MBA with Technical Sales Background Becomes Ruby on Rails Developer

Meet Brian Douglas, A Bloc Full Stack Web Development Grad

Brian Douglas

Before Bloc: Financial Analyst

After Bloc: Rails Developer at IZEA

Currently: Developer at Bloc (!!)

Before Bloc, Brian worked in a technical sales role at a company called TechData in Florida, and was enrolled in an MBA program.

After finishing his Bloc course, Brian was able to transition from finance into Ruby on Rails web development, and recently accepted a role as a Rails Engineer at IZEA, a marketplace startup connecting social media publishers with marketing sponsorships.

For Brian’s capstone project, he pursued a startup idea of his own, a web app called Chuych for helping people find, share, and promote churches in various cities.


Before Bloc

Brian completed his undergrad in Finance and when starting Bloc, he had just completed one semester of his MBA in Business. He decided he needed to acquire these new skills because he had an idea of creating an application to find churches in the area based on city and he knew he needed technical skills to do so.

Prior to choosing Bloc, Brian tried Codecademy and Code School. He ended up choosing Bloc because he attempted to learn programming on his own via Youtube and books in the past, yet neither were effective enough for him. He even created a cat app on his Android phone 2 years ago, but lost focus after he purchased a Java book.

Capstone Project: Chuych – A Platform for Promoting Churches

Brian douglas

Brian’s Bloc Experience

Brian’s goal for Bloc from day one was to tackle the Ruby syntax and become comfortable enough to move away from that into Rails. He wanted to have an understanding to get through simple error handling and bugs, which he really struggled with prior to Bloc.

He really enjoyed working with an experienced developer and asking questions on things he didn’t understand. Brian’s big struggle in learning was how to ask questions without knowing anything about programming. His mentor, Adam, took the time to understand his questions and explain each with a lot of detail. Brian also really enjoyed the pairing program with ScreenHero. Sharing his screen made it easier to learn Sublime shortcuts faster, as well as really understand his mentor’s explanation during their meetings.

Brian’s mentor, Adam, helped redefine Brian’s goals by teaching him how to learn and use sources like Google to his advantage. Brian wasn’t aware how to search for errors on Stack Overflow and Google, and was not always successful.

Brian felt his biggest roadblock during his apprenticeship was impostor syndrome and thinking that he should be at certain points or giving himself unrealistic goals. He overcame this by refusing to compare his progress to others and focusing on what he was learning. He spent a week forcing himself to start his capstone project using TDD, which at first seemed wasted, but put him miles ahead down the road when he finally got it.

Brian Gets A Rails Developer Job

Brian received a position as a Rails engineer at IZEA, a marketplace for social media sponsorships. He handles lower level errors, as well as adding enhancements to their application. Brian has considered enrolling in other Bloc apprenticeships and has considered Frontend Development, since his most immediate goal is to continue on the Full Stack path and hone his ability to build and design his own apps front to back.

Advice to Other Beginners

My recommendation is to begin your learning with a mentor. As you start into a new language or if you are new in Web Development all together, a mentor will take you past the basics faster and give you the ability to implement/learn stuff outside the scope of this new territory.

According to Brian, the best part of the Bloc experience was the time he spent with his  mentor. During that time, he got to understand his mentor’s approach in solving a problem, as well as try advanced things with his Rails apps. Knowing that he could go over his shortfalls while attempting those challenges made him a better programmer. There were countless times when Brian would write an entire e-mail explaining his issues to his mentor, Adam, to only solve it while typing (without actually sending the e-mail).

I recommend going by the curriculum in the beginning, but always think about something outside the curriculum you can learn, whether its TDD or a gem you read in a blogpost. Some of my best learning was when I brought the geocoder gem into the my capstone and implemented  it 75% of the way through without the assistance of my mentor.

Was Bloc Worth it?

According to Brian, Bloc was definitely worth it. It has provided him the opportunity to pair with others to code outside of Bloc, and learn advanced concepts in Ruby.


Connect with Brian

Check out Brian’s Personal Blog
Find Brian on Github
Find Brian on Twitter
Find Brian on Linkedin
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