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It’s never too late to educate yourself – Especially within IT

1. March

Meet Ricardo Aguiar, a 57-year-old graduate of Hack Your Future, a non-profit coding school for people with limited access to education. With a background in marketing, photography, and the financial sector, IT has been one of his interests for as long as he can remember. And today he gets to work with it every day as a Full-Stack Developer at BESTSELLER in Denmark.


All kinds of challenges

Ricardo is born in Brazil and has lived in Denmark since 2010. Before that he lived nearly 20 years in the US. When Ricardo was six years old, he told his parents that he would like to move to New York, and so he did when he was 26. When he talks about this decision, he explains that he loved a good challenge and wanted to explore his potential, which his home country did not have the right environment for. And moving to the US with no English, an unfinished college degree, and very little money - is definitely what you would call a challenge.


Ricardo used the first ten years to establish himself. He taught himself English since he had no money for language classes and had several jobs until he could get a driver’s license and a permanent place to live. Finally, when well established, he decided to continue his career in marketing and advertising. Here he got a job for an agency doing UI/UX, which he describes as “a perfect marriage” because it was like marrying his college background in marketing and his interest in IT and digitization. Unfortunately, the tragic circumstances of 9/11 in New York drove the industry down, and it cost Ricardo’s position at the agency. Subsequently, he got a new job in IndyMac Bank, where he worked with the wholesale side of mortgage lending.


Next to his job in the financial sector, Ricardo had a growing interest in photography, and he decided to take classes on the side just for fun. He thought it would be cool to take beautiful pictures when scuba diving with his Danish girlfriend. At that time, he was doing really well in the bank and thought of staying until retirement. Only the upcoming financial crisis made it impossible. In June 2007, a short time after Ricardo got married, the market was in full collapsing mode. And in January 2008, the bank bought him out, and the Feds took over and closed it.


That meant another career change for Ricardo, and he decided to pursue a career as a professional wedding photographer after he graduated from his classes. However, it was a rough field to get established in, and he realized he could not make ends meet fast enough. Ricardo and his wife knew they had to move. But to Brazil or Denmark? Denmark won by a mile, Ricardo underlines. Because of the welfare, the healthcare, and the safety net the country provides. They moved to Denmark in September 2010.


The journey towards an IT career
When moving to Denmark, it was a requirement from the immigration services for Ricardo to get a job to support himself during the process, and he quickly found a position at JYSK through his wife’s network. Here he ended up working three years in the Production Department and seven years in the Quality Department, where he got to explore the technical side of IT logistics and the quality process of a large retailer. Ricardo underlines that pursuing a more direct career within IT was always in the back of his mind during these years. 


After many years in the same position, he felt that the challenges became lesser, his work became routine, and he was beginning to lose his motivation. He wanted to be in a position where he could use his full potential. So, Ricardo decided to apply for a Team Leader position at his department in JYSK. But he did not get it. And after that, he realized he had to do something for himself and pursue a career in IT.


Ricardo started at Free Code Camp, where he would take classes in the afternoons and evenings when he got off at JYSK. He also began to go to Meetups in Aarhus, and one evening he heard about Hack Your Future (HYF). Instantly he felt to apply for the course, and in July 2019, Ricardo was lucky to be accepted. At that time, HYF was in Odense, which felt close enough since he was living Vejle. “Every Wednesday, I would come home from work at JYSK around 14.30, take a quick shower, grab a cookie and a coffee, and then take the train to Odense, and I would be home around 21.00. It was some rough months, but all worth it”, he says.


He describes the HYF course as: “the perfect combination of learning the technologies relevant to the current web development environment, free of costs and with no strings attached.” In connection, he was concerned he could not retool himself with all the new technology since it was over 20 years ago, he had last worked with IT in New York. But HYF’s approach and methodology gave him the confidence to complete the course, graduate, and acquire the skills aligned with the current marketplace. He then expresses how the course has opened opportunities that otherwise would not have been there for him.


In connection, Ricardo states: “when you graduate from HYF, you are very capable of getting a job within IT. But having said that, it also goes on the individual. You have to put work into it. Learn the technology and keep up your continuous learning because you can never finish learning within this field. You can never master technology, and that is why IT is so exciting.” All in all, Ricardo highly recommends the course to anyone that desires to work with web development and currently struggles to find their place in Denmark’s work environment. "If you have the will - they will provide the way," he underlines.


When given the chance, hard work pays off

After graduating from HYF in April 2020, Ricardo did two remote internships while working full-time at JYSK. One in Sweden for nine months, and one in Copenhagen for four months. During this time, he also had a mentoring session once a week with a Senior Software Engineer from Zendesk, a mentor he still has today. Ricardo thought of taking one more internship but decided he would work hard on his application material and try applying for a regular IT job instead. It took five or six iterations to write material that reflected him. Ricardo states: “I wanted the employer to see me. Because obviously, I was not a young guy and what I knew probably was not enough, but I wanted to express both my personality, qualifications, and how much I wanted the opportunity.” 


Suddenly Ricardo was invited for two interviews after applying to a job ad on LinkedIn for a front-end position at two different departments at BESTSELLER. At that moment, he knew that he was on the right track. He went to both interviews and accepted the one that aligned best with his background and previous experiences. And today he develops Full-Stack e-commerce applications for one of the leading Danish companies using the latest technologies. Ricardo has himself, his strong will, his mentor, and Hack Your Future to thank for that, he underlines.


Ricardo describes his workplace at BESTSELLER as “a perfect fit,” a company with an excellent culture and environment. He appreciates that it is an international company and that he has colleagues from all over the world, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In his opinion, that only strengthens the team because the cultural contrasts create diversity, influence the outcome, and produce better results. He ends our interview by saying, “Today, I enjoy going to work every day.”


Hack Your Future is a non-profit coding school that addresses the need for more web developers and diversity in the tech industry in Denmark. It does this by offering relevant tech education to individuals facing challenging situations that prevent them from fulfilling their professional potential. Thereby, HYF bridge the gap to the labor market, making employment as a web developer possible.


In the course, the students learn a relevant technology stack to build modern web applications. The stack consists of HTML, CSS3, JavaScript from beginning to advanced level, Git, MySQL, DB, NodeJS, React, and several other frameworks and tools during the graduation project. Many of HYF's graduates return to mentor the next generation of students - in Ricardo's case he shares his knowledge and insights about how to best present ones skills to employers.