Laying A New Foundation: How Andrew Johnson Went from Building Homes to Building Code

As a construction worker, Andrew Johnson was talented at building things from the ground up. Little did he know, he’d soon be applying this skill set in a new way to advance his professional future. 

In 2016, a biking accident left Andrew with a broken foot—and he was forced to reassess his career. But he wasn’t ready to stop building. Here’s how Andrew used the University of Minnesota Coding Boot Camp to lay the foundation for a future in technology—and land a technical engineering job at the software company Calabrio.

How did your accident inspire your career change?

After breaking my foot, I wondered how I was going to support myself and be successful in the future. It was time for me to change paths. I’d always liked writing websites in my spare time and knew that software development could be a very rewarding career path, so I started searching for work as a junior developer. But without an advanced academic background or industry experience, it was very difficult to even get an interview. 

One day, I heard an ad for the University of Minnesota Coding Boot Camp on the radio. I knew immediately it would give me a leg up in interviews. I’d finally be able to say, “I do have education in the field—and experience working with teams on projects.” I was sold.

What’s one valuable skill you picked up at boot camp?

Aside from learning coding, I picked up public speaking skills, which are super valuable. As part of my employee training at Calabrio, I have to give a presentation in front of the company executives. Before, I would have been nervous about this—but coding boot camp prepared me for it by boosting my confidence. Now, I know that you just have to treat presentations like conversations. Fears are meant to be faced and turned into something useful. 

How did boot camp help you land your new job at Calabrio?

When my interviewer asked about my educational experience, I was able to say I graduated from boot camp. They really liked that. Although I didn’t have prior professional experience, they knew completing boot camp meant that I’m adaptable, I’m a quick learner, and I have team experience. They offered me a job on the spot.

Can you walk us through your role?

I was placed on a small team called the Innovation Center—there are only five of us. We work on the ideation side of things, creating applications based on customer feedback, desires, and ideas within the company itself. We’re the ones who create new things—and create them fast. There isn’t a strict structure, and I have free rein to constantly learn and create. It’s super fun.

What’s it like working on a team every day?

It’s an awesome experience. Prior to boot camp, I’d always worked on my own. In boot camp, I learned how to work with other people—even when we didn’t all agree with each other. That was one of my most valuable lessons, and it’s definitely helped in the workplace. 

I get along really well with all my team members at Calabrio. Everybody’s willing to help if I have questions. Calabrio doesn’t feel corporate at all, since they’re always promoting leadership from within. They’re such a cool company. 

Looking forward, where do you see yourself five years from now?

I want to continue improving my development skills while working with software products that are beautiful and beneficial. And I want to master a more specialized role—ultimately working with React, or on front-end or user interface projects. 

My long-term goal is to become a leader in my field. I want to help others learn, and my personal story proves that this is possible for anyone. I come from a construction background with no college degree. It’s possible to succeed and get into the market—you just need drive. 

What advice would you give people who are considering enrolling in boot camp?

Boot camp taught me the value of committing to something and putting a goal into practice. If technology truly is your passion, don’t hold yourself back. Take risks, because that’s where the rewards live. Boot camp was exhilarating. There was this rush of focus, determination, inspiration, and invigoration that kept me going. 

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