Even after Brittany Miltenberger earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and worked professionally in software (QA, Release Engineering, and Front End Web Development), she felt she needed to go to coding bootcamp to learn more advanced, full-stack web development skills and technologies. She chose Codesmith in Los Angeles, because she thought it would be a challenge and enrolled in the two-week Live Online CS Prep course to prepare for the technical interview. Find out how Brittany enjoyed learning remotely with others before she moved to LA, how difficult the Codesmith technical interview was, and her plans for the future!
Walk us through your career and education background. What did you do before Codesmith?
I have a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. My interest in coding actually stemmed from my original major – music and audio production. Recording music with computers piqued my interest in software and UI/UX design. I found that I enjoyed deconstructing and building the software more than recording the music, so I switched my major to computer science.
After college, I became a Quality Assurance Engineer for a music production software company in Boston. It was a perfect fit and I was so fortunate. I was so thrilled to blend my interests in music and software. As a QA Engineer I was primarily conducting test scripts, then I got promoted to a Builds Release Engineer, a more technical role maintaining automated software builds, scripts, and creating installers.
Recently, I've been working professionally in front end and interactive web development. Over the past four years, I've built software for many aspects of learning – creating, developing, designing eLearning courses.
You had those technical skills and a computer science degree –why go to a coding bootcamp?
What made you choose Codesmith over other coding bootcamps?
I began by searching on Google, and comparing and contrasting different programs. I came across Course Report and read different reviews. Codesmith had stellar reviews; in particular, I liked that Codesmith prepared students for mid-to-senior level programming careers, which was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to enroll in a program that would be challenging for me, where I would learn a lot.
In my last job as a Front End Web Developer, I worked remotely, so I wanted to do something in-person with other classmates. The two-week CS Prep program was remote and was excellent, but for the actual bootcamp, I wanted to do something in-person (Codesmith is 12-weeks, in-person). I live in Washington, DC now, but the Codesmith classroom is in New York and Los Angeles, but I was really eager to pursue Codesmith and relocate. I chose Los Angeles because I lived there a few years back, and it’s a great tech hub, especially in the Venice area and Silicon Beach.
Why did you decide to do Codesmith’s CS Prep program before applying for the 12-week coding bootcamp?
I enrolled in CS Prep to prepare for the Codesmith technical interview and to boost my confidence. I was so set on going to Codesmith, but since I wasn't in LA, I figured that enrolling in a prep course like CS Prep would be a great introduction – I could meet some of the fellows at Codesmith and other applicants. I was 99.9% sure I was going to enroll in the full program and CS Prep helped me confirm that.
I attended CS Prep from April 16th to 29th from DC, then interviewed for the full-time program in May. I flew to Los Angeles to do my interview and I got accepted. I start the full-time academy in LA on July 23rd. Right now, I’m starting a lot of pre-work and I'm so excited!
How was the application and interview process for the Codesmith CS Prep?
CS Prep does have a selective admissions process. At first, I thought, "am I even going to get in?" But actually, I found it to be a wonderful interview process. It was pretty stress-free. There were two parts to the application process. First I participated in a non-technical interview, to discuss my coding background and software engineering goals.
After that, I had the option of submitting short essays about my coding ambitions or completing a coding challenge. I chose the coding challenge. I’d been working through a lot of Codesmith's free online resources and I figured the challenge would be a good indicator of my readiness.
How did you feel about the prep course remote learning experience?
I did the live online CS Prep course alongside a group of other students. It was really cool because we used the video conferencing software Zoom, so for each class I could sign on and say hello to everyone – it was like I was in an actual classroom, but virtual. It wasn't a passive lecture learning experience – everyone could see each other and talk to each other so it was interactive. I always had to make sure I was listening and staying on track because, like in a classroom, I could get called on to answer questions. I found the whole experience to be so immersive. It was really like we were all there in person – it was awesome.
How many instructors helped you during the Codesmith CS Prep program?
We had four different instructors over two weeks, which was really cool. Some of them were Codesmith Fellows and had been through the program, so they could give us great guidance. It was nice to have a variety of instructors because everyone has different teaching styles. It kept the learning fresh and made it a rich learning experience.
Did the prep course teaching style match your learning style? What did a typical day look like?
It definitely did. Each of the instructors taught differently, but each was really excellent. I got so much out of each class. The overall class structure was very consistent, so that helped. We would start each class with a 30-minute coding challenge. It was a great way to warm up and get our gears rolling. Then we would go into a lecture on a new topic where the instructor would share a PDF and go through slides.
