Sean Renton did one year of college and decided that it wasn’t for him. He then practiced massage therapy for five years, but still felt stuck. Sean saw his father’s work-life balance as a remote developer, and chose to dive into the tech industry with DeVry Bootcamp in Denver, CO. Learn why Sean chose DeVry Bootcamp, read his tips for acing the bootcamp interview, and find out how well the bootcamp prepared him for his first junior developer role working remotely for Emagispace!
What was your educational background and/or career path before you decided, "Okay, I want to start learning how to code"?
Right out of high school, I went to college for a year for athletic science. I did okay in my first semester, but the second semester I partied a little bit too much and ended up dropping out. After that, I went to massage school. I became a massage therapist and I enjoyed it at times, but I got to the point where it felt like I was stuck in the job rather than progressing forward with my life – so I wanted to try something else. After five years I ended up going to DeVry Bootcamp.
My dad had actually been in this industry for quite a long time. Seeing him encouraged me to do a bootcamp because I wanted that same kind of lifestyle – working from home and really enjoying the job that I have.
What were some of the other factors that made you want to do a bootcamp in order to switch careers into software development? Did you think about a four-year school?
I’ve always been really good with computers so that was a big influence. I felt like a four-year degree was too long for me because I learn better in fast-paced learning environments where I'm put in the fire, have to learn quickly, and then just go with it. That's exactly what I got when I went through the bootcamp.
I was also in the first cohort at DeVry Bootcamp, and we received half off tuition which was a big motivator for me too.
Did you consider any other bootcamps in the area?
What other factors were you looking at when you decided, "Okay, DeVry is the bootcamp for me"?
I think the price played a big factor for sure. Also, the shorter amount of time required for the course was important. DeVry’s three-month course was much better for me compared with Galvanize’s six-month course, because I wasn't going to be able to have a job. I live in Castle Rock, and the campus was an hour away in Westminster, so I was driving about two hours almost every day. I was there from 8am until 7pm every day.
The course was short enough that I could save up enough money to last me that three months without a job. If it had been any longer, I wouldn't have been able to sustain myself.
Did you try to learn online by yourself before attending DeVry and what resources did you use?
Did you use a financing partner for that remaining half of your tuition or did you finance that personally?
I don't know if DeVry still does this but they had a system where you financed through the school, and the school tacks on an extra $100 to $200 to finance with them. After the program ends, you get 30 days until your first payment is due and then they add the extra charge onto your payment each month for 10 months – and that’s what I did.
Can you walk me through what the DeVry Bootcamp interview and application process was like for you?
When I first applied, I submitted an online application and received a reply with test questions the same day, so it was very quick. I finished that test question, sent it in, and got a response about a week later saying, "Okay, you've been accepted."
Then they work through the logistics with financing and all that kind of stuff, then they give you pre-work which is set up through Codecademy. DeVry gives you a good amount for Git and the command line to get the basics. Then after you finish that, that's when your first week starts. It’s not required to finish the pre-work, but the students who didn’t finish were a little behind.
Do you have any tips for the DeVry Bootcamp application process?
Do the pre-work. I feel like if you're going into this industry and you want to do this work, you should look into it a little bit before trying to apply to a bootcamp. Do some Codecademy courses so that you're ready for the test question. That's the best advice I could give.
How many people were in your cohort and was it diverse in terms of gender, race, life and career backgrounds?
Yes, it was actually very diverse. There were seven of us. We had two women, two older guys, and then three younger guys like myself. There were very diverse backgrounds and three out of seven students were studying at DeVry University for a degree in conjunction with going to the bootcamp. One of the women owned her own business, was pretty successful, and was enrolled in a business management degree. There was an older gentleman who was going to school for a four-year degree and had a background in the military.
How was the learning experience? What did a typical day look like?
We would start off in the morning with three hours of interactive lecture. Our instructor made sure that we were part of the lecture so that we wouldn't get bored, by asking us a lot of questions. Depending on the day, it was focused on a specific language or technology we were working on. After that, we would get about an hour and a half of coding time to practice. We had little practice tests to go through, and the instructors would come around and help us as much as they could. So that was the main set up.
On Wednesdays, at the very end of the day, we would meet up and talk to each other about how we were feeling about the cohort, and how we were progressing throughout the course. That was pretty helpful to see how everybody was struggling at first and then progressed throughout the course. It made you feel like you weren't by yourself – so that was very nice.
On Fridays, we did “Speaking in Code” where DeVry taught us how to verbally articulate code. When you go into interviews, you need to know how to speak the programming language (and it makes you sound smarter). That actually was probably the most fun practice exercises that we did.
Did you have a favorite project that you built?
Actually, we did a couple of projects. We did hackathons where we would basically split the class in half, and try to create stuff.
Sean, what are you doing now? Tell me about your new job!
