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A little more than six years ago, Tenny Agustin was working various jobs — that dance of retail, barista, data entry — with a liberal arts degree and student loans, unsure where their future was heading. It was the first year of Zip Code Wilmington, the Wilmington coding bootcamp where several of Agustin’s friends had landed during its inaugural cohort.
“I got to see the action unfold in front of me,” Agustin told Technical.ly. “[My friend] was doing her lab projects, approaching it as a problem-solving problem, and working through it in a way that I hadn’t really had the pleasure of seeing before. I hadn’t really considered that tech was an option. For me, even though I’ve always had an interest in it, it was always just like a passing whimsy.”
Learning about the bootcamp inspired Agustin to give it a shot. It was a risk they were willing to take after realizing that it would be difficult to build a career on their liberal arts degree without additional schooling — which would have meant taking on another round of student debt, something that was out of the question.
“I really didn’t feel like I was pursuing a career,” Agustin said of that period. “I was kind of just clocking in, doing the day-to-day and doing my best to keep myself afloat through everything. But I really wanted to find a skill set that I enjoyed, that I could really see myself grow into and find success in. I moved out of my mom’s house at 19 years old. So I really needed to find a way to keep myself going.”
Agustin was accepted into the second Zip Code cohort, and before long was in jobseeker mode as a software developer.
Finding the right fit
When they interviewed with the growing fintech company Best Egg in Wilmington — then a fintech startup called Marlette Funding — something clicked.
“I interviewed with numerous companies, and there was something about Best Egg that just felt very intimate, like I would be able to make an impact at a company that was still kind of trying to define itself in what can be a very overwhelming and competitive field,” they said. “It felt like I could sponge up a lot of information.”
That connection didn’t happen with every company they interviewed with, Agustin said, recalling an interview with a larger company that they admit didn’t go very well, underscoring the importance of finding a company you’re compatible with when searching for a tech job.
Working to leadership
Once the match was made, Agustin started at Best Egg as a junior developer, eventually moved up to associate level, then lead level. They’re now in an engineering operations lead.
“I get to do behind-the-scenes stuff, a lot of stuff that I didn’t really have as much appreciation for just being a developer,” Agustin said. “I get to help with forming processes and protocols and such so that I can ensure that our engineers are successful and speedy and deliver quality code before it reaches the masses.”
Agustin had been the first Zip Code grad to be hired at Best Egg, but would not be the last. As other graduates joined the team, Agustin would connect with them over shared experiences and the impact pivoting into tech had on their lives.
“It really validated me and my story, because I also felt that feeling of being uplifted from a not-so-great situation, and it really gave me a lot of agency and upward mobility. To see that they’ve been able to deliver that for other people who have since become very valuable members of the organization or very just trusted good friends of mine is really meaningful.”
The evolution came with a lot of on-the-job education, from coding protocols to leadership.
“I’ve really never stopped learning since I started,” they said. “I’ve always also felt supported for going to conferences, taking courses, talking to people who are more experienced than me and learning from them. So I’ve always had plenty of opportunities. And I’m sure I’m not even tapping into all of them.”
The remote factor, and what’s next
After six years of working their way up the Best Egg ladder, not only has the experience become a long-term career, it’s become home — that is, a home “away” from home, at home, as Agustin has chosen to work remotely from Philadelphia, where their family immigrated to from the Philippines 30 years ago.
Before the pandemic hit, Agustin commuted from Philadelphia to Best Egg’s North Wilmington office.
“I did not love the commute,” they said. “I did love coming into the office and being around my coworkers and being in that culture. But we really adapted to the hybrid and remote work environment that I do still feel part of the culture even remotely, and they’ve been very accommodating letting us work from home. We were really quick at spinning the infrastructure to be able to work from home in March of 2020.”
Six years and several positions out from coding bootcamp, Agustin is a leader, a mentor and the co-creator of the LGBTQ+ employee resource group at Best Egg, and they intend to continue to grow there into the future.
“I think about when I was asking myself, ‘Should I make this my home? Is this something I can do my whole life?’ And there were times where I didn’t know if I could do it, because it was very difficult at first,” they said. “But I felt just infinitely supported. So yeah. This is my life.”
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