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Embracing challenges (and a new career path): James’s EF journey

Embracing challenges (and a new career path): James’s EF journey

When James’ friend once asked “have you heard of EF?” James almost laughed. That’s because, for James, EF Education First was a family name growing up—his mom worked for EF in the very first Boston office, and he’d been surrounded by the company his entire life.

But what James didn’t know, until he was at Boston University, was just how much EF really did. It was his senior year when he saw a flyer for an EF Ultimate Break tour, and shortly after graduation, he had a conversation with a friend who was working at one of EF’s International Language Schools. It was at this point James’s friend asked if he’d heard of EF, and encouraged James to apply for a job.

Shortly after, James began his career at EF as a Customer Accounts Coordinator (CAC) for Go Ahead Tours, the adult group travel division at EF. In that role, James was primarily responsible for the financial accounts and balances of travelers, handling account invoices and ensuring travelers paid in full. “It was a lot of spreadsheets, collecting money, figuring out how to get people online,” James said.

Now, seven years later, James’ career at EF has taken on a new direction he admits he never saw coming. “I was really happy doing what I was doing,” he said of his time managing Go Ahead’s inventory and pricing (a job he stepped into after CAC). “I had an idea of where my career was going and I was working toward something in the controller route, but everything changed course really drastically.”

That drastic change was the opportunity to rebuild Go Ahead’s 20-year-old backend customer record management system from scratch. “It was a really fun challenge,” James said. “It was so big, and I got to learn about the company as a whole. There were parts of the program that touched pieces of the business I knew nothing about, like the mailroom. I never really interacted with the mailroom before that.”

Throughout the process, James learned that, while challenging, it provided him with insight into how he worked and the things he found interesting. “It ended up being a great fit for me and made me realize I was doing better, I was happier in my new role. I got to learn about what software development was and what it takes to be part of a team.”

The realization led James to his interest in programming, at which point he started taking classes in order to understand the basics and get some knowledge under his belt. “The classes were really hard,” he laughed. “It’s really challenging to be bad at something. You kind of forget what the learning process is like.”

But after a lot of hard work and dedication, James completed his classes and found himself in his current role, where he works as a Junior Developer for EF College Break. He jokes that he’s “still bad” at programming, but has a great team and mentor that give him immeasurable support—whether that’s the opportunity to fail or to explore his newfound passion.

“If you were to ask my team, coming into the office is no different for me than the weekend.” James explained. “I love my job so much that I’m constantly writing code. I didn’t go to a board game night with my team one week because I was busy writing code.”

James acknowledged he’s not advocating everyone ditches their work-life balance to stay home and work, but said it’s more a result of how much he enjoys what he’s doing. “I’m just having too much fun,” he said. “We’re in this really exciting process, and it’s such a rush all the time.”

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