Shane Sniteman graduated from The Iron Yard coding bootcamp 2.5 years ago and is now leading a team in his second job as a mobile app developer. After working in finance at a Big 4 accounting firm and in graphic design for financial publications, the realization that websites could more efficiently convey financial data spurred him to learn to code. Shane dives into his career trajectory since The Iron Yard, explains how the iOS app he built helped him land his first job for a music app company, and how he got headhunted for his second job at Bridgestone!
What were you doing before you decided to go to The Iron Yard? Describe your educational background and your last career path.
I went to Furman University in South Carolina and majored in political science and marketing. The day after I graduated, I got a job in finance at PricewaterhouseCoopers. I worked at PwC for two years and eventually got drawn to a more graphic design role for finance publications. My dad is a graphic designer, so growing up I picked it up from him. But given that I was at a finance company that didn’t necessarily have the best designers, they gave me a shot and I just learned from there.
I started not to like the whole huge corporate finance world and started thinking, "Hey, if I can make a website or an app that just shows this data, that would be much more valuable.” So that's what spurred the interest of coding.
Did you try to learn how to code on your own using online resources before The Iron Yard?
When you were deciding about changing careers, were you solely looking at coding bootcamps? Had you thought about a four-year degree?
I thought about a four-year degree probably for about a day. I had just finished four years of school, and once I started making money I didn’t want to go to school for another four years. I've always had a mindset that I can learn things very fast if I put my mind to it. You can learn something in a short time if you just go full force – I didn't need two to four years. After ruling out a four-year degree, it was either learn it on my own at night or quit and go to a bootcamp.
What other bootcamps were you looking at? Were you thinking about moving at all to go to a bootcamp?
There were only a couple of schools I had started researching because I had only heard of Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco. I interviewed with Dev Bootcamp and Turing School in Denver. I was fine with moving to attend either one.
How did you pick The Iron Yard? What stood out about the bootcamp?
I went to college in Greenville, South Carolina, which is where The Iron Yard started, and that was where the only class was when I first started. One of my friends had met the CTO Mason, who was an instructor at the time and told me about The Iron Yard. That spurred my interest because I was working in South Carolina at the time. I looked it up and found it was a lot cheaper than other bootcamps, plus they provided a housing option. The main thing that grabbed my attention was during the interviews, the staff members were way cooler, more down to earth, and made me feel way more comfortable about the whole process.
Other schools seemed to be more cut and dry/ yes and no – answer this coding question or not. I don't really like that approach because The Iron Yard was more like, "Hey, you don't have any coding experience. Can you get through this, push through, and not quit?" Long story short, they were just really cool.
Which Iron Yard courses did you do?
How many people were in your cohort for the front-end bootcamp? Was the cohort diverse?
There were about 15 people and it was definitely diverse in regards to career backgrounds, including quite a few graphic designers. It was about 70% men and 30% women.
Could you share a typical day – what was the learning structure for the front-end course?
From 9am to 12pm we had a lecture, then we had 30 minutes to an hour for lunch. We would then work from 1pm to about 5pm. I remember being there until 10pm at night, and sometimes even 1am. It was cool because the bootcamp housing was right down the street.
Did you have a favorite project that you worked on?
For our final projects, you could team up or work independently on any idea you wanted. My favorite project that I created was Get-A-Gig where musicians can find gigs at various venues. I’m a musician so I took a music idea and merged it with tech. I built half of the web app in that time while having Mason and other TA’s help. It was my favorite because, one, I came up with it myself, and two, it was what I showcased to employers after bootcamp.
Now, it's a full-blown iOS app. I built half of the web app in the front-end course, then I built the whole iOS app while I was in the iOS course in Atlanta. It currently has a few thousand users – I haven't marketed it, and it's going strong. Get-A-Gig ended up getting me the job here in Nashville at a music festival app shop.
How did The Iron Yard prepare you for job hunting and interviewing? What advice did they give you?
The Iron Yard provided advice on how to make your resume relevant, and what type of terminology to use. When making a website, they advised us on what you should and shouldn’t put on GitHub. I also led the cohort in encouraging each other to leave recommendations on Linkedin. At the time, The Iron Yard wasn't as big as it is right now, so Mason and Eric and all of the top level staff were calling companies for us. Because we were still a small group, they had a lot of time to call, send emails, and set up meetings in Greenville. I just went a different route because I wanted to go out on my own, but they help as much as you ask.
How was your job search after the coding bootcamp?
I took the front-end bootcamp about 2.5 years ago and then the mobile bootcamp was 2 years ago. I ended up moving home to South Carolina and finishing Get-A-Gig for about 2 months to get it to the App Store, then I got a job right after. I also started freelancing and creating Wordpress sites to expand my portfolio. I was applying to different positions and making small websites for my resume. For instance, if I was applying to SoundCloud and GoPro, I made my resume website look like theirs to showcase my skills.
