Raag switched from computer science to study criminal law at college, but after graduation realized his passion was in programming, and enrolled at Coding Temple coding bootcamp in Chicago. After the 10-week program, Raag found a job as an applications developer at ATI Physical Therapy in Bolingbrook, IL. We spoke to Raag about why he chose to study .NET, the great one-on-one time he got with his Coding Temple instructor, and how he balanced attending national dance competitions with learning to code!
What were you doing before you went to Coding Temple? What was your educational or career background?
I actually started school as a computer science major, but at some point, I decided to pursue law instead. So I switched to criminal law and justice for undergrad, and my post-graduation plan was to go to law school. But after graduation, I realized I really liked programming, and I felt having programming knowledge could be very useful for my future. There are so many different routes you can go, and there's always a demand for programmers. It felt like the perfect field for me.
As soon as I graduated, I also got my license as a loan originator. This was a license that I had been wanting to have. As soon as I got that license, I reached out to Ripal at Coding Temple. I'd been researching for about two or three months, and I’d heard about other bootcamps like MakerSquare and Dev Bootcamp, and a bunch of others online. I realized that .NET was what I wanted to learn and to get a better insight, I reached out to Ripal.
What stood out to you about .NET as a programming language?
I was familiar with with it, and had heard a lot about .NET development in general around the Chicago area. When I was looking at job postings in my potential geographic area, a lot of them were for .NET developers. That’s what was in demand where I lived.
Were you serious about staying in Chicago for a coding bootcamp?
Yeah, I’d just graduated from school, moving elsewhere would have been difficult. I wouldn't be able to afford moving out, nor did I want to live too far from my family, or find a place to live for those few months. Coding Temple Chicago was more affordable for me than almost any other bootcamp I looked at.
Tell us about the application and interview process for Coding Temple. Did you have to do a coding challenge?
I think my favorite part about Coding Temple was when they said that they were going to teach us from the ground up, and they meant it. I had no experience in coding at all, and the few intro to engineering classes I took in college weren't useful at Coding Temple. Some of the other bootcamps I looked at had application quizzes on their websites before you register, so I assume you had to have some prior knowledge. But when I talked to the Coding Temple instructor Hitesh before classes started, he reassured me that I'd do just great regardless of how much I knew prior to the class.
After I had made my decision about pursuing Coding Temple, I talked to Ripal about the program, and he was able to get me in touch with Hitesh again, and I spent some time with him 1-on-1 as part of my interview. Additionally, there was three weeks of pre-work before class started. We did the work completely on your own. You learn how to program and solve problems. Each week was more challenging than the week before. Those three weeks were to prepare us for the course coming up and get our minds to think like a programmer and get a feel of what it’s like before the class started in January. It was challenging because it was my first time working on anything that complex but it was awesome finally learning how to do it.
So anyone could start Coding Temple without having any experience, but then you get weeded out through the pre-work?
Yeah, the pre-work was for everyone. There was some time between the pre-work and when class started so that students had time to figure out whether or not this is actually for them. It had two purposes – actually giving students exposure to code before class, and also for people to find out if this is something they want to do.
How many people were in your cohort? Were your classmates like you? Were they recent college graduates or did people come from different backgrounds?
There was originally five; one ended up joining the cohort after mine. So I graduated in a group of four. I was the only recent college graduate. The other three, one of them has front end experience, so he took the bootcamp to learn backend. And another guy learned Python I believe, and also wanted to learn .NET instead.
Who was your instructor? What was the teaching style?
Over the entire course our smaller class size was the one thing that helped the most – any time you had a question Hitesh had time to stop by all four of us individually and make sure we were all keeping up. We would get a lot of one-on-one time.
What did you end up building for your capstone project?
The capstone project was an eCommerce website. The purpose of the website was for users to be able to choose a category of products they wanted to buy. Users navigate through the website, find the product to buy, add it to their cart. You can then edit or update your cart. Very similar to navigating through Amazon but obviously on a smaller scale.
What did you do after you graduated from Coding Temple?
While I was taking the course, I had put off a lot of things until our class ended. So I had to take about a week to get all that done, and I had a dance competition that weekend. I am a Fusion dancer in Chicago. I'm a part of an all-male team, and I had about six competitions while I was taking this class. It was very hectic.
How much of a time commitment was your dancing? How did you balance that with Coding Temple?
