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Becoming an entrepreneur after Hackbright

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Jennifer Yan graduated from Hackbright in September 2016. Prior to Hackbright, Jennifer studied Criminal Justice and worked in Criminal Forensics (queue the Law & Order soundtrack!). After graduation, inspired by her passion for entrepreneurship and philanthropy, she founded SEO Symbiosis, LLC. a startup for online marketing that supports at-risk youth through the CEDARS charity. Here, Jennifer shares her story on how she changed her career path, learned to code, and started her own business.


Problems – with code, in your personal life, as a professional – are always present. But knowing how to break down complex problems, figure out solutions, and determine the advantages and disadvantages of each solution are invaluable skills. It’s also been one of the main benefits of learning how to code and helped me set apart the difference between standing on the sidelines and taking charge of my life and its circumstances.

It wasn’t until I entered my early 30’s that I decided to take a major step in improving my life and seeing what is possible through hard work and determination. Prior to that, I went through major episodes of imposter syndrome, basically not attempting things for the fear of not being good enough. To my younger self, entering an intensive coding boot camp or starting my own business would have been unthinkable. It took many years after graduating with a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice, to change my career trajectory.

As a young adult, I only knew that I had a passion for creating new things and solving puzzles, but didn’t know that these two passions would later translate into a passion for coding and a transition into Hackbright.

Criminal Justice was a great field for me to explore my interest in problem solving. However, I did not see much growth happening in the industry. There wasn’t really an aspect in the field where I would have had the ability to play around with new tools or software, or where I could create new projects that were uniquely my own.

At that point in time, I really needed a field that would challenge me and foster intellectual growth with people that are always looking to build the next greatest product.

Why it’s called bootcamp

When I needed a challenge in my life to keep it interesting, Hackbright was definitely there to make sure that happened. Hackbright was a very intensive program and it forced me to find solutions to problems that I had have never experienced before. You will experience every button getting pushed – triumph, confusion, etc. But getting out of my comfort zone was where real growth happened.

My education from Hackbright was instrumental in developing my critical thinking and problem-solving skills. From a technical standpoint, I learned a lot about improving user experience with a website.

Prior to Hackbright, I learned how to write code in programming languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, but I was more concerned about getting the code to work rather than writing eloquent code that would be well-maintained into the future.

Towards the end of the Hackbright program and into my journey into opening a web design/online marketing company, I started to evolve as a coder and sharpened my critical thinking skills. I started thinking about how I could optimize my code to increase loading speed, looks, and preserve site architecture. When I started building websites for my own company, I wanted to make sure that not only did the site work, but it had to have the ability to scale and accommodate a growing demand of users.

“Take a problem, throw it on the floor. Smash it into a million pieces, then solve the problem piece-by-piece.” 

From going through the traditional educational system in undergrad, I often felt that facts could be easily memorized, but soft skills were severely undervalued. One of the most valuable soft skills Hackbright taught me was how to break up a big task into smaller pieces. Oftentimes, when presented with a big task (learning to code or starting a business from the ground up), it is easy to become paralyzed when trying to figure out what to do. In order to keep the project moving forward I learned to break that big picture goal into smaller, manageable pieces. I also learned to determine what are the project’s priorities and use the minimum viable product (MVP) model.

One great thing about Hackbright was the community of staff and classmates that were there to support my journey. There are a lot of things that were foreign to me and it was important to have that network of people to help me along the way. I also sought out people in my field with more experience that helped challenge me and propel me forward. I realized that I needed people that have been in my shoes of opening a business and have gone through similar challenges so that I could learn from their expertise.

Why I decided to go into business

After Hackbright my education did not stop. I continued building on my technical skills and pursued my interest in growing businesses. I took this passion and created my own startup, SEO Symbiosis LLC.

SEO Symbiosis helps businesses grow their client base and take their business to the next level, so that owners can focus solely on running day-to-day operations. Our product magnifies marketing efforts through digital marketing/search engine optimization.

Although I had not previously had first-hand experience running my own business, I knew that I would have to constantly find new clients in order to succeed. Moreover, there would be a mounting amount of new responsibilities as a founder.

The choice to venture into business was not a decision that I made lightly. I thought about all of the incoming responsibilities and possible issues that many business owners faced. Being an entrepreneur would be difficult and arduous. I could have taken the safer route and worked for a start-up, but to me, there was no greater satisfaction than starting something from scratch and being able to call it my own.

There came a point when I knew I was mentally ready to make a big move in my life. My mindset changed, and it was more important to achieve my goals than to constantly worry potential obstacles. I knew that these issues would inevitably appear but I became confident that I would be able to seek out resources to help solve them.

As a life-long learner, I firmly believe that education is a powerful catalyst in opening up the number of life opportunities that are available to underserved communities. This is why I decided to donate a portion of SEO Symbiosis’ proceeds to the CEDARS charity, to help at-risk youth and assist with empowering them through education.

What I learned

Learning how to program was a lot more than just learning how to give a computer a set of instructions. It has been pivotal in opening up possibilities in my life. I pose a question to you – “What is stopping you from achieving your fullest potential in your life or your business?” And, “What can you do currently to overcome these obstacles?”

Want to talk more about tech and building businesses? Are you a budding entrepreneur? Find Jennifer at jen@seosymbiosis.com, or on GitHub or LinkedIn if you’d like to learn more about her experience in tech.


Interested in learning more? Check out our upcoming Part-Time Prep Course and our 12-week full-time or 24-week part-time Software Engineering Programs. Hackbright Academy offers a deferred tuition program to select, eligible students.

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