All About the Challenge: From Video Game Pro to Master Coder at Comcast

Jonathan Pickard had a job that many only dream of. For 11 years, he played video games professionally. He competed in six world championships and traveled all over the globe.

Why did he give it up?

“It’s a career that’s really fun when you’re 18,” Jonathan said. “But as you’re trying to settle down, it’s very taxing.” For Jonathan, traveling to a different country every weekend got to be too much, especially after he got married.

He retired from video games and took up bartending—an interim job until he decided on a more permanent career. Then, when he heard about a coding boot camp at the University of Pennsylvania, something clicked.

“I’ve always been around technology,” Jonathan said, explaining that his wife and family also work in the tech scene. “It’s something I was interested in.”

But it wouldn’t be easy. There was a huge time commitment involved—and things got even harder one month in.

Ready player one

Being the go-getter that he is, Jonathan didn’t sit around waiting. After one month in the Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp, he applied to 30 coding positions, did six interviews—and ended up with three job offers.

With virtually no web development experience, how did he do it?

“Work ethic I think is what it comes down to,” he said. “While I may not know as much as some people out there, I’m going to continue to learn and put the work and effort into becoming a really valuable employee.”

Jonathan accepted a job as a front-end web developer at Comcast.

Ironically, it was this new job that presented the single biggest challenge and payoff of the boot camp for Jonathan. He felt secure knowing he wouldn’t have to find a job after graduation. He also knew he’d have to work long hours to keep up with both his job and his coursework.

Leveling up

It was a challenge Jonathan could handle.

Eleven years as a professional video gamer taught him there was no hurdle he couldn’t overcome. Looking at the big picture could be overwhelming, but when he focused on taking it one level at a time, it got easier.

“Video games taught me to look at something and say, OK, here’s this one little facet that I need to get better at. I’m going to perfect that, and then I’m going to move on,” Jonathan said. “When you start doing that over and over and over again, all of a sudden, you take another look from the top down and it’s a much smaller project.”

When he struggles to find motivation, Jonathan channels his inner video game player. “There’s that little bit of extra kick there that’s like: you’re going to do it, you’re going to do it well, and you’re going to be proud of yourself later,” he said. It’s that competitive drive that keeps him powering through.

Going for the win

Jumping one hurdle at a time, Jonathan keeps moving toward the finish line.

In fact, he’s even working on a side project: an app that integrates with Untappd to help people find their next favorite drink. In a way, he’s still using his bartending experience—just as he’s still using his video game skills.

Jonathan may have given up one glamorous job, but it’s not game over. “For me, it’s all about the challenge and overcoming the challenge,” he said.

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