Alumni Spotlight

3 Years Later: Taylor’s Review of App Academy

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Liz Eggleston

Edited By Liz Eggleston

Last updated on October 3, 2023

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Taylor Wofford was burnt out from working in journalism when he decided to change careers into software engineering with App Academy. He found that the “learn-by-doing” style in the NYC classroom matched his learning style and felt prepared for his first jobs in software consultancies after graduating. Taylor shares his review of App Academy and his tips for students to make the most of the bootcamp experience. Three years into his tech career, find out how Taylor landed a dream job as a software developer at BARK – where he can take his dog to work!

What inspired you to launch a career in software engineering in 2020?

In 2020, after working as a journalist and at nonprofits, I was burnt out. A few of my close friends worked at big tech companies and I wondered if I could do it. They recommended going to a bootcamp to learn tech skills so I started researching my options. 

When you were doing your research, what set App Academy apart from the rest? 

My friends knew people who had a good experience at App Academy and their recommendation meant a lot to me. Once I dug into researching, I was sold on App Academy’s income share agreement (ISA), where you don’t pay tuition until you’ve been hired. I also wanted to be challenged by their rigorous curriculum and wanted to learn in-person, although our cohort had to transition to remote at the onset of COVID. 

App Academy is known for its rigorous admissions standards. Was it difficult to get into App Academy

I didn't find it terribly difficult to get in — I did do a fair amount of prep work, though. One of my friends recommended a series of books, called “Learn X Language the Hard Way" so I learned Python the hard way to ensure I actually liked coding and to see if I had the competency for the content. That gave me the confidence that I knew how to code at least a little bit, which helped me in the admissions process at App Academy. 

Overall, did the App Academy teaching style match how you personally learn?

I learn by doing, so App Academy was perfect for me. The staff embodied the spirit that if you got into this program, then you are smart enough to figure this out if you try. They didn’t throw us in the deep end — they were always available to answer questions — but they gave us the tools to figure it out, instead of telling us exactly how to do it. That learning style really worked for me and gave me an idea of what it’s actually like to be a software engineer. 

What kinds of projects did you work on while studying at App Academy?

  • My capstone project was a clone of Slack circa 2020, with a Rails back end, a React front end, a Postgres database, and worked with WebSockets. I thought it was really complicated at the time but looking back on it now, it’s nothing too fancy. 
  • I built a plain JavaScript app that displays motor vehicle collisions in New York City. 
  • We also did a group capstone project. Since it was during COVID, we built an app of where to find toilet paper in your neighborhood!

When you graduated from App Academy, what level did you feel like you were at? 

I definitely felt prepared for junior dev roles, capable of building small features and taking direction and learning. If you would’ve told me to build a really complicated app from scratch, I would have been lost.

Are you still in touch with your cohort? 

I'm in touch with them in a professional capacity. I also occasionally check in with the App Academy Alumni Slack channel. 

Did you find that most of the people in your cohort were there to make a career change into tech?

Like me, there were many people in our cohort that were a bit older with career experience who were switching to tech, while others were right out of school and not sure what they wanted to do. It was cool to see App Academy accommodate different types of learners. 

What is your advice for incoming bootcampers on making the most out of App Academy?

  • If you prefer to learn in-person and are able to attend App Academy on campus in NYC, do it! 
  • Go beyond the curriculum and learn technologies they're not teaching you. Push yourself to try projects that are harder than what will just get you through the program.
  • Consider your soft skills. Keep in mind that a big part of whether you get hired as a software engineer has nothing to do with how good you are at coding. It’s obviously a big part of it, but I noticed that the people in my cohort who already had a career and were transitioning had soft skills that the kids right out of college did not have. I could see how a hiring manager would much rather hire someone who is an okay coder but a good team member than someone who's a great coder and really annoying.

Have you found that you're using any of your previous career experience now on the job as a software developer? 

A large part of the job as a journalist (especially a political journalist like I was) is to ask uncomfortable questions. My manager told me she likes the fact that I'm willing to say things that other people are too afraid to say.

How did App Academy prepare you for the tech job hunt? 

Career services at App Academy prioritized building a great resume. I hate writing my resume so this was a huge benefit to me. They helped me personalize my application for jobs I really wanted, and they offered soft skills training and mock interviews to practice and hone.

The vast App Academy alumni community share job postings when their companies are hiring and are always available to ask questions about the interview process. When I saw that Bark was hiring, I noticed an App Academy alum worked there, so I reached out to him and he told me what to expect from the technical interview and what their interviewers care about. 

You’ve held a few different positions since graduating from App Academy! What was your first tech job after bootcamp?

My first role after bootcamp was a three-month contract JavaScript role for a consultancy in Washington, D.C. In that job, I was writing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Then I got a full-time job working at another software consultancy in Chicago. I worked with a variety of clients, mostly using Rails back end and React front end. 

Would you suggest that other recent boot camp grads apply for contract positions and not just limit themselves to a full-time role?

Experience is experience — if it pays you enough to live, go for it! Especially if they have an interesting stack that you could build experience in, I could see that being beneficial. 

Overall when you were job interviewing, were employers interested in your App Academy bootcamp experience or projects?

Occasionally, I got positive comments about my Slack clone. I also noticed that employers were impressed with the complexity of the projects at App Academy, compared to other bootcamps.

When did you know you were ready to move into a new tech position?

I wasn’t actively looking for a job at the time that I noticed Bark was hiring. As a dog person, it seemed like a dream job for me because I could bring my dog to work, so I applied and got it! 

Now you’re three years into your tech career and a Software Developer at BARK! What kinds of projects do you work on at BARK?

I work on a team that's almost fully back end — it's a big Rails monolith. My specific team communicates with various third party logistics companies, like warehouses and shipping companies to make sure customers get their orders on time. 

Are you still using what you learned at App Academy on the job?

I learned Rails at App Academy and code everyday in Ruby, using the big Rails monolith, so I’m definitely using what I learned at App Academy on the job. 

Have you had to add anything new to your tech toolbox the past three years? Are you starting to work more with AI tools?

I still mostly work in Ruby on Rails. What they teach in App Academy is how to build a Rails application, which is a different beast than how to manage a Rails application that a million people use everyday, which includes trade offs and decisions to make. I know how to do things the right way, but we never have time to do things the right way. I’ve had to learn how to make the best possible thing given time and business constraints. 

I learned TypeScript in my previous React front end role because we only learned JavaScript at App Academy. I learned analytics and monitoring tools and a proprietary querying language. At BARK, we have some AI assistance tools but I haven’t used them. 

Looking back on your tech career, was App Academy worth it for you?

Breaking into tech with a bootcamp was the only way I could have done it. The alumni network was crucial in landing interviews and are now people I can reach out to if I ever want to interview somewhere else. 

The thing I found most useful about learning from a bootcamp like App Academy was that it taught me how to learn. A lot of the job as a software engineer is figuring out stuff you don't know and implementing it. Before bootcamp, I would not have been able to look at documentation and figure out how to implement it, but that’s a huge part of my job now! 

Find out more and read App Academy reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with App Academy.

About The Author

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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