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Coding Academy Graduate Finds Purpose on Fort Knox
Kentucky Ag Connection - 06/29/2022

Lesley Downs, originally from Bardstown, is a graduate of the Spring 2020 and first Greater Knox Coding Academy class, whose higher educational journey began at Western Kentucky University with a bachelor's degree in entrepreneurship and a certificate in distilling arts and sciences.

It wasn't until she began working at a regional brewery that she found the distillery industry wasn't the best fit for her. Her mom, an administrator at Bethlehem High School, heard about the Greater Knox Coding Academy starting at ECTC and thought it would be a great opportunity to explore another career field.

As a Coding Academy student, Downs earned the following certifications:

- Oracle Certified Associate, Java SE 8 Programmer

- OracleJava Foundations Certified Junior Associate

- CompTIA Security+ ce Certification

- CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF+) Certification

- Certified Agile Practitioner (ScrumMaster)

Downs recounted the rigorous 17-week course.

"In hindsight, I didn't know what I was getting into, and I didn't really know what software development and coding was. I thought it was more IT support or building websites," said Downs. "It was a very difficult program and opened my eyes that there's more to a website than the user interface that people see. It's amazing what goes into even one button click, which sometimes is even 15 files."

Downs said she benefitted not only from the technical training, but also soft skills training and other support from instructors and staff.

"I experienced tons of support throughout the academy, including professional development such as employer round tables, dress for success seminars, resume workshops, and professional headshots," said Downs. "However, I think what has set my experience with ECTC apart has been the continued dedication and support from staff members. After completing my program, I had mentors that helped me navigate the job market. I still get calls from staff checking in to see how things are going."

With certifications and soft skills gained in the academy, Downs is now employed with CoureSys Federal as a software developer, working with the U.S. Army Fort Knox Transition Assistance Program in the system used to track classes and trainings service members complete as they transition out of the Army and into civilian life. Downs said she's found purpose there.

"The purpose I've found doesn't come from the work I do specifically, but what I work on. We're ultimately helping service members who have served our country. I've always seen myself as someone who likes to help other people and I'm helping someone in their process and that's what's important to me," said Downs.

Along with purpose, Downs has found financial success as a software developer.

"My entry salary as a software developer was 50% higher than the salary of other careers I was considering. In less than a year and a half at my current job, I have been promoted from associate developer to intermediate developer and serve as the team lead," said Downs. "As a result, I am now making 42% more than when I started as an associate developer and a little over double what I anticipated making in a different career."

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