Student Spotlight: Deven Blackburn Went from the Non-Profit World to a Full-time Developer in South Florida

Written by Jocelyn Caster on 18th October 2016, 10:00 AM

Ever think software developers are superhuman geniuses? That’s actually not true. With a little bit of grit and an aptitude for problem-solving (ok, yes, and intelligence), you too can learn to code! Deven Blackburn is the perfect example! See why he went from working in non-profits to becoming a full-time web developer.

Deven is more the rule than the exception. Wyncoders come from a large variety of personal and professional backgrounds: from not having a high school degree to having multiple graduate degrees, from eighteen year olds to fifty year olds. From teacher to Software Engineer, waitress to Junior Developer, real estate developer to Product Manager. All you need to have is an open mind and a willingness to work hard (re: check out 10 Steps for Cracking the Code to Escape a Soul-Crushing Career).

Deven Blackburn is a shining example. He came from a non-technical background (you’ll never guess what he got his degree in!) and is now a coding whiz. Deven graduated from Fort Lauderdale Cohort 4 in January. He is now a Software Developer for Allied Steel Buildings and an Executive Director for Fort Lauderdale Tech Association.

Find out why Deven decided to sign up for Wyncode and reinvent his career:

J: Hey Deven. Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed! What was your knowledge level when you started? Did you have any coding or related skills before embarking on the Wyncode journey?

D: [Chuckles] – Well I thought I was going into the program with some experience, but it turned out to be much less than I thought once my eyes opened. I worked with development agencies to create new sites for employers, built hundreds of HTML email blasts, and worked extensively with WordPress sites. But almost everyone’s previous knowledge soon became obsolete once things got more complicated.

J: What is your professional and educational background? What were you doing prior to joining a Wyncode cohort?

D: I studied Archaeology and Business Economics at the University of Santa Barbara, California.  I’ve spent more than ten years in the nonprofit world, which included seven years in the tourism sector.

J: Why did you take the leap of faith to learn coding?

D: One day, after finishing a particularly grueling convention which consumed my life for more than a year, I realized there were no fruits to be seen from my sweat and blood. I realized that no matter how well I did in my position, there was a ceiling, and I had reached it. And what’s worse, I did not enjoy what I was doing. That week I read an article about Wyncode’s launch in Miami. I started right then and there to plan my escape.

J: What has been the most challenging part of learning to code

D: The most challenging part of coding is accepting that I will never reach a level of 100% proficiency with any language or platform. Technologies are changing so quickly everyday. It is impossible for anyone to always stay ahead of the curve.  

J: Describe a breakthrough moment in the learning process.

D: During my time at Wyncode, we were tasked with a creating a REPL voter simulation game using basic CRUD actions to navigate menu options. It was early in the program, and I felt like we were being thrown into the deep end of a pool. I remember finishing and then going back in to take a fresh look at things. I created a simple, beautiful method that allowed me to remove almost a hundred lines of code.  That’s when it started to come together for me for the first time.

J: Our new slogan this fall and winter is “You Can Code.” How does this phrase resonate with you?
D: For me, it’s a reminder that I should help foster and empower others to learn to code. Anyone can learn to code. It just requires effort, dedication, and belief in yourself.