Written By Lauren Stewart
After finding she was the only woman in her Computer Science undergrad courses, Carrie decided to switch paths and pursue a career in Education. But she found herself drawn to software development, looking for the opportunity to learn and grow. Carrie knew that she needed to continue working while she made the career switch, so when she found We Can Code IT’s Evening Coding Bootcamp in Cleveland, she took the plunge. We hear from Carrie (on her third day of her new internship!) about her experience learning to code and how she landed her internship at United Consumer Financial Services. Oh, and We Can Code IT’s next Evening Coding Bootcamp starts August 14th in Cleveland and Columbus. Apply here!
What were you up to before We Can Code IT?
I earned my bachelor’s degree in English and my master’s degree in Education. I was kind of panicking about my English degree, thinking to myself, “what the heck am I going to do?” I realized that I didn’t really want to be a teacher, so tried roles in education administration, working for a charter school and in operations – I was mostly managing clubs, planning field trips, and working with the dean of curriculum.
Why did you want to change career paths and do a coding bootcamp?
I was very bored doing the same thing every day and I wasn’t learning any new skills. I also felt like my career wasn’t growing, which was very nerve-racking because I was just starting out in my career. I wanted a career where I would be constantly learning and have room to grow. My brothers are both software developers, so I started thinking about software development.
Did you try to learn on your own before you thought about a coding bootcamp?
I did take a little bit of coursework in computer science and took a couple of Java courses during my undergrad. I originally thought I would be a computer science major – I liked the classes but I didn’t like being the only girl there. And in my free time, I was learning Python from Codecademy.
Did you research other coding bootcamps or did you have your heart set on We Can Code Code IT?
I was torn between going back to school for a computer science degree or attending a coding bootcamp. When you take out a bootcamp loan, you can only get enough funding to cover the tuition for the school and not your living expenses. I’m living on my own and I did not want to move back home, so I needed to find an option where I could continue to work. Full-time programs were not an option for me. When I saw that We Can Code IT had a part-time option, that really stood out to me.
I have a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, so it didn’t really make any sense for me to go back to school for a 4-year degree. At a bootcamp, I could spend 20 weeks learning to code, instead of 4 years.
Can you share any creative tips for paying for a bootcamp?
I did use a financing partner of We Can Code IT’s to receive a coding bootcamp loan. It had a super low-interest rate and they have been really great to work with.
What was the We Can Code IT application and interview process like for you?
The process was pretty easy– I applied 1-2 weeks before the program started, took a logic test online, and then I went to an in-person information session and enrolled. You really don’t need any coding background before applying because they mainly test you on your logical reasoning skills.
How many people were in your cohort? Is your class diverse in terms of gender, race, life and career backgrounds?
Our cohort was very friendly and connected. That friendliness really blew me away because I was a commuter in undergrad, so I never really had that feeling of camaraderie in the classroom. There was a diverse range of ages– I think I was the youngest in the class at 24. There were a lot of people who were parents, and people from different economic and ethnic backgrounds. I graduated with 14 students and about half of my cohort was women.
You chose against being a CS major in college – how has your perspective changed now as a woman in tech?
I don’t have a full perspective on being a woman in tech because I am still new to the space, but I do feel confident and empowered after finishing We Can Code IT. There were women in the classroom who were teaching us, and I feel that was super important to see role models in tech.
After graduating, I’m working at a company with a relatively small IT department, but half of the developers are women. I was scared about working with all men and being the only woman so I’m glad that hasn’t been the case.
What was the learning experience like at your bootcamp – did it fit your learning style?
I did the part-time program in Cleveland, which was Monday to Thursday from 5:30pm to 9pm while I was still working full-time at the charter school. We would start the day with a check in, in a circle. We passed around a ball, and everyone would say their name, how they were feeling, and what their goal was for the day. At the end of each day, we would do a check out and talk about what we were able to accomplish that day. Towards the beginning of the program, the teaching style was very lecture based, but it transitioned to being more project-based as we progressed. During class time, we would hang out and learn in our groups and code our final project.
What is your favorite project that you built at We Can Code IT?
My final project was my favorite. It was complex and our first opportunity to work in teams. There were 5 people on our team and we built an MVC.NET application for a guitar shop in downtown Cleveland. It was cool to work on this project because one of my team members owned the shop, so we got to build a real application for a real client. He wanted to create a system where the customer would log in and fill out a form for a repair. We also created a notification system for the app to help streamline the process for customers and the shop. We’re still working on some bugs but he should be able to put it live eventually.
What are you up to now? Tell us about your new job!
I am currently a full-time Junior Developer Intern at United Consumer Financial Services in Cleveland. (It’s my third day!) It’s hard for me to call this an internship because this full-time internship allows me to make a lot more money than in my full-time role in education!
The company is still doing pen and paper loan applications, and they have just recently moved their entire process online. I’m helping them move everything over into the digital realm.
How did the bootcamp prepare you for job hunting?
We Can Code IT’s career preparation was phenomenal. I cannot get over how good it was – it’s another reason why I’m so glad I went to We Can Code IT. We had someone on staff who was completely dedicated to helping us network, helping with Career Day, and improving our resumes, etc. I don’t think I would’ve gotten the position I have now without Cynthia Trotta’s help. She gave us the advice to connect with people online on LinkedIn and then trying to meet with them in person. I started networking on LinkedIn and connected with the Vice President of the company I work for now. He messaged me and told me that he was looking to build up his IT department and that they really wanted to bring an intern on with the possibility to grow with the company. We had a good conversation about my skills and what I could learn. I started that conversation in April and I wasn’t even close to graduating. I had an offer from this company when I went to Career Day.
Are you using the stack/programming language you learned at bootcamp or a new one?
I was told this will be a 3-month internship, and depending on my performance, I can grow in the role. They are throwing me into everything! I’m working with their databases and I’m helping them build their web application – so I get to work on the front-end and back-end. I’m also going to learn about the networking of their computers. We didn’t cover networking during We Can Code IT but I’m interested to learn more about how all of the computers are connected here.
I’m working with our Senior Developer who has been developing for about 17 years and he’s been a helpful mentor throughout the whole process.
How has your previous background been useful in your new job?
I know that one of the reasons the VP wanted to bring me on board was because I had an education background. At Career Day, I got a lot of interest in that education background from other companies too, because they knew I had useful communication skills.
What’s been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learn to code?
I would say– not enough time! Now that I’m in my new role, I’ve been thinking that even though I did this 20-week program, there is still so much to learn! I think my biggest struggle has been that there’s not enough time to learn.
But I’m continuing to learn and network. Last month I went to a startup networking event in Cleveland and I still stay connected with my cohort. We are actually planning a monthly study group to keep the connections going.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
Do at least some coding beforehand. Yes, every person has the capability to learn to code – but I feel that it is important to try it out because it may not be everyone's cup of tea. I lucked out because I found something that I’m really interested in and really motivated to learn. I had an advantage in the program because I went in knowing the terms and some of the best practices from my past CS classes. That really helped me succeed at We Can Code IT.
Lauren is a communications and operations strategist who loves to help others find their idea of success.
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