I'm working for a company called Emagispace. It's a manufacturing company that produces natural products for building standalone walls. I’ve been setting up most of their e-commerce store online. I pair program with the IT manager a lot, and pair programming was a big part of DeVry Bootcamp, so that helped prepare me for this role quite a bit. I’m in a junior development role, so he gives me small to tasks to accomplish. I work remotely, it's a really good job, and I'm making a decent amount of money.
I actually started out as a contractor – I feel like it really worked out because it let me test out the company to make sure I was a good fit. I feel like I'm in a perfect scenario.
Congratulations! How has your transition to the new role been? How is it working remotely as your first dev role?
I just started my fourth week as a junior developer. I'm also doing a lot of IT administration. But that's the joys of a startup – I'm wearing a bunch of different hats right now.
You have to have a lot of self-discipline to work remotely. When I first started, I was only doing 20 hours a week, so that was easy. Then when I went to 30 hours a week, that got a little bit harder. Now that I'm working remotely and I'm full-time, I didn't realize how easy it would be to get immersed in my work. Working from 9am to 5pm, I'm pretty much in my computer working the whole time. It definitely has taught me how to be patient with myself because the learning curve was more difficult.
If I was in an office environment, it would’ve been a lot easier for me to learn certain things, but I also feel like by teaching myself this way, I'm learning it better, and it's sticking with me more. I feel like it's going to make me a better developer in the long run. I think it's a good way to go.
How did you get this job? How did that interview process go?
DeVry Bootcamp had a bunch of companies come in for a career fair, and we sat down as a group and asked the companies lots of questions. I actually got set up with an interview to another company because of that, but didn’t get the job because another guy had one year of experience, and I didn't have any.
After that, I talked to my dad, who is a software developer, because I wasn't having too much success sending out resumes. My dad actually helped my IT Manager get the job at Emagispace – we know the CEO personally. So I interviewed with the IT Manager just to make sure it was a good fit, but my dad gave me a leg up because we knew them.
What other career services/ job search help did you receive from DeVry Bootcamp?
That was actually something that they helped me a lot with. DeVry really helped us refine our resumes, and helped us prepare for interview questions.
I feel like they really cared because I'm still getting messages on Slack saying, "Here's some stuff to go find." They are always encouraging us to go meetups. I know they are definitely more than willing to help people try and find get an interview. They hooked us up with a lot of recruiters at the career services day - their career fair.
The fact that DeVry Bootcamp offered career services was a big reason why I went there.
Are you using the same stack and programming languages that you were taught at DeVry in your job now?
Yes. I use mostly those languages, but I have learned a couple of others. They would like me to use C#, so I'm learning that. I've learned Wordpress, which is more for people that aren't really programmers, but I write a little bit of that, and some PHP.
Front-end wise, we learned Angular 1.5 when I was in school, and now I'm working with Angular 4 and it's a completely different language. But other than that, it’s been mostly the MEAN Stack.
The only thing I felt like I could've learned a little better – and I think it was more my fault than it was DeVry’s fault – was computer science theory rather than just the actual application of programming languages. They taught us some theory, but it’s difficult to cover in a short amount of time – and this program wasn’t designed for that. Unless you've been coding for a while, computer science doesn't just come to you all at once – it takes time to build it up. After working with this company, even though I haven't been full-time the entire time, I feel like I've grown quite a bit.
What has been your biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learning how to code?
That's a good question. I'm not sure to tell you the truth because I feel like it's been pretty smooth. I think that not knowing the theory behind programming was probably one of the roadblocks for me because I really knew the syntax well. Now that I understand the theory a lot better, it's made me twice the programmer that I was.
How is the Denver tech scene and are you still staying involved with other DeVry alumni?
The Denver tech scene has blown up – I'm sure you’ve heard. But I'm ready to move out of Denver to tell you the truth. There are too many people that populate the highways and it makes it difficult. But they've got tons of new tech companies coming in.
Now that I'm done with school and I'm actually working, I've gone to a couple of meetups with my boss and we have done a lot of informational meetings about MongoDB and stuff like that so that we can learn a little bit better. Those are a lot of fun because you get beer. The tech community is blowing up around here.
Up in Boulder, they're getting ready to add 10,000 employees from Google. HP has a big factory plant up in Fort Collins, and there's been a ton of growth in startups in Denver. I think it's really good state to be in for the tech industry for sure.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about making a career change into software development and attending a coding bootcamp?
If you really want to go into this industry, you need to sit down and code for a long time to make sure that it's something that you really want to do. If you are willing to teach yourself and want to progress, you always have to have a mindset that you want to learn new things. Otherwise, you're going to be stagnant. In this industry, that's the worst thing that can happen to you.
There are always new languages coming out, and there is always new stuff to learn. So if you're not willing to learn new things and teach yourself, then I would say, don't get into this industry. If you are, then this is the perfect industry for you.