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How I Got Here: Programmer Terrell Singletary’s path from pandemic layoffs to JPMorgan Chase

With his restaurant and sales work grinding to a halt, Singletary did what many of us said we'd do in the pandemic — learn new skills, in this case via coding bootcamp Tech Elevator.

Terrell Singletary. (Courtesy photo)

This is How I Got Here, a series where we chart the career journeys of technologists. Want to tell your story? Get in touch.

When Terrell Singletary moved to Philadelphia about two years ago, he launched his pursuit of a career in tech, enrolling in courses at Community College of Philadelphia while working in the restaurant industry.

He’d been scouted by a medical devices sales company and been offered a job, but when COVID-19 hit, that job dried up. With the job opportunity and restaurant work grinding to a halt, Singletary did what many of us said we’d do in the pandemic — learn new skills.

But while most were cooking viral TikTok recipes or launching home improvement projects, Singletary put himself through Tech Elevator’s 14-week software development bootcamp in Java. The recent grad just secured a programming position with JPMorgan Chase, which he’ll start at the beginning of March. talked with Singletary this month to learn more about his career journey. Some of the conversation has been edited for brevity or clarity.

### How did you learn about Tech Elevator? 

Terrell Singletary: I heard about it through a friend. Actually, her job hired her directly from there. And I just decided I wanted to fully commit to this — I wanted to finally get started in a career field that I actually wanted to do. COVID striking was the best time to do it.

What was it about a career in tech that drew your interest?

One of my favorite things is kind of working on a program, where you’re just staring at this code, and you’re like, “Maybe this will work, maybe I’ll try this out.” And you actually get that result, and that feeling is so good to me. I don’t know about everybody else, but I like to celebrate my little victories. Getting that difficult project or program completed is just really worth it, in my opinion, no matter how long you’ve worked on it.

After being in traditional college classes and then a bootcamp, what were the differences?

It was a lot faster paced, anyone will tell you that. But I feel like I was able to learn and apply more. I know with traditional college campus courses, you take your time, they teach you a broad range of subjects, but sometimes it may not be something that you’re necessarily interested in. Tech Elevator was a lot more focused in the software development side, whereas computer science is very, very broad.

Was there anything unexpected about the tech industry you’ve learned?

I didn’t realize how collaborative it was, but once I realized, it made sense to me, and kind made me want to do it more. I am a very social person, I like talking to people and interacting, so that made me want to do even more.

Yes, not everyone thinks about it as a social career.

Most people think you just get this cubical and you’re just typing away to yourself. [Instead, it’s more like how] media depicts the workplace, as an open-floor plan, people are yelling across the room to each other.

And you’re starting a job soon. What were some qualities of a job you were on the hunt for?

I wanted it to be closer to a 9-to-5, having weekends off and having time to yourself is important, and I think benefits are important, although they’re not the most important thing. And I wanted a workplace that seems inviting. Most of the companies I interviewed with were very open.

Has your career in tech so far fit your expectations?

Funnily enough, I wanted to be a video game developer, and that desire hasn’t fully gone away. I still want to be able to go in and make my own game. But I realized how — the best word I can think of right now is “toxic” — how toxic those environments can be. I hear horror stories online, [since] people can go online and talk about their experiences. And it seems like a very volatile environment. I’ve got to put that on the back-burner for now. And I’m excited to be doing something that allows for constant growth and room for advancement.

Companies: Tech Elevator / JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Series: How I Got Here / Tech Career Paths Month 2021

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