Blog School of Programming Student Success: Ryan Waite Goes to NASA and Beyond

Student Success: Ryan Waite Goes to NASA and Beyond

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Hi, my name is Ryan Myron Waite and I live in Gaithersburg, MD. I believe I have a talent—the ability to learn and perform at an exceptional level. I love and live to create! Anything creative will catch my attention, which is why web development is so interesting to me.

Before enrolling in the Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree program, I was working two low-end retail jobs for minimum wage. I got accepted to Virginia State University but I decided not to go in order to stay free from debt and student loans (out-of-state tuition is unacceptably expensive). I knew I needed a change.

A regular day for me used to be: wake up, work, work, and then go to sleep. One day a stick literally flew into my face out of nowhere, and that’s when it hit me—I needed a change.

My Gradual Interest in Tech

My educational background is conventional. I attended a public high school and had average grades. Looking back now, I believe I was heading for an average life, which is despicable to me now, knowing what I am capable of.

Back then, I had no idea how a computer even worked, or what it took to make one function. I didn’t know what went into it, but I knew there was something special about them. Anything that allowed me to create and put things into existence HAD to be interesting!

Udacity, Year Up, & my Nanodegree program

Eventually I heard about a scholarship program with Udacity as part of the Year Up program. I applied and was accepted. I thought, “Wow, you guys are going to offer me an education? For free?”

I learned a lot in my Nanodegree program, skills that I consider really valuable. And I did it for free! I wanted to earn a good salary, doing something I love, and now I’m on my way! Web Development to the rescue! Can you believe I even got an internship at NASA HQ? I did! Have YOU been to Mars? I have, and let me tell you, it’s amazing.

I mentioned above that I learned a lot in my program. I know that’s pretty vague. Here’s how I break it down specifically:

  • 60% was skills directly related to Web Development that I learned through doing specific projects.
  • 20% was learning that on my journey to succeed, I am never alone.
  • 10% was learning what it really takes to succeed.
  • 10% was understanding that a positive attitude—towards life, and towards other people—makes a difference.

The Job Search

Eventually it was time to start getting serious about looking for jobs.

The first thing I made sure to do consistently was keep my GitHub profile updated—almost weekly. I created web projects and web applications on my own time and uploaded them to GitHub. I believe it’s because of GitHub that I started getting some attention.

Then came the interviewing process. I must have sent out at least 400 job applications in the span of just a few months. I talked to countless staffing companies and recruiters, updated my resume at least once a week, and I went on several interviews during that timeframe.


In the end, it was GitHub that proved to be my opportunity. A recruiter found my resume floating on a job website—because I posted my resume literally everywhere—and had seen my GitHub profile, and he was impressed. I had a phone interview, and the next thing I knew, I was hired and working as Junior Web Content Developer at 22nd Century Technologies Inc!

“The Nanodegree program got me to where I wanted to go. It not only gave me the skills I needed, but it gave me confidence in those skills.”

Building my confidence was really important, because of what I was up against. I didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. Others did. I knew I’d have to work harder, and I knew I could. But I also had to believe I could succeed.

My advice for others on a similar path: be open to the old saying: “Anything’s possible.” Decide what you want to do, come up with a dedicated plan of action, and stick to it. Nothing great comes easy. Take it slow and understand the life of a developer.

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