From Criminal Justice to Coding: How One Student’s Hobby Became His Full-Time Passion

Alex Preissler was always torn in two career directions: pursuing criminal justice, or following a computer science track. When it came time to decide on a college major, he chose to study criminal justice and law enforcement at the University of Central Florida. He made computer science a hobby while attending school. 

After graduating, Alex took a position with the security department at Universal Studios Orlando. The job hit all of his passion points and seemed to fall in line with his five-year plan—until an autoimmune disorder forced him to reevaluate. 

Once he left the role, Alex had to make big decisions about his future in very little time. He felt drawn to his other passion, coding, and decided to take it from a hobby to his full-time job. 

When Alex found the UCF Coding Boot Camp, he knew it was the right option for him. 

From hobby to hands-on

For Alex, coding was once just a fun diversion. The boot camp, on the other hand, required him to not only learn new topics but fully master them in order to keep up. The incredibly fast pace was both a challenge and a driving source of motivation. 

“The course moves really quickly, but the number one thing I took away was how to act independently and conduct research on my own to develop the skills I needed,” he said.“You’re constantly learning and building on things you’ve learned.”

Alex discovered that the boot camp allowed him to learn a skill set, which was different from his self-learning where he simply became familiar with individual software programs. Understanding how all the components work together was valuable preparation for the job market. 

Speaking a new language

Alex knew some basics going into the program, but in class he learned volumes of programming languages in a short time. The variety of topics that were covered helped Alex discover his software strengths. 

“Throughout the program, I found that my strongest work was on the front end,” he said. “I felt really motivated to work through front-end assignments and projects that allowed me to use this understanding.” 

He was able to apply his knowledge of various front-end software suites through the boot camp’s group projects. 

“One of my projects was a recipe-keeping app where I used various application programming interfaces to create functions that allowed people to search and save recipes,” Alex said. 

Getting to express creativity and sharpen skills were two bonuses that ultimately helped him through tough assignments and long hours spent working on homework. 

Always a student

Even after completing the boot camp, Alex continues to be a student. 

“I don’t want to lose the incredible momentum I had. The tech industry moves fast, so my knowledge could become less current very quickly,” he explained. 

In order to maintain and build upon the knowledge he gained at UCF Coding Boot Camp, Alex is learning programs like C# in his free time. Unlike his self-taught days, he now has the expertise needed to master concepts on his own. 

It’s not all about work, though. 

“I don’t want to lose the element of fun coding gave me. I plan to learn some video game development on the side,” Alex said. 

The new 5-year plan

In the last couple months, Alex started a position as a programmer with Publix Super Markets, a grocery chain headquartered in Florida. He’s excited to finally be working in the tech field after pivoting in his career. If it weren’t for the boot camp, coding would still be nothing more than a side project for him. 

“The boot camp set me up to work in my dream job, which I have now,” Alex said. “Every piece of software we learned is something I touch in my day to day, and I came in more prepared than I could ever have been.” 

Alex’s advice to those like him is simple. “Don’t be discouraged if traditional education doesn’t seem like it’s for you,” he said.  

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