Sean Mee was a restaurant server before deciding to learn to code at Southern California coding bootcamp LearningFuze. He had started teaching himself to code when he was 13, and decided to revisit his passion for coding after discovering an intensive bootcamp would accelerate the web developer coding skills that employers seek. After Sean completed LearningFuze’s two-week Root 1 preparation class, he began the full immersion bootcamp with newfound confidence. We sat down with him and learned more about his transition into the world of coding, his thoughts on bootcamp prep courses, and his job search plans once he finishes the bootcamp.
What is your pre-LearningFuze story? What was your educational background and career path before you decided to do attend a coding bootcamp?
I received my bachelor's degree in communication advertising about three years ago from Cal State Fullerton. I started going down the communication advertising path, while at the same time also serving in various restaurants, which can be a difficult transition. “You need a certain amount of experience” is what I kept hearing from employers when I was looking for careers in advertising and I never received that experience; so it was tough.
I kept working in restaurants and eventually moved back to California from Colorado. I started looking into programming because I'd done a little bit of it when I was younger. I learned HTML and created some websites on my own when I was 13. I started to get back into it just for fun and then started to think about it as a career because it came back to me really naturally.
What kinds of resources did you use to get back into coding?
I went to Cypress Community College to get some programming certifications in C++ and Visual Basic. I thought that certificates were good, but that it would be better to have a degree when trying to get a job. Then my mom mentioned coding bootcamps. At first, I just brushed it off, thinking certificates would be more viable than a three-month course. But then I looked into bootcamps and thought, "Oh, wow. This seems incredibly legit." So I started researching reviews for all the different bootcamps.
Did that exposure to programming classes at the community college help you focus on what type of technologies you wanted to learn at a bootcamp?
What made LearningFuze stand out in your search?
From the reviews I read, LearningFuze just seemed to be the best bootcamp. There were other bootcamps nearby but LearningFuze was the closest school to me. When I started looking at other coding bootcamp reviews, it just seemed like the other bootcamps changed instructors a lot so it was hard to get the same instruction.I liked that LearningFuze had consistent instructors that had extensive industry experience.
I went to a free seminar at LearningFuze and talked to the staff. LearningFuze is honest; they told us "This is going to be really hard. Just so you know, if you want to do this, make sure you really want to do this." They don't really try and sell you on it so much. They kept saying, "Make sure this is something you want to do." After looking at their success rate, I knew I really wanted to do the bootcamp. I completed the Root Level 1 Course, and it was a lot of fun, and I learned a ton of stuff. Root Level 1 is the 2-week prep program for the full-time immersion program which I’ve just recently started.
What motivated you to do the Root Level 1 program first? Were you already thinking about doing the full-time bootcamp?
People should do Codecademy before doing the Root course because it gives you a very good base. I had to do a lot of work for the Root 1 course. I learned a lot, but I feel like I learned more because I already had the basics. I didn't have to learn how to set up a style sheet because I already knew that, so I got to learn the cool stuff about what you could do with the style sheet.
Can you explain the Root Level 1 schedule and what a typical day was like for you?
The course is three days a week. It was Tuesdays and Thursdays remotely, and then on-site on Saturdays. Even though it was only three days a week, I was still programming several hours a day for the Root course. The way they set it up is really good. Any time I had a question, I could just go on Slack and I could ask anyone a question. Daniel, Collette, Tim, Shawn, or any of the main instructors would get back to you really quickly.
LearningFuze gave us an agenda every day. They would say, "Here are a couple of things to read, here are some slides, here's a video. Now go over all the things on the slides." It's like they give you the CliffsNotes version on the slides, but then when you watch the video, they go in depth with each little note they have. You also have a project each day. It started off with basic HTML, then advanced HTML, a little bit of CSS, advanced CSS, then got into bootstrap. They give you big projects to do with media queries and making sure that what you're designing can be seen through all different spectrums, be it a laptop, desktop, phone, and or tablet.
How many instructors were teaching the Root 1 program?
Daniel Paschal is the director of the course and he has two additional instructors that are there for any kind of support you need. There were probably about three instructors on site each day. The class is only 12 people, so you get a lot of hands-on help.
What was something that stood out to you within this prep program and was there anything that solidified your decision to do the full immersion course?
