The journey of two young developers: from Rocket.Build Community participants, to interns, to full-time employees

Lately, life has been about self-improvement. I moved to a new city and found a home in Denver. I went back to school to become a web developer. Moving somewhere new means branching out, right?

With the skills we acquired at the  Galvanize Web Development Immersive, my classmate Jessica Culver, and I stumbled upon a HackaTHON that would change the trajectory of our careers and personal growth. Having already learned programming languages prior to starting Galvanize, Jessica and I both found new skills in JavaScript, Node.js, React.js, Express.js and more during our continued education.

Rocket Software took a chance by putting their energy into the Rocket.Build Community HackaTHON and reached out to the community of Denver. Jessica and I answered the call. Jessica, strong in logic and functionality and I, with a calling to design and UI/UX went head forward into the 24-hour HackaTHON with a singular purpose: To create a platform an Early Learning Center would be able to integrate into their daily strategy and lessen the burden of daily tasks.

Eight hours later, we turned nothing into something and won the HackaTHON. Both of us unemployed, we were left feeling empowered and hopeful for the future. After six short months at the Galvanize Web Development Immersive, we were able to not only create, but change lives all together. This is where Rocket Software took a chance on two junior developers and offered us the Summer 2019 Software Engineering Internships.

Throughout the summer internship, we were tasked with continuing our HackaTHON project to see it through into a complete application. Augustana Early Learning Center would soon become close to our hearts. Through Ms. Wendie, we quickly learned the pain that our project would alleviate. Ms. Wendie needed ways to cut phone time with parents, create transparency with parents in terms of calendar use, staff accomplishments and biographies, and to show parents/guardians why their kids should attend AELC. She wanted a website that she could edit to keep up with the changing times. We started as any agile based project would – we created our to do’s, our wireframes, the architecture of the project and decided what took priority in terms of our timeline. We spent the next six weeks coding, with helpful insight from the team at Rocket.

Jessica Culver, Ms Wendie Edwards, Michael Stapleton, Vinnie Smith

Project one:

After finishing the HackaTHON project for Augustana Early Learning Center, we were tasked with integrating a new application with our new product, the Rocket MultiValue Integration Server (MVIS) platform. The purpose of this project was to allow Rocket Software users to have access to a working demo that demonstrates Zowe plugin integration with Rocket® UniVerse data and React.js. The application will help users cut the learning curve when integrating legacy applications with new technologies. We hit the ground running, and with this opportunity grew into ourselves as engineers.

Below are the concepts we learned throughout the Rocket Internship:


Without an empathetic lens, the “why” has no answer. We create to make lives easier and more streamlined into success. Understanding the “why” for each project or client is what makes us relevant.

Ask Questions:

Once online resources are exhausted, and trial and tribulation seems to be nearing the end, it’s time to ask more experienced engineers for collaboration and insight.


Keeping logic in mind, it is okay to test yourself with new technologies and the unknown. It will be a rewarding journey.


Having a boss, a mentor, and a manager who want to see (and value) individual growth and are willing to fight for it, speaks volumes of a company at any level.


I need collaboration to be successful. Knowing that Rocket is always willing to provide that at any level, is what made creating a much more pleasurable experience.


Do the research, create the PowerPoint, practice the presentation, know the questions you’ll be asked. In the long run, these preparatory skills will create stronger solutions and be rewarded with positive feedback. It is worth the 10000 hours of mastery to truly become confident in your craft.

The list goes on, and luckily so does our employment with Rocket Software. Following the internship, Jessica and I were offered full-time positions with the company as Software Engineers 1. Going from HackaTHON participants, to HackaTHON winners, to interns, to employees seems like one of the longest interviewing processes I’ve ever gone through in my life. At the age of 27 and also in the year that Toni Morrison has passed, it feels right to quote her:

  “I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”

This is real, and tender and allows me to see that I am where I’m supposed to be. Rocket Software doesn’t just provide a paycheck and a place to work. Rocket creates a cultivating environment where I’ve learned a spectrum of skills that range far beyond technology. Skills that include: interpersonal connections, presenting, negotiating, supporting my arguments, failing to support my arguments strongly enough, transparency, connecting over common goals, and overall to stay curious. I would recommend this process to anyone that wants to feel valid and real in the beginning stages of their career. To anyone that needs to be empowered or, anyone that has the power to be passed along – Rocket is the place.

Join Jessica and myself at the next HackaTHON in April 2020. We will be ambassadors for the event in true Rocket fashion.

michaelandjessica 1 Posts

Michael has been in the Tech Industry for two years and enjoys the constant growth of everyday problem solving. In his free time, Michael teaches and practices Vinyasa Yoga and is on the board of two non-profits : Out in Tech and Queer Business Alliance helping queer people find their voice in the world of business. If you’re ever curious about what Michael’s up to today, feel free to reach out to him! Jessica Culver’s journey into the world of tech began when she decided to become a self-taught engineer two years ago. After discovering Python and SQL, and learning the basics, she decided to enroll in the Galvanize Coding School to further her endeavors and gain practical skills of working with code in a corporate environment. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, paddle boarding, and exploring Colorado parks.


  • Jeff Winter Reply

    November 20, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    MIchael and Jessica – what an amazing story. I am only 12 days into my Rocket career, but your story touched on so many ideas, lessons, and bits of wisdoms…well written and great insights!

    One of the main reasons I joined Rocket was what I heard about the culture. And your very first point around “empathy” is most important. Always putting the “customer” first – be it a paying commercial client or a non-profit or whoever. Putting yourself in their shoes will almost always result int he right set of actions and outcomes.

    Hope to see you in Denver one day…


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