Shane Overby was working in manufacturing in North Carolina, but started to see automation creep in and threaten his job security. He decided that he needed to be the one coding the automation software, so when Shane’s brother (who is also a developer) recommended Coder Foundry, he enrolled at the Kernersville campus. Shane tells us how the hands-on approach suited his learning style, how useful the Coder Foundry mock interviews were to landing his first job, and all about his career progression (Shane is at his second job now!) since he graduated in 2015.
What is your pre-bootcamp story? Your educational background? Your last career path?
Before I got into web development, I worked in the manufacturing industry for about 10 years as a machinist and engineering technician. I had been programming CNC machines and training other technicians. I really enjoyed that work and I had fully intended to stay on that career path for the rest of my life.
But as I started seeing robotics taking over jobs, that made me worry about my job security a bit. I thought it would be a good idea to get on the other side of that and be the person writing the code to control the robots. Between starting a family, wanting better hours, and more job security, I started seriously considering coding.
Do you think your previous background has been useful in your new career in tech?
When I began learning to code, I thought that the programming experience I had in CNC machining would be beneficial, but it’s actually a completely different style of programming. There were certain benefits from CNC programming that carried over, like attention to detail in the code. You have to be very focused, both in machining and in software development. A bug in your software code could cause hours of headache, whereas a bug in a CNC program could cause you to crash the machine, potentially damage thousands of dollars of equipment, and maybe even harm someone. So I took that attention to the detail and trying to produce an efficient program into programming.
There were a lot of differences too. It was odd for me, stepping out of a machine shop floor, into working in an office, sitting down at a desk. It’s a totally different environment.
Did you try to learn on your own before you looked into a coding bootcamp?
My brother, who has been in software and development for about 10 years, guided me towards some resources to get started on my own. I spent about five months learning ASP.NET C# on my own with a Head First C# book.
Did you research any other coding bootcamps in North Carolina?
I did. I looked into The Iron Yard, but there wasn’t one close enough to me to make that a real option. Coder Foundry was only 30 miles away and commutable for me, so that was a big part of my decision. Also, their price points were better than anything else I’d found. They laid out their research about the local job market and explained how they were trying to tailor the course to meet the needs North Carolina companies. I thought that was a good approach. I did my own research and saw that the material in the course was desirable in the market locally.
Bootcamps can be expensive – did you use a financing partner?
Coder Foundry worked with Climb Credit, which is geared towards institutions like Coder Foundry. I made a $1000 down payment as a deposit, and financed the class. While I was in the three-month course, my payments were around $40-$50 per month, and then the full payments kicked in about three months after the course. Considering the salary of the job that I was able to get after the course through Coder Foundry’s placement services, the return on investment was absolutely great. I didn’t really have any worries about financing.
How many people were in your cohort? Was your class diverse in terms of gender, race, life and career backgrounds?
There were six of us, so it was pretty small. Coder Foundry tries to keep class sizes down to 12 to 15 students per class. Now they have a class in New York, two classrooms in Kernersville, and one in Charlotte. It was pretty racially diverse. We had three caucasian men, two African American men, and one African American woman. I’m now a Coder Foundry mentor and see a lot of students, and it’s consistently diverse, both racially and gender-wise. It’s always great to see a lot of diversity in the tech community.
What was the learning experience like at Coder Foundry?
It’s very hands on. Before I attended they said there would be 45 minutes to an hour of lecture, then the remaining seven hours of the day would be spent working on our projects. That was pretty close to accurate.
Coder Foundry tries to have a couple of instructors available per class for assistance, but in development, it’s pretty normal for most developers to understand that you have to try to figure out as much as you can on your own before you ask somebody how to do something. They get you to do that in the classroom so that you’re ready for it and not shocked when you get into the workforce.
Coder Foundry teaches you how to be resourceful, how to find the answers on your own, and how to interpret framework documentation. During lectures, they hit the basics, and give a small example in a powerpoint presentation, and then you go out, explore the topic, and try to implement it into your project.
What is your favorite project that you built at Coder Foundry?
The second project we worked on was my favorite. It was a bug/feature tracker. We got to learn about more methods and technologies to implement in that system. For somebody who hasn’t worked in the tech field at all, it was very interesting for me to learn about bug trackers in general. It was especially cool knowing that I could present the project to potential employers at the end of the course, and I would be able to explain how I built it, my decision making, and return a positive response. We worked within the MVC architecture, which is a main focus in Coder Foundry’s material.
How did Coder Foundry prepare you for job hunting?
Coder Foundry instructors hold mock interviews every Monday. Early in the course, they gave us a packet of technical interview questions, and assigned us to go out, research them, and find good answers. They wanted us to build a richer understanding of those questions, so that if we were confronted with that question in an interview we would be able to discuss it in depth, with a very personal experience from our projects. During the mock interviews, they would ask technical questions, ask me to explain how I built certain features or views in my project, evaluate my answers, and give me feedback. Their approach was really great. After the course, when I was doing actual job interviews, those mock interviews were really helpful.
