blog article

Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Breen of DevPoint Labs

By Liz Eggleston
Last Updated April 13, 2016


Daniel Breen worked in retail at Costco for 12 years, but decided that a career change was in order. So he learned Angular and front end JavaScript in the After Hours Javascript course at Utah’s DevPoint Labs (they now teach full-stack JS). But when the class graduated, Daniel didn’t stop there! He continued learning, building projects, and coding; now he’s a Full Stack Developer for financial services company Akirix. Read about Daniel’s amazing journey and his advice for future bootcampers.


What were you were up to before you went to DevPoint Labs?

I worked at Costco for 12 years and actually I didn’t have a college degree. I lived in three different states with Costco and worked at 5 different locations. Mostly I worked in retail and I was a supervisor for a couple of years. I had taught myself HTML and CSS when I worked as a web content specialist for Costco in Seattle, but that was about it. I also did an HTML and CSS class in high school.

What was your motivation to go to DevPoint Labs?

I had been looking for a career change because I was burnt out in retail. Twelve years ago, I had started a degree for web design but I wasn’t inspired by it and dropped out after a few weeks. The reason I got back into computer programming was I felt like it was the only thing that I’ve ever had a niche skill for.

Did you apply to any other coding bootcamps or just DevPoint Labs once you started the application process?

I applied for Bloc then I ended up pulling that application once I found out about DevPoint Labs

How did you make the decision between Bloc (online) and DevPoint Labs (in-person)?

The biggest factor was that DevPoint Labs is in Salt Lake City where I live. With mentors and teachers and homework assignments, I thought I’d be more motivated to get it done than I would an online bootcamp.

From what I can tell, the online coding bootcamps are pretty good about setting up mentoring and assignments, but it just seemed like being in a classroom would make it more important for me to get things done.

Because this was a part-time course, could you keep your job at Costco while you were at DevPoint?

Yeah; it was still a super busy schedule but I was able to pull it off.

How many people were in your class? Was your cohort a good mix of backgrounds and students?

There were eight or nine students in my class. It was a good mix, and I felt like I was right in the middle technically. There were some concepts that I could understand better than others; some of my classmates were also doing college on the side for C programming so they were way on top of their game.

What was the learning experience at DevPoint Labs like?

We were in the classroom on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for three hours a night. Outside of class, there was always homework! We could get on Slack and talk to mentors or other students outside of the classroom. I would say I spent about 18 hours a week on the course. I threw in some extra time because I know that I learn slower than others.

It’s really cool that you’re aware of your own learning style. Did you feel like you had enough support throughout the class?

There was plenty of help. In addition to the instructors, all of the alumni stay on Slack so it seems like they just accumulate more and more mentors each year. Now that I’ve graduated, I go on Slack too and do some mentoring.

Who was your instructor throughout the course?

Dan Treasure was our instructor.

Was there a lot of emphasis on building projects in the part-time JavaScript course?

Yes. We had two hackathons throughout the course, and we did a project for each of those. Then at the end, we had to present a capstone project.

Can you tell us about your capstone project?

My project was called Upper Earth (login:demo, PW:demo), which helps users get to the highest peak in each state. Mountaineers call it “high pointing.” I pulled in weather data for each location, added a journal feature, and users can add each summit to their profile as completed. On a profile, a user can see their summits and total feet climbed.

Are you a climber?

I am! I knew I wanted to make something outdoorsy for my final project.

What are you up to after graduating? What’s your current job?

I graduated at the end of October of 2015. I have a job in Ogden, UT at Akirix, an escrow service; so we are writing software for people who contributing funds to a shared project.

What’s your role at Akirix?

I’m a Fullstack Web Developer. Akirix uses Node for their back end so I had to learn full stack JavaScript.

That’s awesome! How did you get the job?

By keeping my LinkedIn profile up to date! After I graduated, I also started doing a lot of social media. I would tweet something every day and I’d use a site called You Can’t JavaScript Under Pressure and do the test every day.

Every time I finished a project, for example a dice rolling game, I’d actually walk through my code in a video on YouTube.

I found the job at Akirix on Indeed; I applied, then they gave me homework.

Was it a concern to your employer when you applied that you didn’t have a CS degree?

Our head developer and CTO seems to like hiring people who are less experienced, because they have the opportunity to shape them as developers. There are a few other DevPoint Labs grads working at Akirix, and when I applied, they actually responded very quickly with the pre-interview questions because they already knew DevPoint’s reputation.

Depending on where you apply, some hiring managers will expect a degree and others will not. At a smaller company, they’re not a worried about a degree as much as they are about culture fit. But I think if you’re applying for a company that has 500 employees or more, they’re probably going to look for different criteria.

How large is the dev team at your company?

We have seven developers of which one is senior. We have one senior developer right now, six junior developers, and three or four designers.

How has the ramp up been at your first developer job?

I am a very junior developer! There is one senior developer on our team and when we’ve got a question, we just go right to him. We try to work with each other as juniors to figure things out.

So you’re working in JavaScript in your job now, but you’ve switched to Ember, and you’ve learned Node. What has that experience been like?

We have two main applications and we’re adding a third. Our third application is going to be in Ember 2, which is pretty different from Ember 1, so you always have to be learning. Ember is a beast and Node was probably the hardest for me to understand when I first started.

I used a mix of methods when learning those new languages. For Node, I took a Udemy course but it didn’t really address the same libraries that we use at Akirix. I know a lot of developers use Express for their framework with Node. We use Restify, which is much smaller. A lot of people use Mongo and we use MySQL.

It was really hard to find anything online for learning Restify, so I learned by talking to my boss a lot and asking him about how things were done. I also started working on my own projects as a testing ground for trying new technologies. I ended up learning a lot from doing my own projects and asking coworkers.

Also, I used the Ember Community Slack and talked with people from DevPoint which was helpful.

What was your biggest challenge over the last six months?

Missing out on social life! I went to school for three months, then spent three months between graduating and getting my job at Akirix in the beginning of February. I knew that if I wanted to make the career change, I couldn’t really sit idle, I had to keep making progress.

After I graduated, I was constantly working on projects and learning, so I had to pass on a lot of social invites. The hardest part was staying committed and spending a lot of time in code, which even though I enjoy, meant I had to take a social break.

Have you stayed involved in DevPoint Labs at all? You mentioned staying on Slack and becoming a mentor there.

Sure, I’ll go and mentor every once in awhile. I’ll get on the Slack channel and if people ask questions to mentors I’ll try to answer them. Because this cohort is learning full-stack JavaScript, I actually attended a couple of classes since some of the classes are newer.

What advice do you have for people who are thinking of making a career change into the tech world? What advice would you have for people who were in your shoes?

I actually just spoke about this at a meetup. I don’t mind being an example of the person who didn’t have a degree and didn’t have the technical background before a coding bootcamp.

My advice is to be persistent and to be constantly coding. If you want to become a developer without a degree (or with one), you will have to spend most of your free time programming. The course gave me the tools I needed. However, had I just done the part-time course and not pursued anything further, if I hadn’t continued to educate myself, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.

Find out more and read DevPoint Labs reviews on Course Report. And visit the DevPoint Labs website.

About The Author

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!

Not sure what you're looking for?

We'll match you!