While working in his family’s custom cabinetry business, Rob Alford always enjoyed the creative aspect of the job and took pride in honing his craft. But when he and his wife started a family, he felt the time was right to make a career change.
“I wanted to take some time off to stay home with my kids, and I was ready to move on to a different field,” he said. “So I decided to look for work that would give me a more flexible schedule, and a new challenge.”
Charting a New Course
Rob, who earned a degree in English from the University of Washington, had previously explored freelance writing as a possible career — a role that also tapped into his creative side. But he needed something that provided a steadier income and greater long-term growth potential. Then he uncovered a new passion.
“I started learning to code and build apps and websites while I was staying at home,” Rob said. “I had a few ideas for digital products I wanted to try out, and I found I really enjoyed learning about programming and software development.”
With the Seattle tech boom creating an abundance of high-paying software jobs, he began contemplating a switch to that field. But Rob knew he needed deeper knowledge and more formal development experience. The question was how to get it. The answer was continuing education at the University of Washington.
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
For Rob, discovering a program that offered in-depth learning while also fitting in with his busy family life was key. He found that combination in the Certificate in Python Programming.
In His Own Words
Python Programming grad Rob Alford talks about how the certificate helped him launch a new career.
“I looked at some coding boot camps and more traditional degree programs, but the UW certificate program was just a perfect fit for me,” Rob said. “I could space out my learning over the whole year and get comprehensive knowledge while working with my schedule. It gives you the flexibility to have a job or a life while you’re doing it.”
He also found a great fit with the Python language.
“I chose Python because it’s a really versatile language,” he said. “It’s used in web development, and it’s also heavily used in a variety of emerging fields such as machine learning and data science. If you’re going to learn a programming language right now, Python is a great one to go with.”
Making Connections and Gaining Experience
Because the Python certificate program features a cohort student model, Rob got a chance to work with his classmates throughout his courses. He found the group projects to be particularly valuable.
Completing the certificate was probably the single biggest factor for me being able to get a job.
“One of the best things about this program was the opportunity to work collaboratively with other people,” he explained. “As a self-taught programmer, you never get to do that — and working professionally in the software field, that’s a huge part of what you do.”
His group project, completed with two classmates, was to produce a web application that helps building contractors find ways to dispose of waste material. “Getting professional review from the instructors and getting that hands-on experience was really beneficial," he said. "Working on the project really inspired me to pursue my goal of becoming a web application developer.”
Rob also appreciated the personal support he received from his instructors, who helped him navigate the challenging career change.
“The instructors were excellent. One in particular was there throughout the whole program, and she had experience both in academia and in the software industry,” Rob noted. “She became a really great resource for me and gave me a lot of really helpful advice on interviewing and networking. I’m still in contact with her.”
Landing the Job
Shortly after he completed the certificate program, Rob accepted a position with Green Light Go, a web development and consulting agency in Seattle. His schedule there is flexible, offering him the work-life balance he was after.
Rob credits the Python certificate program with making the career switch possible.
“Completing the certificate was probably the single biggest factor for me being able to get a job,” he said. “The program is particularly helpful for people making a career change.”
The market for software developers is certainly booming today. Beyond making a good living, however, Rob also finds satisfaction in his work — and even the creativity that he’s always sought professionally.
“Programming combines what I love about my previous careers in writing and construction — the problem solving, the feeling of building something from nothing and the unique combination of creative and analytical skills you use when developing software. It’s been a great move.”