Kim Lim worked in the Atlanta restaurant industry for about 7 years before she decided to switch gears and become a front end developer. One of her regular customers suggested she check out DigitalCrafts coding bootcamp in the neighboring Tech Village to break into the tech industry without going back to college. Now that Kim has graduated from the DigitalCrafts Full Stack Flex Program, she tells us about balancing a full-time job while studying, being a woman in tech battling Imposter Syndrome, and why she chose to become a Developer-in-Residence to help teach new bootcamp students!
What is your pre-bootcamp story? Describe your educational background and last career path.
I have been in the restaurant industry for about seven years. When I started college I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I majored in Hospitality Administration at Georgia State University. My goal was to be an events manager, but when I graduated and got an events position, it wasn’t what I expected. I worked on events, marketing, and the company website, but felt the role was a work overload. I picked the pieces that I enjoyed most about the role which included working on the company website, designing event flyers, and doing social media outreach.
I managed a restaurant called Farm Burger and while I loved it, that wasn’t my end goal – I was looking for a more creative outlet in an industry where everyone was striving for the same goal.
Did you try to learn on your own before you enrolled at DigitalCrafts? What types of resources did you use?
At Farm Burger, I was able to help out with simple website updates on Wordpress. I had enjoyed working with HTML and CSS since middle school, and in high school, I was actually the senior ad and photography editor for the school yearbook staff. I was self-taught with HTML and CSS. I also did FreeCodeCamp courses online.
How did you first learn about DigitalCrafts?
Farm Burger is right down the street from the Tech Village here in Atlanta. Wanting to see where I could learn web development without having to go back to college, I reached out to one of my regular customers to ask them how I could get my foot in the door of the tech industry. She suggested DigitalCrafts, which is in Tech Village. I did more research on the school and the alumni on Course Report, and DigitalCrafts made it pretty easy to choose them.
Did you research other coding bootcamps? Why was DigitalCrafts an “easy” decision?
I wanted to learn in-person – not remotely – and I wanted to stay in Atlanta. I prefer learning in a physical classroom and having a teacher there to review my code. When I was researching, it came down to General Assembly and DigitalCrafts, but General Assembly had mixed reviews.
Price was also a factor, but so was the length of the course. I did DigitalCrafts’ Full Stack Flex cohort from August 2017 to February 2018, which was 24 weeks. Since I was going to learn this brand new material, I wanted to take a course that was longer than 10 weeks so that I could budget time to study while also working full-time.
Did you consider doing a 4-year CS degree?
What was the DigitalCrafts application and interview process like for you?
I set up a tour of the classroom and had a sit-down talk with DigitalCrafts’ co-founder, Max McChesney. We discussed what I was looking for in my learning and what the course could provide. My final step was to do a code challenge that was less than 10 questions. I had to set variables, which I didn’t know how to do before, but I was able to use Google to find the answers and solve the problem. The questions got harder as you moved forward, but I think I only got one syntax error wrong. That application process made me feel at ease about transitioning to become a front end developer.
What made you want to specialize in front end development rather than back end development or the full stack?
DigitalCrafts is a full stack course, but I realized my interests were more towards the front end because I wanted to be a mix of designer and developer – I’m looking for that happy middle place. I love UX/UI design which somewhat matches my hospitality background of making sure guests have a good experience in person and on the website. So I love the idea of design and solving problems with it.
How many people were in your cohort? Was your class diverse?
There were about 15 people in my cohort, and four were women. It was intimidating at first, but coming from a restaurant background, I’m used to working with a mix of different people. The worries that I initially had about being a woman in the space went away after the first few weeks. There were other students from the restaurant industry, some who were already in the tech industry, and one person who was a barista at Starbucks. It was nice to feel that I wasn’t alone.
I realized that everyone was there to learn. Even though we came from different walks of life – we all had something to contribute. During group projects, we all looked to each other’s strengths to solve problems.
What was the learning experience like at DigitalCrafts? Did the teaching style match your learning style?
We had two instructors – one for back end development and one for front end development. Topics of the course were mapped out by each week, but there was flexibility in the syllabus if certain subjects were a little more difficult for the class. There were two different teaching styles – one instructor used lecture, group work, and individual assignments to teach the material. The other instructor, who focused on back end development, liked to throw the students in the deep end to complete assignments, which was a little difficult.
What was your favorite project that you built at DigitalCrafts? Was it an individual project?
At first, I wanted to do an individual project, but creating a full stack project was not totally feasible, given the time frame. I had a working idea, so I reached out to my friend Cliff who was also in the class, and he agreed to work on it with me. Our project is called Regimen – it’s a social e-commerce recommendation platform. I follow beauty bloggers and other influencers, and always want to know what products they use. Users can create a profile stating their hair type, diet restrictions, skin type etc. and then review and comment on various beauty and health products as they appeal to you. Users can describe why they like certain products and people can view other users’ profiles and read recommendations. The platform is not currently live, but we’re still working on it!
We used Reactjs, NodeJS, Postgres SQL, Passport JS, Express JS, Bootstrap for responsiveness, and JWT.io for encryption.
Where are you working now? Tell us about being a Developer-in-Residence with DigitalCrafts.
I’m still working at Farm Burger, but I’ve stepped down from my management role to focus on my transition to the tech industry. I’m also a part-time Teaching Assistant for the latest DigitalCrafts’ Full Stack Flex program. Whenever students need additional help and have questions, I’m there. As a manager in the restaurant industry, I was always the one to find a solution or answer whenever someone had questions or problems.
At DigitalCrafts, since we have remote students, I also manage camera setup and ensure students have the materials they need to succeed. It’s great because any material that may have slipped through the cracks while I was a student, is now getting solidified during my Developer-in-Residence role. I’m asking the same questions over and over and digging deeper into subjects to better help my students.
During my term as a DIR for the current cohort, I’ve learned how to interpret documentation more efficiently, debug code that wasn’t originally written by myself, and improved on refactoring code to be consistent and cleaner. Now halfway through the course, I’m confident I will continue to learn even more with my students while on their journey to being developers.
How did DigitalCrafts prepare you for job hunting? Are you looking for full-time jobs?
I’m trying to find the sweet spot between a designer and front end developer. DigitalCrafts covers mock interviews, how to update your GitHub, Linkedin profile, and resume, along with providing a career success toolkit for job searching. DigitalCrafts also has a career week where people from local companies come to speak about the industry. It was nice to meet different people in the field, hear about a day in the life of developers, and what to expect at different companies.
What’s been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learn to code?
For me, it’s been my confidence. Since I’m coming from a different industry, it can be intimidating being a woman, and ensuring that I’m using the correct terminology and referencing materials appropriately. Imposter Syndrome has played a big role in this journey – Do I even know what I’m doing? Am I really able to meet these requirements? But the team at DigitalCrafts is such a good support group. I share with my students now how everything that we learn is applicable to real life. We’re not imposters, and we have projects to reflect that.
I still deal with Imposter Syndrome now. I spoke to an experienced developer at MailChimp who told me he still gets Imposter Syndrome too. It happens, but you have to refocus. Remember the goal, but change your path.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
You should first dabble in coding a little bit – get your feet wet. Take free courses online like FreeCodeCamp and see if it interests you. Don’t just do a coding bootcamp for a new job; test the waters first. Don’t give up if you’re interested. When in doubt, ask Google!
Lauren is a communications and operations strategist who loves to help others find their idea of success. She is passionate about techonology education, career development, startups, and the arts. Her background includes career/youth development, public affairs, and philanthropy. She is from Richmond, VA and now currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.
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