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Advice / Career Paths / Training & Development

I Went to a Coding Bootcamp—and Here's What Happened Next

When considering making the investment in a developer bootcamp, one of the first questions people ask is, “But will this really help me get a job in tech?”

It’s a reasonable question considering the time and money involved in attending a coding intensive—you want to know it will be worth it!

To get some answers, we chatted with five alums of programs like this to find out about their experiences post-graduation, learn a little about the rewards they gained (even beyond a great job!), and hear any advice they had for others considering their path. Here’s what they had to say.

I Got My Dream Job

After dropping out of college because she “didn’t really identify with the experience,” Tam Dang started her first job at a car dealership in her hometown in southern New Jersey. It was a fine job—it allowed her to move out on her own and have some freedom—but she quickly realized she needed something different.

“I was just doing the same thing every day in the hometown I grew up in, so I was pretty restless and waiting for an opportunity to get out,” she says.

A friend was learning to code online using Codecademy’s courses, so she decided to give it a shot too—and loved it! She went in search of something even more demanding that would give her even bigger rewards—which is when she found Dev Bootcamp and immediately applied, hoping for a huge life change.

“I totally got it!” Dang shares excitedly. “I graduated May 31, 2014 and I started a job as a junior developer on July 9, 2014 at Eight Bit Studios. I started this journey with zero programming knowledge, and I am now an employed software engineer and can contribute meaningfully to development teams and discussion. That is so awesome!”

Dang attributes part of this quick job search success to the support and resources provided by Dev Bootcamp, such as Career Week, an event at the end of the program during which participants are given introductions and coached through the job search process. She worked on some personal projects during that month and re-did some of the exercises from her curriculum to keep her coding strong and have examples to talk about during interviews.

She also thinks much of her success came from an authentic (and at times aggressive) social media strategy. “I tweeted a blog response to the CEO of a company I very much wanted to work for, and she responded. I followed all of the developers of companies I wanted to work for, read their blogs with genuine desire and interest, tweeted at them, and asked around if anyone at Dev Bootcamp knew how I could get in contact with them.”

Not only did Dang successfully land a job, she couldn’t be happier with where she’s ended up. “Every job I’ve had before this, I was paid to do exactly the same thing every day. Now I solve different challenges and build new things every day.”

I Got a Contract Job—and a Lot of Confidence

About a month after graduating from Coding Dojo in Seattle, former marketing and PR professional Kendall Dalton was able to land a contract-to-hire job as a technical producer for front-end development at an outdoor retailer. “I was initially hesitant of contracting, but have found it is the way so many companies are approaching employment in this field—whether it be for short-term projects, or a way to get people in the door fast and try them out before committing (a great tactic for both parties),” she shares. “A lot of my classmates also started their post-graduation jobs as contractors to hire.”

Though she’s still in her six-month contract window and doesn’t yet know if she’ll have a full-time gig at the end, Dalton is taking a proactive approach, showing as much value as she can and overall being a great person to work with. “It is important to bring a positive attitude to your work and have a sense of humor when things get stressful,” she says.

When asked whether the uncertainty of the job search or working a contract job made her nervous, Dalton explained: “Nerve-racking is loving your job and getting a great review, and then one day you get called in to HR and told the company is downsizing and your job has been eliminated.” It was a layoff from her previous job that gave her the motivation to make a change and learn to code.

“But when you are in control, making the decision and choice to retrain your skill set, you are already open to change and accepting of the uncertainties of life—that is where I was.” Dalton says she left her bootcamp program a more confident and empowered person than when she entered. “[This confidence] was enough to keep my chin up when I would apply for jobs and never hear back. I knew I had worked hard and gained a very marketable skill upon which I could build for the rest of my life.”

I Started My Own Company

Alyssa Ravasio went into Dev Bootcamp with a very specific goal: to learn enough coding skills to get the startup in her head off the ground. “I am obsessed with the internet, so it was very natural to want to build things for the internet! I have always wanted to start a company—in fact, I created my first company at age 11,” she says.

Now? Hipcamp, Ravasio’s campsite-booking startup, is over two years old and raised $2 million in seed funding last fall.

Ravasio believes her time at Dev Bootcamp played a “critical” role in Hipcamp’s success. “Building the first version of Hipcamp on my own and sharing that website is how I connected with my awesome co-founder Eric Bach. Getting Hipcamp off the ground without having the skills to build it would have been almost impossible. I needed to create what I was seeing in my head to get the first advisors, teammates, investors, and customers on board.”

During her time in the program, Ravasio was also able to spend time with mentors like Steve Huffman (co-founder of reddit and Hipmunk) and developer Liz Howard, who were both instrumental in the early stages of the company.

Plus, the program grew skills like giving and receiving feedback and problem solving that allow Ravasio to better manage engineers and better lead her company in general. “The staff at Dev Bootcamp are excellent at educating the whole person—not just the intellectual coding skills, but the mental stamina and emotional maturity as well.”

I Went Back to My Old Company—With New Skills

Amanda Thurman was an operations director at TechnologyAdvice when she decided she needed a change of pace and thought learning to code would be a huge asset and put her in an exciting industry. The problem? She didn’t really want to leave her company.

TechnologyAdvice had recently opened up a front-end developer position, so she approached the CEO asking what she would need to do to be considered for that position. Though she didn’t have the skills at the time, the CEO saw an opportunity in her and offered to sponsor her through a six-month bootcamp program at the Nashville Software School if she would come back and work as a developer after graduation.

So Thurman went through the program—continuing to work for her company part time to help pay the bills—and then the day after graduation showed up back at the office to start working full time as a front-end engineer. “I had to switch from a learning environment where we worked on Ruby on Rails to building out fully responsive web pages for our website using PHP and jQuery. It was a whirlwind experience to say the least!” she shares.

Thurman was, admittedly, a little nervous about proving herself and her new skill set to her co-workers and the CEO who had given her a chance, but she quickly started feeling more confident and her abilities and delivering impressive products: “Within weeks I could see that my newly developed skills continued to grow and expand. I was able to pick up on new languages and technologies to use and implement within our products, which was—and still is—exciting.”

Her favorite part about her new gig? Writing code, obviously, as well as the impact it has. “Since I’ve come back on the team as a software engineer, I’ve helped increase and improve overall website conversions and interactivity, which in turn has helped the business grow to where it is today,” shares Thurman.

I Helped Others Following in My Footsteps

Of course, sometimes the most rewarding thing is using your training to help other people learn and grow. That’s what Dev Bootcamp alum Liz Abinante has spent a lot of her post-grad time doing. Yes, she has a great job at New Relic, but she has also spent a lot of time speaking at conferences like RubyConf, working as a leader for Girl Develop It, and mentoring new developers.

“Helping people is so important to me because there’s not a lot of sponsorship of underrepresented people in this field. What good is all of this privilege if I don’t use it?” she says.

Her thoughts for anyone considering making a move into a career in tech? “Most of the time, the people I speak with don’t actually need my help, they just need support. Find people, and then find friends. Ask for help and advice early and often.”

To those considering using a bootcamp to transition into a career in tech, Dang seems to sum up the sentiment here best: “If you’re at all interested, and you have the means to do so, you should just do it (a respectable bootcamp—do your research!). So much opportunity has opened for me. It can open up for anyone.”

Photo of woman looking ahead courtesy of Shutterstock.