Student Spotlight: This Air Force Vet Wants to Use His Coding Skills to Solve Social Services Challenges

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This piece written by Muriel Vega originally appeared on Hypepotamus.

After six years in the U.S. Air Force, Kenneth Barnes wanted to come back to his original social work-oriented career path — with a tech twist. Upon realization of how technology could help the family services field from document submission to case management, Barnes decided to enroll in Georgia Tech’s coding bootcamp.

With his graduation nearing next month, Barnes has tackled projects that can help underprivileged communities, including a phone app that helps users find the best way to access social services near train stations when transportation isn’t easily accessible.

Barnes shares more on his best technical skills, what he’s looking for (a mid-size company), and why he’ll be passing on his tech skills to help those who need it most. Here’s why he may be a great fit on your team.

What is your previous education?

I served six years in the Air Force including stints for Operation Iraqi and Enduring Freedom as a Security Forces Journeyman. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Florida A&M University.

Why the interest in the technology field?

I became interested in the technology field while working in the family services field. Timing and consistency is everything when helping families overcome serious problems. If a particular document wasn’t signed and uploaded in a timely fashion, a child could be left in an unfriendly environment. A lot of our technology was old and outdated. I feel that if the developers for the programs that social services use were actually in the field, they could make much better tools for the case managers to use.

What tech projects have you worked on?  

I am in the process of making a cell phone app that will connect people in need with social services near the city’s MARTA stations. The user can see a map of all the social services and find out how long it would take them to access these locations using the train.

I’m also developing a program for disadvantaged people to learn more about how tech can help them compete in the workforce. My girlfriend completed DigitalCrafts’ bootcamp back in 2016 and we are going to use our skills to help our community.

Teaching simple coding techniques can open doors for them. This is something that isn’t being done in disadvantaged communities and it often causes a disastrous cycle to continue. Right now, I am finishing my bootcamp and working on building my basic skills to land a job and learn from others.

What tools are essential to you as a developer?

Google is the most amazing dev tool known to man! Most of the problems that I run into have been some of the same issues that others have faced. Knowing how to look for answers will save you a lot of time. Visual Studio Code is my editor of choice because it makes my life easier by pointing out problems in my code and auto-filling input I have.

How do you stay on top of emerging trends?

To stay informed I listen to a lot of podcasts — Code Newbie and Develpreneur Podcast are my favorites. I am a part of a lot of local Meetups where I interact with people that have more experience in the tech world. I also read books to keep up on my soft skills as well. Right now I am reading “The Pragmatic Programmer.”

What are your best technical or creative skills?

Right now, I feel that my best skills are my front-end skills. I get to be creative and think like the person that will be using what I’m building. Coming from an industry where I communicate with a lot of people with diverse backgrounds allows me to have and share ideas to a team successfully. I am thankful for my growth in this field, and will continue to add layers to my tool belt.

What’s next on your list to learn?

I am learning React. I am amazed at its capabilities to process only user interfaces in applications. I have a couple of apps that I am interested in starting on my own and plan on using React to create them.

Are you interested in working for a startup, mid-sized company, or a corporate giant?

I would welcome any company that has interest in providing training and in-house mentors that would help guide my career as a web developer/engineer. I believe that having a company that supports your growth is very important. That being said, I feel mid-sized company or corporate giant would be a great fit for this.

Interested in looking at Kenneth’s credentials? Here you go! GitHub and LinkedIn.

 

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