Failing Forward: Jesse Forte’s Journey to Coding
Redemption (launching this July) is a book about achieving a better life, through struggle and hardship. That title could also sum up author Jesse Forte’s life thus far. Having reported overseas and even spent a stint homeless, Jesse now works as an application analyst at Kubra, a crisis management company.
From journalism to coding—with a little detour
Jesse took a roundabout path to coding. At his alma mater, New Mexico State University, he’d studied journalism. As a football player, he was wary of classes that might pose a challenge to the minimum GPA required for him to remain on the team. “I knew that I’d really have to buckle down if I went into something like computer science,” he said. “I was afraid that if I didn’t get the grades, I wouldn’t be able to play.”
After graduation, Jesse worked as a reporter in New Mexico with KRWG NEWS 22, and later in Ecuador as a Spanish radio broadcaster. While he enjoyed it, he did crave that challenge: “something that was going to kind of break me mentally.”
But it wasn’t a straight shot to coding. “A year and a half before the Boot Camp, I was actually living in New York. I mean, ‘living’ is a pretty interesting word because when I say ‘live there’ I was actually homeless in New York,” he shared. “I was working three jobs at the time, and I still didn’t have enough money to pay rent.”
After a while, Jesse decided New York wasn’t working out for him. He went home to Arizona and worked at FedEx and as an in-store technical specialist at Apple, until one of his friends told him about the University of Arizona Coding Boot Camp. Jesse decided to enroll.
Life wasn’t easy. Not only was Jesse still juggling multiple jobs, he felt like his lack of prior coding experience put him at a disadvantage. But his determination paid off. “I always look at the advantages of the disadvantages. What can this teach me in this moment?” he said.
Overcoming unexpected obstacles
The first day of Boot Camp, an instructor told the class they needed to plan on investing 15 hours a week into the program. “Well,” thought Jesse. “If everyone else is investing 15, then I need to put in at least 23, 25.” He looked at his schedule and set aside time every day to work on the program outside of class.
There were curveballs, too. Two of his best friends passed away while Jesse was in Boot Camp. “I used my pain to wake up earlier, to bring a whiteboard to class to write all the code down, to ask more questions, to really get a thorough analysis of what I was trying to understand… because I really needed a new outlet,” he said. “Computer programming, which is so weird, was that outlet for me. And I dedicated graduation to those two buddies of mine.” Making friends in the boot camp also helped, and Jesse said he still meets up with his former classmates.
Watching his life come full circle
Jesse also credits boot camp with helping him problem solve. “I recommend computer science to a lot of different people and it’s not just about writing code,” he said. “It helped me figure issues out in life [and] problem-solving on a new level: to ask different questions, to look at different things, to find different resources.”
Over Christmas, while he was still enrolled in Boot Camp, Jesse crossed paths with a young man who was homeless. Jesse invited the man to live with him until he could get back on his feet. He encouraged him to set goals and gave him his email address for updates. At that point, the man’s eyes got big. He pulled a book out of his backpack: Fail Forward Through Success—the book Jesse had written about his time in New York.
“Your book helped me not kill myself,” the man told him. Today, that man has a job, is returning to college, and is rebuilding his relationships with his family. “I want to help people out,” Jesse said. “I’m thankful that I’m in a place to do so.”
Hoping to inspire more young people, Jesse started a podcast called Young Revolutionary Minds, which hosts Forbes 30 under 30 members, authors and artists, professional athletes, Ted Talkers, inventors, philanthropists, CTOs, and many other guests.
Now, Jesse works as an application analyst at Kubra: a company that handles crisis management issues. His daily functions include coding, analyzing data, and handling client questions. He enjoys getting a sense of the company’s different aspects and said he’s still learning: “Like computer science, it’s a day-to-day effort. It’s a continuous learning experience and I’m just very grateful.”