Dwane Rich was a successful music producer and creative director. In many people’s eyes, he had “made it.” But he also imagined a future working in tech. To get there he challenged himself with bootcamps, surrounded himself with community, and he practiced. A lot. Transitioning from a career in entertainment to his first role as a full time software engineer, Dwane is an example of what it means to be resilient and work towards one’s vision. Today, Dwane shares what it took for him to leap into tech, the brilliance that inspires him, and how the Brilliant Black Minds program shaped his journey.
Dagmawit: Hi Dwane, we’re excited to feature your story during National Engineers Week! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Dwane Richards: I’ve been creative for as long as I can remember, particularly with music and fashion. I went from making beats to designing clothes and product placement. At the time, in order to showcase the things I was creating, we needed a website. That’s when I started dabbling with web development. And I got pretty funky with it. My first client was Nicole Tuck. I worked with Nicole, to launch the website for her t-shirt brand ABU. I found myself getting lost in details that she probably wouldn’t even notice. That was an indicator that I enjoyed web design.
And at some point, it felt like I had reached the goals I’d set for myself in the creative industry and it was time to dream bigger.
D: How did you find your way to coding bootcamp and now a full-time software engineer?
DR: I didn’t realize that I could be a software engineer or how to get there. However, I learned about people like John Stanley Ford- and that showed me that this career was a possibility. It was time for me to be intentional, to evolve my aspirations and to be the example that I want to be for my son, for my community.
At first, I was actually trying to build a program for kids to make beats on iPads. There was a woman named Sandy Bernabei who was so moved by my vision that she set up a meeting with her son-in-law, who happened to be an executive at Google. That’s when I realized the world and the industry that existed around me, but I wasn’t part of it. I left that meeting inspired and ready to evolve that vision.
I began learning how to code, applied and got into the Flatiron School, joined Jopwell, and got connected with the Brilliant Black Minds program. I ultimately landed my first role in tech after taking practice interviews which helped me build my confidence.
Really, I decided to invest in myself and dream bigger. Making it in entertainment is hard but coding is rewarding, pays well and there’s a higher chance of being successful.
D: Your journey is inspiring but I know that it’s also a lot of hard work and perseverance. Were there moments in your journey when you felt like giving up?
DR: I had to lean on my community. There is a saying “if you want to travel fast, travel alone, if you want to get far, travel together.” I attended workshops in the Brilliant Black Minds program, and surrounded myself with people who are in the same position. When I started learning how to code and getting involved in meetups, I realized that there are people from all different walks of life, people who are just like me, and those who are completely different but everyone has a common goal to get better and succeed in tech. I had to throw all pride out the window and allow myself to be vulnerable because I would have never made it if I’d isolated myself.
D: How did you discipline yourself while in coding bootcamp?
DR: From the time I started coding bootcamp to the time I graduated, there were sacrifices I had to make. For me, I just sacrificed time. I used my leisure time to focus on coding and bettering my skills. There’s no way around it with coding. The only way to get better is to practice and quiet your distractions.
D: What has been the biggest impact that Brilliant Black Minds has left on your journey?
DR: After I was exposed to a few Brilliant Black Minds practice interviews, I became less nervous and had a sense of comfort when I performed in real interviews. Knowing what sorts of things I would face in a technical interview really helped boost my confidence.
D: What was your reaction to passing the actual interview and getting an offer?
DR: I felt such an array of emotions. I was at my former job and received a call with an offer to join as an apprentice. From that day forward, I felt that a bridge was created for me to transcend into the next segment of my life, where I felt I needed to be.
D: Is there a brilliant Black mind that inspires you?
DR: There’s a few. First, John Stanley Ford who, as I mentioned above, was the first Black Engineer at IBM. He laid the groundwork for people like myself in tech. James Baldwin is my thought hero.
D: Who’s someone in the tech industry that you admire right now?
DR: Iddris Sandu, who is a Ghanaian digital architect born. He’s making huge strides in the VR space.
D: What’s your favorite part about being a Software Engineer?
DR: My favorite part about being a Software Engineer is being able to solve problems. Everyday is exciting and dynamic. The work feels rewarding and I really feel like I’m finding solutions that really impact the world.
D: What’s a piece of advice you may have with someone who’s changing their careers and in a coding bootcamp right now?
DR: It’s worth it and it’s going to be one of the best decisions you make in your life. Not only for yourself, but also for your family, and your community. It’s not going to be easy but always remember that it’s darkest before dawn. And at times you’re going to feel like you want to quit, and just know that, and don’t stop. Keep going. You could even take breaks, but just don’t stop. And it may not happen. It’s probably not going to happen. Most likely it won’t happen the way you expect it to happen. And when you want it to happen, but as long as you keep going, you will get there.
Rapid Fire Round with Dwane Richards
A book you recommend everyone should read: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
Favorite musician: Claude Kelly
Favorite athlete: Nyjah Huston (Pro skateboarder)
Song you play to feel your best: Whitney Houston (any record)
The app on your phone you cannot live without: Chase App