Taking Risks and Tackling Challenges: Donovan Lowkeen, Full Stack Developer at Currency

“I definitely have really bad imposter syndrome,” Donovan Lowkeen admitted.

What he doesn’t say speaks louder: this one-time district manager abandoned his familiar, comfortable retail job for a position that challenges him daily—a full stack web developer at a financial tech startup. Now, imposter or not, he’s boldly innovating and solving problems with his fellow team-members (who, by the way, think he’s more than qualified).

Donovan identifies himself as a big picture problem-solver. “I see different things that are happening and I think, you know what would be cool, if there was a business that did this, or a device that did this,” he said.

But Donovan wasn’t always a risk-taker. And his journey to coding wasn’t straightforward.

Taking the safe path

Donovan followed the business path in college, only to realize close to his senior year that he was more interested in technology. Switching to a new major would mean redoing the last few years of college, delaying graduation, and completely reworking his life-plan. Besides, Donovan was skeptical that he’d be able to find a tech job after graduating. Business was familiar. It was safe. So Donovan stuck with it.

Out of college, Donovan started working as a district manager for a grocery retailer. But he soon discovered that the safe, obvious choice didn’t provide the career satisfaction he craved. For a while, he toyed with the idea of going back to college, but he was reluctant to enroll in a four-year program.

The turning point came when Donovan’s friend mentioned a program he was considering: a coding boot camp. Donovan was hooked. This was something he could complete quickly—and if he enrolled in the part-time program, he could keep his current job.

Donovan decided to take a risk. “Hey,” he thought. “I’m still young enough to make the transition into something else, let me just go for it.” So he did.

Jumping into the unknown

The UCLA Extension Coding Boot Camp wasn’t familiar territory, and it certainly wasn’t easy. For Donovan, the most challenging part was learning to approach problems in a different way. In business, he could usually talk his way out of a problem. In tech, that wasn’t an option.

“You have to really change your perspective,” Donovan shared. “You can’t just force your way through it. You have to understand the material before you can get the answer.”

But it turns out that challenge was just what Donovan craved.

“You have to really love learning,” he realized. “In the first few weeks, if they’re able to determine that they’re really enjoying learning all the stuff that they’re currently learning, then they made a good decision.”

Obviously, Donavan made a good decision.

Life after the boot camp

After boot camp came the real test: finding a coding job. Once again, Donovan found his doubts surfacing. “I was skeptical, thinking, there’s so many boot camps out there, how can there be so many jobs that are available?” he remembered.

When he did find a job in web development, at a financial tech startup called Currency, Donovan couldn’t quite believe his good fortune. But he felt intimidated, knowing that there were more experienced candidates out there.

When he asked his team why they chose him, they said it was an easy decision: it was because of his hunger and his passion to continue learning—something he uncovered at the boot camp.

Initially recruited for working on full-stack and React and Node, Donovan quickly took on more responsibilities. When his work team needed help developing other applications in angular CoffeeScript and C#, they told Donovan to dive in.

Donovan took that as a challenge, and while he still struggles with moments of imposter syndrome, his passion for tackling new problems drives him forward.

Innovating into the future

These days, Donovan doesn’t avoid challenges: he seeks them out.

At Currency, he’s helping to develop an application that will make the process of getting a loan almost instantaneous, eliminating the need for tedious paperwork, visits to the bank, and back-and-forth communication.

But that’s just one of the many problems he’s currently tackling. “I’m trying to work on as many side projects as I possibly can,” he shared. “Eventually I’d like to have my own company. I’d love to be looked back on someday as someone who was an innovative thinker and started a business that helped out a lot of different people.”

That doesn’t sound like the Donovan who took the safe route in college. This new and improved Donovan is a risk-taker, boldly charting the unknown in his quest for knowledge.

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