Brad Johnston wakes up in the morning as early as possible, helps his son get set up with online school, fires up his computer, and gets to work. He touches base with his team and figures out what he needs to get done that day. Then, he codes — for hours.
Spending all of his time on the computer is nothing new to Brad. Back in the 90s, he was a sixth grader at a computer magnet school. At age 19, he got an IT job with Applied Software in Atlanta, where he was nearing a $50k annual promotion. “All I had to do was get my Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert certification,” he said. “But my advisor gave me a 1,100-page book the week before spring break, on purpose, and told me the test was next week.”
He didn’t take the exam — though if he had known about it ahead of time, he probably would have. Twenty years later, Brad considers that a lesson learned. But it’s never too late to go back to school.
Developing his own career path
Brad had various IT jobs after Applied Software, and sustained a technical career for years. He was familiar with coding and building websites, but realized the education he received two decades ago wasn’t up to date.
At 40 years old, Brad enrolled in The Coding Boot Camp at UCR Extension. “It wasn’t grueling or anything,” he said. “It was a lot of new information pretty quickly, but that’s to be expected. The six-month course was the perfect pace.”
While in the boot camp, Brad applied for various jobs — but had a hard time finding anything that suited his passions and experience. An idea for an app had been brewing in his mind for years, and decided to finally go for it, thinking, “There has to be a better way to get my foot in the door. I know how to do it. I have people that are down to help. Let’s just do it.”
Before long, one of Brad’s tutors from the boot camp was expressing interest in this new initiative. They wound up working together on the project, and brought on another class member who was more data-driven. Combining their unique skill sets, the three joined forces to launch KICKApps.
Through KICKApps, this team of specialized programmers helps businesses create their own digital identity. They currently build React apps, and Brad hopes to explore a few other arenas as well. They started building the app in July 2020, and recently got their first client. “The hard part is getting customers,” he said. “We’ve got one. And the next hardest part will be getting our second.”
Right now, the team is prioritizing building a strong portfolio of clients. As the business expands, Brad hopes to have a larger staff and to constantly have new projects in the pipeline. “I’d really like KICKApps to be able to sustain itself and I’d like for us to be able to work on some start-up stuff,” he said.
Sticking with it
Looking back, Brad is grateful for the trajectory his life has taken. At 19 years old, he made a decision that set him on a path into the technology world. Although he had a successful early career in the industry, he still felt like he needed to learn more — and that’s where the coding boot camp made all the difference.
“There was a kid in my boot camp who was 17, and I just kept thinking, ‘Man, I wish I took this class when I was 17,’” Brad said. “If you can get into something this young, do it.”
Now, Brad is developing his own app and has big plans for his future in technology. His advice for others? “Stick with it. It’s worth it.”
Interested in getting your start in a technical career? Explore The Coding Boot Camp at UCR Extension.