Sydnee Sampson always had an entrepreneurial spirit, from cleaning houses at 17 years old for Silicon Valley engineers to building a clothing brand. When Sydnee was ready to kickstart a tech career, Flatiron School was at the top of their list. Sydnee shares how Flatiron School helped them overcome imposter syndrome in order to break into a tech role at Accenture. After an apprenticeship, Sydnee is now a Custom Software Engineer!
When you enrolled at Flatiron School, you were also completing an Associate's degree in Computer Science. What inspired you to enroll at a coding bootcamp in 2019, too?
I started my first business when I was in high school at 17, cleaning houses for engineers in San Francisco, so you could say that I’ve been in the tech space for a while. I cleaned houses and offices at a lot of tech companies in downtown San Francisco, and by the time I got to Flatiron School, I was ready to hit the ground running.
I was studying at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton for my associate's degree in computer science and was almost done when I found out about a scholarship at Flatiron School. At the time, I knew about Flatiron School but didn’t feel like I could afford the bootcamp tuition. I wanted to start working in the field right away so when I saw that I could pay for Flatiron School through one of their plans, I took the chance. It honestly saved my life.
What set Flatiron School apart from other coding bootcamp?
Flatiron School was my dream bootcamp! When I graduated high school, I tried to go to a new bootcamp in San Francisco, but it wasn’t right for me. I learned about Flatiron School as one of the top bootcamps at the time. Every bootcamp review site I researched placed Flatiron School at the top of the list. I started doing the pre-work and found it was easy to follow without having a coding background!
Another big push was that me and my friends did the bootcamp together, so it was a team effort! Most of our group graduated and are working in the field now.
Did you feel like you had to know basic coding in order to apply to Flatiron School?
I originally did, but they assured me that you don't have to have a coding background to get into Flatiron School. I did have basic intro to coding knowledge, but not enough to build full back end and front end applications. I started the free prep lessons and understood the code so I moved on to the pre-work and made it through!
Did you juggle the bootcamp while working?
I was working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and a DoorDash driver while I did the pre-work and prep course, but once I got accepted fully into the bootcamp I stopped doing all of those extra things. I set my schedule with the bootcamp and then did DoorDash deliveries outside those hours. By the fifth month, I ended up actually starting my own business, so I could work from home!
We often get questions from our readers about traditional degrees versus coding bootcamps. Since you did both, what do you think is the main difference between an Associate’s Computer Science degree and a coding bootcamp?
It's a big difference! While I was in the program for my associate's degree, I wasn't getting that hands-on experience building projects. College may teach you data structures, but at a bootcamp, we built projects from the front end and back end and worked with teams. After a bootcamp, you'll still have to learn data structures and algorithms to be able to get the job, but you’ll also have a portfolio with projects. Companies care about data structures, but they really care about your ability to build projects, work on teams, and communicate. They want the degrees, but they really want the work ethic and the actual product bootcamp grads can produce.
What did you build for your final capstone project?
My biggest and most prized possession is a project I built called, Kamala Facts, and I actually teamed up with the founder and CEO of Docker to build this final project for Flatiron School! The final project at Flatiron School was my React and Redux project. I had connected with the Docker CEO and he told me about a project he wanted to build but didn’t have the time. I decided to surprise him with a small prototype for my final capstone project. The project allows folks to search different myths and facts about Kamala Harris. After I graduated from Flatiron School, I open-sourced that project and it is what helped me land my first interviews!
Tell us about the other open-source project you’re currently working on!
The Kamala Facts project led me to create a new project that I'm leading in an open source team, called the YNA project. It’s focused on helping close the gap between job-seekers and recruiters. We have this community of bootcamp grads and a lot of us are working at FAANG companies and have proven results, so we’re building a member portal where folks can have their projects, portfolio, and resume highlighted for recruiters to see. Since we’re vetting our members, tech recruiters know they can come to us to get top talent!
