Alumni Stories

Five Talented Developers With Completely Unexpected Backgrounds

Flatiron School / 21 June 2016

For every programmer who started playing with BASIC at age 14 or graduated from a prestigious university with a B.S. in Computer Science, there’s a programmer who started coding at age 35 or received a humanities degree from a liberal arts school.

After all, creative people usually make excellent designers and developers. We’ve witnessed this first-hand: many of Flatiron’s alumni come from completely unexpected backgrounds before going on to land awesome tech jobs.


Amanda Himmelstoss is a software engineer at Transfix (which Recode called the Uber of the trucking industry). But at one point, she thought she wanted to go to graduate school for Anthropology. Amanda’s background is in the humanities: she graduated from Barnard College with a B.A. in Anthropology and an internship with the American Museum of Natural History under her belt (cool, right?).

“I’ve always loved technology and the internet and thinking about what that all means for our world and society, yet I never thought myself capable of actually building things that contribute to that. I thought  it was magic,” Amanda explains. “And I thought studying liberal arts meant I would not be capable of learning a hard skill like programming.”

Then, she decided to enroll in Flatiron’s Web Development immersive—and the program completely changed her mind.

“It’s hard for me to articulate the feeling of being so utterly wrong about my capabilities, yet so happy about that at the same time,” she says.


For the past two years, Michael Prouty has been working as a software developer at LogCheck, an easy-to-use mobile platform for maintenance staff.

His background, however, is in music. Michael studied classical piano at Pomona College, then spent some time after school as an accountant.

To make the jump into programming, he went to Flatiron.

“I kind of tend to see starting out in programming in relation to starting a new musical instrument—just like there are crazy virtuoso musicians who’ve been at it since birth, so too are there crazy virtuoso programmers who have been at it since Apple’s logo had a rainbow on it,” he writes.


Robyn Travati is clearly creative. She’s got an eclectic list of passions: art, dance, plants, film UI, the Italian Renaissance, male haute couture, and quantum physics. After graduating from Columbia University with two fashion internships, she spent three years as a stylist. Then, Robyn decided to channel her creativity in a new direction—and go into tech. She currently works as a software engineer at Squarespace, where, she says, her job is “literally UI and data design, just written in JavaScript and Python rather than rendered in Photoshop and Cinema 4D.”

And now that she knows how to code, she can be inventive in fresh ways. For example, after seeing The Imitation Game, she decided to create a program that could send and produce simple ciphers. I’ve a

Talent Management

These days, Stephanie Oh is a product manager for the world’s largest beacon proximity and location intelligence company, inMarket.

But five years ago, she was a talent manager for rising artists and producers in the music industry. Why—and how—did she make the leap?

“After seeing how creative so many websites and apps are, I thought, ‘Who are the people who make these things?’,” she says. “It seemed inherently creative, and that’s what attracted me to it in the first place. I felt like even as an entry web developer, it would be creative because I’d be making things.”

So, in 2012, Stephanie decided to teach herself the basics of web development. She started a small tutoring and essay-writing business (gotta pay the bills), then signed up for Flatiron’s Web Development immersive.

Although her current job is pretty different from her previous positions, Stephanie says being able to communicate and teach complex ideas is still incredibly important.

Pro Baseball

Like Stephanie, Adam Jonas used to manage talent—however, he was working with pro athletes, not musicians. Adam spent two years in player development for the Milwaukee Brewers, followed by a stint as the Academy Director for the Pan American Sports Group in the Dominican Republic. Then, he founded Major League Draft Services to educate amateur baseball players about the draft.

Adam’s next gig had nothing to do with sports. He went to Flatiron, then became a developer at a Brooklyn-based marketing agency. After that, Adam returned to Flatiron—this time not as a student, but as a full-time developer.

In 2015, Adam became our Managing Director of Engineering.

Here’s how he describes his position: “I’m not a coder anymore… I’m a conductor. My job is to make sure the symphony continues to play in harmony. To draw out the sounds and rhythms of my individuals through one-on-ones, quarterlies, and conversations in the hallways.”

There are so many talented developers out there with atypical backgrounds—in fact, maybe it’s time to abandon the idea of a “typical” developer background at all.


Feeling inspired to learn how to program or consider a new career by these developers’ paths to programming? You can get started for free on Learn.

This post was written by Aja Frost, who covers business, tech, productivity, and careers. 

Preparing for the Technical Interview: Five Formats to Expect Previous Post 3 Tips on How to Prepare for Your Technical Interview Next Post