Sydney Stern Miller, January 19, 2021 | 7 min read

From Audio Engineer to Programmer

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill grad and successful Audio Engineer Josh Masters on how the pandemic forced him to pivot his career. Josh shares how the Tech Talent South’s Graduate Accelerator Program and Full-Time Code Immersion course came into his purview at exactly the right time providing him with a new skill, alternative career paths, and a virtual community of friends and learners.


What were you doing before TTS?

I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Music. After leaving school I worked as a freelance audio engineer mainly doing live sound and live recordings, as well as some editing work. In addition to this, I also taught small music ensembles at The Burlington School in Burlington, NC. Because of the pandemic, however, a lot of my audio work dried up which prompted me to start looking into other fields to find work and build a career.

What course(s) did you take with TTS?

After being accepted into the Graduate Accelerator Program (GAP), I joined a Full-Time Coding Immersion course focused on Java. I was (and still am) incredibly excited to have the opportunity to dive head-first into the content and learn as much as I could as fast as I could, so taking a Full-Time course was definitely a priority.

How did taking this course remotely impact how you connected with your cohort and instructors?

There definitely was a learning curve for everyone involved with the course, student and instructor alike. After a few weeks however everyone got more comfortable with the online setup. We found creative ways to communicate and collaborate with one another throughout the course, and by the end, I felt we had developed a solid sense of community with one another, despite never actually being in the same room with one another. Having to say goodbye to all of the talented people I had the pleasure of working with made finishing the course a bit bittersweet!

Tell us about your favorite project!

My favorite project was definitely my final. Earlier in the course, we created an application that mapped out the location and routes of buses in the Georgia transit system by using a variety of API’s. For my final, I reimplemented this project using various APIs available through Google. The project takes input about a User’s location and food preferences and then directs them to a Google Map showing them the locations of nearby restaurants, the route to those restaurants from the User’s location, and some info on the restaurants such as the name, address, whether it was open, etc. This project included more JavaScript than I had used at any other point in the course, so I spent a good deal of time researching how to implement my front-end design using JS. I spent a great deal of time looking at the documentation for the Google Maps API JavaScript methods.

How has what you learned at TTS impacted your life?

One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed about myself since joining TTS is that I’m much more interested in understanding how the technology around me functions. I’ll often catch myself wondering how the code that runs my microwave might look, or how the health system in a video game might be designed. I’m just way more inquisitive than I used to be in that area. In addition, the more I’ve continued to learn about programming, the more I realize just how much more there is for me to learn, which is intimidating, but also really exciting.

What has been the biggest challenge in your tech journey?

I think the biggest challenge has been where to go and what to focus on in my own study since finishing my bootcamp. There is so much to learn that it can be hard to identify the areas to focus on now, and what to focus on later down the line.

What have you learned about yourself over the past year?

Probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned about myself this past year is that I’m able to endure through tough times and come out the other side better off. As I’m sure so many people can relate to, the first few months of the pandemic were tough, both professionally and emotionally. I had been working hard to build up a steady stream of business as an audio engineer, and it was hard to see all that go up in smoke in a matter of days as lockdowns hit. I wasn’t really sure what to do or how to move forward, but I was lucky enough to have friends and family to support me and help me figure out where to go from there. I knew a few friends who had gotten into the tech field after completing a coding bootcamp, and having a bit of experience in JavaScript myself I thought I should commit to trying to make a move into tech. I came across the TTS and the GAP program while researching bootcamps online and I applied. I was absolutely ecstatic when I was accepted, and I felt like I finally had a path forward. I committed to doing everything I could to be successful in the program, and I’m happy to say that four months later I feel like I’ve made it out the other side stronger than I was before.

What are your personal and career goals for the future? Dream job?

I really try hard to not day-dream too much about dream jobs considering how much I still have to learn and improve on. I feel like my job preferences are likely to change with time; I know that right now I’m really enjoying learning about algorithms and data structures and would probably want to do work focusing on that kind of problem-solving, but I feel like all it would take is one React course for me completely shift to wanting to become a front-end whiz. With that in mind, I think as long as I’m working somewhere I can continue to improve and make meaningful contributions I would be thrilled.

What projects are you working on now?

Right now I’m doing a lot of HackerRank problems and preparing for a potential interview. Soon I’m going to go back and make a few improvements to my final project from the end of my bootcamp. Specifically, I want to replace the form used to gather a User’s location with the built-in location API used by chrome to automatically pinpoint the User’s location. I also want to clean up the look of the app and then see if I can get it optimized for mobile devices.

How has your background been useful in getting you to this point?

Coming into TTS I knew that I had the ability to pick up new skills fairly quickly. I’ve always been pretty analytical and I really enjoy learning new things. My time at UNC also really taught me how to work efficiently which is essential for programming. While the work I do as an audio engineer has little overlap with programming, the organizational skills and computer proficiency needed to do a lot of audio work have been a big help to me as a programmer.

When you’re not coding, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I’ve been a musician since I was in middle school so I love taking time to practice or jam around with friends. I’m also a huge foodie so I love cooking and trying new food. Recently I’ve also been listening to a lot of history podcasts; I somehow don’t have the attention span to watch most TV shows but have no problem downing a 3-hour Dan Carlin podcast.

LAST QUESTION! What is something that makes you unique?

One thing that might set me apart from others is that I’ve got a pretty wide array of interests, and I usually spend at least a little bit of time trying to learn skills associated with each of those interests. Growing up I played pretty much every sport under the sun, and not just the usuals (I spent some time fencing, bowling, and kickboxing). I love music and play multiple instruments, I had a period where I got really into chess, I love playing pool and I have my own pool cue and glove, I’ve done martial arts since I was a kid and am a huge MMA fan, I love psychology enough that I got a degree in it, and now I can say confidently that I love programming!