Greg Demaline was no stranger to IT – he spent 17 years programming ice carving machines. But when he decided to transition into web development, he found employers were looking for more experience than he could get from self-teaching. So Greg enrolled in The Software Guild’s online bootcamp and kept working full time while studying. Greg tells us how helpful it was to chat regularly with other Software Guild students, and how he landed a job as a QA Developer at Key Bank, working alongside other coding bootcamp grads!
What is your pre-bootcamp story? Your educational background? Your last career path?
I have two associate degrees in Information Technology. For 17 years, I programmed and ran a CNC machine for an icehouse (basically a programmable machine that can carve ice sculptures). I took care of the website, the servers, and all the technical work.
About four years ago I decided I wanted to get into web development. So I started going to meetups and networking. I took some Coursera classes, did a few projects on my own, and then I went out and started interviewing, but I didn’t have much luck. The companies I interviewed with all said, “What you’re doing is great, but we would like to see more experience.”
Why was a bootcamp your next step rather than continuing to study on your own?
I think I could have eventually gotten a job in coding on my own, but it would have taken a lot longer. The Software Guild provided an organized way to get experience in many aspects of development, which I may not have gotten otherwise.
I first heard about The Software Guild on Facebook from a friend who works there, Sarah Dutkiewicz. So I checked it out, took the aptitude test, and talked to their team about the online program. I couldn’t quit my job to take the in-person, full-time bootcamp, so the online option allowed me to keep my job while studying, which helped out a lot.
Did you research any other coding bootcamp options?
I heard about another coding bootcamp on NPR, which would have been convenient if I’d decided to go to an in-person bootcamp, but it didn’t offer remote classes. The Software Guild had the Online option, which was my main reason for going there.
It’s also nice to be in a locally-based program. I had friends who went to The Software Guild, I knew Sarah who worked there, and it was close enough for me to stop by the classroom. They host a bunch of meetups and job fairs, so I was able to go to the classroom and meet people. I also met with my mentor a few times in person, which was nice.
How did you pay for the tuition? Did you use a financing partner?
I was lucky in that I was in the first online bootcamp so it was discounted by 50%, and then my parents offered to pay for it. But I did have a backup plan to take out a student loan. I’ve talked to people I work with about why they wanted to do a bootcamp rather than a college education, and money is always a big factor. I even thought about going back to get a CS degree, but the cost had more than doubled since I went to college. A lot of my friends took out loans, even to do a bootcamp.
What was The Software Guild application and interview process like for you?
It’s changed since I’ve done it. I filled out the application online, then I completed an aptitude test. After I took the test, I had to write an essay, then did an interview with The Software Guild admissions team, and they helped guide me to figure out which program to choose.
After I was admitted, we did a month of online prework before the cohort started. We did the prework together as a cohort when I took the class. But now you have to do a free Intro to Web Development prework before you get accepted, which is another determining factor for admission.
As an online student, how did you stay focused and motivated?
I did most of my coursework from home, usually after I got my daughter to bed. I would work two to three hours every night, so that I didn’t have a big mess of work to do at the end of the week or on the weekends. I think it’s better to learn something every day and have the material fresh in your mind.
In the winter time my job at the ice business got pretty busy with winter festivals, but I was able to bring my laptop with me and work on The Software Guild at night. One time, we were doing a job in Michigan, and we worked from 5am to 10pm, then I still worked until 1am on a Software Guild project.
What was the online learning experience like at The Software Guild? How were the days structured?
The cohort was divided into two halves, OOP (object-oriented programming) and Web Development. Each half was divided into sections and ended with a final project. At the end of each section was an assignment that had to be completed within a set deadline. You could not move onto the next section without fulfilling the previous section requirements. If you did not complete the assignment, or what you turned in was not satisfactory, you would get held back to repeat that section. You could be dropped from the cohort if you were held back more than three times. Luckily I always had the assignments down within the deadline.
How did you learn at The Software Guild Online? Did they guide you through the curriculum?
