Lyndsey worked in marketing and graphic design for 10 years, but wanted to grow and have more challenges in her job. She read an article about Tech Elevator and learning to code, so she tried out coding, and enjoyed the logic and problem solving. Lyndsey enrolled at Tech Elevator’s Cleveland campus and has now graduated and started a job as a developer at Level Seven! Lyndsey tells us why she wanted to learn .NET, what her favorite project was, and how Tech Elevator helped her find a job.
What’s your pre-Tech Elevator story, your career and education background?
I didn't know what I wanted to do when I went to college. I ended up getting a business degree from Kent State University, but didn't really find my feet until I started working. I got into interior design at Lay-Z-Boy Furniture. From there I got into marketing for a commercial real estate company. I was using design tools and doing some graphic design work on the side. I did that for 10 years and really enjoyed it, it was a great experience.
Eventually, I found myself not feeling challenged anymore. I wasn't using my brain the way I wanted to use it on a daily basis. I was working for a really good company. I just didn't feel like I was growing. So I decided I needed to do something for my own growth and advancement. That’s what led me to look at Tech Elevator.
Why did you think going towards tech and coding was a good move for you?
I read a newspaper article about Tech Elevator coming to the Cleveland area. I didn't really know a lot about the field but I was really open minded to new experiences. I did a ton of research on what it's like to be a developer day in and day out. Once I got past the stigma that developers are people who sit in basements for 12 hours a day, knocking out code, and not talking to anybody – once I realized that it's very creative and collaborative, I was definitely more intrigued. Also, one of the things I enjoyed most about marketing and design was the problem solving aspect – bringing multiple pieces and parts together to create a more dynamic whole – which I felt would translate really well into coding.
I went to an open house at Tech Elevator and listened to the instructors and the CEO speak. They were just so passionate about what they did. They talked about how the field is always advancing. It's a place where you can continually find new things to learn and new things to challenge you. That's what I wanted. I wanted to know that if I mastered a concept, there would still be a new concept to master after that. They definitely let us know that this field is full of new opportunities every day.
And at that point did you try out a bit of coding yourself, before you decided to take the plunge and do the bootcamp?
Yeah. My company had actually paid for me to take a few HTML and CSS classes when I was working in marketing so I was somewhat familiar. I started dabbling online, reading, and trying to get a feel of whether it was something I could get into.
Did you consider any other coding bootcamps?
I did. There is another one in the Akron area, but the location of Tech Elevator was more convenient to me. I researched the pros and cons of a couple of different programs.
Did you specifically want to learn .NET?
I was actually really torn. Tech Elevator offered .NET and Java, and I didn't know which direction to go in. So to make my decision, I started looking into companies in Northeast Ohio that I might be interested in working for, and they trended towards being .NET shops, so that sealed the deal for me.
That's smart. Did you at all consider going back to college to study computer science?
I did not consider going back for computer science. I did for a while think about going back for graphic design, but the time and money investment wasn't feasible. It wasn't practical for me to go back.
What is the Tech Elevator interview and application process like?
Initially you do an online logic and problem-solving test. From there, I was invited to an open house. They explained the bootcamp model and their curriculum, and introduced the instructors. Then I filled out a more formal application and they invited me in for an in-person interview. Going in, I didn't think that it would be too difficult, but it was actually one of the most in-depth, thoughtful interviews I have ever had. I left there feeling like they really dug deep, and got to know me as a person. Prior to sitting down with them, I also did a written logic and problem-solving test which was more in-depth than the one that I had initially done online. Within a few days, they let me know that I’d been accepted.
What was the logic test like?
They were tough questions but they were good. In my interview, I said, "If the person actually enjoyed working through the problems on the test, is that a good indication that they would enjoy the thought process that's involved in programming?" And they said yes. I liked thinking and using my brain in that sort of way.
What was your cohort like at Tech Elevator? Was it diverse in terms of gender, race, and backgrounds?
Our cohort had 21 students. There were seven in the .NET class and the rest were in the Java class. It was incredibly diverse. In our .NET class we had four women and three men. One of the women was in her 60s, one of the women was in her mid-20s, and there was every other age in between. There were different cultures represented. There was a guy from Ireland, and a guy from Russia. And the diversity in everybody's career backgrounds was pretty spectacular too. It was a really good melting pot of people.
What was the learning experience like at Tech Elevator? Maybe you can give me an example of a typical day and the teaching style you experienced.
My instructor was Josh Tucholski. We'd usually start with a quiz to review the previous day's materials, and have question and answer time for anything that people weren't grasping. Then we’d have a lecture about the day's new materials. In the afternoons we had practical hands-on problems to work on. At the end of each module, we would do a capstone project. It was a big group project to bring everything together that we learned in that module.
