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Marine Corps vet finance pro turned caretaker hero becomes software development engineer

Do it. If you enjoy it…It’s all about what you put in, and remember you’re learning the skill of software development. Take your time, learn that skill, and you’ll be fine,” Marine Corps vet, Rian Boren, assures future potential candidates debating on joining the TLG IT Careers Software Development Engineer (SDE) IT Pre-Apprenticeship.

Rian had a unique path into tech filled with plenty of unsuspecting twists and turns. They spent 8 years serving in the United States Marine Corps before working in finance as an Audit Assistant for Deloitte on big accounts serving companies such as Microsoft, HomeStreet Bank, and the Seattle Mariners. After Rian’s wife suffered from a health crisis, they transitioned into caretaking full time. During the full time work of caretaking layered with the pandemic hitting soon after, they contemplated how they’d like to eventually reenter the workforce. 

While taking the time to explore their options, Rian was studying for the LSAT and looking at law schools, working through some online coding classes, and started investigating what a Software Developer actually does. They began to look into their options on how to afford each of these paths and discovered VET TEC (Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses), which then routed them to TLG IT Careers. 

Rian knew from the start that they wanted to jump into software development over network development. They had worked with networking a little bit while serving in the Marine Corps and although they found both topics interesting, they decided the positions and the career progression of software development was more interesting to them. They saw it as not only a skill they could learn, but one that would allow them to be a bit more creative. So, they interviewed for the pre-apprenticeship and then waited almost a whole year for an SDE spot to open up. And, that patience paid off. 

After completing the SDE program, Rian began on-the-job training (OJT) with Amazon in April as a Software Development Engineer with the Kindle Direct Publishing where they’re currently working as an apprentice.

For the full scoop, read our interview with Rian to learn about their interview process, how a shift into a career in tech has changed their life, and their hesitations before joining the program.

What was your initial introduction into tech?

While I was auditing I got to learn about all the different contributors involved in filing financial statements, and I learned that the accounting software used by big accounting firms is often worked on internally. I was lucky enough to be on a team that had software developers attached and got to work with them to see what developers generally do, it was a field I was wholly unfamiliar with. I worked a lot in excel, ironically doing finances for Microsoft, when I had to leave to care full time for my spouse.

Did you have any hesitations about joining? If so, what were they?

I spent some time questioning if I was prepared enough, I’d heard the program was pretty intense.

What was the biggest challenge for you during the program?

Probably something I’m struggling through still, but the feelings of imposter syndrome. I’ve learned that it’s almost a feature of being in tech at this point, you can never learn everything, and I’ve proven myself time and again at this point so I’m improving. During the actual program though I was building a lot of the proof I often look back at now when gauging progress.

What did you enjoy the most during the program?

Honestly, the structured projects and working in the teams. There’s always the image of the lone coder, just them and the screen. But the best work is always made in collaboration, and the apprentice program really does attract some absolutely amazing people. And the instructors are part of that, no joke. I definitely struggled to get started by myself in conceiving how you could break down projects or work into bite sized software chunks. It was great to watch how these experts worked and learn from it.

How did you find balance with everything going on in your life and completing the SDE program?

Practice, and accepting some days or weeks just get out of balance. Giving myself a structure and developing some clear boundaries around when it’s time to work, and when it’s time to look at some trees. Making sure to schedule time away from the computer was a must, still is.

If you had one piece of advice for someone newly entering this program, what would it be?

Take a deep breath, try your best, and take it one day at a time. It can feel like so much, but time will never pass any faster, and there are plenty of jobs on the other side.

Could you explain what the interview process was like for you to find a job?

I went through a few interviews that were only possible because Karise Swainson (Placement Manager at TLG IT Careers) helped me learn what position I was searching for. Tech terms can feel like hieroglyphics at first, not to mention trying to find a place that was looking to hire an apprentice. It was often a few phone conversations with different stakeholders such as the recruiter and a hiring manager to talk about ‘fit’ before setting up some formal behavioral interviews.

Is there anything that you would have done differently on your path into tech?

I would have stuck with Javascript sooner. People will often have one programming language they’re most ‘fluent’ in, or to regularly practice or build in. I knew that I enjoyed Javascript syntax and project potential very early on, it would have done me some good to pick it sooner.

Why did you decide to work with Amazon?

I was the only pre-apprentice in my cohort with TLG and was blown away by the quality of my classmates, all of whom worked with Amazon. After completion of the course, I was interested and got in contact with some managers in the Apprentice program over at Amazon. They had an apprentice position on a team that felt like a perfect fit, and it was decided from there.

How has shifting to a career in tech changed your life?

I’m still settling. I always knew I liked technology, and building stuff, and working hard, but am regularly surprised at how a good environment can alter everything, and this career has provided me a situation where I am working in that good environment and can start to build that good environment for myself. Working remotely is pretty normal in this field, which is a godsend for my situation. I also recently got a Roomba, Roombas are life changing.

Is there anything surprising to you about working in tech that you didn’t expect? If so, what?

That a ‘thinking’ job is different from what I expected. Don’t get me wrong, a job is a job, and my job in the military was also mentally demanding. But I need to make sure I schedule exercise and time outside of my house now. It feels strange to keep going back to the same problem day after day, and be able to tell when your brain isn’t working as well. 

What’s in your future? Future goals, etc?

The current goal is to focus on the present. I am an apprentice now, and I know some of the skills I would like to improve on, so I’m taking the time to regularly practice those.


Congratulations, we are so happy for you, Rian. We will continue to cheer on your continued future success in tech!

To learn more about your options with TLG IT Careers, visit our site or schedule a meeting with one of our Educational Consultant to discuss your unique needs and to determine if an IT apprenticeship or IT pre-apprenticeship is right for you!