My name is Heriberto Roman, I am 34 years young and working towards being a Software Engineer. I was born in the Bronx and grew up in East Harlem “El Barrio” for most of my life. There was a small stint living downtown on 72nd street when my pops was a super at 253 West End Avenue, I also worked as a Doorman and Porter in that same building.
I ended up going to elementary school in East Harlem and then attended Smith HS in the boogie down South Bronx. Fast forward to my college years, I jumped around from school to school. Katherine Gibbs (briefly studied computer science), Lehman College, University of Bridgeport then eventually graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) with a Bachelor's degree in Communications.
It was during my freshman year at ECSU when I was involved with student organizations that my awareness of bureaucracy in the higher education system increased. This point was an important piece of my journey, where my environment at the time drove me to learn how to sell myself amongst a sea of professionals and other motivated students. As a result, I met my mentor, Walter Diaz who later became my employer at a startup company: LatinosinHigherEd.com
Starting off at LatinosinHigherEd as an intern was a unique experience. My first day on the job was at a tradeshow at the NASPA conference in Florida, Talk about coming in with a bang!! I had no freaking idea what I was doing (sounds familiar my fellow developers?), I was responsible for promoting the job board to recruiters looking to hire Latino/a Faculty, Staff or Administrative candidates. You would assume that given the amount of anxiety and stress, one would go into a panic mode. I didn't panic, actually, I flourished-under pressure.
Why? because I took some time out to research attendees in the conference who were key role players and who I thought was imperative to network. I literally had 5 pages of documentation stuck up on the back of our tradeshow display with scripts, rebuttals and a Linkedin profile for each person
After a few years of attending conferences like NASPA I started to involve myself in other ways I could contribute to LatinosinHigherEd. Going from intern to VP at a startup sounds like a big deal but it really was just a title change, it didn't change much in terms of the day to day role. It just meant that I had a bigger voice in the direction of the startup.
Given the competitive nature of running a job board I started to figure out ways we could enhance LatinosinHigherEd.com. Then I quickly figured out how expensive adding functionality to a website could become. That's where my interest in coding was rekindled from my previous days at the Katherine Gibbs School.
Working with clients provided me with customer validation and understanding of what the site was lacking. So I took a long hard look at the site at the time and started to build wireframes that addressed some of the client's concerns. From that point on, it was only felt natural to get back into learning how to code, so my good friend Milton Jackson former developer at ESPN and lead developer at LiHE allowed me access to the site via FTP and then I started to play with the front end of the site during "off hours" via Dreamweaver.
During my position as VP of LatinosinHigherEd, I had the opportunity to address bugs and tickets that allowed me to change the front-end of the site, most of which Milton passed down to me. After a few months of doing basic HTML and CSS changes I experienced an epiphany….the "aha moment".
It just hit me, I literally told my self "you can do this for a living, there has to be more to this". That's when I decided to take it to the next level and embark on a new coding journey. On January 1, 2014, was the day I decided to take the first leap in teaching myself to be a true Software Engineer. A few weeks later, Milton offered me the opportunity to get my feet wet and took me on as a Web Developer Intern with his startup called PicsSpotr. I focused on developing email templates, marketing collateral, internal documentation as well as some landing pages. Shortly after my internship ended, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a new project to work on or technology to learn. So…
I set out a plan on how to achieve great coding goodness, I set out a timeline of 3 years to learn how to code professionally and accomplish a full career. So what did I do the next day? Take on a freaking freelance project! WHAT! WHY?
My good buddy TJ Green who owned a barbershop in Ansonia CT, by the name of Diamond Cutz needed a site for his customers and barbers to communicate. I immediately thought it was a simple project to take on and looking back I was only two days into coding and I was in for a treat of frustrations and long nights.
The decision was made to write the simple front end site in HTML and CSS with some functionality to make appointments via a contact form built in PHP. I struggled to get the job done and found myself living in Stackoverflow and other support communities. After a few weeks of searching, it just wasn't enough, I realized I needed to take a step back and learn basic core programming concepts.
I decided to try the Thinkful front-end course and spend 3 months with a mentor learning basic front-end programming. On the meetup side of things I found an amazing meetup group called A100- a meetup for aspiring developers to learn how to code. A100 is also an apprentice program for developers to work with local entrepreneurs to build MVP for local startups. The A100 scene was awesome, I met all types of developers with different levels of programming abilities. A few months later, I wrapped up the Thinkful front-end course and after trying to convince myself I could hack it, I finally decided to put an application in for the A100 Apprenticeship program.