Coder Foundry would also have networking opportunities from time to time where employers could meet with students. Outside of that, Coder Foundry’s placement team does a great job of matching students to jobs that they’re looking for, and an environment that fits.
How did you find your first job after Coder Foundry?
I did three interviews with three different companies. The first two jobs weren’t what I was looking for, with a lot of mandatory travel, and not as much remote time as I wanted. At the third company, I did a screen sharing interview, where I demoed my Coder Foundry projects, talked through code, and answered some technical questions. They asked me back for a personality interview to see how I fit with the team. I met with them, they gave me a tour of the facility, and showed me what they were working with. I received my offer letter from SouthData about three weeks after completing the course at Coder Foundry.
What was your role at that first company?
The company is called SouthData in Mt Airy, NC. It’s a document management company, which works with healthcare, government, education, and HOAs. I thought that role would offer me a lot of really good experience, as they were moving away from an older technology for their online services. They had a Web Forms web app and wanted me to help port that over to MVC, which is what I had just spent weeks learning. So it was a really good fit technically and culturally, plus it met my needs as far as ROI on the course.
You’ve actually moved on to your second job now – could you tell us about that transition?
I left SouthData about 5 months ago and went to work for Core Techs, which is co-owned by the co-founder of Coder Foundry, Bobby Davis. The biggest motivation for me to join Core Techs was that they take on a lot of different projects, and work in a lot of different technologies. This was initially the job that I was aiming for when I graduated from Coder Foundry, and I’m really enjoying my time here so far.
What technologies are you now using at Core Techs?
In the software field, you should always want to be learning new stuff and advancing your skills. So far, Core Techs has been a really good place for me to do that.
I still work within MVC, and I’m also working on Web Forms projects and ReactJS projects. I’ve been able to move out of the Microsoft SQL world, and mess around with MySQL, and Postgres. Instead of using ASP.NET, I’ve got to work with ASP.NET Core, and we’ve got some projects utilizing Entity Framework Core. At Coder Foundry two of the projects were MVC, and the last two projects were Angular and they all used SQL server and Entity framework 6, so it’s been really cool to step outside of those and learn about other technologies.
What’s been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to becoming a developer?
My biggest challenge is getting started in a new technology, and trying to ramp up my knowledge and skills. I think this is quite common for new developers in their first couple of years. It takes some time to get used to reading documentation, understanding terminology, understanding networking systems, and how to create something on your machine that will work well and scale well across platforms. So it’s tough at first, but now I’ve been working as a programmer for almost two years, and coding for almost three years, I feel like I’m starting to get a better handle on that.
Do you think it’s been important to stay involved with Coder Foundry after graduation?
I’ve been very involved with Coder Foundry since I graduated from the course. At Coder Foundry, we utilized Slack for communication. When I left and started my first job I still had access to the Slack channel, and I would help out new students who were running into issues. I knew how hard the class was, so I wanted to make myself available when they needed help.
In November 2016, Coder Foundry asked me if I was interested in mentoring students in their new four-week pre-requisite course, and get paid for the work. Each mentor works with a maximum of four students, and those students can schedule one session with me per week. We screen share so that they can walk through what they’ve been working on, and I can provide insight or help. I’m constantly available on Slack for them to reach out. That’s been beneficial for students, but also beneficial for me as a mentor. I love it.
What’s the tech scene like in the areas around Winston-Salem and Charlotte, North Carolina?
There are a lot of big businesses here with a need for development, engineering, and software talent. Since they are big businesses, the Microsoft .NET stack is pretty desirable and widely used. There are a lot of startups here too, so you see a lot of companies working with Ruby on Rails and PHP. For me personally, a startup wasn’t really where I wanted to be. I wanted something more secure. With a family, I didn’t want to be in a position where the bottom falls out of a company and I’m out of work. Since starting to work here, I’m not as worried about working for a startup; because the demand for developers and engineers is so high, you would get back on your feet pretty quickly if the startup fell through.
What advice do you have for people making a career change and getting into coding?
Some of the best advice I’ve received from experienced developers is that when you hit a wall, the best thing is to just keep coding and the answer will come to you. When I started working professionally in the field I would encounter things that I didn’t know how to approach, and my first instinct was to sit there and think and think on the problem. But I found that if I get my hands on the keyboard, and start working, it will all work out.
I got another good piece of advice from the head instructor at Coder Foundry when I was working on my bug tracker project. I found it very intimidating and had to learn a lot of new concepts, but he told me to think about development in very simple terms. Coding is essentially passing data from one place to another. If you remove the complexity and grandeur of the system you’re trying to build, then you’ll get a better feel of the foundation of what you’re doing and take off a lot of the stress.