Ariana Rodriguez has a degree in Applied Math and was working as a statistical programmer. She had always wanted to be in tech and didn’t think it would be possible without a CS degree. She considered going to grad school to study data science before realizing that she could reach her goal by going to Sabio in Los Angeles. Ariana explains why the real-world project that she worked on at Sabio was so important, how she got her job as a software developer at PDG, and shares her advice for future coding bootcampers.
What were you up to before Sabio?
In college, I majored in Math and learned R. In my senior year, I figured out that I wanted to pursue programming, but it was a little too late to change my major. After college, I was working as a statistical programmer using SAS, which I learned on the job. My job involved a lot of reporting and creating crosstab tables. I knew that this was a technical role, but I wanted to be even more involved in the tech scene. I've always wanted to do computer programming.
What motivated you to do a coding bootcamp?
I was thinking about going to grad school for data science, but realized that was more of a requirement I put on myself than something I was passionate about. I thought that grad school was the only way I could get into programming, but when I met Sabio co-founder Liliana at a tech conference, I realized I had other options. Once I met Liliana, I started researching coding bootcamps and ended up going for it. I started Sabio in January 2017 after four months of pre-work.
Did you ever consider teaching yourself or did you feel like you needed a structured environment to learn in?
Before I started the Sabio pre-work, I did some Codecademy exercises to try to learn the basics of coding. But I’m the sort of person who needs a structured environment to learn in – especially when it's something as difficult as coding. If someone is holding me accountable every day, then I'm going to learn a lot better than by myself.
Did you look at other Los Angeles coding bootcamp options? Why did you choose Sabio?
Yes. I went to an information session for Coding Dojo. It was good, but I asked them about their statistics – how many people get jobs after the bootcamp and graduates’ salaries– and they didn't have that information, which was a bit alarming.
When I went to Sabio, it was very different. They knew all their stats. I really liked that the curriculum was project-based, because I didn't see that in other bootcamps. I feel like that's really important because going into interviews, you’ll actually have some experience to talk about. I just thought Sabio was a better fit for me and it felt more welcoming.
Was it important for you to learn a specific programming language?
No. I knew Sabio had two options: .NET or Node.JS. I chose to learn .NET because I saw a lot more .NET opportunities in the job market. Without a traditional software engineering background, I felt I needed as many job opportunities as I could get when I graduated.
How many people were in your Sabio cohort and how diverse was it in terms of gender, race and backgrounds?
There were 12 of us in the class. In terms of gender, it wasn't very diverse. There were three women in the .NET class, and one woman in the Node class, and the rest were men. But coming from a math background, that's always been my experience, so I wasn't alarmed by the lack of women. There wasn’t much racial diversity either, but I also experienced that in school. There were mostly white and Asian people, and me and another woman were Hispanic.
People came from history majors, finance, English, and there was one other math major. Some people didn't go to college, so there were diverse backgrounds. There was one person who had experience in tech but his background was in older technology, so he was taking Sabio to get accustomed to new coding languages.
How far into the bootcamp were you when you started working on the real world project, and how long did you work on it?
The first week at the Sabio campus, we built a general blog. Then after the second week, we started on the real-world project RetGrid. The product owner, Dan Tutolo, came in and explained his idea. He ran through the storyline for the user and client, and from there, we started building it from scratch with agile scrum methodologies.
The bootcamp is three months long, so we probably worked for about nine weeks on it. We spent the last week and a half on career prep and applying to jobs.
What was the real-world project and what sort of functionality did you build into it?
The product owner, Dan, wanted us to create a real estate app which would encompass every step of buying a home in one app. That included the search, finding your agent, messaging your agent, doing transactions, and keeping track of transactions on the app.
The app was also designed for real estate agents; it allows them to keep track of any milestones they hit, routes they took, and how many miles they drove, and they can send automated emails after a client goes to an open house. The entire buying process for the agent and the client lives in one app – it was a big project.
How did you divide up the tasks amongst your teammates?
Everyone in my cohort worked on different parts of the app. There were lots of components, so our instructor acted as the product manager and created different assignments. He put sprints on our Trello board, which we would pick up as we finished.
What was the learning style like at Sabio? Maybe you can give us an example of a typical day?
You start off your day at 9am with a SCRUM meeting. Each person shares the sprint you're working on, what you want to finish that day, and what you're going to work on in the future. From there, you go to your Trello board and pick a sprint. Each sprint is like an assignment, which you work on for as long as you need to. In each sprint we would usually cover the front end with Angular, the middle tier with C#, the back end, and the database in SQL Server.
Did you have tutorials or lectures from your instructor while you were doing the project sprints?
Yes. Everything we learned was through the real-world class project. If there was a lecture, it was usually related to the project.
After lunch the instructor would sometimes give us a lecture if someone was doing something that deviated from the regular front end to back end motion. Students could also present their work – if someone was working with an API like a Google API or a GreatSchools API, they could show the class their code. Then at night when the instructors would leave, we would sometimes take turns demoing what we worked on during the day.
What technologies did you use to build the project?
How often did you communicate with the product owner during those nine weeks to check in and see if you're on the right track?
