This Udacity graduate’s unconventional career path led to success as an Android Developer, and included three years as a world-traveling street performer!
If I told you a student created their career out of magic, you might think I was speaking in metaphor, but with John Bono, it’s actually true! John’s parents both work in tech, and for many years he was absolutely sure that he didn’t want to follow in their footsteps. He spent a long time trying jobs in very different industries—the military, poetry, and, yes, magic—before finding the role that truly suited him…in tech! His journey will show you that even the most unorthodox of paths can ultimately lead to career success.
John’s career journey began with a role as a cryptologist in the US Navy, translating intelligence communications. After six years, he moved to the National Security Agency (NSA), where he translated Farsi, and focused on geolocation.
He ultimately left the NSA, and decided to try and earn a psychology degree. That proved not to be the right long-term path for John either, and he left the program, electing to return to his native Florida to rethink his plans. There, he decided to take an incredible career turn—becoming a street performer, reciting his own poetry! He performed across the state, and then spent nearly three years traveling around the world.
His “magic” career moment happened in February 2017, after John returned to the US. A concerned question from his mother about what he was doing with his life caught him off guard, and “I’m working on a magic show!” suddenly didn’t feel like a very good answer. The real answer was that he’d been avoiding a more “conventional” career in technology because he didn’t like that it was what was expected of him.
John started thinking seriously about the roles that seemed truly appealing, and realized that working on websites or apps really did interest him.
“I found the idea of working as an app developer especially interesting. I’d seen on sites like Glassdoor that Android Developer roles scored really highly for satisfaction and salaries, which convinced me it was worth pursuing. I started looking for programs where I could build Android skills, and that’s when I found Udacity.”
John signed up for Udacity’s Android Basics Nanodegree program. He liked the program’s focus on practical, work-related skills, and was motivated by seeing the tangible outcome of his projects on his smartphone’s screen. He also found that the program’s structure, and the personalized mentorship he received, helped keep him keep focused on completion through more challenging parts of the course.
John stayed on track, and completed the program. He immediately signed up for the intermediate Android Developer Nanodegree program, and continued his immersion in Android; building a portfolio of work to show recruiters, and learning the job-ready skills that app developers use in their roles.
“I truthfully struggled with the part of the program where I had to work on my resume, even though it was ultimately really useful. I think if I hadn’t been forced to focus on it, I might have fizzled out and considered returning to the magic act!”
His resume now showed a lot of relevant app development skills, but his challenge was identifying why his unconventional work history should put him ahead of other qualified developers. He focused on the analytical skills he’d built through his intelligence work, and the creativity and communication skills he’d refined during his street performing years. He also tied his experiences together, showing he had repeatedly demonstrated the confidence and ability to succeed in different roles. It was an approach that paid off when he interviewed with his future employer.
“I think that part of what got me my current job was being interesting—I’d lived already and I’d had a lot of different experiences that I’d learned something from. They could see I had the passion and technical knowledge for the job, and I think the broader skills I brought from my past experiences were a true added value.”
John’s Udacity capstone project was also an important reference point during his interview. He’d created an Augmented Reality app that allowed a user to point their phone at streetscapes and toggle information about different businesses. The range of skills he’d developed while building it went far beyond the role’s job description, and the project clearly demonstrated his initiative, and willingness to push his own boundaries.
“My capstone allowed me to gain experience on things like software patterns. They weren’t prerequisites for the role I was going for, but were certainly “nice to haves” the recruiters were really keen to hear about! It showed I’d committed to learning far more than just the essential skills they required.”
John took a role with a company in Dallas, Texas, turning down interview offers with eBay and PayPal in the process. He is now working on an app related to vehicle navigation and electronic logging for heavy trucks. He is loving the experience, and is independently learning further programming languages and skills while he tackles his new workload.
Thank you, John, for sharing your unique story! Your experience shows you don’t have to follow a “conventional route” to find career success. You learned from every part of your eclectic experience, then found an educational approach that supported you to build the skills for an amazing tech career. While your new job wasn’t pulled magically from a hat, your success has still left us in awe!