From the oilfields of Texas to coding in NZ – One student’s journey

Thinking of coming to New Zealand to study, but don’t know how you’d fund a four-year degree while living abroad? Consider a career in programming with an 18-week course at Enspiral Dev Academy. You’ll experience the beautiful lifestyles of Auckland or Wellington, New Zealand, and learn to code from scratch on a world-class boot camp course. Here’s Rawad Alawar’s story of doing just that.

I was working in an oilfield in Texas and every day one of my buddies, Andrew, would say to me, “Rawad, let’s quit and go study programming in New Zealand.” I couldn’t quit because I needed the money to help take care of my family and pay off student loans, so I would tell him, “No.” But oil prices tanked again and I got laid off. The first call I made was to Andrew to tell him I was ready to go to New Zealand. We applied to Enspiral Dev Academy and now here I am — I’ve just graduated!

I definitely wasn’t what you’d consider a “tech” person growing up. I didn’t even own a laptop or a computer until my last year in college. I was born and raised in small country town in North Carolina. I moved to Texas on a whim just to study petroleum engineering. It’s amazing how far oil has taken humanity. I wanted to be part of the industry that literally powers the world. Petroleum engineering allowed me to do that as well as exercise my penchant for problem solving.

Programming is a natural extension of engineering. Like engineering, programming involves problem solving in a very systematic and logical way. It’s very satisfying figuring out a solution to a coding problem — and the need to come up with unique and creative solutions is something coding has in common with engineering.

Enspiral Dev Academy’s former “sister school” had a campus in Austin, but I chose Dev Academy because it was a chance to explore a whole new part of the world. I didn’t have the opportunity to study abroad in college, and I’m kind of doing that now. What inspires me most is that someone like me or one of my classmates can go into Dev Academy with no programming experience and come out ready to change the world. It’s unbelievable how far we have come in a few months. If we can learn to become junior developers in that time, then there’s no telling where we’ll be in a few years. It’s so exciting.

Rawad Alawar

Two of my pitches during the course were chosen as final projects. One pitch was for a style app where users could upload images of their outfits and other users could swipe right or left if they approved or disapproved; kind of like a Tinder for outfits. It was called onFleek. The other project was like an AirBnB for storage called Stow that connected people with spare space to those who needed a place to store their items. I wasn’t allowed to lead both teams, so I chose to lead Stow while consulting for onFleek. The final project was an excellent opportunity for us to stretch ourselves and apply the new technologies we’ve learned in unique ways.

I love Dev Academy because the curriculum is up-to-date.

We were using cutting edge technologies like React and Redux which are still foreign to many people in the tech industry.

I wasn’t one of the people who came to Dev Academy to be a developer. I have an entrepreneurial spirit, and my intentions from the start were to gain enough knowledge in tech to be able to launch a company. That’s still my long term goal. But, for now, I’d like to work as a Full Stack Engineer because of the opportunity to work on the front and back end.

Weaving the front and back end into a beautiful and functional website is so satisfying.

Also, the logic behind servers and databases reminds me of my work in engineering because it requires rationalizing about how to access and use data — it’s really fun.

Now it’s over, I’m heading to Austin, TX, to look for work. Austin is the city that I love and the one I’d like to work in. My plan is to hit up as many interesting companies there as I can. I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and my brother is an undergraduate now. It’s where I feel comfortable and where I want to launch startups that will change the world.

Ready for a change? Check out Enspiral Dev Academy now. Bootcamps are in Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand.

As told to Charlotte Graham. Oilfield image credit: Chris Sisarich.