Developer Stories: A Look at the Interesting Backstories of our Software Developers

Software August 8, 2019
#Developer Stories.

We tell a lot of #DataStories on the RTS Labs blog. But we haven’t told many #DeveloperStories. Which is too bad, because stories about our software developers are some of our favorite stories to tell!

Why? Because the beauty of becoming a software developer is that it is a viable career option no matter what your background is. All you need is training and tech savvy. We know this from firsthand experience because OUR software developers have some truly unique backstories.

In fact, some of our best software developers don’t have traditional tech backgrounds. And it is that diversity of experience that also brings diversity of perspective to the RTS Labs development team.

Wanted: Software developers with the right skills and the right mindset

It brings us great pride to employ so many talented software developers who come from so many different backgrounds. We intentionally focus on recruiting new talent and working with local youth to sing the praises of a career in software development. We also support groups, such as CodeVA, who teach computer science skills to kids in an effort to teach them the skills they’ll need for jobs in the 21st century.

Because you just never know where the next rock star software developer is going to come from. And, there is so much need across industries right now, which makes it an exciting, thriving industry to be a part of.

Ready to be inspired by the interesting backstories of some of the RTS Labs software developers?

Jonathon Alder’s artful approach to a developer career

Jonathon was really into art in high school and decided he wanted to pursue a career as an artist. He enrolled in art school at VCU and got through his junior year before realizing it wasn’t really what he wanted to do. He dropped out of art school and began the search for “something practical.” That lead him to auto mechanic school, where he lasted about two weeks.

“I started teaching myself programming, just trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and found out that I really loved it,” says Jonathon. “I went back to VCU in the Computer Science program and did really well up until I got to my junior year in that program. I maxed out my loans and wasn’t able to finish.”

Luckily, he found Maxx Potential, a company in downtown Richmond that offers career labs and apprenticeships for people looking to get into a career in software development. The apprenticeship program is similar to a coding bootcamp, but instead of you paying tuition, the company pays you to work on real projects for other companies as a contractor.

He heard about RTS Labs on the Richmond Developers Slack Channel, applied for a job, and was hired. He has been with us for exactly one year!

“It has been a pretty cool journey. I feel like RTS was the perfect place to land.”

As a part of the RTS Labs team, Jonathon works on the front end piece-to-custom applications. He works in the coding languages React, JS, and JavaScript, building great user experiences for our clients.

“I work on everything under the hood of what goes on in a UI,” Jonathon explains. “When I was at Maxx, I was a back end developer, but RTS Labs needed a front end developer. I didn’t know those languages but I learned them pretty quickly. RTS makes sure you’re comfortable learning and there are so many knowledgeable people here you can just ask. They point you to courses online and answer beginner questions.”

While Jonathon still enjoys art, he’s definitely found his calling in software development.

How Chris Clifton found a more hospitable career

Chris Clifton had been managing restaurants in Philadelphia for 10 years when he decided it was time to explore a new career path.

“I felt like I had gone as far as I was going to go in that career and was looking for something new, challenging, and interesting,” as Chris tells it.

He leaned towards the tech field, taking courses from Google that were geared towards tech support. Through those Google courses, he learned about the programming language Ruby and was sucked into it pretty quickly, learning more and more in his free time.

In 2018, he moved to Richmond and got a job as a bartender at the Quirk Hotel downtown.
One random afternoon, a gaggle of RTS Labs employees happened to show up at his bar.

“One of them made a software joke and I understood it and commented on it,” he recounts.

Turns out that someone was Jane Holmes from our Human Resources department. They told him all about RTS Labs and invited him to our next open house.

“I don’t think they thought I was actually going to come but I showed up, walked around, and talked to a bunch of the developers. Everyone was super awesome. A couple of months later, I applied for a job and they took a chance on me.”

Chris has been with us for four months now as a Ruby on Rails developer doing mostly back end work. He’s currently working on a Full Stack Rails project for a cybersecurity company.

Final word according to Chris, “It’s a great place to work – I work with an awesome team.”

Alicia Chafee: From one force to another

Alicia Chafee is a VCU alumna with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She became a private investigator when she got out of college. After realizing PI work was not going to be a sustainable career for her due to the demanding schedule, she moved on to become a Virginia State Police officer.

“Anyone who works in government knows it’s a tough job,” Alicia says. “There’s not very much room for advancement in the state police, so I started looking for a career that I could do forever – and enjoy forever. I wanted to do something new and be able to do it from anywhere.”

So, she Googled “Web Development.” It checked all her boxes of what she was looking for in a new career. That’s when she began taking online courses, watching YouTube videos, and reading blogs in order to obtain as many skills as possible.

“I was trying to find a way to get work without going back to school for four more years.”

She ended up getting an apprenticeship at Maxx Potential, where she gained experience using the skills she taught herself. Looking on the Richmond Developers Slack Channel, she saw that RTS Labs was looking for someone interested in learning Salesforce Development. She applied and got the job! Alicia has been working here now for seven months as a front end and back end Salesforce developer.

John Blackwell: Starting married life on the right foot

You may have already read John’s story on the Trilogy Education Services blog, but it’s just too good of a story not to include it here as well. Like Chris Clifton, John was tired of being in the restaurant industry. He had just proposed to his girlfriend and decided it was time to pursue a new career.

“Working nights and weekends was fun in my 20s, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do forever. My hours were not conducive to starting a family. It was time for a change.”

He signed up for a University of Richmond Coding Boot Camp and dove head first into the program – loving every minute of it. After working with the Trilogy career services team, he began applying for jobs. RTS Labs was where he landed – just three months after graduating and getting married. John has been with the RTS team now for one year, and we are so glad to have him.

The influence and strength of software developers with diverse perspectives

As you can see, RTS Labs recruits people from all types of backgrounds – people who think outside the box and who are driven to keep learning. Because technology is always evolving. So, having a mindset geared towards continuous learning is essential to being successful and staying ahead of what clients really need.

“Culture and opportunity are a huge part of the fabric that makes up RTS Labs. Success to me goes beyond revenue. It’s making an impact on people’s lives.” – Jyot Singh, CEO, RTS Labs

Our employees are our biggest asset, so by nurturing their talent and growth, we also nurture the values we want them and our company to reflect. When employees feel appreciated and intellectually stimulated, while feeling secure in their job and forming bonds with their colleagues, they produce outstanding results. Learn more about the unique culture at RTS Labs.