Official Community Event: From Professional Cellist to LinkedIn Software Engineer

A hot new event is coming your way at the end of May. Read below for more details.

About this event

Looking for guidance on breaking into the tech industry from someone who has already done it? Need much-needed inspiration as you work through your Codecademy Full Stack Career Path? In that case, you will want to take advantage of this exclusive chat with Zachary Mansell, a Full Stack software engineer at LinkedIn!

So what do we plan on discussing? Well, topics submitted by our Codecademy Community, of course! REPLY TO THIS POST, and list all the questions you want Zach to answer. We’ll stop collecting answers on Wednesday, May 17th, so be sure to post before then. And from that list, we’ll choose the most popular questions for Zach to answer.


When: Wednesday, May 24, 2023, from 1-2 pm EST

What: A Q&A w/ Zachary Mansell, a Full Stack software engineer at Linkedin

Where: On Zoom (you must RSVP to receive the video link)

Our Guest Speaker

Zach is from Santa Clara, CA, and works as a Full Stack Software Engineer at LinkedIn. He works on data processing tools using React and TypeScript, specializing in the front-end and API layers. Before his career in computers, Zach worked for 15 years as a soloist, teacher, chamber musician, and professional cellist in major US orchestras. In his spare time, Zach enjoys exercising and hiking with his family.

Attendance Disclaimer

At Codecademy, we are committed to empowering all people, regardless of where they are in their coding journeys, to continue to learn, grow, and impact the world around them. By participating in our event, you agree to the following:

Be Respectful: Harassment, bullying, or threatening will not be tolerated. We welcome learners of all backgrounds here, and we ask that you respect each others’ viewpoints and assume positive intent.

Be Authentic: While you are not required to provide your name and are always welcome to go by a username, please refrain from misrepresenting yourself in the community in a misleading way.

Adhere to the Law: Please only share your code (if relevant to the event) or content unless you are crediting the original author or source. Do not share code that infringes on others’ intellectual property. Do not share harmful code or anything that violates local, state, federal, or international laws.

Questions? Comments? Email [email protected]. And if you can’t attend this event and would like to attend more in the future, join our chapter.

I am SO EXCITED for this event! I am a semi-professional violinist looking to become a software engineer. A general question I have is what prompted you to switch from music to software engineering (I imagine you still play the cello)? What was your education path to become an engineer? And last but not least, do you think that there are commonalities between music and coding! (Wondering if my interest and skills in music translates into engineering.)

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Thanks for submitting all of these questions, Java! Glad you’re excited for the event!


@toastedpitabread would be able to comment on this. :violin: :slight_smile:

I can comment on this with a little of my story. Of which I know is one of many musicians but also just workers impacted by the pandemic.

Where I was: Freelance violist in NY for ~10 years. Mainly orchestral stuff but also chamber music, teaching and recordings. Bachelor’s and Master’s in performance. Intl music festivals etc.

Where I am now: After finishing a second BA (in CS) I currently started a full-time swe job in a fintech company in NY (2 months in, plus 3 months full time internship), the role is something close to data engineering. I also volunteer my time in admin for one of the orchestras I loved to work for. Still open to performing when the situation is welcoming.

Loose Observations
The sentences are not supposed to connect to each other, they really are loose observations.

  • Collaboration is powerful: Playing chamber music is a great exercise for how to deal with very different personalities to get to a common goal, which carries over very well.

  • Process: The whole meta of learning about learning goes really far in this sense. If we sing phrases or dance phrases to get a better of how to shape them, in CS you might draw out a problem or generalize it to get a different vantage point. There’s place for mentorship connections that are not as ritualistic as private lessons but still serve a very similar purpose of giving experienced oversight.

  • Interpretation: There’s a lot of things that can be said about this. Some things are cut and dry but often they are not. Picture this scenario: Reading an old code base in an old language with the author’s not in the company and nobody has a complete picture of all the things it does or why it does them. Reminds me of reading scores that are unmarked by obscure composers… it’s a bit of detective work.

