Re-architecting My Career with Adobe Digital Academy

Contributed by Thelma Boamah, Software Development Engineer

Last month in Adobe’s San Francisco office, the Adobe Digital Academy hosted community organizations, education partners, prospective applicants, and present and past program participants for an evening of learning, connection, and inspiration. During the event, me and other past Digital Academy participants got to discuss our different paths to the program, the challenges we faced, and advice we had for current interns and prospective applicants. My manager also shared his perspective as someone supporting a participant in the program. It was a deeply personal conversation that I was grateful to be a part of.

For those of you who don’t know about Adobe’s Digital Academy, it is a career accelerator that supports those switching their careers to tech by sponsoring them through a coding bootcamp. Upon successfully completing the 12-week bootcamp, participants are placed in technical internships at Adobe offices with the goal of converting to full-time Adobe employees.

Applicants to the Digital Academy come from various backgrounds, but what everyone shares is a commitment to a core principle of the program—growth mindset. Inherent in the belief that you can take on the demands of a software development career is the understanding that your capacity is not fixed. The program asks participants to push themselves daily to acquire new skills and navigate unfamiliar professional environments. Growth mindset is a must.

My Path to the Adobe Digital Academy

My own path to the Digital Academy started in January of 2016. The program was exactly the right opportunity at exactly the right time for me. I began the year with a new year’s resolution to change careers and become a web developer. With my background in education and nonprofit management, it was a far cry from anything I’d done before. Mission-driven work was my dream since college. My pursuit of it led me to work in various communities in New Jersey and New York, where I grew up and went to college respectively, and in my native Ghana. While I loved knowing that I was making even a tiny impact on people’s lives through this work, it often entailed a lot of personal sacrifice. By 2016, I’d decided I needed a change.

The year before, I started learning to build websites with no real plan for what I’d do with this skill. I was in Ghana on a small grant for a youth development project. I worked out of a coworking space and made friends with the techies there. One offered me a job to help him launch a coding bootcamp. I became both Community Manager and student and got to learn the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I liked it a lot and continued learning off and on when I returned to the U.S. mid-year. The rest of that year was professionally very difficult and ended with my being laid off from a job at a startup nonprofit in New York City.

It is perhaps the new year’s ability to make you believe that massive transformation is possible that pushed me to decide I’d become a developer. I took a part-time job at Whole Foods and devoted the rest of my time to learning through a mix of online resources and in-person short-courses. I eventually landed a summer frontend web development internship at a digital agency called Blue State Digital which builds fundraising and community building platforms. When that didn’t convert into a full-time position, it was back to Whole Foods I went while I continued to learn and job search. I started to explore full-time bootcamps, but with student loans from grad school, incurring the additional debt was out of the question. It was right around this time that I opened an email newsletter from the organization Women Who Code that promoted the Digital Academy. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect opportunity.

I got my Digital Academy acceptance email in December 2016, and was on a plane to San Francisco a month later, my first time on the west coast. I worked possibly the hardest I’ve ever worked at anything during the bootcamp at General Assembly that followed. I interviewed with my manager upon completing the bootcamp and have had the great fortune of working on his team since I started at Adobe last May. I’m now nine months full-time as a Software Engineer in the Document Cloud group. It’s a better outcome than I could ever have pictured when I wrote my new year’s resolution in 2016. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful for the opportunity that the Digital Academy has afforded me and am so excited to see the program continue to grow and change lives.

Launch your career in technology and learn more about the Adobe Digital Academy here.