Since 5th grade, Matthew Arvidson wanted to be a developer, but didn’t think it was a viable career because he didn’t know anyone working in the tech industry. After teaching himself some code online, Matthew took a friend’s advice and chose to attend Coder Camps’ Full Stack Software Development online program. Read more about the Coder Camps online experience and see how Matthew landed a job as a Software Developer.
What is your pre-bootcamp story and your last career path before you started to learn to code?
I started in the U.S. Air Force and then worked in Sales before starting Coder Camps. As far as education goes, I had a high school education, but no college experience before the coding bootcamp. The last job I had was a six-month role at a company in Carlsbad, California. The first time I met computer programmers was at this job and that's where I started to get interested in software development as a career.
Since I was in the 5th grade, I knew I wanted to be a developer. I wanted to create stuff, but I never believed it was possible because I had never met anyone with that job. When I met the programmers at my last position, saw what they were doing, and then saw that you didn't necessarily need a four-year degree to get started, I decided to start looking into coding bootcamps. The barrier to entry in software development was just to get a foot in the door.
Did you try to learn on your own before you thought about a coding bootcamp? What types of resources did you use?
I tried a few different resources when I was learning on my own. I started with a few courses at codeacademy.com, and after that I moved on to freecodecamp.com and completed most of the work towards their front end development certificate. From there, I used CodeSchool.com to learn full stack development. I found that I was getting through assignments and I was getting the projects done, but there was no structure. So I decided to attend a coding bootcamp.
Did you consider other coding bootcamps? What stood out about Coder Camps?
I applied to Hack Reactor Remote, where I was interested in their online option. I was also looking at App Academy. I had a friend who got accepted to Coder Camps and suggested that I attend with him, so I agreed to apply. I went with Coder Camps’ online bootcamp because I learn better online.
You mentioned that you actually prefer to learn online – what was your secret to staying engaged and learning to code online?
I had a vision… a goal I wanted to achieve. I saw that others have done it before me and I wanted more than anything to share that success.
How long did it take you to finish Coder Camps online? What did you actually learn?
I finished the course ahead of schedule. It was a 24-week course and I finished my final project around week 12. I learned the M.E.A.N stack - so MongoDB, ExpressJs, AngularJs, and NodeJs.
How many people were in your cohort?
There were 8 of us, but because I finished ahead of schedule, I didn’t interact with them a lot. The small group size meant that any time I had a question, my instructor was there to answer it. If I was having trouble with some of the harder concepts, like Authentication, when I was developing my project, he would sit down with me via Google hangout or over email, and answer my questions.
One thing that would have helped my experience would have been if I had been working with some sort of cohort. There was a group project on the Coder Camps website, so when I started the bootcamp I was under the impression that I would be participating in these group projects, but Coder Camps eventually told me that the group project was not for available for online students.
How did you pay for your tuition? In light of current legislation, do you think coding bootcamps should be able to accept the GI Bill?
I am a US Air Force veteran and Coder Camps gave a great discount for military veterans. I didn’t use the GI Bill, but in general, I think that it would be cool for bootcamps to be able to accept the GI Bill to attend a coding bootcamp.
We always hear about similarities between coding bootcamps (and the life of a coder) and being in the military. Has this been your experience?
If you look at it realistically, bootcamp students are cramming and consolidating four years of education into a few months. So yeah, my course was rigorous and you have to think logically and that experience is similar. I'm not sure if I would really compare it to the military, but it was definitely difficult on a separate level.
Did you have a favorite project that you built at Coder Camps?
How did Coder Camps prepare you for job hunting (interviews, hiring events)?
Coder Camps is a very busy shop, but the career counselor who I worked with was great. She helped us with reviewing our resumes, and we did mock interviews in preparation for the real thing, although that didn’t always happen at the allotted times. Learning online means that you’ll have to work extra hard to get the help you’ll need – I had to be proactive to get the help I needed. I also did a lot of my own research to find best practices in a technical job search.
Tell us about your job search. How did you transition from a student to an employed developer? Any tips?
Getting a job for me was really about taking action online. I was searching in multiple states and I was putting myself out there as much as possible. About a month ago, I landed a job with a company in Tampa, Florida so I relocated for the job. I'm now a front-end developer, but I have opportunities to work on both sides – front-end and back-end.
What stood out to you about the job you took?
I took this job mainly because they were using AngularJS, so I knew it would give me a chance to use my skill set. On the back-end, they're using C# so I also have the chance to learn something new. Overall, the job is great.
My advice for other bootcampers looking for a job is to not give up or be too picky. Put your best foot forward, and know this: taking action will get you results.
Do you feel like you learned everything at Coder Camps that you needed to know for this job?
After Coder Camps, I was more than ready for my role. The approach I took to my time at a coding bootcamp was intense, so when I started my job, I felt like I had a solid knowledge base and I knew what they expected from me.
Today, I also get a lot of support from my co-workers and that’s helped me move past my employer’s expectations. Anytime I have a question, someone connects with me on a Google Hangout and screen shares to make sure they are moving me through.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
There were ups and downs to my experience, but Coder Camps was certainly a great organization to be a part of. A coding bootcamp is more work than you might expect, so be willing and prepared to sacrifice your time, and maybe a little bit of your sanity, to get through it. But I don’t regret it!