital nomad’s lifestyle, so they’re traveling while working remotely.

This is your first software engineering job. How was the job search process for you?

I searched for a job for around five months. It was kind of a long time for me. When I asked for advice for the job search, I heard a lot about finding a support system that you can go in with – either your parents or your other half or your friends. And while that is important, I do feel like during that process, even though I had that support system, I felt the pressure on my shoulders and I was the only one to combat it at times.

So if others ever feel that way, too, I’d just say to persist. I believe that persistence will lead you to success. So if you persist, there will be a good result and light at the end of the tunnel.

Does any of your former experience in business and finance carry over into your new career as a software engineer?

Yeah, I do think so. I think it’s greatly helped with my project management and communication. For project management, I think it’s really helpful that I know to consciously set goals before I start a new project.

And communication is very important, but English is not my first language, so my communication skills got improved a lot from my prior experience, where I learned how to proactively ask for feedback and to ask questions.

Do you have any advice for someone who’s about to start their first day of the coding bootcamp? How can they get the most out of their experience?

I think you’re going to be nervous because it’s going to be lots of work and learning. But I think the most important thing for me or for anyone is to not forget to enjoy the process. During the learning process or when working on your projects, listen to yourself. If you find yourself really interested or drawn in by certain concepts or knowledge, I would say go ahead and give them a try. That’s how I made the most out of my experience.