From Working at the Zoo to Tech, Joseph Found a Whole New Attraction

“At Sabio you learn what you are worth…(they) ended up helping me through all the salary negotiations.”

S: Hi Joseph, we’re so thrilled for your success and for you to share your story with us. Can you share with us a bit more about your backstory and what led you to Sabio?

J: I actually started off in the air force reserve. After serving I figured I should go to college with the GI Bill, so I started school for chemical engineering. However, that barely lasted and I ended up dropping out to be with my wife and got into the zoo business. It was actually a really fun job, I started out as a maintenance manager, worked my way up to assistant director and learned a lot. I got great experience in zoo design, maintenance, and project management. Then, my wife got pregnant and I felt like I needed a better career path. I started looking at my options and I saw that the VA had a program called vettec and Sabio was one of the preferred vendors there. The more research I did into Sabio, the better and better it looked. One day, I just decided to pull the trigger and here I am.

S: That’s so great and what a unique path! Can you tell us more about your experience at Sabio?


J: Of course! I took the 17-week program and let me tell you, before then I had zero coding experience. I remember when I started looking into joining Sabio, I signed up for the Pre-work and almost right away thought, “Wow, I’m in a little over my head.” But, almost as soon as I got discouraged, things actually started to click. It wasn’t immediate, but this slow process where the code kind of started making sense. I think one of the best parts about Sabio is the real-work project you get put on. The one our cohort got was so cool, it was called Interrogas. It was a web app that takes data from past Mexico elections, like their governor, presidential, every election like that. We split them down to all the different states within Mexico and rate all the pollsters. It’s just like in the US where we have pollsters in CNN, FOX, etc., but there’s no rating system. So the whole purpose was to see in the past how the polls lined up with what they said was going to happen in the election versus what actually happened. My job was entering in the data, charts, and sequel tables and turning them into usable sequel tables. It was really cool and also interesting to learn everything about Mexico’s elections in the process. 


S:  We’re so happy to hear that. You were mentioning struggling during PreWork, but ultimately being able to conquer that struggle. Were there any other challenges you overcame while studying at Sabio?


J: One big challenge I personally had was when I started at Sabio, I didn’t have a designated work space at home. It was really hard for me to stay focused. Eventually, I was able to find a space while also sitting down with my family and explaining to them that while this was only a temporary thing, I needed my boundaries respected. I’m usually the guy that if the toilet needs fixing, or the fence is falling apart, it rests on me. The solution was simple, but it involved me having to come to the realization that I had to sit down, focus on Sabio and learn. 


S: And we’re so happy you did! Can you tell us a little bit about your job search process?


J: I was fortunate in the fact that I started getting job interviews right away. It seemed like I’d go through these really big swings, 3-4 weeks of nothing, 3-4 weeks of constant interviews, repeat. I thought this was just interesting in general. I ended up getting my first job offer only 5-weeks after graduation, but they were trying to only pay me $45k, which definitely wasn’t going to work. It took another two months until I finally got my offer letter for my current role, but I just kept trying and I eventually got there. Sabio was great in the fact that they taught us how to structure our time and also how to just generally deal with rejection. One thing they suggested is following up with the rejection letters when we could and asking, “hey, I just applied for this position and got rejected, is there any way to find out how.” With that you can turn all of your mistakes into a learning experience. 


S: It’s true, it is always so disappointing to get those emails, but there’s still a lot you can do with them. So now that you have a great tech job, can you tell us more about it?


J: I’m currently working for a Navy contracted called SAIC and they’re a fairly big one. I got hired on as a software engineer, focusing mainly on supporting sequel back-end and supporting the cyber warfare and counterintelligence schools for the navy. My home base is Florida, but I’m all the way up in the panhandle in a smaller sized city called Pensacola. At first when I was applying for work, I really just wanted to focus on remote. Liliana Monge (Sabio’s Co-Founder & SEO,) however suggested not to for this first job because I’d be competing with people across the nation for those jobs. So then I turned to looking more local in Orlando, Jacksonville, the bigger cities, and that’s how I found SAIC. I was really worried about having to commute, because I’m about 30-minutes outside of the city, but it turns out that I can actually work from home two days out of the week which really helps. There are also so many benefits to this job. They’re paying for me to get a CompTia security plus certification and a junior developer certification. Additionally, they’re paying for me to get top secret clearance, which I believe costs upward of $20k. One great benefit to this is they last 6-10 years, and even down the road if you’re unable to renew your security clearance again, the fact that you had it in the first place is a huge bonus on your resume. It shows that you were a trusted employee and a $60k-$140k asset to the company, so it’s a big deal. 


S: Congrats on that! You were mentioning your salary negotiations earlier, can you talk a little bit more about them and what they were like for your current role?


J: Well, the negotiations went well thanks to Sabio, but they started off a little rocky. When they asked me what my salary range was, I said $80-90K annually, the recruiter said he would go talk to the customer and get back to me, and he did, with an offer of $75k. Now, that wasn’t bad at all, especially from where I came from, but at Sabio you learn what you are worth. I went to Nancy Her (Sabio’s Career Counselor,) and asked her if I should put in a counter offer and how do I do that. She ended up helping me through all the salary negotiations. I emailed him back saying you know, I appreciate the offer, but my bottom number is $80K. He said he completely understood, let me talk with the customer. So he came back and said they couldn’t do $80K yet, but they’d do $78K with a $5k sign up bonus, and then when my top secret security clearance goes through we’ll bump you up to $86k. So, as soon as my clearance goes through I’ll be making $86k which is amazing. 


S: We love helping all our alumni secure that awesome salary they deserve. Were there any other ways you found Sabio helpful in the job search process? 


J: I think one of the key things for me was helping me understand the best way to phrase things for interviews and the keywords to say in interviews in general. One thing Sabio really emphasized was our value, how much we’ve learned and how much we’ve worked in this short amount of time. If any interviewer had an issue with the length of time of my experience, I would always say, what I lack in overall experience, I make up for in skill. And, if they wanted to see the proof in the pudding, I would be happy to do a code assessment. I spoke on, although my experience looks like it’s only 4-months, I was doing 12-hours a day, 6-days a week working on a startup MBP. Companies tend to know that startups have that type of schedule and you just speak on that’s how you were developing your skills, and what looks like 4-months at Sabio is actually closer to 8-months of experience in the real world. Sabio just taught me, If I speak intelligently about what I've done, prove my worth, prove my skill, I’ll get a job, and they were right. 


S: Very true! So now that you’re settling into this great job, do you have any idea of what’s next on the horizon?


J: Funny you should ask, after graduation/during my job search, I undertook quite a big project, my own MBP. It’s an animal care software that my wife and I are trying to develop. I mentioned in the beginning that I had come from a zoo background, and while I was there, I saw there wasn't really good animal care software out there. I’ve started working with 5 different zoo facilities for the initial setup and to get their input. Now, I’m planning on taking the project to Sabio and have already started working with Hector Arias (Sabio Instructor.) I can’t wait to see what you guys do with it, Sabio has great resources and can no doubt help get it going.