If you’re researching coding bootcamps, then you’re undoubtedly thinking about what your career might look like after a bootcamp. Some bootcamp graduates work for huge banks or tech giants; others may begin their career at a startup and move into a leadership position – it really runs the gamut and the company you choose to work for after a bootcamp depends on your personal goals.
Today, we’re joined by 4 bootcamp alumni who all took different paths after they graduated from Codesmith.
These four Codesmith grads tell us about their experiences during the program and on the job hunt. Plus, we find out how their new careers as software engineers measure up after one year on the job!
What were you up to before bootcamp and why did you choose Codesmith?
Vessy: I was in the nonprofit world at the intersection of fundraising and ed-tech. I was responsible for a couple of pieces of software, but everything I did was mostly on the surface level. Codesmith seemed like a great community and a good choice for someone like me that wanted a professional transition.
Jeho: I graduated from NYU before working in the marketing world for seven years. I did work on the marketing side of their website, but I wanted to be on the builder side. I went to Codesmith because one of my friends went through the bootcamp around the time I was thinking of making a career change and recommended it.
Nak: Before Codesmith, I was working as a pharmacist. I always wanted to try coding but never had the chance before my friend told me about coding bootcamps. I was looking into different bootcamps when I saw the CIRR report on Codesmith. Then I started the Hard Parts videos.
Jeho: Codesmith is known for having a harder admissions process into their immersive program, which is good since it ensures you’re actually ready to start the program. I liked that they’re really vetting applicants and making sure they’re set up for success.
Nak & Jeho, what was the experience like learning online during 2020?
Nak: I believe we were the first cohort to transition fully remotely to Codesmith and this is when we didn’t know how long COVID was going to last. I even considered delaying until later, but I had already quit my job and I was ready to become immersed in the program.
Looking back, it couldn’t have been better because I didn’t have to commute and I could spend more time learning and finishing my projects. It was a good time and I didn’t expect us to become so close to each other in a remote setting. We’re still in contact with each other and we still fully support each other.
Jeho: That was something I was nervous about. I was excited to be learning in person and I was a little bummed when COVID happened. As Nak said, we didn’t know how long COVID would last and I was hopeful that we could get back to in-person learning by the halfway mark.
Codesmith Remote ended up being a lot better than my expectations. Making friends wasn’t too bad, Nak was actually the first person that reached out to me and we became friends since then.
Commuting wasn’t an issue and you could focus more on studying after classes were done. Everyone became close over zoom and when we met in person, it seemed like it was the same person.
What was your biggest challenge at Codesmith or in this journey to make a career change into software engineering?
Joel: I think the biggest mental block was imposter syndrome. It’s easy to get down on yourself when you have prior experience from a different bootcamp and you should know the information. I think that's something I didn’t give myself enough time to adjust to.
Whenever I speak with anyone going through a bootcamp, I stress the importance of being compassionate and kind to everyone, including yourself. I even use those strategies at work. Overall, the process isn’t easy. Once you learn to be compassionate and kind when working with fellow classmates, the journey becomes a lot easier.
Vessy: I think there’s such a vastness of information and roads you can take. For me, that’s a little bit of a challenge. You can always keep learning or go in a different direction if you feel something isn’t good for you. Sometimes the field can make you feel like you have no idea what’s going on but as long as you’re trying your best, you’re going to be fine.
What kinds of jobs did each of you feel prepared to apply for when you graduated from Codesmith?
Nak: Coming from a non-engineering background, I didn’t expect myself to be ready for any job, even after Codesmith. Looking back, Codesmith prepared me as a software engineer for junior to mid-level jobs and for some people, possibly senior-level jobs.
Jeho: After Codesmith, I also did the Codesmith Residency/Fellowship which is a three-month program where you teach lectures, mentor new residents, and do algorithms with the residents. I definitely felt prepared for a mid-level job after finishing these, I feel like Codesmith does a great job of preparing you for that. For me personally, I didn’t feel ready for the stress of a senior-level job.
Joel: Codesmith definitely prepares you. I stayed on as a Fellow and took every interview I could to get exposure and practice so I feel prepared for a senior-level job. I would probably say no if offered one, but being in the final stages of interviews for them showed me I was ready.
