A veteran of the oil and gas industry, Geraldo Gomes is used to dealing with explosions. For 13 years, he grew accustomed to the high-stakes nature of working with dangerous heavy machinery, where one small mistake or miscalculation could cost him his life—or cost the company millions of dollars in unscheduled downtime or fines for violating safety regulations. Not only that, but he would spend a month at a time on a drillship (a vessel used for exploratory offshore oil drilling) in the middle of the ocean, far away from his family.
Now that he’s a software engineer who works at a computer from the comfort of home, he says nothing can faze him after the stress of his last job. Gomes is a backend software engineer at Affirm, a fintech company that partnered with Springboard and two other coding bootcamps to offer software engineering students the chance to train in real-world conditions, with the opportunity to land a full-time role at the end of the program.
“There's nothing in this job that can stress me out as much as I used to be in my last job,” said Geraldo. “You're comfy, you’re at home, your job is in front of a computer. There is no ‘explode’ button on your keyboard.”
Before starting the course, Gomes, whose native language is Portuguese, was concerned about studying software engineering in a foreign language, but he soon found that the curriculum and learning materials created by acclaimed Udemy instructor Colt Steele were very easy to follow.
“He makes things seem simple even when they are complicated,” said Gomes.
I started working in the oil field in Brazil when I was just 20 years old. I worked everywhere—the US, Russia, the Emirates, and several places in Central America. It was a very demanding and stressful job. If you make mistakes in this industry, you could lose your life because something could blow up. A drillship costs half a million dollars a day to operate. Say you make a mistake that causes four hours of downtime—that’s a loss of about $200,000. I used to work 13 hours a day, and the idea was that I would spend 28 days on the ship and 28 days offshore. But I was never home for 28 days.
I did two jobs. One was called measuring while drilling or MWD. I did real-time geological interpretation while we were drilling for oil. The company wanted to collect geological data about the area we were drilling, so I was responsible for handling the equipment that would perform those checks. They would bring the information to the surface and then I would create a graphic out of it, so the geologist could read it and decide if we should keep going or not.
My other job was working with equipment called managed pressure drilling. This is when you have to drill really deep down and there is a system that pressurizes the well so the walls don't fall. It's called well control, where you hold the pressure down on the walls of the well so they won’t explode.
Yeah. I was in a position where I was one of the first to know if an exploratory drill was successful because I was the one monitoring the data and giving the information to the geologist.
I always liked computers. There were parts of my job where I had to carry heavy equipment and work in the mud, but there were times when I would work with a bunch of computers, checking if everything was alright.
I was also tired of being away from home so much. When I was growing up, my father had a job out of town, so he would leave home on Monday and come back on a Friday, so I grew up having my father only on the weekends. Now that I'm thinking of having kids, I don't want to be away six months of every year.
I really like it. When I see my teammates stressed, I say, "Hey man, just breathe. Look at your feet. We're going to find a solution for this.”
I’m very lucky because I work with people who are aware that I'm learning, so they're always open to helping me. They have a very good culture of giving feedback, which makes it easy to know when I'm making mistakes and when I'm doing things right. So I'm really enjoying the opportunity I was given.
I’m a backend engineer and I work in the billings team. I work with Python. It was scary at first because I was afraid of doing things wrong, but with the knowledge that I got from Springboard, I was able to get going pretty fast. Since I'm on the billings team we are responsible for checking payment due dates for personal loans to see if people are paying on time. All the code that I touch is related to that.
When Affirm decided to launch an apprenticeship program, they did research on all the coding bootcamps and chose three of them to partner with, Springboard being one of them. When I was 90% done with the curriculum, I got a message from Jon Butler, [senior account executive of Employer Partnerships] at Springboard. He asked if I wanted to apply for one of seven open positions.
I wanted to find a way to stand out from the other applicants, so I went to the Affirm website and cloned the homepage—all the stuff that moves, the colors, and everything. I sent it to John and said, "Hey, do you think that is going to help me out with the interview?" and he said yes.
He sent it together with my application and they really liked it. The fronted position got filled, but they liked my project so much that they asked if I would be interested in a backend position. I said “Of course, I'm interested. I can do both." I did the interview on a Tuesday and they called me on Thursday to offer me the job.
I started by taking the Software Engineering Career Track Prep course. It’s supposed to be completed in one month—I did it in four days. During the full course, I had a really good mentor and a career coach who was Brazilian like me, so we would speak in Portuguese. It was cool to have someone who speaks the same language to help me with everything.
She showed me what I should focus on depending on where I was in the course, whether I was applying for jobs, doing interviews, or completing coding exercises.
Nowadays, my mentor sends me Skype messages from time to time just to say, "Man, I'm so happy we're both backend engineers." It was really fun. I never felt like I was in a position where I didn't have the tools to learn something.
When you have a good mentor, you feel like paying it forward. So if I land a full-time engineering role after I complete the apprenticeship, I want to mentor people who are in the apprenticeship program.
One thing that helped me a lot was making friends with the other students. We would go through an exercise together and discuss job search strategies, writing cover letters, or even just asking things like, "Hey, I'm stuck on this Python exercise. Can you help me out?" When I was working offshore, the internet connection was so bad that I couldn't just search for something online. Sometimes I would just send a message on the Slack group and I would receive some help there, instead of me trying to open a YouTube video that would take 40 minutes to buffer.
The second thing was having Colt Steele as an instructor. I speak Portuguese, and English isn’t my first language, so I was worried about not understanding things. But he makes things seem simple even when they are complicated.
You've got to find ways to stand out from the other candidates. For example, there was a company in Austin, TX, that I wanted to work for that specializes in password cracking.
So I created a small app that would calculate the time to crack a password and I sent it to them. Just take five minutes to read the company ‘About’ page on their website so you can tailor your application. The thing is when you're doing something you really like, time flies, so it's better to do the research and carefully which companies you apply to.
The best advice I’ve ever received is "Don't be a what-if person." Don't enter your old age with a bunch of what-ifs, like “What if I quit that job?” I had spent 13 years working in one industry, and switching careers was scary, but it didn’t even take me two weeks to realize I’d made the right choice.