After Decades in IT, Finding a New Career in Toronto’s Vibrant Coding Community

Paolo La Vita

Toronto is well-known for its vibrant technology industry and culture of innovation. It’s a great place to work and live if you have a passion for the field—and is even considered the “Silicon Valley of the North.” While Paolo La Vita was part of this buzzing tech scene as an information systems analyst, he wanted to be closer to the excitement of web development.

“As an IT professional, I was doing technical work, but I was working with established applications instead of creating new ones. I felt like I was missing out—coding is where the action happens,” said Paolo.

Eager to transition into a career in development, Paolo enrolled in the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies Coding Boot Camp where he discovered a community of like-minded learners who helped make his vision a reality.

“I wanted to contribute more to the sector I chose for my career.”

Although he’s spent most of his career as an IT specialist, Paolo was curious about coding. “I was one of the few teenagers in the 80s who had a computer,” he said. “I’d play around a bit with coding, but back then it was just fun.”

After college, a career in IT for healthcare networks aligned with his tech interests—but after two decades Paolo needed to be closer to the action. “I wasn’t creating anything new, I was just maintaining programs,” said Paolo. “I wanted to be doing more, but it wasn’t part of my job description. I needed more coding skills.”

Paolo felt stuck. “I’d gotten too specialized in one area of the tech industry, and I needed new skills to help me transition into development. It was overwhelming, and I needed help,” said Paolo.

A new opportunity to learn

A digital ad for the UofT SCS Coding Boot Camp renewed his enthusiasm. The part-time program worked well with his full-time work schedule, and the robust career services gave him confidence that the course could lead to a new career.

“Toronto has a bustling tech center, but I didn’t have many connections with people who work in development,” said Paolo. “Everyone I knew was in the healthcare sector, so I was excited to take advantage of Trilogy’s professional network.”

Of course, his excitement didn’t make him any less nervous for his first day in the boot camp. Paolo felt that this was his opportunity to make a go at coding. “I felt like this was my shot. I’m not getting any younger,” said Paolo, now in his fifties. “I have to make this work for myself.”

Finding his stride

Luckily, Paolo quickly felt comfortable in the classroom. He gravitated toward a group of learners who shared his passion for coding. Soon, they were arriving early to class and staying late afterward. “Our group stayed after class for hours, discussing coding, life, and everything else we could think of,” said Paolo.

Becoming a coder made Paolo feel like he’s a part of something bigger: a community of innovators and thought leaders.

Paolo and his friends put their ideas into action for their group projects. For their final collaboration, the group developed an Amazon-inspired site using the MERN stack. The site is designed to help small businesses who struggle to market their products to a larger audience. These businesses can leverage the site to launch their products into the e-commerce marketplace. They presented the platform to their cohort—and continued their work to improve the application even after the course.

Earning a spot in the coding community

On Demo Day, they showcased a working site built with the languages they’d learned in the course. Paolo’s new expertise drew attention from event guests, including the CEO at CareRelay, a health technology start-up. Before long, the developer reached out to Paolo with an offer to work as a CareRelay systems integrator. The position combines Paolo’s experience in healthcare IT with his new coding skills. “I couldn’t ask for a more suitable opportunity” said Paolo.

Today, after only a few months in his new role, Paolo is beyond grateful. “I’m so involved in coding now—I feel like I’m part of the conversation that’s defining my city,” said Paolo. He attends regular tech meet-ups, where professionals discuss new ideas and pitch concepts. Paolo found something else in his new community: a place to belong.

“I want to continue learning and building my skill set. In five years, I want to be even more involved in Toronto’s tech community,” said Paolo.