Kasim had a strong engineering background, but was finding it difficult to nail a software engineering role. So he enrolled at Code Fellows to learn the MEAN Stack and open up his job options. Kasim made a promise to his wife that he’d have a new job the Monday following the end of the course, and that’s exactly what he did! Kasim shares his job search experience and what you need to do to succeed at Bootcamp.
Tell us what you were up to before you went to Code fellows.
I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Materials Science & Engineering at the University of Washington. It’s the study of materials, the process of finding new materials and understanding how they interact. It was mostly chemistry and material subjects, but I was forced to take one CS class. I took Intro to Java. Although I didn’t do well in the class, I liked it, so I kept it in the back of my mind.
After I graduated, I started working at Intel in Portland. I did circuit editing, which is more of an electrical engineering job. At my previous job at Intel I did have to look at code once in awhile; that was probably one of the most exciting things I did. While I was there, I thought studying electrical engineering would be a good idea, so I took a year’s worth of Electrical Engineering classes. My goal was to go into a master's program. After a year’s worth of classes I had bachelor’s level knowledge in Electrical Engineering but realized I didn’t really like it.
What made you think about a software development career?
I’m originally from Seattle and I wanted to return home. I started looking at the job market, but the type of job that I was doing was pretty centralized in Silicon Valley. I thought software development would be a good thing to try because I liked it.
Did you know about Code Fellows when you made that career decision?
The first thing I did was quit my job to travel with my wife for four months. Before I left, my brother-in-law told me, “When you come back, you should look into Code Fellows; it’s a coding bootcamp.” He works at OfferUp and they were going to let him do a course there. I checked it out, but tried to get a job on my own first. In the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to code, but I thought that I could get an entry-level job without any training. I interviewed at a few places and one place said I was close but they went with someone who had more experience. Most of the jobs I interviewed for only involved working with a bit of code. I tried to get a job for two months and nothing worked out, so I applied to Code Fellows after that and got into the Bootcamp course.
I told my wife and she said, “You’re putting so much money into this!” And I told her “I promise you if I finish this, I’ll get a job the Monday that I’m done with the class,” which is what I ended up doing.
What classes did you take at Code Fellows?
The names of the courses have changed since I was at Code Fellows, but I took the Bootcamp, which is one month, and the Development Accelerator, which is two months; I did both of those. Luckily, I got a 70% scholarship for both of them. It was the Diversity Scholarship. That really helped because it pretty much depleted our savings.
What level of coding skills did you get to in the Bootcamp?
Because I was coming from a non-coding background, the Bootcamp prepared me for the Development Accelerator. I don’t think I could’ve gotten a job before that. A lot of people started in the Development Accelerator and didn’t take classes before that, but I don’t think I could’ve done that.
Was there a coding challenge to get into the Dev Accelerator?
Was learning the MEAN stack important to you?
What was the cohort like? Did it feel like a diverse cohort in terms of age, gender and race?
There were 18 or 19 people. It wasn’t very racially diverse. There were one or two Asian people, mostly white people. There were three girls. It was on the younger end of the age spectrum. There were some people younger than me but mostly people in their late twenties.
Was everybody on a similar technical level? Did you feel like you were ahead of people because you had done the Bootcamp course?
For most of the people there, this was their first experience with a Bootcamp or Code Fellows. I felt like everyone was really smart. It’s a lot more difficult to get in if you haven’t taken a Code Fellows course before because they really test your skills before they admit you.
I felt in between the middle and bottom of the cohort. One thing that really helped me in the course was that I understood the Code Fellows structure due to my previous experience in their Bootcamp. I didn’t feel like a stranger on the first day, whereas my first day at the Bootcamp, I was really nervous.
Tyler Morgan. He is basically a genius. He is the typical coding type: long hair, long beard. He is really funny and kind of blunt. Basically, he would just project his computer on the screen and code. It worked for me because he’d record his lectures and post them on a private YouTube channel.
Did you do projects every day?
There were homework assignments, basically mini-projects, assigned every day. And if you attended the lecture, they were somewhat trivial. I didn’t like taking my work home because I’m married and have a life outside of school. They’d give you three hours after lecture to work on it. I finished within the three hours every single time.
How much time did you spend there each week?
I had to get there an hour early every day because I carpooled with my wife. I would get there at 8:00 and I would leave at 4:00 and that was just enough time for me to finish all of the work.
It seems like you maintained a good work-life balance.
