Sang Ra started each day at 4:45 a.m. to get to his job at Amazon by 5:30. After working a full shift, he’d race home, frantically trying to beat traffic so he could begin his boot camp classes for the evening. Sometimes, he even tuned into class virtually from his phone during the ride.
Sang studied political science in college and began working in supply chain logistics upon graduation. He worked at LaGuardia Airport in construction logistics for about a year before landing a job with Amazon.
While working in Amazon’s fulfillment office, Sang realized he wanted to get involved in technical project management.
Eager to develop relevant technical skills, he enrolled in Columbia Engineering Tech Project Management Boot Camp — and didn’t look back.
Overcoming initial obstacles
Since Columbia University is located in New York, virtual classes were held on east coast time — but Sang lives in Alabama so the two-hour time difference posed a small hurdle.
“Working full-time and doing the boot camp full-time wasn’t easy,” explained Sang. “We had to complete group projects in teams, and coordinating times to meet was the biggest barrier.”
Looking back, Sang views this obstacle as a valuable learning experience. It felt like a real-world situation, where he was working with different schedules, personality types, leadership styles, and varying levels of technical skills.
“We had to consider these factors while we managed projects from start to finish,” he said. “My peers had a lot of resources we could pull from, unlike myself. I came from a non-tech background, and many of my peers were coming from a tech background. So we had to recognize those differences up front.”
Landing a new job at Amazon
Toward the end of the boot camp, many learners were beginning to send out job applications — but not Sang. His resume is tailored specifically to Amazon.
“Instead of creating a formal resume and blasting it out to different companies, I was networking within Amazon,” he explained. “I had an informal video conference with a hiring manager to see if I was the right fit for certain roles, and then we went from there.”
Throughout the process, Sang was continually impressed by Amazon’s dedication to learning and development. “Amazon hires the best and trains the best,” he said. “Some of the people I work under have been in the business for longer than I’ve even been alive, and that speaks to the kind of leadership, experience, and industry knowledge they’re bringing to the table.”
Sang recently had back surgery, which has prevented him from returning to work since finishing the boot camp. Despite this medical roadblock, he’s eager to jump into a new tech project management role once he’s cleared to do so.
“I told my senior team that I plan on leaving supply chain logistics and transitioning to project management. As soon as they heard the news, they put me in charge of all of the specific projects currently being worked on,” he said. “It’s a cool opportunity I’ve been able to have since finishing the boot camp.”
Having secured a new role, Sang now has one piece of advice for others attempting to do the same: don’t doubt yourself.
“I’ve dropped out of college three times. I was a blue-collar, commercial fisherman for three years before I made the decision to transition. I joined the Army, and I never thought school would be a reality for me — until I decided to just do it,” he said. “Don’t let fear dictate your decisions.”
Interested in making a career shift into tech? Explore Columbia Engineering Boot Camps in tech project management, coding, cybersecurity, and more.