From the Classroom to a Career: How Becoming a TA Helped Caleb Martinez Land a Job He Loves
Faced with the stressful decision that all high school seniors encounter, Caleb Martinez made a choice that would put him on an exciting path.
At 18, Caleb used his passion for code to become the youngest teaching assistant in UNC Charlotte Boot Camps history. His story proves that perseverance outweighs years of experience. And it starts with a calculator.
Born to code
Growing up, Caleb was surrounded by technology, thanks to his dad. After showing an early interest in computers and video games, his dad encouraged him to learn programming.
But it wasn’t until high school that this passion took off.
In his sophomore calculus class, Caleb started goofing off with his TI-83 calculator. He wrote programs on the device, creating fun games during boring lessons and later, developing codes to help with homework.
“I caught the bug big time. I couldn’t stop Googling how things work,” he remembered.
Eventually, Caleb stumbled on an online forum where amateur coders came together to collaborate on a game. Working with a 1,000-person user base was a far cry from fiddling on his calculator, but Caleb was thrilled to learn.
When a more advanced techie joined and started organizing the code, Caleb was in awe. “It blew my mind that there were so many possibilities for cleaning up these projects.”
At this point coding was just Caleb’s hobby. But thanks to an unexpected opportunity, it would soon became much more.
Taking a step forward
During his senior year in high school, Caleb faced the decision all teenagers encounter: what to do after graduation.
“I didn’t really know what to do next. When a friend mentioned I could probably get a job with my programming experience, I thought, ‘why not try,’” he said.
After putting together a portfolio of his work and casting a wide net, he landed a freelance web development job at a marketing company. But not totally satisfied, Caleb kept his eyes peeled, waiting for a better opportunity.
He didn’t have to wait long.
Only months after starting his new job, Caleb got a note from a recruiter about a part-time teaching assistant position for the University of North Carolina Charlotte Coding Boot Camp—a university he always wanted to attend. Caleb applied immediately.
From anxious newcomer to proud supporter
Caleb soon found himself back in a classroom—this time at the front, next to the instructor.
“I was really nervous. I thought everyone would see right through me,” he reflected.
But he was determined to prove himself, and after a few weeks, he began to support the instructor with a more confident approach.
In time, Caleb started to get deeply invested in the success of his students. “I felt like I was part of a really welcoming community. When my first class graduated, I was so proud to have helped them get there.”
Reaching for opportunities
Since that first course, Caleb has eased into his role as a TA quite comfortably.
“I realized that I just had to relax and support the students as best as I can,” Caleb said. With more experience, he even helps instructors find success in the classroom, giving them tips on what works and what doesn’t.
Caleb’s experience as a TA eventually enabled him to further his career. His time mentoring students in the classroom taught him things like leadership, problem solving, and communication–the soft skills employers were seeking.
Caleb was working with recruiting firm TEKsystem when his recruiting contact recognized the strength of the UNCC program, and pointed Caleb to an exciting web development position at Bank of America.
Caleb can’t praise the programs enough. “Putting my TA experience on my resume helped me so much in my career. And I’ve also seen so many students find amazing jobs, because of the success of the program.”
Currently, Caleb serves as a senior web engineer at Duke Energy, something he could never have done without the experience of being a TA.
“Teaching is something I never really considered before, but it’s helped my career in such a profound way.”
Wise beyond his years
Caleb has used his experience to help students in every boot camp he’s experienced. “My mentality is, if I can become a TA, you can learn to code.”
His biggest advice for students is patience and perseverance. It can get frustrating trying to understand code or waiting for an opportunity outside of the classroom, but it’s crucial to focus on your end goal.
Above all, Caleb believes that success in coding is about what you bring to table. “Personality, resolve, resilience, creativity, resourcefulness – a strong combination of these skill sets are far more important in coding than just memorizing information,” he pointed out.
Looking ahead, Caleb wants to become an instructor. But first, he has to prove himself in the classroom. Recently, he got the opportunity to be a substitute.
“I’ve learned from being a TA that it’s really important to prepare, so I went in hours early to make sure I was ready for the class,” Caleb said. “It was such an exhilarating time and I got a lot of great feedback from the students.”
Caleb hopes he gets the opportunity to teach again. “Just like in coding, practice is key. Next time, I know the class will go even better.”