Dreaming Big: How a Cuban Immigrant Returned to Tech
Yeiska De La Torre Fernandez arrived in the United States from Cuba with a degree in electrical engineering and a dream of a better life. Unfortunately, the former would not help her achieve the latter.
Without a U.S. education or experience, Yeiska was compelled to take non-IT jobs to pay the bills. Hers was a dream deferred—until she signed up for the University of Central Florida Coding Boot Camp. Finally, she caught a glimpse of the future she always wanted.
Making ends meet in a new country
In Cuba, Yeiska had started to establish her career in technology. She attended the prestigious University of Camagüey, then worked first as a software technician for an electric company and later as a computer specialist at a commercial company. In 2012, seizing the chance to join family in the U.S., she moved to Florida.
Unable to secure a role in tech, Yeiska got by with jobs as a supervisor at Walgreens and a collections specialist at a financial services company. But she had always loved being a technologist—and she was determined to find a way back.
Hard skills plus soft skills
Yeiska soon realized she needed to somehow get back in the classroom. The UCF Coding Boot Camp was “perfect,” she said, because it would allow her to continue working, while also providing her with the needed skills.
Last May, Yeiska attended her first class. The coursework was intense, she said, and she put a lot of pressure on herself to excel. “I wanted to do this. I wanted to be successful,” she recalled.
For the next six months, Yeiska maintained a rigorous schedule of full-time work (40 hours a week as a collections specialist at Synchrony) and part-time boot camp classes. She also completed after-hours homework and project work, including the building of a couple of apps: one for travel recommendations and another that demonstrated workout forms.
“The boot camp gave me everything I needed to learn, but then I had to put in the effort,” she said. “I had to find a way to do it myself.”
In taking initiative, she also learned a few crucial soft skills. Holding down a full-time job while attending the boot camp taught Yeiska how to manage her time and how to develop laser-like focus for completing tasks. Additionally, beyond the front-end and back-end programming, UCF taught her the critical importance of never missing a deadline.
A state of happy disbelief
Boot camp was still in session when Yeiska tapped into the program’s career services, which helped her with resume support, interview prep, and coaching. She found out that multinational consulting firm Deloitte was hiring a solutions engineer and applied. She figured it was a total long shot.
For weeks, Yeiska didn’t hear anything. Then she was called in for an initial interview—the dream on the horizon. A second interview—the dream drew nearer. Finally the offer. Yeiska couldn’t help it: she started to cry. Still new to the U.S. and still working to perfect her English, Yeiska couldn’t wait to share the news with her family, rejoin the technology realm—and at last live out her dream.
Now in her first month on the job, Yeiska is every day using the skills she learned at boot camp—both the hard skills of development and the soft skills of time management.
“I’m so happy I did the boot camp,” she says. And to anyone considering it, Yeiska’s advice is Never give up. Just continue going for your dream. You can do it.