In high school, Rafael Alvarado was interested in tech but he wasn’t sure if it was the career for him. He came from a big Latino family used to working in hands-on, labor-intensive fields like automotive repair and construction, so he followed a similar path. While working as an auto repair technician at BMW, Rafael was intrigued by autonomous vehicles. When the COVID pandemic hit and repair shops went on lockdown, he decided it was the push he needed to pursue his dreams. He would be the first person in his family to earn an associate’s degree and the first to pursue a tech career.
At the start of the pandemic, Rafael landed a job at an Amazon sort center in Tracy, California. He worked part-time while pursuing an associate’s degree in computer science at Las Positas College. After graduating, he applied for hundreds of software engineering jobs but didn’t have any tech industry connections and couldn’t get his foot in the door with an interview, even with all the side projects he’d been working on and the programming languages he’d taught himself.
A short while later, he found out about Springboard’s Software Engineering Bootcamp, offered through Amazon Career Choice, an education and skills training benefit that empowers employees to learn new skills for career success at Amazon or elsewhere.
Since starting the course in February, Rafael spent 10 hours a week studying at Springboard while working part-time at Amazon. He recently finished the course at the end of October. This June, Amazon promoted him to an IT support engineer position at its fulfillment center in Stockton, California.
My family moved from the Bay Area to Tracy, California, in early 2020 and bought a house. When the COVID pandemic hit, many people lost their jobs. One of the safest jobs I could find was working at Amazon. I applied for a job as a package sorter at my local Amazon warehouse, working the night shift. I chose this job because it was flexible, and I wanted to return to school. I already knew I wanted a tech career, so I pursued an associate’s degree in computer science at Las Positas College.
I finished my associate’s degree while studying and working part-time. After a year at Amazon, I was promoted to Tier 3 warehouse associate. That’s when I discovered Amazon Career Choice.
I’d received pamphlets from HR, and they would post notifications about it, but I never dove deep into it. Then, a colleague in the same department recommended I look into it because there were education options for multiple career paths.
He was enrolled in a software engineering program. After 90 days of employment at Amazon, any employee can qualify for Amazon Career Choice. The website was easy to navigate. It shows what career paths are available and what courses are being offered.
Since high school, I already had this idea that I wanted to work in tech, but I didn’t actively pursue it. So, I became an auto repair technician at BMW because I liked cars. I completed the Service Technician Education Program (STEP) and got my certification within one year.
While working there, I noticed that autonomous vehicles were trending, which reignited my interest in tech. When the car dealership closed during COVID, and I was out of work, I thought, “This is a good time to try something new.” Tech was always my first love, and I came back to it after bouncing around and trying different jobs.
After graduation, reality hit me like a truck. After all the sacrifices I’d made working nights and going to school during the day, I was excited to see the fruits of my labor by actually landing a job in tech. I applied to 500 jobs but didn’t land any interviews. It was tough because I’d sacrificed so much over the last two years, and I felt like it was worthless. For an entire month, I took a break from applying for jobs. That’s when I got promoted to Tier 3 warehouse associate at Amazon and learned about Amazon Career Choice and the Springboard courses.
I don’t have any family members in tech, so it was rough. Coming from a Latino background, working in the tech industry isn’t very traditional, so I’m taking a different path. Traditional careers in my culture are typically hands-on roles like construction and automotive.
I’m always trying to keep up with the market and keep my skills up-to-date. I usually try out free apps to study Python. I read a lot of articles on Feedly (a tech news aggregator) and watch tutorials on YouTube.
I started my Springboard Software Engineering Bootcamp in February. I usually spent 10 or more hours per week on the course. I liked that it was remote, with a flexible schedule. While studying for my associate’s degree at Las Positas College, the classes were online, but I had to have my camera on during Zoom calls and show up for lectures at specific times.
I like the flexibility of setting my own pace. I’ve had a really positive experience with Springboard. The mentorship is the main reason I chose Springboard—having someone by your side to guide you and show you what’s out there is so important, especially coming from a non-traditional background.
My mentor was Ngoune Kenfack Nguetsa [digital consultant at MBOA Digital]. He is very kind and gave direct feedback, which helped me think critically. He was always supportive, on time, and good at explaining complicated concepts in simple terms. He was more than just a mentor—it’s like having an online friend or pen pal. A good mentor is not just someone who grades your work; they truly care about your success.
The career-focused units were my favorite because I learned how to do informational interviews. I’d never heard of that. I didn’t know you could approach random people in your industry and say, “Hey, can I talk to you for 15 minutes?”
There’s still a learning curve for me when it comes to making connections, but I love having this new skill.
I just finished the course at the end of October.
I’d like to stay at Amazon. I’ll either apply for jobs internally or take another course through ATA and get promoted again. I’ve been applying for other jobs at Amazon. I would also like to pursue my bachelor’s degree, which I could do for free through Amazon Career Choice.
In five years, I would like to be a front-end developer working remotely. Maybe I’ll be relaxing on an island and drinking from a coconut. My dream is to combine my love for tech and cars by working with autonomous vehicles at a company like Tesla or Lucid Motors.