For the first four weeks, he came to the classroom every Friday to discuss the product. Then he had a baby, so he was a little absent for two or three weeks. After that, he would come every Wednesday and Friday.
We had a lot of meetings with him. If we had any questions about how he wanted things done or if he wanted them to look a certain way, we would have meetings to discuss that. He allowed us to give our input and build things the way we thought was best. It was really nice of him to give us the opportunity to work with him and collaborate together.
To what stage did you get the project by the time you finished Sabio? Was it ready for launch?
It was just MVP (check it out). Most of the final product was functional. He wanted to add a lot more to it, but we had to stop at a certain point to be able to finish what we had started and make it functional.
The last I heard was that he was going to get funding from a family member and try to keep working on it on his own.
How important is it to be able to show a project like this to employers in interviews?
It felt really important because it shows employers that you've actually been working on something and not just sitting behind a computer, watching videos and doing exercises. It's important to actually apply those skills to something you're creating because that's what you’ll be doing in your job. That project was one of the biggest reasons why I got the job that I did before I graduated.
Congratulations! Can you tell me about your job and how you found it?
We started applying to jobs about two weeks before we graduated. I applied everywhere. I went to probably 10 to 15 interviews and had about 20 phone calls.
Our assistant instructor used to work at PDG (Principal Development Group) so he invited the head of HR, Dom, to come in and interview everyone in the class. He selected a couple of people, including me, to interview at the office. When I went in for my interview, I felt really comfortable because I had met Domenick before. He explained my background and coding experience to the other interviewer, and they asked me to explain my project. When they heard about my project, and found out that students at bootcamps work around 65 to 70 hours a week, they were really impressed. I got a call back two days later, got an offer and accepted.
How's the job going so far?
I started in mid-April, and it’s been good! PDG does entertainment consulting, so they have clients like SONY, CBS, and CW. They're client-based so you go wherever your client is. My current client is the makeup company Jafra Cosmetics, and I'm working out of their downtown office with a team of nine people from PDG.
What kind of work are you doing for Jafra Cosmetics?
I'm on the business intelligence side. They're currently converting into a new system and reported need to be written in SQL Server. I'm writing a lot of queries and store procedures. SQL is what I was strongest at while I was at Sabio, so it worked out well.
Has the PDG team been ramping you up, and mentoring you since you started?
Yeah. They have been showing me how the database is set up and where I can find certain data. I have to talk a lot with the business analyst to make sure I understand what each report is asking for. The store procedures are pretty complicated – I didn't write anything like that at Sabio.
Have you found your experience building that real estate app has been useful so far since you started your job?
Yeah, it has. I was already really comfortable in a project setting, working with people, and doing SCRUM meetings in the mornings. It takes time to feel comfortable talking to people about what you're working on and explaining it. But that is exactly what we did at Sabio.
Have you stayed in touch Sabio and other alumni since you graduated?
We have a Slack channel where we talk to alumni and staff. I get a lot of information through that about upcoming meetups, and what's going on in the tech community. May 6th was the ZipRecruiter hackathon, which I competed in with a bunch of people from my Sabio class.
You mentioned there were only three women in the Sabio class and you had a similar experience in your math class. Is it a similar dynamic at PDG?
Yeah, it is. The company has about 55 people, of which five are women. Three are on the tech team, one is the office manager, and the other one is a business analyst. In the downtown office, I'm the only woman besides the office manager. As a woman in tech, there may be moments when you feel out of place in the beginning. But the thought of being in a field that is male dominated should never deter someone from doing something they love. That feeling definitely goes away and your environment becomes the norm. To me it is now something empowering and I hope more women start to see that.
Sometimes you feel out of your element because you're surrounded by guys who have been doing this for a long time and have degrees in software engineering. I come from a background where I didn't have as many opportunities as other people. I had to work really hard to get to UCLA, and math isn't easy at all. When I left college, figuring out what I wanted to do, and dealing with the fact that I was going to be out of my element for a while, was a little hard. Just like any situation when you're thrown into an environment you're not used to – you have to get accustomed to it. But when you do, it's great.
What advice you have for other people who are considering a coding bootcamp.
My advice would just be "Do what makes you happy.” And if you think that doing a bootcamp like Sabio would put you in a place where you are content with your life and happy to go to work, then I think you should go for it because it's going to be worth it in the end.
I almost went to grad school. One day I was at the doctor's office and heard the receptionist talking about how her parents had encouraged her to study nursing, but she really wanted to be a chef. I thought that was so sad because it wasn't something that she wanted to do. I applied that to my own life and asked myself why I wanted to go to grad school. I came to the conclusion that it wouldn't make me happy. What would make me happy was doing something that I'd been thinking about for a while – going into tech and creating things with code. So I decided to go to Sabio.
Is there anything else you want to add about your experience at Sabio or the project you worked on?
If anyone in my class had any questions about bootcamps or needed advice about jobs, Sabio was very supportive. I had two job offers, and really needed to talk to somebody about what I should do. My parents had never been in that situation before, so it was great to have mentors like Liliana and Gregorio and my instructors to ask for advice about what to do about job offers or even if I wasn’t understanding something. They were really helpful.