From January to April, when I was at Coding Temple, we were practicing almost every day. We had competitions, and we'd be out of town. I'd have class until 6pm and then I’d have practice 8pm to 1am or 2am. That was a crazy few months.
Coding Temple was very accommodating. They made sure that while I was away at competitions, I wasn't falling behind. When I came back to class, if I had missed something, Hitesh would catch me up. He would tell me to come in earlier, or stay later, and I could ask him about what I was confused on, or didn't get time to look over because of practices.
What are you up to now. What's your new job?
As soon as I came back from the dance nationals in Ohio, I went on a crazy job hunt. I put my resume out everywhere, on Indeed, Dice, LinkedIn, Career Builder. From there I was getting a lot of calls, and actively researching. I would spend five to six hours a day searching for jobs. Ripal actually helped me out a lot too. He would regularly send me jobs that he felt I was a good candidate for, and he get me in touch with people who could help me as well. Then about a week and a half later, I’d had two interviews, and I got a job offer from ATI Physical Therapy. I work as an application developer in their IT department at the corporate office in Bolingbrook. I started a month ago.
What has your first month been like as a developer? Is that what you expected? What does your day to day look like?
Because Coding Temple is very hands on, it was pretty much as if I was working for a company already – you're assigned tests and assignments to finish each week. So it was pretty much just what I expected going into the job. But because I had never actually worked in the field , I wasn't sure what came with the job. For example, I had to learn the database this company uses. For my own projects, I’d worked with about four tables but at ATI they have hundreds of tables. I’ve been learning to navigate through those, and the entire application, then going back and reading what everything means. It’s a much bigger scale than I’m used to.
What was your training like?
So there are two applications that we use - Touchstone and Insync. I'm part of the Insync team. The Insync team has an amazing training program that they've created on their own within the IT department. They train you on SQL, then ASP, and C#. Those are the main three languages they use here. I'm still on the training process right now. And after they evaluate your understanding of those technologies, they have you create your own application in which you have to utilize things like grid views and search engines, use data sources and data binding to connect your server side to your page side. That’s why the transition wasn't that difficult for me, because it's so similar to what I had to do at Coding Temple. I’m on my last week of training and then next week I'm going to start at our help desk, which is a way for me to learn what the application is and get really familiar with it. We have over 500 clinics around the country, and when anyone has questions or issues, they email the ticket to the help desk. And we would then go through the database, make any changes that we need to, and make any adjustments to fix those issues. It's a way of making sure that everything I learn in this training is cemented in my mind and that I’ll be really familiar with the application.
Was it an issue that you didn’t have a CS degree? Did you have to do a technical interview during your application?
They were actually understanding in that I haven't been in this industry for years, and nor have I graduated with a CS degree. They were able to accommodate me in every way possible and that's was awesome about that entire training process.
Originally they were a little concerned that I didn't have any professional experience or a technical degree because I come from a law background, so they had me take online assessments on C#, SQL, and ASP, as a way to test how much I had learned throughout these last few months at the bootcamp and on my own.
What are your career goals in terms of your future as a developer?
Software development is one of those careers where you never stop learning. You constantly have to learn not only for yourself, but because of how quickly technology is growing and how often companies transition to other languages. In the future if I have to move to another state or find another job, if they're using a newer technology, I would need to know that too. My future goal is obviously to learn as much as possible, but at the same time, progress within my career and gain a higher position. Hopefully at ATI, but in general just to have a position where I'm able to lead a group of people and achieve something. I’d like to be the go-to person for any real coding issues.
Is there anything you would have done differently at the bootcamp? What was your biggest challenge in doing a bootcamp or the biggest lesson that you learned?
I guess it was bad timing for me with my hectic dance season because while I was putting in about 35 hours in class a week, I was putting in another 30 to 40 for dance practice. It was like any time I had outside of that, I was working on a project. So if I was to do it all again, I would make sure to have a completely free schedule outside of bootcamp, because you have to realize you're going to a bootcamp. While you’re in class for 35 or 40 hours a week, you have to make sure that you're also studying outside of it, strengthening your knowledge, making sure you understand everything you learn in class. Just understand the core concepts I would say and spend a lot of time outside of classes learning on your own because it's a bootcamp for a reason. You’re trying to learn in a few weeks what students learn in many semesters.