How did Flatiron School prepare you for the tech job hunt?
I had an amazing career coach. She is outstanding! I really wanted this career, and she came in authentically and helped me build a plan to have time to work, make money, and still be able to get my curriculum work done. When it came time for the job search, she worked around my schedule and was very flexible. I thought she was just this caring for me, but she treats all of her mentees with this same respect and commitment to their growth. I felt proud knowing that Flatiron School takes the time to hire dedicated career coaches that are making a big impact.
Flatiron School also gave me 4-5 job leads every day. Even if I didn’t fully meet the requirements, I still applied and that led to several interviews. I was nervous, so in the beginning I would back out of the final interviews because I just didn't think I could do it. Finally, I gave it a shot and started focusing on landing a role.
You’ve been working in the software engineering field at Accenture for over two years now! How did you land your first tech role?
I learned about Accenture through Flatiron School! They were really interested in my open source project and that I was managing engineers on that project during my bootcamp, and that I also started a business and was building a brand as a consultant. When I interviewed for Accenture, it was a perfect match immediately on both sides!
Accenture was also the first offer I got. I interviewed with a lot of companies, but imposter syndrome hit hard. I had just graduated from bootcamp, started my own business and opened up my first retail store, and had this career coach pushing me to go for it — I was under a lot of pressure! I got two other offers but Accenture stood out to me and I felt confident I could gain experience and meet clients that I would never get to work with if I was with another company working on only one product.
You’ve held a few different positions at Accenture — how have your responsibilities changed since starting at Accenture in 2021 to now?
I started as an apprentice at Accenture and went through a ton of training. When Accenture moved me to San Francisco, my first project was in Ruby on Rails. Last year, they gave me a full-time role in San Francisco as a Custom Software Engineer. Now I work independently and have taken on leadership roles and with many external partnerships. I focus on establishing relationships with other clients, internal and externally. This past December, I brought together eight other tech companies in Silicon Valley and we put on a winter ball for about 500 people. I went from an apprentice to learning the consulting world to becoming a leader — I’ve been on fire!
I also felt that I had an advantage over college grads when it came to knowing software engineering tools that I learned at Flatiron School.
You participate in the tech equity program, Tech Prep Rising Innovators. How are you contributing to that program?
Tech Prep Rising Innovators is an initiative with Google to help Blacks and minorities break into tech through innovation strategies and programs. They take people through career prep training where a career coach identifies their strengths and weaknesses, reviews their resume, and either helps you upskill or break into the tech force. They’re not learning technical things in the program — we’re bridging the gap in other soft skill areas that can help them build their personal brand and manage their career.
Has your coding bootcamp experience helped you develop your own company?
I started my latest business of printing and designing clothes, and was already on the consulting side, helping young people build their e-commerce store for their apparel businesses. I would build the website, build their logos, and then also help print and design. This was all very hands-on and was getting overwhelming to do it full-time. Eventually I closed the store and decided to channel my business in another direction so I can keep my full-time job while building my business on the side.
At this point in your tech career, was Flatiron School worth it for you?
Yes, Flatiron School was definitely worth it. It was the best investment I could have made in myself as a young adult! When I first enrolled in Flatiron School I was 21 years old, and for the last four years I've been manifesting my tech career and building my brand. Enrolling in Flatiron School pivoted my life and everything has just pieced together from there.
What is your advice for incoming students on making the most of the Flatiron School experience?
My advice is to do it. They often have flexible payment options and scholarships. Most bootcamps take applicants as young as 18, so if you’re trying to figure out if this is right for you, you can take a full-time bootcamp and be done in 3-6 months. Even if you do choose to go to college after bootcamp, you'll go to college knowing more than everybody in your class because now you can build actual full applications and robust APIs. You’ll have that bootcamp community to help navigate your experience. Going to a bootcamp also means that you may not even want to go to college afterwards. You may decide to start working right away!
Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps.
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