Lexus Davis specialized in technology engineering and innovation management before jumping into the tech scene. Not satisfied in her construction management position, and realizing most of the new positions she was interested in required some type of programming language, she decided to learn to code. Find out about Lexus’ experience learning full stack web development at We Can Code IT in Cleveland, why she enjoyed the bootcamp teaching style more than college, and her new application developer role at JPMorgan Chase!
What was your career and educational background before attending We Can Code IT?
I graduated from Ohio University in 2015 with a specialized studies bachelor’s degree in technology engineering and innovation management. I was doing an engineering major with a couple of different disciplines, so I combined all of that together, while also taking some marketing and management courses. After that, I came back home to Cleveland and got a job as a project manager for a 3D technology company. I was only there for a short while because it wasn’t a great fit with the intended role and what they actually had me doing. I then tried to find manufacturing or engineering jobs in the area. Everything I kept coming across had some type of technology, coding, or programming aspect to it.
I was able to get a job at a company called Construction Resources where I was a field observer for a couple of months. I took pictures of roofers, making sure they followed specs and stayed on course with the project. I did that up until the new year and then again I was unemployed.
How did you decide to attend a coding bootcamp?
I kept searching and thinking, "okay, everything is related to technology. Technology is going to keep growing.” In college I took coding, and I didn't like it. I took a C# class, and I didn't like it because it was just a very bad learning environment. I originally thought I was bad at coding, but I started looking at bootcamps, and the one that kept coming up was We Can Code IT. I thought to myself, "I might as well just apply," because nobody was trying to hire me at the time.
Looking at some of the jobs I was applying to, they wanted someone who had three to five years of experience because in a lot of the manufacturing jobs, you're working with different programs. So if you have a background in the language that their program is written in, it’s much more beneficial. I had an internship in college where the programs for the big machines we worked on were written in C++. So if you had that background and you saw these error codes come up, it would help you know what was going on. Engineering connects right into technology, so engineers have to have some type of knowledge about programming. And that's what all the employers were asking for, "Oh, do you know C++ or C# or Java?" and I would always say, "No." I started seeing that trend of needing to learn coding even if you’re not a developer, as it's overlapping a lot more within engineering.
You mentioned taking coding classes in college. Did you use any other coding resources before you decided to go to We Can Code It?
I tried Coursera but I wasn't good at keeping up with it. When I'm learning something brand new, I need direction, and then after I know it, I can explore it further without help.Trying to pick it up fresh, while learning online, was not working for me. I also did W3Schools to look at some HTML stuff, and that was helpful. I was able to learn HTML online because my creative side was able to do really crazy stuff. I really liked the HTML course which is one of the things that drew me to We Can Code IT – they teach the front end as well as back end, and databases.
Did you tailor your bootcamp search for a specific language, instructor type, location or price?
I was looking more so at location. I did C# in school, so I was familiar with some of the syntax and wanted to stick with that just because at the time, Java was completely foreign to me compared to some of the C# that I was looking at.
What was the We Can Code It interview and application process like for you?
First, you take an assessment test that’s about 13 questions. I think We Can Code IT is trying to see how you think. The last question, you have to write a poem. Most of the questions were basic questions involving math and your resume/ background. It wasn't too difficult.
After that, I was told I did well on the assessment and was asked by the We Can Code IT team to come in for an interview. The initial interview is We Can Code IT trying to see why you’re interested in coding and bootcamps. We Can Code It has this focus on trying to get women and minorities into computer science. After the initial interview, if you need financial assistance, you can have a conversation about that.
I don't know how other people went through it, but they really liked me and thought I would do great, so they held a spot for me and I came up with some cash to pay the down payment. My process was also a lot more rushed because their intro course was starting that week. So I was on a time crunch.
What’s the We Can Code IT Intro Day like?
You come in, you pick up your laptop, and you meet everyone in your cohort. You go over your syllabus and go through a team building game. You have to work together, so it's about 20 people coming together, who have never met each working on team building activities. Then the next week you start the bootcamp.