The Software Guild has a web interface to interact with where you work through the curriculum section-by-section. Once you’ve mastered a section, the next one is unlocked. You can’t move on at your own pace if you finish early. But you can ask for additional work, which was an opportunity to learn more about that sections topic.
The class material was presented through web portals like Moodle and Acatar. We used GIT for version control, Slack for communicating with instructors, mentors and other guild alumni/students, GoToMeeting for class lectures and to meet with mentors/instructors. We were the first cohort, so they were trying out different things on us. That actually helped prepare me for my job because that’s how it is at my job now – the tech is always changing.
How often did you communicate with other students? Did you collaborate on projects?
We messaged each other pretty much every day. A group of us used Google meetups, and we messaged on that, and then we also messaged each other using The Software Guild’s Slack channel. There were six of us who kept in good contact with each other, and if we had a problem we’d send a message and one of us would respond. We tried to replicate the in-person experience for each other. We were able to see how other classmates were progressing and help each other solve problems.
We didn’t work on projects together; we had our own projects that we had to work on. There’s a point at which you’re helping a person too much if you say “here’s how I did it.” So we would work problems out together without giving the answers away. My favorite project was building Battleship. It was a console app built in C# and Visual Studios.
How often did you interact with instructors or mentors?
We had meetings once a week with our mentors to go over what we worked on for the week (code reviews), give a quick progress report, and ask any questions. For the first half of the course we had lectures once a week. In the second half of the course we didn’t have any lectures, but we still met with our mentors once a week. If we had any questions in between those meetings, we could use a Slack channel, and I would usually get responses right away. I sometimes sent questions through at 1am and got a response from Eric Wise, the Chief Academic Officer.
How did The Software Guild prepare you for job hunting?
They did prepare us for interviews by doing mock interviews and study cram sessions on interview questions. They gave me a spreadsheet where I could keep track of which jobs I’d applied for.
If we wanted to be successful in finding a job, The Software Guild said we needed to apply for at least 40 jobs a month. I did that and I got 6 interviews. I actually got two job offers within a week of each other! I think as long as you go out and make your contacts and follow The Software Guild’s advice, you’re likely to get a job.
Tell us about your new job at Key Bank!
I graduated at the beginning of April, and I got hired on June 26th. I work for Key Bank in the Quality Assurance department as a Software Developer Engineer Tester (SDET). My department at Key Bank is made up mostly of other coding bootcamp graduates who have Java backgrounds, including one other Software Guild grad who finished in April.
I write scripts that test the functionality of applications at Key Bank, which is behavioral driven test development. We use Node as our main programming language, along with Selenium and Webdriver. We write tests in a language called Gherkin, in a framework called Cucumber. For example, to test the bank deposit system, Webdriver will log on as a person, make a deposit, then make sure the balance changed in the system.
Did you learn those programming languages at The Software Guild, or have you learned those on the job?
Key Bank gave us eight weeks of training assignments. I also spent the first week reading documentation and doing my own research online.
Do you think your previous background in IT has been useful in your new job?
Knowing how to set up servers and having a general IT background has been a big advantage, because I can understand Key Bank’s infrastructure. A lot of coders starting out aren't familiar with that type of work. My previous Cisco training, and Windows Server Administrator training comes in handy when working with Jenkins, the framework that runs our tests. We build the tests during the day, run the tests at night, get results the next day, then build more tests based on that.
How do you stay involved with The Software Guild? Have you kept in touch with other alumni?
Yes. A lot of people still message on Google hangouts or on The Software Guild’s Slack channels. I know one of the other alumni already had two different jobs, and a woman in our cohort got a job right away with the company she already worked with – she was able to switch positions.
What advice do you have for people thinking about going through an online coding bootcamp?
You can learn as much as you want to learn. The resources are out there, it all depends on the time available and your willingness to do it. If you want to get into coding, then that’s what you should do. But before you start you should at least have an interest in it. You definitely have to have the ambition to do it, otherwise you won’t be able to finish a bootcamp like The Software Guild.