LearningFuze makes the learning process really fun, and the personalities of the instructors really convinced me. Daniel, for example, really wants to make you a programmer. He wants people to think like a programmer, and it's really helpful. You can tell he wants you to succeed. They all want you to succeed. If you go to community college, it's just not the same. They're getting you in and getting you out – there's not really any independent help.
Did you work a lot with other students in Root 1? Was your cohort diverse?
On Saturdays, when we were in class together, we got to spend time working together. They paired us into groups of 3-4 for exercises. LearningFuze also gave us survey questions a few times throughout Root 1. We did a quiz, then got together, discussed the answers, and if you have any questions, the whole class discussed it. I would talk with the other cohort members a little bit on chat and then more in the classroom.
As far as occupational backgrounds go, it was pretty varied. There were people like me who were servers in restaurants. There were musicians. There were people who work in insurance who were there to help understand how to talk to programmers who they work with. There were younger students, but I'd say the age range was early 20's to late 30's. All different kinds of ethnic backgrounds were represented and it was probably 3:1, male to female ratio.
Has Root Level 1 helped you decide the type of job you’d like to pursue?
I think I'm waiting for the full immersion course to make that decision. I know that front end web development would be nice because it’s rewarding to see what you code. Eventually, I'd like to get into game development, but that would be down the road. I just enjoy coding, regardless of the job. If it's a program that does something cool, I’d like to work on it. Back-end is important, of course, but I just get a little bit more satisfaction from front-end development.
Did LearningFuze touch on career prep and the job search in the Root 1 program?
In Root 1, they did touch on career prep in the intro course and the Root 1 program. I heard more about interviewing when I went for my interview; The Director of Operations talked about how LearningFuze is connected to different companies and recruiters and that they also teach you how to effectively interview for jobs in the programming industry.
Did you have to reapply for the immersive bootcamp after you finished Root 1?
I didn't have to reapply because the LearningFuze team knew from the start that I wanted to do the full immersion course. They constantly asked who was considering the full immersion course, and every time I'd raise my hand they’d say, "We know that you are, Sean!"
Do you feel prepared for the full immersive course?
The instructors suggested to mostly focus on for-loops and CSS bootstrap before starting the full immersion bootcamp. It was really helpful to know the important things to concentrate on beforehand.
What’s the Irvine, CA tech scene like? Will you stay in the area after the full immersion course?
The tech scene in Irvine is huge. Another great thing LearningFuze does is constantly help you build and update a portfolio for your resume. Once I finish LearningFuze, I’ll be able to start getting experience to include on my resume.
Another really good resource that they talked about at LearningFuze is meetup.com. I looked at web development in like the Los Angeles area and there are hundreds of meetups for game developers, web designers, back-end programmers, and front-end programmers. LearningFuze teaches you how to network like crazy.
Once I‘ve got some experience, I'll probably leave Southern California and go back to Colorado. I've looked on Monster and Indeed, and there are so many jobs out there. I have friends in Colorado who have said multiple times, "We need a good front end web developer. Our website looks like garbage." I see that I could already do way better from what I've learned in the Root course.
How has the first week in the full immersion course been?
What has been your biggest challenge in your transition into tech?
I feel like the biggest challenge is going to be that first job – that's always scary. You don't want to fail. But so far it's been nothing but good. I do a lot of active stuff, and I exercise a lot. As a server in a restaurant it's really hard to do that because I don't want to go out and run six miles and go rock climbing, and then go and run around a restaurant for six hours having people yell at me. I see programming as exercise for my mind. Computer programming and physical exercise go hand-in-hand in a way. You're getting a mental workout and a physical workout.
What advice do you have for people thinking about making a career change and attending a coding bootcamp? Should they do a prep course first?
I would say do a prep course first because coding is definitely not something that's for everybody. Do a two-week prep course and see how you feel. If it's not clicking, it might not be for you. But if it is, and you get it at all, keep going with it. If you like it at all, there are so many options. Bootcamps are great. If someone is already doing a computer information science degree, my advice is to keep going, and supplement it with a bootcamp later on. It's a lot of fun, and there are a lot of opportunities out there- you can move anywhere and make a lot of money.