From late restaurant nights to startup success: Seth’s story

Seth at his desk at Earnnest.

Seth at his desk at Earnnest.

One year ago, Seth Williams was working late nights and weekends in the restaurant industry when it hit him: he was missing something. With a three-year-old at home and a wife who was expecting, he decided it was time to make a change. “In restaurant management you don't get to keep a real schedule, it's just what the need is,” he said. “I never got to tuck Ollie in, my son. And that's... it got to the point where that wasn't okay. With a daughter coming along, I decided something had to change.”

We recently sat down with Seth, who graduated from Carolina Code School in March 2019, to talk to him about making the decision to attend code school, and what it’s been like for him as he transitions into the “real world” as a part of the Earnnest team in Greenville, SC.

Here’s a portion of our chat.

Lelia: Will you start by just talking a little bit about your journey to figuring out you want to go to code school?

Seth: Once my wife and I made the decision that something needed to change, we talked about different options and weighed the pros and cons. I have friends that are programmers, and they were like, you're creative, you like to solve puzzles, you would be a good fit. So I took an Udemy class online, just to test it out, and I really enjoyed it.

Lelia: Tell me about what you expected this experience to be like and then how is that different from what it was actually like?

Seth: I prepared myself. I had a mantra, "it’s a career change in three months, what do you expect?" I went in thinking it was going to be intense, and it was more intense than I originally thought. It wasn't intense to the point where it was scary, but there were days where you would be lost, which is just part of the process. There were days where you would struggle.

Now, I always tell people this is a really cool opportunity for the right person. You have to be a stubborn person and you have to be the most stubborn you've ever been. Even though programming did not come naturally to me, I still completed the program and landed in a position in the first five weeks after graduation, with a really cool opportunity. It's not about your natural ability so much as showing initiative and being willing to learn.

Lelia: So when it came time for you to start thinking about what getting a job in this industry looked like for you, and finishing the program looked like for you, what are some of the things that were most helpful to you in getting you through that final period?

Seth: It [class] was a safe space. It's a hard place, but a safe place, and then suddenly you have to fly out of the nest. I remember Mady telling me, “This is the easy stuff. The hard part is making yourself code every day when it's just you, and making yourself look for jobs. The hard part is making yourself do these things when you don't have people saying, 'get in line’.”

It was definitely a hard transition as far as how to structure my day. That first week, I was just all over the place. I would bounce around from task to task, but at the end of the day I had nothing complete. So I started carrying a notebook where I would write down exactly what I needed to do in a schedule that worked for me. I had to schedule time to code every day. I have ADHD, and I have medicine for it, but my mind still wanders, so I had to have a system.

Also, I can't stress this enough: networking is one of the biggest things you can do after graduating. Obviously writing code is number one, continuing to sharpen your skills. But I volunteered for a couple of events and that’s actually how I met the guys I’m working with now.

Lelia: Tell us more about where you are now.

Seth: It’s what they are calling a “trial program” with a company called Earnnest. It’s basically like an internship. It’s two months long, and what I really liked about this is I'm not expected to know everything when I come in. It's like bowling with bumper lanes. You still have this path that you can go back and forth, but there are bumpers on the sides to keep you to where you're aiming towards a specific target.

It has been incredible. This is showing me what a professional environment looks like, this is allowing me to learn another language [Elixir] which is nothing like what we did at Carolina Code School. This is functional programming versus object-oriented programming, so it's a different way of thinking about it.

Lelia: You said you already have some code going into production in your second week of being at Earnnest?

Seth: Yeah. I wrote my first code that's going into production, which is really cool. I used both React and Elixir, the language that I just started learning. Coming into this setting, it's helping me write much cleaner code, because I get to see these professional projects. This is how things are written, this is how you make things more modular and forward-thinking, things like that. And you get to discuss those ideas at this stage.

Lelia: Tell us more about Earnnest.

Seth: First off, from the leadership down, it's been really cool. They have this saying, "led by love." That has been my experience so far in these first two weeks, and I don't see that changing.

What we do at Earnnest is we’ve created a different way to handle earnest money and real estate transactions. So basically it's all done online now, so you don't have to get a cashier's check, you don't have to go meet your realtor, you don't have to do any of that stuff now. It's quicker than that process, too.

It’s a very hungry company, which is cool to be part of. They're already thinking about how to build on what they already learned about this industry. One thing that makes them really different is the team that they surround themselves with.

Lelia: When you think about where you were one year ago, how do you feel about where you are today?

Seth: There was an event that happened at work exactly a year ago and it was at that point that I started thinking, "I can’t do this anymore.” A year later, I've gone through that whole thinking process, signed up, took the foundations class and the full-time class, started looking for a job and landed where I am today.

It's completely just fallen into line exactly how you guys painted the picture to me. Everyone is super upfront. They're like, "you gotta work for this, and then you gotta work harder." If you know that going into it, and you think that you can do it, it's a phenomenal choice. It absolutely changed the trajectory and the overall direction of my life and my family's life.

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Lelia King