#29: Charlie Harrington – From Finance to Biz Dev before finally becoming an Engineer at LendUp

A New Jersey-native, Charlie Harrington believes that you can’t find luck unless you take that courage to jump off the train and put yourself out there. From New York to London, Charlie transitioned from finance to business development at a startup. As if breaking into startups via the non-technical route wasn’t enough to quench his thirst for creativity, Charlie ultimately took a deep dive into software engineering by attending a coding bootcamp called Hack Reactor. Charlie currently works at LendUp as a software engineer but it was through a chance encounter that eventually got him the job.


Years in Tech6
Grew UpNew Jersey
Current JobSoftware Engineer
Date Recorded6/26/2016

Key Points:

  • If you want to take a risk, do it early in your career. You’re not going to find luck unless you put yourself out there.
  • Startups give you that opportunity to quickly accelerate your career and give you that flexibility because it's fluid and dynamic. But you’ve got to hustle through it.
  • Tapping into online programming resources are good. But bootcamps can provide you the framework to teach you the lessons you didn't know you needed to know.
  • Embrace your bootcamp experience with a beginner's mindset by admitting that when you don't understand something.
  • Soft skills are as important as your technical skills because you also need to be a great communicator.
  • When doing your job search, it’s really important to put yourself out there and reach out to people who can help you.You never know what opportunities random encounters can actually give you.

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Show Notes (focus on the Stepping Stones):


[1:11] Charlie's early years growing up in New Jersey, majoring in history at Georgetown University, and getting involved with the school's student-run nonprofit organization called The Corp where he got a taste of the business world.

[3:38] Doing a summer internship at Morgan Stanley and working there for three years but realizing it wasn't something for him.

[6:58] Charlie's early experiences in tech: Making his first website about frogs and toads; creating an election campaign website for his uncle while working at Morgan Stanley; working at a tech help desk in college

[9:00] Pondering on his career: Charlie decided to try investment banking for a year and he found himself drowning

[10:45] His train metaphor of breaking into tech: Seeing the tech scene in New York to be picking up in 2010-2011, he dropped his resume at 3-5 tech companies without hearing anything. He left his job at Morgan Stanley and got a call from education technology company, Knewton

[14:25] Charlie's work experience at Knewton doing business development - Charlie talks about the difference between sales and business development.

[16:41] Joining a Python reading group to pick up the lingo, learning iPhone programming through Big Nerd Ranch books, and starting their first international office in London and traveling throughout Europe

[19:22] The flexibility startups can give you to accelerate your career

[21:22] STEPPING STONE:How Charlie transitioned into tech: Designing a game and Charlie's thought process behind deciding to join a bootcamp

[27:20] Factors for choosing Hack Reactor - Excitement of being in a new city + Reviews

[28:19] Preparing himself for the bootcamp: Charlie attended a Big Nerd Ranch Swift Programming for a week-long course and Hack Reactor prep. He then quit his job at Knewton when he got into Hack Reactor.

[30:25] The bootcamp experience: Approaching it with a beginner's mindset and dealing with challenges in communication and pairing

[33:43] Charlie's job search experience: Dealing with rejections and an interesting story of how he ended up at LendUp after initially getting auto-rejected (Thanks to the lobster french fries!)

[37:47] The Lightning Round

Imagine you were dropped into a new city you've never been to before. You have a laptop and $100. What would you do to get to the same spot you're at?

  • Find a place with a public WiFi. Start getting online and be in a place that gives opportunities for chance encounters.

What music, video, or routine that you followed to help you get over frustrating situations?

  • Soundtrack from the movie Amelie and Hamilton

What is the one piece of advice you would want someone to know who's considering starting on this journey? Can you contrast breaking into startups via non-technical route versus technical route?

  • What's nice about going down the path of the unknown is the chance encounters that occur. Think about yourself in 5 or 10 years and how can you get there. Jumping off the train is murky. You don't know what you're going to find.
  • Bring something to life. Find something you're interested in and try to re-create it. Try to re-build a website you like.

Articles Mentioned & Resources:

Learning Resources

Hack Reactor
The Corp
Morgan Stanley
Big Nerd Ranch Swift Programming
P5.js - for interactive drawings and diagrams
Daniel Shiffman YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/shiffman


Big Nerd Ranch books
You Don't Know JS by Kyle Simpson
Eloquent JavaScript by Marijin Haverbeke
For interview prep: Check out Wikipedia entries for the data structures
Nature of Code by Daniel Shiffman

Contact Information:

Charlie Harrington
Website: whatrocks.org
Twitter: @whatrocks
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/charlieharrington

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1 comment

  • A bit suesriprd it seems to simple and yet useful.

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