“Never in My Wildest Dreams”: How One Sales Manager Became a Full Stack Developer at IBM

For those with a passion for technology, landing a job with IBM is a dream come true—but getting there can seem impossible. That’s why gaining access to the right educational opportunities can make all the difference.

It did for Jason Warner. Just a year ago, Jason was working as a branch manager for an environmental solutions service in Texas. But he had ambitions to achieve something bigger. “I wasn’t feeling challenged,” he said. “I realized that if I wanted to reach my goals, I needed to make a change.”

For him, that change would happen thanks to the Southern Methodist University Coding Boot Camp.

Mapping out goals leads to a lightbulb moment

For the past decade, Jason was working in sales, but he had larger aspirations. “At a certain point I needed more,” said Jason. He realized that if he wanted a more fulfilling career, he needed to take action.

So, pencil in hand, he sat down to map his passions with coinciding career paths. Immediately, it became clear that technology took center stage. Jason had dabbled with coding in high school and college and loved it—and the prospect of returning to the field excited him. It was just a matter of how to get there.

He started researching options online and quickly realized that a short-term, part-time boot camp was the way to go. In a stroke of destiny, he came across the Southern Methodist University Coding Boot Camp. Located halfway between his home and office, SMU was easily accessible, allowing him to continue working full-time. Now, it was just a matter of budgeting time for class, as well.

Boot camp kicks into gear—but he’s not alone

Going into the boot camp, Jason was surprised to find that his classmates were far from homogenous: they were of all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds. Despite their differences, they were united by their common goals and ambitions.

“We were able to lean on each other, learn each other’s story, and relate. It’s a rigorous course, but we were in it together,” said Jason.

The course was intensive. Over 24 weeks, the curriculum covered key programming and skills and technologies to prepare students to compete in the job market—and Jason dove in headfirst. For weeks, he spent nearly every available hour either in class or at home working on assignments. Despite the time commitment, Jason said the challenges were rewarding. “As my grandfather always said: if you’re not willing to put in the effort, you’re not going to get the results you’re looking for,” Jason said.

And he didn’t do it alone. His instructor and TAs made themselves available around the clock. “I would go to them with some very technical questions, and they were always able to help. I could tell they were devoted to helping me succeed,” said Jason.

Building a diverse portfolio—and picking up strategies for learning

Together, Jason and his classmates developed unique projects to build out their portfolios and put their new skills into action. For one group assignment, Jason and his team decided to build a complex program called L.I.R.I. (short for Language Interpretation and Recognition Interface) using Node.JS for command line JavaScript. Designed to bridge gaps of communication, L.I.R.I. could recognize a language and translate it easily.

Building L.I.R.I. was a pivotal experience for Jason; it showed him that group projects could be an opportunity to collaborate and create programs that can help users live and work better. But the best part of the group project was learning new strategies that will serve Jason in the long run.

“Being part of such a diverse student body taught me how to be a true team member: learning when to step up, when to step back, and how to relate to each individual—and the team as a whole,” said Jason.

Dream big, then work for something even greater

After earning his boot camp certificate from SMU, Jason applied for his dream job: a full-stack developer position at IBM. And he landed it.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Jason. “Never in my wildest dreams did I believe I would get a job with IBM. I’m fortunate, and I think really I’m excited to expand my foundation even more.”

Jason set lofty goals. But thanks to the boot camp, he’s ready to reach even greater heights.

“I’m going to have the opportunity to work with really smart people on key frameworks that will drive our future. I want to be at the forefront of building apps and products that affect people’s lives on a daily basis.”

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