How many people were in your cohort and was it diverse in terms of gender, race and career backgrounds?
We started with 20, and then, one woman left because she knew she didn't really want to learn back end. She was really good with front end, so she decided to leave early on. We ended up with 18 people and it was very diverse. I think the youngest person was 22, and then the oldest was in their mid 50's. We had women, men, black, white, and Asian students from all over. One guy came from California, and another from Miami. Cleveland was also very well represented.
What was the learning experience like at We Can Code IT? How does it compare to when you were learning to code in undergrad?
At We Can Code It, it was never expected for you to know something. Between Mel the CEO and Lauren the National Director of Educational & Culture, they never jumped into a lesson thinking any of us knew what we were doing. Whereas when I was a school, it was expected that you already know some of the information that was being taught, which to me did not make sense.
It was also a lot more sexist when I was in school because I was one of two women in a classroom of about 25 guys. So to me, our instructor, if I raised my hand, my instructor would take his time to call on me and answer my questions, but when my male friends raised their hand, he'd come right over. It just felt very cold. So when I was in undergrad, I didn't ask questions because I would feel stupid. At We Can Code IT, there wasn't ever this moment where I felt like I was stupid if I asked a question. With Mel and Lauren at We Can Code IT, it felt like a family.
Describe a typical day at We Can Code IT.
You come in at 9am for stand up and students would go around saying how we were doing, our expectations for the day and our goals. Then we would start with a lecture. We had two instructors, but by the end of the course we had four. One thing about We Can Code is that we had all of our slides sent out to us weekly. There would be exercises that you can build upon as the instructor is going through the slides. It wasn't listening to a lecture and then getting to work. It was more so as the lecture went along, you could build.
I have all my notes in the programs that we basically built as the lecture went along. That was a one really, really good thing because you're able to compile information as you were reading. It is one thing to read something on a slide, but it's completely different when you type it in, and then you see it do what you need it to do. And if it didn't, you can figure out how to fix it.
On Fridays we had a project. There were a couple of times where we had peer projects where we would work with another partner. They'd put you with someone who maybe needed a little extra help just to keep it balanced because they didn't want all the people who were super advanced working with each other. They had people who were struggling a little bit, but our group was really good at helping out each other. For pair programming, I had a great group of people that I worked with on a regular basis which was really helpful. We were all at different levels, but collaborated really well together.
What was a favorite project that you built during your time at We Can Code It?
Oh, I had two favorites. One of them was a banking account that I worked on with a partner. Neither one of us was the greatest at coding, but we battled through, and we got it done. I was very proud of that one because that was my turning point, especially because I think at that point, I might have had my job already, so I was getting lazy. I was really proud of it because I got everything that I needed to get on the sheet that they wanted. I got it done and that just made me know I could do this. It's going to take a lot of hard work, but I can really do it.
The other project I had a load of fun on was a fortune teller app. For some reason, Mel the CEO really likes fortune tellers. I really don't know where that comes from, but it taught me how to use inheritance and interfaces. At first, I just did not understand those, but I got it to work the way I wanted it to by the time I presented my final project. That was probably the one I'm most proud of. You can check it out here.
Congratulations on your new job! Tell me about your role! What was the process like in terms of actually getting the role?
I went through a couple of different interviews – behavioral and technical, and I had to do a presentation that I thought went really well. Two weeks later, on April 1st, I received my offer from JPMorgan Chase as an application developer. I thought it was very ironic to hear the news on April 1st as I probably would not have believed my recruiter if I didn't receive the email!
In your role now, what programming languages are you using? Are they the same as what you learned at We Can Code It?
We use Java at my job now. One thing that We Can Code IT did help with was teaching me how to work with databases. We use MySQL, MVC, HTML and CSS because my team now, we're all full stack developers, so we do it all. There's some syntax and the naming of things that's a little different, but otherwise they're pretty similar. So it was very helpful that it wasn't a completely brand new language that I had to learn.