Vessy: It depends on your situation, but also the companies you’re applying to. I would say mid to senior-level roles are good to shoot for after graduating from Codesmith.
Could you tell us about the team that you’re working on? What’s your day-to-day like? What is the culture like in your company?
Vessy: At IBM, I work on a team of 5 developers developing a tool that acts as a hub for our marketers. Coming from the world of nonprofits, it’s important for me to have meaning and value behind what I do. It’s nice to know I’m working on a real-world tool that helps someone each and every day.
In terms of team and culture, everything is pretty much remote so we try as best as possible to be connected and leave time for culture building. We have coffee chats where we talk about anything besides work or play games conducted over Slack. Overall, my team is distributed in a global way and I enjoy that because otherwise, I wouldn’t have had a chance to meet these people. I would say things would probably be different if we weren’t in a pandemic world.
Nak: I applied to close to a hundred different companies and I went for larger companies because I thought the branding would look good on my resume in the future. For my particular role at Bytedance, I work under their IT department.
Bytedance is known for TikTok, but we have different services and platforms and to support that, we need a lot of internal tools. Right now, we’re building an SDN which is a pretty interesting technology that all big companies will probably need since they’re moving to cloud and remote work. My team is about 24 people, but I'm only working closely with about 10 people. We’re spread out across the globe so it’s hard to talk to everyone and get to know them.
Joel & Jeho, you’re working for relatively smaller companies – did you go into Codesmith wanting to work for a specific type of company?
Joel: Absolutely not. It’s funny that the two things I told myself when graduating were that I didn’t want to work for a startup and I didn’t want to work remote and here we are today.
When I graduated, I was applying for a lot of jobs. Unfortunately, a lot of the offers were rescinded because of COVID. Ready Responders was looking to hire quickly considering the times and both of my parents are first responders so it’s important for me to be able to have an impact.
I work with two engineers and everything we use is worked on by us. Our current project is a scheduling program to help make appointments and integrate with a different company. Without these products, everything would have to be done using older technology that’s more difficult to use.
Right now we’re making it a lot easier for our responders to sacrifice their health and safety to ensure others have home care and aid. Launching our first product this year has been a lot, but it’s been exciting knowing this is helping a lot of communities.
Jeho: Arcadia is a renewable energy tech company and I’m part of the growth team with two other engineers. The cool thing is that we work with the marketing team and they’re happy I have the dual experience and can understand both sides of the project. We’re doing a complete brand refresh and we just secured our $100 million funding yesterday, which is awesome.
At first, we were only focused on consumers, but now we’re expanding our offerings to businesses and developers by extending our APIs. We’re going to be redoing our website and I get to be a part of that process. It’s been a lot of fun working with the marketing team and a cool new thing is their backend technology is in Ruby. At Codesmith, we learn Node and Express, so it’s been awesome learning new technologies.
Are you all using what you learned from Codesmith? Or have you had to learn a lot on the job?
Nak: I’m using Ruby for our backend and we use React on the front end, which Codesmith taught us. It’s great because on one side, I knew the technology and on the other side, I was able to pick up a new piece of technology.
Even though it wasn’t the same as Node, a lot of the concepts we learned with Codesmith applied to Ruby on Rails as well. The project I’m working on is related to networking so there’s a lot of networking technologies I had to learn about. My day consists of about 40% of researching and learning new technologies. So I did have to learn a lot, but I also had a lot of information from Codesmith.
Vessy: My day is definitely in Node and React, but we do have other technologies. I think depending on what your problem is, you might need a different solution. New technologies pop up all the time so it isn’t about boxing yourself into the same technologies, it’s more about that mindset of knowing something might be better for this particular use case. It doesn’t matter what language I'm comfortable in, it matters what the best solution for the problem is. I’m going to pick up whatever is necessary.
Do you have any tips for others on the job hunt right now? Or choosing between a large and small company?
Joel: Keep an open mind. I didn’t think I wanted to work for a startup but after a little over a year, it’s been a great experience. It feels almost like a bootcamp all over again in terms of everyone working on pieces together and wanting to work together.