I was already pretty stressed out by not having a job. My wife was working. We commuted together so when we were home I just wanted to spend time together instead of studying.
Do you feel that your electrical engineering role aided in learning web development?
There were some concepts that were useful, but they’re pretty different. There are different branches of electrical engineering and some engineers focus on coding. The logic still works the same so that helps with coding.
What was the feedback loop like at Code Fellows?
Tyler was definitely good with feedback. I didn’t offer a lot of feedback because I was just fine with the way things were. Some people thought that the explanations were too fast at times. Sometimes it seemed like you would watch him do something and do the same thing for homework. There’s a little bit of handholding. If you asked him for help, it was a little bit intimidating. But if you use his code as an example, you should be able to do all of the assignments.
Tell us about the projects that you built at Code Fellows.
The project week was definitely a time when you actually had to apply everything you had learned—and that’s when the real learning happened, I think.
Did you get to choose your group and did you get to come up with that idea on your own?
We came up with the idea. For the projects Code Fellows usually mixes two classes together so that Python students will work with iOS students, for example. One group will work on the front end. That’s what we did for the final, but not for this project.
What was the second project when you collaborated with another class?
We collaborated with a front-end class and made a carpool app. They made our website look nice and we made the back end. I thought there were too many people working on the project. There were three people from our class and two from their class. There were just too many people. For our other project there three people so everyone had to do a lot of work, which kind of made the rhythm easier. When it was five people, there wasn’t enough work for one person to do sometimes.
Cool. Was it an app built with MEAN stack?
Yes, it was a web app. Sometimes you work with iOS classes and you actually end up with an iOS app and a web app, which is really cool, but we didn’t get to do that.
When did you receive a job offer?
In the beginning of the seventh week.
How did you get the job?
Before I started at Code Fellows, I interviewed with K2 over the phone. They said, "Come back when you have more experience.” In between the Bootcamp course and the Development Accelerator I talked to them again and they were interested in the stuff I was doing. They said, “Let’s talk again after you finish.”
I wanted a job before I finished so I interviewed with them towards the end of the course. The interview lasted about 10 minutes and they told me that I got the job.
So it wasn’t directly through the Code Fellows job network.
The Code Fellows job network is really good, but I didn’t end up getting a job that way. I got some calls after I had already started.
What’s your role like at K2?
I’m a software engineer and work with a team of four to five other people on a product called Control Pack. K2 makes smart forms. Someone who buys the software can drag and drop different controls onto a form or make their own form. It’s more advanced than the typical forms you can make from scratch. We maintain some of the form controls. I fix bugs.
You started that job the Monday after you graduated from Code Fellows?
Yes. It’s exactly what I was hoping to do.
What has the first month been like for you ramping up? Does K2 offer a lot of mentoring?
The first week was training, then they gave me a tutorial on making my own control. They give me a task and I can ask for help, but they want me to try it by myself first. There’s not a specific person assigned to help me but everyone on the team is very helpful and I can ask anybody for help.
Had they hired a Bootcamp graduate before?
No, I think I was the first person. They basically heard about it because of me.
Did you have to do a technical interview at K2?
It was a technical interview but it wasn’t a whiteboarding interview. Luckily, I was able to answer all of those questions from things I’d learned at Code Fellows.
You did an interview with K2 before Code Fellows and then one after. What was the difference?
The first one was a phone interview and they just asked questions like, “How many different things can you make with a paperclip?” I don’t think it was the interview itself that affected whether I got the job or not, I think it was more the lack of experience. They told me they ended up hiring a Computer Science grad. That was for a junior role.
Are you happy with your career change?
I think so; I like it better than what I was doing at Intel.
Did you think that Code Fellows was worth the money?
I was willing to pay the full price, but I would’ve had to borrow it. It would’ve been worth the end result, but there’s also people in the class who haven’t got a job yet. It is really expensive so it’s hard to say. I thought it was pretty expensive with my scholarship.
Do you think you could’ve learned what you learned over those three months on your own?
I feel like the things I studied on my own weren’t as solid as what I learned at Code Fellows. That’s what made it worth it. Some people in the class were really smart and I think they could’ve done it without Code Fellows, but for me, I needed to sit down eight to nine hours a day to get it done.
You could learn all of this on your own, but not everyone has that capacity. You also miss out on the guidance when learning on your own. I can sit down and read a medical school book but I’m not going to be able to do surgery.
It sounds like the project weeks were where you really solidified your learning. Is there anyone you would not recommend the course to?
If you’re going to half-ass it, it’s not good for you.