Tell me about the first month at JPMorgan Chase and that ramp up period. How did it feel being in this new type of developer role?
I feel good mainly because I came in with no expectations. The only thing they wanted was for me to get comfortable working. I'm in Corporate America now so I had to transition from the university lifestyle. It was all about getting comfortable, learning your team, learning what Agile means. I learned how to operate in an Agile team, and then got comfortable learning and understanding Java because they knew I was coming from TechConnect and TAP.
They didn't just throw me into the woods with, "All right, this is what we're doing. This what I need you to do and I need it done by Friday." It was none of that. It was really "Take your time. Get it accumulated. Just ride up on somebody, shadow them for the next couple of days. I'm not going to be sitting right here next to you. If you have questions, ask." That's how my team is. It’s been really, really useful and I appreciate that because I was nervous coming in. At first I thought, "Oh, man. They're going to expect me to know so much." but really my company knows, "No, I know you're analysts. We get it."
How was your transition from a student to an employee? Did you participate in additional coding networks to grow your tech knowledge?
I applied for my position at JPMorgan Chase in December 2015 but didn’t start until September 2016. It was one of those times where I got tired of holding myself back on applications. A lot of times women will see a job and I say, "Oh, I'm not qualified for this." I told myself, "I'm not doing that anymore. I'm just going to apply. Whether they're going to say yes, whether they're going to say, no, but I'm going to apply for everything that I think I should do."
So I applied to the Tap Technology Analyst Program (TAP) in June 2016 and some of the requirements were that they were looking for electrical engineers, and computer science graduating seniors, with a 3.2 GPA. I didn't have any of that, but it still sounded like something I was interested in. I also applied to TechConnect, which is a 4-week HTML and CSS bridge program created to help more women get into the computer science field. So this was specifically for women who maybe did not have a technology background as far as their major, but were interested in transitioning into technology field. And again they still wanted that 3.2 GPA, but I just applied and I sent it off. A week before I started at We Can Code IT, I got the first initial call from TechConnect. They were really excited because I had already taken the initiative to attend We Can Code IT.
What would be the biggest challenge or roadblock for you on your journey to learning how to code?
Getting out of my own way. I think a lot of times people have a lot of pride. When they don't know something, they don't want to ask for help. Especially where you have people telling you, "Oh, you're doing so great, and you're so good." You're just thinking, "Oh, I don't know what you're talking about. I really don't understand this stuff. I'm like faking it till I make it." My biggest challenge was getting out of my own way to realize that I was making progress and learning.
I was also hard for me to stay at tutoring and say, "This is where I need help on. Can you help me explain it." I started to take what they explained and put it in my own words to make it a little bit more personal to me. Once I started doing that, once I started asking for help, C# wasn't super scary anymore. It started to feel like, "Okay, I can do this."
Do you still stay involved with We Can Code It?
Yeah, I can't get away. I talked to about a group of 10 or 12 students last cohort and then I've had various students reach out to me on our slack channel or through LinkedIn asking about my experience, and advice for interviews. I know they have a bootcamp down here in Columbus so one day when I have some time, I'll go check that out or go to a meetup. I try to stay involved.
What advice do you have for people thinking about making a career change and thinking about going to a coding bootcamp?
Just do it like Nike. No, but really if you're thinking about it, do it. It's not going to hurt. Technology is constantly changing and one thing about this field is that there's two million jobs that they need people in by 2020, and there's not enough people for it. The more, the merrier. It pays really, really well and there are some great perks.
I'm not a hardware person, but now that I'm doing software programming, I look at websites and software completely different. I can now say, "Oh, I can do this better." It's just fun. Even if you're not working on super cool stuff, there is always something that you can learn that you can do on the side. I definitely have many pet projects that I'm working on that have absolutely nothing to do with my job, or with the financial industry at all, but it's stuff that I'm interested in learning more about. So even if there is nothing out there for me, I'm going to create it. There's always something to do. I think if someone is interested, they should go for it. If you find that you don't like it, it's okay. Coding isn't for everybody but at least try it.