Amanda Goble is an actor and aerial instructor with a background in physical and aerial performance. She also freelances as an editor/writer, but she wanted to add to her skill set by learning to code, so like many aspiring web developers, Amanda started with online resources. Once she realized that she needed a more intense learning experience, she chose to attend Noble Desktop’s Web Design Certificate + PHP and Wordpress course in NYC. Learn why Amanda chose Noble Desktop to start freelancing and see how her creative background has helped her learn to code!
What were you up to before you attended Noble Desktop?
I received a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and went on to train and perform as an aerialist and teach aerial and circus skills. I am now an actor, and like many artists, I’ve had a lot of other jobs–coaching and directing aerial, editing and writing, owning a small Pilates studio ...I’ve done a lot of things (and gained a variety of skills along the way).
What attracted you to programming and how did you get started?
As an actor and performer, I’ve done so many freelance jobs, including teaching, to make ends meet. I love teaching (and editing, and writing, and all the other things I do) but I wanted something that had the potential for a bit more stability. My skills weren’t creating as much financial value and growth as I’d like at this point.
Initially, this was a very practical decision. I had a few friends who had graduated from full-stack coding bootcamps, made the transition to web development and they seemed really happy. Web development and web design are valued skills these days, and I wanted to learn more of those valuable skills.
It did take me some time to pursue this path. A year ago, I started with self-learning. I used Codecademy and some other online resources like Skillcrush, which were good ways to get my feet wet–I was able to see that I did enjoy the work. I found it to be very satisfying and I was able to use skills that I had already developed as a writer and editor. I’m very creative but also logical, detail-oriented, and organized. I’m glad it worked out and that I actually enjoyed the work!
What made you want to take your self-study to the next level?
I reached a point with online self-study where I felt a bit frustrated. I had unanswered questions, and I really wanted a more intensive and in-person form of learning, from someone experienced who could answer those questions and help me fill in gaps of knowledge. Obviously, Googling and researching on your own is an important skill to have as a developer, but for my learning style, I felt I needed something more intensive at the start. I didn’t consider a 4-year university in order to learn to code because I couldn’t take 4 years off of my life. I’m still an actor, so I was mainly looking at self-study and coding bootcamps with a shorter time frame so that I could still pursue my art.
How did you decide on attending Noble Desktop? Were you considering any other bootcamps?
Price, location and time commitment were all factors in my decision to choose Noble Desktop. I found Noble Desktop on Yelp and they had great reviews. I liked their policies and I thought their schedule fit my needs. I got a really great vibe from what I read and had somewhat of a gut feeling that this was the right place for me to go. Also, NYC is a major city with plenty of resources, so I didn’t even consider leaving to go somewhere else. At this point in my life, price was a big consideration as I couldn’t afford to take a full 3 months and pay one of the higher tuition price points that other bootcamps had. I did look at more full-stack bootcamps but the price of those was way too high for me at the time.
So I decided to pursue front end development first, get some good training in that, and then try my best to develop full-stack skills more slowly. I did the intense month for the web design certificate, with the PHP and WordPress additional course afterward. I was able to take time away for a month and a half, and that worked. I started Noble Desktop with the motivation to become a freelance web designer.
How did you pay for your bootcamp tuition? Do you have any creative tips to help finance tuition?
I personally financed my tuition. I do know that Noble Desktop has various ways to help, and their payment plan is reasonable–they even have an unemployment discount. Because Noble Desktop is an accredited school through the Department of Education, I believe many students are also able to have their employers pay for their tuition or take out loans.
What was the admission process like for Noble Desktop?
Noble Desktop’s application process is fairly simple. I told their team about my background, but because the front-end development course starts with the basics, the admissions process is not complicated. There is no coding challenge or interview, but an online application where you tell them about why you want to pursue web development. The team is very welcoming.
How many people were in your cohort? Was your class diverse in terms of life and career backgrounds, race, and gender?
The cohorts were diverse. There were people who had just graduated college, and others were, I’m guessing, over 50. Some people had marketing degrees, several had been programming their whole lives and wanted to enhance their skills, and some were graphic/print designers. It was fairly racially diverse and about half of my classmates were women. I was very comfortable–about half of my classes were actually taught by women. It was great to see female teachers who were confident and had a lot of experience.
What was the learning experience like at Noble Desktop?
Also, Noble Desktop allows students to take classes online, and they have a policy where you can repeat any class within 6 months of graduation if you feel you need a refresher. I wanted to expose myself more so I took some classes again online. I was questioning how much I really knew, but when reviewing online, I realized that I actually did learn a lot! It’s an amazing option to be able to retake classes.
Did you do a final project at Noble Desktop?
It’s not required to do a final project, but they encourage you to do one and bring your questions about your project to meetups. I didn’t do that final project during the course because of my outside schedule. However, throughout the course, each lesson you do incorporates a sort of mini project that you are following along with. And since the course has ended, I’ve started several projects of my own. They really leave it up to you to guide yourself, because programming is all about being self-motivated. You can take what you learned and do something with it, or you can do nothing.
Do you think your background in writing and aerial performance helped you in your transition to learn to code?
My work as an editor requires me to pay attention to details and patterns and concentrate for long periods of time. Similarly, when I’m teaching, it’s all about the details. I analyze how and why things work, and troubleshoot when they don’t. And then I work to find the clearest way to communicate that information. Almost everything I’ve done—certainly performing and teaching—has required focus, self-motivation, and the ability to really listen and process information efficiently. In my teens I was very invested in visual arts, and I think that perspective is also helpful now.
What are you doing now? Will you be looking for a web design role or freelance work and how has that search been?
I’m currently working on my portfolio, as I have completed a few projects. I’m trying to get work as a freelancer, so I’m looking for new clients while continuing to expand my development skills. I’m also brainstorming other ways I can get involved with tech, like learning about project management or UX and applying to agencies that place contract workers on temporary assignments. Noble Desktop doesn’t offer career prep services but they do have an alumni page where alumni work is featured. And they also have a jobs board.
What’s been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learn to code?
The biggest challenge was my initial fear that I was not going to be good at programming. Despite being tech savvy, I worried this wasn’t going to be my thing. I’d done a fair bit of video editing and some work with organizing and updates websites, but I still just had this fear that I wasn’t going to be able to grasp web development. But that was not true at all! I think it was unfortunate because my fear caused me to delay pursuing any study—even self-study—for about a year. I would look at bootcamps and resources online, but not make a move. My biggest roadblock was me.
What advice do you have for people thinking about learning web development on the side for supplemental income or to start freelancing?
If you’re not sure about coding, there are plenty of online resources to start with. Some can be fairly basic, and there’s always more to learn, but those resources are a nice way to get your feet wet. You can see if this is something you’d like to pursue further. I liked my experience at Noble Desktop and would recommend it to anybody, but your learning will depend on your end goal. There’s nothing wrong with trying things out—this is a progressive layering process. I’m still a newbie, but when I look back at myself six months ago, I know so much more now than before. I look forward to seeing how much more I can learn. If you put in the time, you will see yourself improve. Each website will be better than the last, and you will feel more confident with each new project. Trust yourself that this will all sink in. I was very intimidated at first, but the experience was so rewarding because it ended up being not just about working towards making a living, but also about the love of learning and figuring out solutions to problems.