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Software Engineering?! How Did I Get Here??

Max Zander
Professional Opera Singer turned Full-Stack Developer
・3 min read

Two weeks ago, from the very moment that I am writing this, I was thinking about how, in a mere couple of days, I would be embarking on a journey that would undoubtedly change my life. So often in life, we make decisions that steer us one way or another, but to be conscious of the effect that a given event will have… what an absolutely wild feeling that is! And going back to school for software engineering?! I did not expect to do that.

So, how did I get here? I found a calling in the arts from a relatively young age and have worked professionally as a magician, puppeteer, pianist, and music teacher. After receiving both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Vocal Performance from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, I set out to have a career as an opera singer and, if I may say so myself, it was going very well. I have been lucky enough to work full-time as a professional operatic soloist since leaving grad school in 2016, specializing in what we call “character” roles (ex. the sidekicks, servants, comic relief, etc.) and consider myself incredibly fortunate to have worked with some absolutely wonderful opera companies and symphony orchestras across North America and in Europe. During the 2019-2020 season, I was hired as the in-house tenor for a regional opera company and, when not off as a guest with other companies, I was around for regular performances, with my housing and insurance taken care of by the company. On March 21, 2020, however, my colleagues and I were called into the office and informed that, due to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the offices would need to close, performances would be cancelled, our jobs terminated, and our housing and insurance ended early.

Going into the beginning of the pandemic, my girlfriend and I quarantined in our house for as long as we could before we moved in with her parents, and then her sister, and finally moved in with my parents. Watching the opera world shut down throughout across the country and the world, I decided that I could no longer just sit and wait for things to start up again. It was evident that it would be a much longer road than initially expected. I want a life and a family, and I don’t want to be worried about uncertainty. Now, I realize that nothing in life is totally certain, but when I started thinking about what might be a more reliable career, I realized how exciting the tech industry could be. I decided that I might try coding. I joined FreeCodeCamp and started learning HMTL and CSS. I loved it. Speaking to friends of mine a month or two into this endeavor, I started getting recommendations for Flatiron School. I did some research and sent in an application. I began bootcamp prep to prepare for my interview and started to learn JavaScript. Coding felt both like solving a puzzle and studying a new language at the same time. As an opera singer, I have studied Italian, French, German, and Spanish, with extra diction studies in Russian and Czech, and I had missed this feeling of linguistic stimulation. And puzzles? Well, I’ve always love doing puzzles!

Now, I am almost done with my “First Mile” at Flatiron School, and I feel great! It is amazing to feel so inspired and invigorated! My classmates and cohort lead are all awesome and – I know it’s crazy to say, but I feel like I know these people, despite having only met them on Zoom and Slack less than two weeks ago and I could not be happier to be going on this journey with them. We currently live in an age when technology is evolving faster than ever before and I can’t wait to be doing something I love, on the forefront of it all!

Originally published on August 28, 2020

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