Classroom hours were 9am to 4:30pm, but people were often there earlier than 9am and later than 4:30pm. I usually got to class around 8:30am, and would leave around 5pm or 6pm. But for the most part, every night I was back on my computer working through homework problems again. There were a lot of weekends where I put in quite a few hours as well. They definitely cram a lot of knowledge into your brain in those 14 weeks.
Do you have a favorite project that you worked on at Tech Elevator?
My favorite project was our first group capstone project because it was a fun concept, and I got to use some of my background in marketing and design to spice it up. It was a website for national parks where you could click through links to see new information about the different national parks. You could also find out the weather forecast in the parks. It was my first experience taking all the new things we had learned, and bringing them together into a real application that worked, and that was really exciting.
Did you build it all with .NET?
Yes, we used .NET and it was built using the MVC architecture; then we were able to implement some HTML and CSS as well.
What kind of career coaching and job preparation did you get at Tech Elevator?
I cannot say enough about the Tech Elevator pathway program – that's their career development side of things. Towards the end, they do a great job of helping you with everything career related. They assisted us with LinkedIn and our resumes. They brought in professionals from the industry to do mock interviews with us – not just technical interviews but behavioral interviews as well.
Throughout the entire program, they brought in employers from the area that would be eventually looking to hire junior developers. They would talk about what they were looking for, what the company was like, and what their onboarding process looked like. Towards the end of the 14 weeks, we did something called employer matchmaking, which is basically speed dating for employers. Most of the students in the cohort met with 10 to 12 companies and had 20 to 30-minute interviews with each of them over the course of a few days. I'm pretty sure that at least 75% to 80% of the students found employment working with the companies that Tech Elevator introduced us to.
What are you doing now? Did you find a job?
Yes! I had two offers within a few weeks of graduation, and I ended up taking a developer position at a company called Level Seven. It’s a consulting company which does custom application development for a number of different industries. The first product I worked on was a dealer portal where clients could go in and order parts for their machines on a web-based application. We're working on a website redesign for a major local company right now. I'm also working on an application that car rental companies use. We have a large scope of projects, so it’s fun to be able to experience a lot of different technologies and applications this early in my career.
That's so cool. How did you find the job?
One of the instructors at Tech Elevator, Craig, had done some consulting as a developer at Level Seven. He had some contacts there, who came in to meet with some of the students, and do some initial interviews. I made it past the first round, and ultimately got an offer.
Now you're at Level Seven, are you still using mainly .NET or have you had to learn some new technologies and languages?
What are your coworkers like? Are they supportive of you?
Oh yeah. Very supportive. It's a great team work environment for sure. I have a manager who is very experienced and is really patient, great at explaining things. He has a lot of development experience across multiple technologies. I was assigned a mentor who had started in a similar place as me, and had worked his way up and learned a lot through the company. They’re trying to give me the same sort of guidance and tools.
Are there many other women in the company?
I am the only woman developer. There are a few other women in different roles in the company, but yeah, I'm the only woman on the development team.
What’s that like?
I think I was used to the marketing environment, where there were lots of women, and we communicated differently. There was definitely a learning curve. I had to establish myself as somebody who knew what they were talking about, and who could really contribute and produce good work. But so far it's been going really well.
Congratulations. Now you're working, what’s a typical a day for you?
A lot of my days I still try to spend 20% to 30% of my time on my own training and development. I am working in a lot of different technologies that I'm not as familiar with. And the other 60% to 70% is spent hands-on on projects.
So far, what do you like best about being a developer?
I think this comes full circle. I'm challenged every day now. I have to use my brain. I'm thinking logically all the time and I really feel like I'm solving problems for companies. I definitely feel like I'm accomplishing more and achieving more personally and professionally, than I was nine months ago.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge in your transition to becoming a professional developer?
I think along the same line, it is sort of a new way of thinking, and you have to retrain your brain in some respect. Especially for me, I felt like I was coasting along in previous positions. It's definitely different now. I wake up every day, and I know I'm going to work hard instead of just coasting along.
How are you staying involved now with Tech Elevator?
Our .NET class was very close, and we became friends, so we've been to a couple of happy hours together.
Tech Elevator invited me to an Open House a few months ago to speak to prospective students. I've also gone to the Tech Elevator space to work out of there a few times and been able to mix and mingle with some of the current students and catch up with the staff. They're really a great group of people. You don't feel like they're running a business so much as they're actually trying to work with you till you become a better person.
I was wondering what advice you have for people who are thinking about making a career change and going through a coding bootcamp?
I think you have to really know what your motivations are. I think bootcamps sometimes market themselves as this place you can go to increase your income in a really short time span. And it's not always apparent that you're going to have to work really hard. So I would definitely advise future bootcamp students that this is a true investment. It's an investment of your time, your brain, and sometimes your emotional ability. You really have to be able to give it your all, and I think that you get out of it what you put into it. You have to be prepared for the full investment.