Alex Zito-Wolf is a 25 year software developer working at Education First in Shanghai. He speaks Mandarin and English, and builds english education applications for Mandarin speakers in China. We heard his story and wanted to ask him a few questions about his path at GA and where it has taken him.
When did you decide that you wanted to make your international move?
Since an exchange program to Spain my senior year of high school I have had this dream of living internationally. I wanted to become truly multicultural, both in language and in attitude. To be able to think and understand concepts from more than one perspective.
The software education that I got through General Assembly helped me turn that dream into a reality at 25, and I’m writing this piece from my apartment in the Jiao’Tong district of Shanghai. 你们好! 😃
How and when did you decide on General Assembly for your programming education?
It started when I was 23, working at a Chinese-American education company. I was teaching myself programming online and Mandarin Chinese with my coworkers. I loved self-teaching, and I was obsessed with learning how the web worked, but I had hit the limit of what I could teach myself without a more established structure.
I looked at several code schools and internship programs, and had conversations with many alumni. I remember distinctly a conversation that I had on the phone with an alumnus of GA that absolutely made my decision easy. The clarity and fluidity with which she was able to talk about software told me more than I needed to know. I applied for an academic scholarship, and my previous experience with front-end development earned me the scholarship and a place in the 7th Web development Immersive.
What was your experience like in the Web Development Immersive program?
Attending the immersive program was a huge challenge, but incredibly rewarding. For the first time, I felt like I was learning something that I truly wanted to learn, and had personally invested in. Because of that palpable investment, I felt like I owed it to myself to squeeze every ounce of knowledge I could out of the program. I spent hours in conference rooms after the building lights turned off at 10. I pulled 12 hour days. I started personal projects, I freelanced on the side. I learned more than I thought possible in 3 months.
You didn’t get hired in Shanghai, how did you transition into your international role with EF?
After I graduated I applied to Education First in Cambridge, an international education company headquartered in Lucerne, Switzerland. I knew they had software development offices in London and Shanghai and I wanted to leverage my new experience as a way to get myself into an international position. During my interviews I let them know that I was excited about software and just as excited about travel. My interviewer asked me, “Are you here because of the technology or EFs mission?” and I could easily and honestly answer both.
After a year working at EF I was ready to make my move. I talked to visiting developers in Shanghai, impressed them with my budding Mandarin skills and interviewed for a role in 上海 soon afterwords. I got the offer within the week.
If you were to offer one piece of advice to a budding software developer, what would it be?
Start with small goals. Make them attainable. You can do anything eventually, but incremental reward is how you reinforce good learning habits.