Five years ago, Andrew Williams set his mind on becoming a software engineer. Each step he took along his career journey over those five years brought him closer and closer to his end goal, until just last week when he was offered his dream job as a software engineer at Wayfair.
A combination of patience, grit, and a positive outlook helped get him there.
Williams’ journey from pre-med student to full-time programmer; from Florida to Boston; from student to leader is an inspiring one.
He started out his college years on the pre-med track, and eventually diverged and received a degree in natural sciences. He always had a knack for tech, he just didn’t know what to do with his talent. Williams remembers attending summer camp when he was young to learn how to build computers, and while in college, he dabbled in tech as a hobby and got a part-time job repairing cell phones. This ultimately set the stage for his first full-time job in IT doing repairs at a Microsoft store.
Not feeling 100% happy in his job, he took it upon himself to build his skill set by taking online classes in front-end development. This led to another job in IT working for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I was slowly building up a background in programming over time, but I still wasn’t outright qualified as a software engineer,” says Williams. “I was continuing my journey of getting closer to programming full-time, but not quite doing it.”
Enter Boston, land of tech opportunity.
Williams found an IT job at Wayfair where there was more opportunity to get his hands in programming. “I took another job in IT even though I was trying to get out of it at the time because I knew Wayfair was hiring software engineers.”
Around last April, he reached a point where he was ready for more. “I was getting tired of working specifically in IT and wanted to get to a full-time software engineering role. I Interviewed for their transition program called Wayfair Labs but didn’t get the job. I was close but not quite ready.”
That was a turning point for Williams who realized he needed something more to help him get to the next step.
“I found Startup Institute’s part-time program which was perfect because I liked Wayfair as a company and didn’t want to leave my job. Plus, I knew I was really close to reaching my goal and didn’t want to lose my relationship with Wayfair.”
Through the part-time program, Williams received the technical and cultural development that he needed. He credits his instructors and the team at Startup Institute for their willingness to listen to what their students need and “make it happen.”
In Williams’ case, he and a few other classmates were feeling uncertain about whiteboarding. Instructors responded immediately with an after-hours technical interview workshop. It paid off.
During his interview for software engineer, hiring interviewers at Wayfair asked him to whiteboard out the flow of data for an application he was building at Startup Institute. He nailed it this time.
“I don’t think I could have done that effectively before SI. I went from struggling to answer two questions in my first interview to being able to confidently come in and answer all of the questions with time to spare.”
Williams was offered the job, but he didn’t stop there.
Startup Institute’s part-time program includes a curriculum for students like Williams who plan to remain in their current job or company after the program. Instead of teaching them the skills they need to find a new job, the Corporate Innovations Track provides students the skills they need to navigate the corporate structure and get their ideas greenlighted. Students come up with an idea for the company they work for and make it come to life.
For Williams’ project, which is still in progress, he identified a pain point with the onboarding process at Wayfair. He found a way to automate the permissions process to make it more efficient and accurate. As a result, he is bringing value to his team by saving them approximately 14 hours per week. With two people working on this process, that saves the company over 1,000 hours of labor each year.
Startup Institute’s emphasis on building culture skills played a huge part in the anticipated final result of the project, according to Williams.
“Before SI, I never considered myself to be a leader. After having gone through this program I learned how to relate and communicate with others better which helped me step into a leadership role on my own team and coordinate a successful project.”
There’s a lot to be learned from Williams, who steps into his new role in a few weeks. One of the major takeaways he wants others to gain from his experience is to never feel helpless. “All you can do is make the best choices and positive changes that you can,” he says. “Keep moving closer to the ultimate goal and in the end, you never know what will present itself.”