Another really cool aspect, and excellent virtual learning tool, was that we used iPads as whiteboards. In a lot of coding classes in real life, you'll have a whiteboard where the teacher writes some code on the board, and you walk through it together. But during our class, they would switch to the iPad view, and they draw with the stylus and walk through the code that way.
How difficult was the CS Prep Program?
It was honestly right in the middle of my expectations. It definitely wasn't easy. I put in several hours each day before class to review material. Although that wasn't required, I did it to keep on track. But at the same time, it wasn't crazy difficult, I wasn't beyond stressed and staying up all night studying. I felt like it was a really good middle ground.
I consciously resigned from my job, so I had the luxury of having time to study. But several students in the class were working nine to five jobs. If you are working nine to five, they have evening and weekend classes as well – so there's definitely a balance. You could go to a job all day and then go to CS prep, and I don't think it would be too overwhelming.
Can you tell me about the project that you built during the prep program?
The game’s source code is currently stored on our REPL account, but my team members and I are creating a shared GitHub account so we can actually publish it and share it.
Did you feel ready to apply to the full-time program at the end of CS Prep?
After the CS Prep program, my confidence level was boosted. Learning remotely can be intimidating because you may miss that sense of community. But one of the reasons I felt so prepared for the technical interview was because of the other students in CS Prep. We did so much pair programming, and that experience helped me with my technical communication. It's one thing to be able to code something yourself, but to be able to explain it and talk someone through it is of equal or greater importance. That was a big takeaway.
After you finished CS Prep, what was the admissions process like for Codesmith’s 12-week coding bootcamp?
It was a two-part process. The first part was a non-technical interview to assess my background and goals and to see if I was a good culture fit. It was definitely a longer interview and more in-depth than the CS Prep interview. We talked more about coding, my experience, and pair programming.
Part one wasn't stressful, but the second part was a technical interview, and I was definitely nervous. I did not need to fly to Los Angeles for that interview, but I wanted to check out the Codesmith headquarters in LA, and I felt that I may perform better in-person.
I coded each day for several weeks before the technical interview to make sure I was ready. That interview was challenging, and at some point, I hit a wall where I didn't know the answer. I had to take a deep breath, use technical communication (which I learned in CS Prep) and break down that problem, piece by piece. I had to show my knowledge, even if I didn't perfectly answer the question. Even though interviews can be stressful, Codesmith is really welcoming so I still found it to be a positive experience.
Could you have gotten into Codesmith without doing the CS Prep course?
I think I could have been accepted, but I would not have been as prepared for the technical interview. I would’ve been way more nervous. My experience with technical communication and pair programming at CS Prep built a really good foundation for a technical interview because I hadn't done a technical interview for a job in several years. CS Prep got me motivated and improved my confidence.
What are your plans after you graduate from Codesmith?
My familiarity and interests still lie within front end web development and design. But that could change as I work through the Codesmith curriculum. I'm really eager to learn more about full stack development, which is something I’ve never done professionally. For now, I just want a challenging job in a mid-to-senior level position.
I've worked for startups as well as huge corporations. I really dig the startup vibe and I’d like a job where my work has a direct impact. I'm trying to keep my options open when it comes to the industry I’d like to work in. I still have interests in music so it would be cool to combine art and code together again. I'm also aiming to work LA.
Do you keep in touch with anybody from the prep program? Is anyone going to the full-time program with you?
I've definitely kept in touch with several students from CS Prep. Some are interviewing and some have been accepted, which is awesome. Once CS Prep completed, we still did study groups a few times a week, and that was so valuable. Fortunately, we kept in touch.
When I went to LA a few weeks back, I met up with some of my prep cohort in person, so that was really nice. A huge part of the value I found in CS Prep was networking with other students who were applying, so I didn't feel so alone in the process.
What advice do you have for people thinking about attending a coding bootcamp? Do you recommend attending a coding bootcamp prep course?
I had a technical background before Codesmith, but for those who don't and are curious, I highly recommend a coding bootcamp. I was amazed with the other students – when I was pair programming and chatting with them about their lives and backgrounds, students who I thought had been coding for years, had just picked it up a few months ago. They learned fast! Computer science and programming can sound intimidating, but I've seen students excel so quickly. So if you are motivated, organized, and ambitious, it's totally doable.
Also, for those new to coding, it might be difficult to know what area of coding you want to go into because there are so many different sectors – back end, front end, full stack, etc. But there's a wealth of online resources for tutorials, so see what areas pique your interest. If you're still not sure, enroll in a bootcamp that can teach you various technical skills so you can figure it out.
In terms of Codesmith’s CS Prep, I highly recommend it. It was such a fantastic way to be welcomed into the Codesmith community. And there’s a great incentive where students who complete CS Prep get the tuition cost credited towards the full-time Codesmith tuition.