I had a persistent mentality, and I think you need to have that in the tech world especially when searching for your first job. I started finding founders on LinkedIn, messaging them my portfolio, and basically saying, "Hey, I'm super new at this but I really think I will excel."
What was the first job you landed after The Iron Yard?
I found a Nashville company called Aloompa and they code all the iOS and Android apps for music festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella. It was exactly what I was looking for. I applied to them and didn't hear back. A tip for new coders – half the time, companies are not even looking at the places where you upload your resume like ZipRecruiter and things like that. I found out later that they didn't even see my application. I didn't hear back for a week or so, so I messaged the founder on LinkedIn. I said, "Hey, I'm brand new at this. I want to be a junior iOS developer. Here is my Get-A-Gig link and here's all my other links. I'll show up tomorrow morning if you give me an interview." And he was like, "Done." So I drove eight hours. Got there at 8 am, had the interview, and moved in three days!
I got that job, and after a year moved from junior iOS developer to mid-level iOS developer.
How did you transition into your second job?
After a year, I started getting floods of messages like, "Hey, come to our company." I was interviewing at various companies in San Francisco like Facebook and Google, but I knew I wanted to stay in Nashville. Bridgestone, which is headquartered in Nashville, reached out to me – they're expanding within digital tech innovation. They wanted to start a mobile team where they use mobile apps for internal use and the consumer side. So they reached out to me and said, "Hey, will you and one other guy start this whole mobile team? You can hire however many UX, UI, and graphic designers you need." And so as of December 1, 2016, I started at Bridgestone.
Describe your current role at Bridgestone.
Right now I’m the Mobile App Developer, but I'm starting to move more into UI, UX design. That's my title, but it's a lot more than coding 100% of the time now. I'm coding about 50% of the time, then doing client meetings. We're basically starting this small agency within Bridgestone.
Are you using the same programming languages that you learned at The Iron Yard currently and did you have to learn anything new for your role?
I took Objective-C when I was doing the iOS course in Atlanta. Swift was on the rise as I was attending, so we really only learned that in the last two or three weeks of our class. My last job at Aloompa, was only Objective-C, which is was very rare, but I had to learn Swift when I moved over to Bridgestone.
After first graduating from The Iron Yard, did you feel like your company made sure you were ramping up at a good pace? How was that experience being new in the field?
You'll always be scared in your first coding role. I feel like every job you get, you'll feel like, "I have no clue what I'm doing." I was coming in really scared, thinking to myself, "I don't have a formal education," but in reality, none of the other devs had one either. They were self-taught. So I felt scared and felt like I didn't know a lot, but that's normal. I knew I was going to be fine because I told them upfront, “I'm very new at this. I don't know what I'm doing." And that's not because of the education or anything. It's just you won't have practical experience until you're in the role doing it.
Given that I told the founder in that first Linkedin message and in interviews that, "Look, I don't have all the answers, but I'll figure them out,” was reassuring because I told them the truth, and they were willing to take a chance on me.
Looking back, how do you feel you've grown in your knowledge of programming and mobile development?
Coding wise, I actually still feel the same. I feel like I can learn things faster, so it doesn't stress me out if I don’t know how to do something if that makes sense. I know that anything that I get asked to do, whether I’ve done it before or not, it’s going to take some time to refresh my skills. But I know I can get to the answer! The Iron Yard taught me how to find answers. At Bridgestone, I have to create a charting tool and that’s something we never did at bootcamp. I was given the ability to be confident and figure it out.
What was your biggest roadblock or challenge in your journey to learning how to code?
I think there’s a misconception where people think you have to be math oriented, detailed, or have a certain mindset to be able to code. And to some extent, you do have to have a certain mindset, but the mindset just needs to be "I can learn this." I was a big picture, very sporadic, non-detailed, non-planner, non-logical person. Everything that everyone thinks a coder should be, I was not. Even my parents and everyone who knows me, when I decided to go to coding school, thought it was the dumbest idea ever because it didn't seem like me.
To some extent who I was did affect my learning, but what I liked about Mason, my teacher, was he was very upfront and called me out. He knew right off the bat and told me when I wasn’t detailed enough or moving too fast. Looking back, that saved me because I needed somebody to call me out, slow me down, show me the real process, and be brutally honest. I never got that in college. My biggest challenge was to slow down and become more logical, and I'm still learning that.
Are you still interacting with any Iron Yard alumni in the area? How is the tech scene in Nashville?
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about making a career change and considering attending a coding bootcamp?
You have to be comfortable with the unknown and believe that you will figure it out. The day-to-day coding job consists of this: I don't know the answer, I don't know how I'm going to get the answer, but I still have a deadline!
As far as the career change goes, you need to be all in because you have to be fully committed. Lose any reservations that you have that you can't do this. Change your mindset to be a coder mindset. I would definitely recommend a bootcamp because it's the new way of learning. What it showed me is that you can learn anything you want in three months if you put your mind to it. You just need to be fully invested because three months goes fast.