Radana: Hello Marvin, congratulation on being part of our inaugural Doctor of Information Technology (DIT) cohort and also one of our new faculty members, and thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the STC Thursday Byte. I am absolutely delighted to be able to interview our inaugural DIT candidates for the STC Thursday Byte. Let’s start off by telling us about your career path that brought you to where you are today.
MARVIN: Hi Dr. Dvorak thanks for having me. I graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in 2013 with a B.A. in Philosophy. Shortly after graduation, I joined the U.S. Army as a cryptologic language analyst. I spent two years at the Presidio of Monterey’s Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, where I learned Mandarin. While I was in the Army I received my Masters of Science from Central Washington University in Information Technology Administration and Management, where I focused heavily on Cybersecurity.
After six years in the Army, I decided it was time for a career change. I joined the Amazon Apprenti program here at City U in 2019. I completed that program with a certificate in Web Development. I currently work as a Systems Development Engineer.
Radana: You have an impressive track record! Why did you decide to pursue a DIT and why did you choose CityU?
MARVIN: After I completed the Apprenti program and started to work full time, I wanted to continue my education, and since I had such a great experience at CityU through the program, I decided to continue. CityU has a strong focus on lifelong learning, which is incredibly important to me, so it felt like a very organic choice. And I could not pass up the opportunity to be a part of an inaugural cohort! I have to say it’s been enriching being both faculty and a student. I get to see both sides of the coin.
Radana: What’s one thing you wish you had known when you began your career?
MARVIN: I wish I would have known in the beginning that there were many paths to get into the tech sector. I was hesitant because I did not have a B.S. in computer science or any other STEM field. So, I did not know if I would be able to “catch up.” But the practical learning approach I’ve been a part of for the last few years accelerated my learning, and I feel incredibly comfortable in the field.
Radana: This is good for our students to hear, shows dedication and determination. What are some of the things you’re researching and/or learning right now?
MARVIN: Right now, I am learning about Data Visualization using R. I enjoy this because I deal with large amounts of data daily. I plan on using the concepts that I am learning to develop new dashboards and models for displaying data. Even though we are using R for data visualization, the concepts can be applied to any programming language.
Another thing I am learning is how to create a serverless e-commerce website leveraging several AWS services. I am building a website to sell Duck eggs from our ducks to local people. It’s a fun little project.
Radana: I love duck eggs! Let me know when your site is ready. We hear about success, but I think it is more powerful for our readers to hear you talk about your biggest failure (which I prefer to call biggest lesson); can you tell us about your ‘biggest lesson’, and what you learned from it?
MARVIN: I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you do not need to memorize it all. What I mean is, it is very easy to burn out in this field by spending every waking hour doing research. The key is to know how to access information readily. If I have to write a microservice in Java, instead of doing an entire Java course online or reading a complete book, I focus on the concepts that I need for the specific project. This way I can do research that is targeted toward the task at hand. Ultimately, this method teaches me general concepts that I can extrapolate, which I think is very valuable.
Radana: What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours?
MARVIN : I would say, do not get overwhelmed. If you are going to get into programming, pick a language that is interesting to learn as your base language. You can always learn the other ones later. I would also say indulge your curiosity after you start programming. I find myself writing little calculators and scripts all the time to speed up processes in my life. Finally, I would like to say, do not let your educational background stop you from moving into the tech sector. It requires a certain amount of grit to change careers, but for me, it has been the most rewarding professional experience of my life.
Radana: Great advice! I passion + persistence = grit, and Marvin, you got it! What are the best resources that have helped you along the way?
MARVIN: I use a lot of resources in my day-to-day work. If I want to learn a new skill or study for a certification, I like to use courses on Udemy—they often have sales where you can get classes for up to 90% off. I also spend a lot of time on Stackoverflow when I want to understand a specific error or concept. Work-life balance is also essential, so finding ways to divide up my time between work, teaching, and class is necessary. I use an app that times work/rest periods to not burn out on any given day.
Radana: I haven’t heard of that app, I will have to look at it. What have you read or listened to recently that inspired you?
MARVIN: The book called “It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership” by Colin Powell, is one that I refer to often. It is a book about leadership that extends beyond the military and is very practical in the private sector. GEN Powell is very down to earth and humble, so I highly recommend reading it.
Radana: Thank you for sharing that. I remember reading a review of the book when it first came out; it received excellent reviews. I will have to add it to my reading list. Where can our students connect with you online?
MARVIN: Students can contact me on Teams firstname.lastname@example.org. Or they can connect with me on LinkedIn. I am happy to answer questions and emails about my story, or about tech in general. Who knows, I may end up in a class with some of you one day.
Radana: Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed and sharing your path to becoming a member of our first DIT cohort, and our instructor!! I wish you all the very best!