Run! is what I wanted to do when I cracked open the A1oo coding challenge. I immediately started to question my programming and problem-solving abilities, which, I think we call the imposter syndrome. However, with the help of the Thinkful course and short stint as a freelance developer I was able to muster up some 'cojones' and complete the coding challenge. I got half of the questions right and earned a chance to interview with a few of the A100 site managers for consideration. Ultimately, I earned my spot as an Apprentice for the Summer 2015 Cohort in Stamford with the A100 program, and boy I felt like I was on top of the world!
I was so excited to finally be a part of a development team and prove to myself that I can do this. A few weeks into the A100 program, we covered HTML, CSS, Meteor, MongoDB, and the Agile Methodology. Eventually, they broke us down into teams in order to prepare us to build an MVP for a local entrepreneur. Shortly after, we broke into our teams to learn more about each other's technical abilities and get a sense of the culture fit.
It was then when I realized that I was one of two Apprentices that didn't come from a traditional CS background. By default, I started to question my abilities again, specifically how much of a contribution I was able to provide to the team's codebase given the lack of CS and programming knowledge I had compared to the other Apprentices with CS majors. For a good week, I was in a rut and found myself scrambling to look for additional resources on how to build a full-stack application. I was in panic mode for sure.
However, its usually times like these that I tend to flourish, I pushed myself to learn quickly and respond even faster when it came to bugs or simple implementation of a new feature. I was able to stay afloat and keep up with the other Apprentices on my team and contribute code and apply my soft skills. Thanks to teammates like Michael Solati who I spent a few long nights virtually coding and debugging to complete our user stories and deploy on time. Ultimately, we built a sports fantasy league service focused on social communication called Fantasy Squared.
In addition, the A100 program required us to present our own final project. I teamed up with a fellow Apprentice and good friend Joe @Eindacor_DS. We both buckled down and built one of my initial project ideas called Two Bits, a reservation management tool for barbershops and salons using Twilio's API.
On final demo day, Joe and I demoed the MVP of Two Bits to our peers, Apprentices, and hiring managers. Overall, my journey with A100 was captivating! It was a learning experience that I would forever appreciate.
I was so confident that I would land a job right after the program. Shortly after I graduated out of the A100 program, I went out on a hunt for my first role as a Developer.
After a great experience with the A100 program I ended up moving my family back to East Harlem NYC. I was confident that I could land a role as a Developer in NYC after going through the A100 program, but I quickly found out how much I didn't know. I also found myself on the unemployment line which truly was bad timing after my time at LatinosinHigherEd.com. However, I took advantage of that opportunity because being unemployed meant I had a lot of time on my hands and it was an opportunity for me to put 100% focus on leveling up as a developer. That's exactly what I did.
A few months later, A100 comes knocking on my door with an employment opportunity. The Apprentice program that I just graduated from a few months earlier offered me a role as a Site Manager. It felt surreal and nerve-wracking to be on the other side of the coin. Alongside the A100 team, I was responsible for managing 12 developers during my cohort as a Site Manager. We successfully built two MVP versions of a proprietary project called Listenable.
After a grueling 12 week Cohort, the Apprentices picked up a new framework called Meteor, MongoDB, getting acclimated with the Agile Methodology and staying up long hours, it was gratifying to see the Apprentices demo and the entrepreneur happy with their MVP. Everything came into full circle with the A100 program.
Working with the A100 program as a Site Manager felt like it was a step in the right direction It provided me with much needed Project Management skills. I had the opportunity to manage developers and entrepreneurs during the cohort and put Apprentices in a position to be hired by our partner companies. Working for A100 really put me in a position to take my next step in my journey.
After my time with A100 I was about two years into my plan in becoming a software engineer and making that full career switch transition. I once again found myself with an opportunity to level up with all the extra time I had. I took a long hard look back at the last two years and how much progress I made as a "developer in training" and came to the conclusion that the only next viable step was to go through a Bootcamp in NYC. I thought if I could graduate from a Bootcamp it would round out my experiences working in the startup and tech industry.
So that's what I did, I applied to a Bootcamp prep course with Hack Reactor and then applied to Thinkful Full Stack Immersive Bootcamp.