Joram Clervius was passionate about music and computers growing up. When college didn’t work out, he used his self-taught computer skills to get a job in web design. Joram soon realized that to build products from scratch, he needed to learn software engineering, so he enrolled in Lambda School’s full-time, online Computer Science and Software Engineering bootcamp. Now Joram is a Senior Developer at software company Nexient! Joram tells us why he chose Lambda School (hint: it’s to do with zero upfront tuition), how he balanced coding with competitive bodybuilding, and why he’s “so thankful” he “went the Lambda route.”
Can you tell me about your background before Lambda School?
I’m from Haiti and moved to Florida with my family when I was 10. Throughout elementary school, middle school and high school I was very involved in music, but also had a big interest in computers. I enjoyed taking them apart and teaching myself things. During high school and college, I did some web development and design projects for other students, but it was always just for fun; I never considered programming as a career.
Not too long after, I came up with an idea for a startup. I created a business plan, submitted it to the Miami Dade Chamber of Commerce, and won a grant to pay for office space. So I quit my job to start working on it. I soon realized that I couldn’t build my idea without more skills. I started to teach myself software engineering concepts, then enrolled at Lambda School.
Web design is very different from web development and software engineering. It’s like knowing how to make a house look nice, but not knowing how to build the house from scratch because you don’t know how to do electrical wiring, or plumbing, or construction.
Once I decided that I needed to learn software engineering, I struggled with not knowing where to start. There are so many languages and frameworks. Do I learn Ruby? Do I learn C? Do I learn C++? Do I learn Swift? Do I learn Java?
To tell you the truth – I’ve experienced what it's like to learn from Lambda School versus what it's like to teach myself, and I am so thankful that I went the Lambda route. There is no way I could have done it by myself.
How did you choose Lambda School and did you consider other online bootcamps?
I saw an online ad on Facebook or Twitter for Lambda School and they mentioned their deferred tuition – you didn't have to pay them back until you got a job. I had considered Wyncode and other bootcamps that were close to home in Miami. But I would have had to pay tuition upfront, so when I found out about Lambda School, I was really excited.
Did you think about going back to college to study computer science?
When I attended a demo day at Wyncode, I found that a lot of students had graduated from college with computer science degrees and still needed to go to a coding bootcamp. If you get a computer science degree, you know a lot of the computer science theory and computer architecture, but not so much about frameworks and development languages. I wanted to know how to build software, rather than just the theory behind the tech, so that made me less interested in college.
What was the application and interview process like for Lambda School?
I signed up, sent in the application, and received an email saying they had received more applications than they expected, so I'd have to take an entrance exam. That freaked me out because I really wanted to get in. I did the exam, which was mostly logic and math, with no coding. Then a couple of days later I got the email saying that I made it. I was really happy!
How did you stay engaged while learning online and balance Lambda School with your life?
Lambda School gave me a full schedule on Google Calendar. From the minute I woke up, I had my whole day planned out for me. Class time was at least eight hours of the day, and I would spend extra time studying outside of class. I was actually interested in learning this stuff, so I spent my nights coding and my weekends working on projects. I started coding from the moment I woke up each day and I have a computer and desk at home, so I just studied from home.
One of my hobbies is competitive bodybuilding, so I'm very active in the gym and work out a lot. That is a very important part of my day. After I finished studying and doing school work, I would go to the gym and work out, then come back home and continue studying.
What was the time commitment for Lambda School? Could you learn on your own time (asynchronously) or did you learn with your classmates at the same time every day (synchronously)?
The instructors taught us through live video lectures, so we could ask them questions, and they'd answer right away. The instructors paired us with other students for pair programming, and we worked on group projects. Every day I was interacting with other students and teachers.
Lambda School taught the course from the West Coast, which was three hours behind me in Florida. It was actually good for me because I didn't have to wake up as early as everybody else. Most people’s schedules were 9am to 6pm, but I started at 12pm and finished at 9pm.
Tell us about a typical day at Lambda School.
One good thing Lambda School does is to make sure students don’t focus on one topic all day long. At the beginning of every day, the very first thing you do is a code challenge. They give you an hour to work on it, then you start the morning lecture and you start learning things that have nothing to do with that code challenge. After that, you move on to working on either a project that was assigned to you the day before, or a new project. The topics get harder as they progress because you start working on multiple concepts at once.
Who were the other students in your class? Was your Lambda School class diverse?
Yeah, it was very diverse. I studied with students from all over the country, many different races, women and men, and all age ranges.
I liked that diversity a lot, because as a black man, especially in software engineering, I’m used to being the only other, the only person who is unique. Whereas at Lambda School, everybody has something unique about them, so that was really nice.
Lambda School actually has a completely blind entrance program where they don't know the gender or the race of the applicant at all; instead, they just see their answers to the application questions.
While you were at Lambda School, what was your favorite project that you worked on?
It was a personal project which I really took to heart. It was a crowdsourced dictionary for Haitian Creole. I built it with React, and I was very proud of it. Before Lambda School, I thought I would need two or three years of React experience before I would be able to build something like that.
How did Lambda School prepare you for job hunting?
Lambda School staff reviewed our LinkedIn accounts and our resumes, and told us where to go to apply for jobs depending on what our interests were. Whiteboard practice was the most helpful. Part of web development job interviews is solving problems on a whiteboard, and people can get nervous being put on the spot and having to code in front of other people. Practicing whiteboarding at Lambda School in front of the rest of the class made the hardest part of the job interview much easier.
Congratulations on your new job! Where are you working and what are you working on?
I'm a Senior Developer at Nexient LLC. It's in Ann Arbor, Michigan and I think the only completely US-based software services outsourcing company. It's a very big company, and we build software solutions for companies around the country. I've only been here for four weeks and love it. I moved to Michigan especially for the role.
How did you find the job at Nexient? What was the application process like?
I found it through a job listing website like Indeed or Dice. I sent Nexient my resume, then I got a callback. After that, I went through two interviews, then received my offer letter. During the interview, they tested I how much I knew and gave me a hard whiteboard question to test my knowledge. Because of that really hard interview process, I surprised myself by making it through.
The position I applied for was a senior developer role. I just decided that I wasn't going to be afraid to go for it, because my entire life, I’ve always tried to go for hard things.
How have your first couple of weeks on the job been? How did they onboard you and ramp you up?
Nexient is also a very diverse company, just like Lambda School. There are a lot of women here, and I work with one woman on my team. I like everybody that I've met so far.
Are you using the same programming languages that you learned at Lambda School or have you had to learn a new language on the job?
How is your previous background in web design useful in your new role as a developer?
It’s very useful. When I first started at Nexient, I asked my supervisor if I could restart one of my projects from scratch. I was able to come up with a whole new design for it, and it looks really nice.
Now that you have a job, have you started paying back your Lambda School tuition? How does that work?
Yeah. Once you start working and earning $50,000 or more, then you start paying 17% of your income. You pay that income-share for either two years or until you've paid $30,000.
What advice do you have for other people who are thinking about making a career change through an online coding bootcamp?
From my own personal experience, the coding bootcamp model does work, and it works well. As long as you dedicate the time and the energy towards it, you'll reap the benefits 10 fold.
That being said, it was really hard. With my personality, I’ve found that whenever things are hard, I enjoy them more. I focused hard on Lambda School because it was really hard and I ended up doing really well.