Starting Again: Patrick Urbankowski’s Crossover to Coding

When Patrick Urbankowski graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Material Science and Engineering, he had an advanced understanding of chemistry, physics, and nanomaterials. 

His passion for the field led him to Drexel University’s PhD program, where his research was on the frontier of new technology related to energy storage and quantum computing. He was energized by creating new technology that could help everyday people.

After graduating in 2019, his employment opportunities were limited to Silicon Valley or rural parts of the U.S. which were far from his home and network. Determined to stay in Philadelphia, he accepted a position with DuPont

In his new role as associate investigator, Patrick turned from his specialization in nanomaterials and worked with polymers and plastic. Then, the global pandemic hit and like millions of Americans, Patrick struggled with the economic fallout of COVID-19. 

“I had time to think about what I wanted from my career when I was laid off. I had this engineering background and experience with coding languages like MATLAB and C++ but I wasn’t applying myself or using my creativity,” he explained. 

Not wasting a moment, Patrick enrolled in the Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp the same week he lost his job. 

Learning the ropes

His entrance into the world of coding was swift and condensed. Right away, he was immersed in the world of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and more. 

“I had never learned about these technologies before, so it was intimidating at first. Every week we were covering something new or building on concepts from the previous week. It was really exciting and engaging,” he said. 

The fast-paced nature of the program was undoubtedly daunting, but Patrick adjusted quickly and managed to keep up with the work — while enjoying it too. 

Applying new concepts to functional applications

After the first two months of the program, Patrick and his peers were asked to create a project that applied their new skills in a functional way.

Patrick and his partner designed an app called Youjuke — not to be confused with YouTube — that allows users to share and listen to music together despite their distance. The idea was born out of the pandemic in an effort to stay connected with friends and family during an isolating time. 

Multiple users can queue up music to a shared playlist, collaboratively setting the song order by voting on their favorite tracks.

“We worked day and night on our first project, and it was a lot of work, but it was really exciting to create an interactive app that people can use every day,” said Patrick. “I’m still really proud of it.”

Building enduring relationships 

Patrick and his partner decided to stick together for their final project as well, which involved utilizing all the technologies they had learned in the past six months. With help from another student in the program, they came up with an app called Tennis Match that allows users to find other players in the area, share availability, and organize local matches. 

What started as a final project blossomed into a passion project for the entire group. “Even six months after the boot camp has ended, we’re still working together — and hopefully this year it’ll end up in the App Store,” he said. 

Forging a new path 

When Patrick completed the program, he realized he had completely pivoted from his background in material science and engineering.

“I don’t have any regrets starting from the bottom in a new field and taking on a new endeavor. It has paid off in so many ways,” he said.

He continued working on the Tennis Match app with his peers until landing a full-time opportunity as a full stack developer at Pavone Marketing Group, a marketing and advertising agency, six months later. 

“Last year was really stressful, losing my job and jumping into a new field, but it was worth it. My salary is the same as it was before, even though I started a new career. More than anything, I’m enjoying my work. It doesn’t even feel like work because it’s so enjoyable.”

Interested in changing your career? Explore Penn Boot Camps in coding, data analytics, digital marketing, fintech, and cybersecurity. 

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