I use React on the front end and Node on the back end, which made it easy to transition into Ready. Everything I was touching, including AWS, was something Codesmith teaches. I think it was a major help because the startup is all hands on deck. The week's goals become more of a fun challenge to learn something new that will improve the product that you have a stake in.
Jeho: It’s a spectrum – Joel mentioned that he had to touch dev op works and things like that. I work in more of a mid-sized company and I work specifically on the marketing website, but there’s also a dev ops team and a billing team.
The thing I like about a mid-sized company is that there’s a little more structure than a startup. When I had orientation, they had a checklist for me. Sometimes with smaller companies, they throw you in the deep end and some people love that.
If you want more structure, go for a mid-sized company or something larger. I found a happy medium where I could work on different parts of the company, but they don’t expect you to know everything.
Vessy: The size of the company also depends on your team and what you’re working on. Even in a bigger company, you can still have the feel of a startup or comradery. I’m able to work on different parts of whatever stack or technology it might be.
I would second the point that a little more structure is nice. Using more established processes like Agile or Kanban can be good for giving you that structure.
Nak: I think it depends on the people you work with. Through the interview process, you’ll be able to see if you get along with the people you’re interviewing with. If you feel that’s the case, I don’t think the size of the company matters.
Personally, I applied for jobs at bigger companies because I wanted the branding, but I also thought I was more suited for a bigger company’s interview process. I don’t have anything against smaller companies.
I think being able to touch on all the different aspects of a business is a good skill set that will help you grow. That’s why the interview process is not only you getting interviewed by the company, but also you interviewing the company.
Did the Codesmith team help you choose the right company to work for?
Jeho: They have hiring support even after you graduate; it’s indefinite. I kept Codesmith up to date and when I got two offers at the same time, they were actually curious about how they went.
Like Nak said, deciding on your first job isn’t just about the money or salary; you’re interviewing the company as well. Talking to Codesmith about it was a nice way of deciding on my own. They never told me to pick a certain job, they were there to support me with any questions I had or decisions I made.
Joel: I want to echo that: Codesmith means it when they say support. Keeping the support team up to date on everything was easy for me considering they were reaching out almost every week. When I did get that offer, I called them to ask more questions and clarify to make sure I was doing everything according to their process. Codesmith has a proven system and I don’t want to deviate from it. I think overall, it definitely helps to have that support there.
Was Codesmith worth it for each of you?
Joel: Yes, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Having support, long lasting friends, and connections is one of the biggest aspects of Codesmith that we might not always remember. I still talk to people from my cohort to this day. Obviously the goal is to learn new skills to develop yourself, but you’re also developing your friendships and bonds. Codesmith has exceeded my expectations for sure.
Jeho: I would echo that also. A lot of people go to Codesmith in their late twenties and I don't know where I would be if I hadn’t made that career change. Codesmith was something I needed – the structure, instructors, and their way of teaching.
Like Joel said, the friends you make are the most valuable part. I just went rafting on a trip to Seattle with some of my Codesmith friends. You keep those friends for life and they’re all working at awesome companies too. They’re only going to progress in their career like you are, so you can all help each other out as you move through life together. These relationships are lifelong at the end of the day and it was an awesome experience. Learning to code was just one part of Codesmith; it’s the friendships in the end that made it worth it for me.
Vessy: Definitely worth it for me – let’s say 98%, just to shake things up. I think to make a professional transition, the Codesmith Residency is amazing. I think it’s important to mention that one still needs to do the legwork and go through the motions of applying and getting rejected.
Nak: Codesmith was worth it for me as well. It’s probably the best way to transition into a software engineering career. One thing to know for anyone trying to join is that you still need time off before and after Codesmith for things like applying to jobs and the bootcamp. There’s also uncertainty of how long you’ll be without a job after Codesmith so anyone trying to get in should be aware of this before committing.
Jeho: I agree with Nak, it’s important not to just jump in and assume a bootcamp will change everything immediately. I made an Excel spreadsheet to budget my savings and picked a cohort to ensure I would have enough money for the program and after. You’re not necessarily going to find a job right away after the program.
Find out more and read Codesmith reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Codesmith.
Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students researching coding bootcamps. Her research has been cited in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and more. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube!
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