Student Spotlight: Patrick Gaston:
At Skill Distillery, we have the privilege of teaching some of the brightest new programming talent in the tech industry. It is consistently fascinating to learn about their paths and what drew them to come to our school. Each month, we spotlight one of our students and share details of his or her story. This gives us a chance to talk about our diverse student population, how the students discovered SkillDistillery, and where they’re taking their newfound skill sets. We want to give prospective students a sense of our community and introduce our ambitious graduates to hopeful employers.
SkillDistillery: Where are you from? What were you doing before Skill Distillery?
Patrick Gaston: I was born in Brooklyn, NY, and raised in Port Charlotte, FL, near Tampa. I enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 18 and shipped out in 2010.
SD: What did you do in the Army?
PG: I served as a Power Generations Equipment Repair Specialist, working on large-scale electrical power systems and diesel engines with the 82nd Airborne. I was a paratrooper and jumped 16 times.
SD: When did you exit the Army? What came next?
PG: I got out of the Military in 2013 and went straight to University. I graduated in May, 2016 from Stony Brook University in New York with a B.A. In Linguistics, specializing in Computational Linguistics and Theoretical Linguistics.
SD: So you had some programming experience before starting at Skill Distillery?
PG: Yes. During undergrad I learned some programming with Python and fell in love with it. I pursued it heavily and focused most of my research on Computational Linguistics. My big senior project was focused on Sentiment Analysis, essentially teaching a computer to understand the sentiment of natural language. For instance, building an algorithm that can understand and know that the statement “I love torchys tacos” is a positive reaction to a product or service.
When I was getting ready to graduate, I sought opportunities to earn my asters Degree in Computational Linguistics. I realized I was ahead of many of my peers in linguistics, but behind folks pursuing computer science because I had learned only one language.
I decided to learn Java, as one of the most in demand languages out there and something that a lot of people in my field know well. During my research of “java bootcamps” I ran across Skill Distillery. After learning I could use my GI BillⓇ here, I enrolled.
It seemed like the perfect fit right away with all that they had to offer. I knew I would be up to par and it would help propel my career as a computational linguist.
SD: What was it about the program that surprised me most?
PG: Right away, we hit the ground running with keyboard time. My time in undergrad was academic programming, this is a totally different environment. I learned more here in 3 weeks than I did a full semester in college. That was very surprising to me. The amount of information they can teach in such a short time is incredible.
SD: What was the biggest challenge of the program?
PG: The pace. We are learning very complex things in a super short period. The demand for discipline and focus is always at a premium to keep ourselves up to speed. That being said, the program is really well structured and does a great job of transitioning, which helps!
SD: What comes next for you?
PG: I am founding a startup with some friends from University and will be developing software for the company. I also plan to earn my Masters Degree and do Computational Linguistics. We all know how start-ups go, so I guess my plans depend on how well, or otherwise, it goes!