  • Creativity: I think this one translates to creative problem solving. Whether it’s diagnosing a problem and seeing patterns (or even having an intuition for where to look), or coming up with solutions, I think there’s a lot of places for creativity (if you’re in front-end, of course that has a lot of more obvious visual creativity connections). I didn’t feel a disconnect between the day-to-day of making music and engineering because it can have a lot of similarities in the expressive nature of how it’s carried. That’s incredibly subjective though. But for sure when I think of other programmer’s explanations/code I do think of terms like: clarity, focus, poise, elegance, directness, roughness, easy/not easy to fit with.


I was initially going to do a bootcamp-style program but was advised to (by someone who knew me and is experienced in the industry) and instead went to public college (2 years). Obviously that doesn’t work for everyone but for me I cannot imagine myself not having done that.

It has opened my eyes to a lot of things I did not know I cared about (I considered dropping everything for math) and in general has opened a lot of doors for the paths I could take now.

This one is a bit too big. But I will say I notice that people appreciate my work much more readily for a lot less effort (even the internship at a way higher rate than I ever made). I took a sick day today because I’m not feeling well and I can afford to do so. Before this would mean losing a day of work. I get taxed less for making more?? How does that work…?

I’m happy to discuss any other nuances as well if you want.


Will the session be recorded as I’m not sure I will be able to attend?

Regardless I have a few questions:

Is LinkedIn your first job as a software engineer? If not what was your trajectory to get there?

What tips do you have for those trying to break in to the industry? Seeing stories of people applying to 200/300+ jobs is soul destroying.

I would also be interested in the route you took to becoming a software engineer, college, self study etc and how long it took?

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Hi @toastedpitabread! I am from a social science background. I have never been near coding before I started learning online few months ago. And I am planning to do a bootcamp after I get to know some basics. I wanted to ask, why did you choose public university? As I can observe, my end goal is similar to yours. If we can talk in detail about it, I will highly appreciate it.

It will not be recorded.

I shared the questions with him. Thanks!

Hi @fatima.sohail , so I’ll give you my personal answer with the caveat that it’s very different for everyone.

As a preface, it’s important to note that in terms of paths: pure self-study, bootcamp, college degree, anyone can get a SWE job if that’s their desire. It may be harder in some paths than others, or some options and doors may not be available in one path where others are, but they’re all possible. And if the person has enough good mentoring and vision they can be just as good without formal training than with.

I’ll highlight some of the pro’s and con’s of college path:

  • Pro: Exposure to an environment where fundamentals are emphasized. Operating system concepts, architecture concepts, algorithmic time-space complexity, computational models (automata theory). These are not only useful constructs that stand the test of time, but they are also a very specific way of thinking about computing problems.

  • Con: Drawbacks of academia. Depending on the professor, testing is not indicative of what the material requires. (I aced my classes but I think some had serious flaws)

  • Con: Some of the material may not be presented well (it’s not clear when or how it’s relevant down the line, although I’ve used the vast majority of what I’ve covered).

  • Toss-up: Mileage varies per professor.

  • Pro: You get somewhat exposed to the math side of things (though depending on the courses, not too heavily). Strong math skills are not necessary to be a good SWE, but I think a strategic intuition in certain key areas is, and knowing what those areas are is useful

  • Pro: A degree is a very easy way towards getting past the initial resume screening. I’ve gotten both an internship and job with minimal projects plus the degree on the resume.

So yea, I would recommend it if you have some or all of these:

  • naturally curious about different topics and want to get your hands dirty with them

  • want a mental/personal challenge

  • want to keep your options open in terms of career path beyond full-stack developer

  • have the energy, time and money to cover it

Things you won’t really get from it, but that you need for being a SWE:

  • learn how to program (although algorithm classes will help you mentally frame what they look for in coding interviews)
  • things like how to use a debugger
  • how to use an IDE (and which IDE’s are worth looking into)
  • how to use linux productively
  • basic security considerations
  • version control
  • agile methodologies (haha this one is really arguable, but at least an idea of what it is)
  • learn any particular programming language
  • basic design patterns (gang of four)

Hope this helps, feel free to bounce back more questions!


@toastedpitabread Thanks a bunch! I have few questions regarding navigating front end development but it would not be appropriate under this thread. Is it okay if I ask you in direct message?

Sure thing! Not a problem

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