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After learning R to streamline her job in digital marketing, Tammi was ready to take the plunge and make a career change. With a background in for-profit education, Tammi knew that transparency was imperative when choosing a coding bootcamp, so she chose Sabio's Orange County campus after reading reviews and speaking personally to founders Gregorio and Liliana. Now a software developer at insurance SaSS company XDimensional Technologies, Tammi tells us about her time at Sabio and her new career in tech!

Q&A

Tell us about your pre-Sabio story. What's your educational background and your last career path?  

My education background is in foreign languages, with an undergrad degree in French and an Italian minor. My plan was to become a teacher, but when the economy took a turn in California, I started working in marketing for a for-profit education company. Most recently, I started working on reporting and analyzing digital marketing channels and performance. I had some familiarity with HTML and JavaScript because I was ensuring that tracking was properly placed in that digital marketing role.

What made you decide to change tracks and pursue a more technical career?

Part of the motivation was that the company I worked for wasn't doing so well. I noticed our in-house developers were the first ones to get jobs elsewhere so I saw that engineering was a valuable field. Plus, I'd always been curious, so I started exploring Codecademy and taking some classes. And in my job, I found myself working with larger datasets, doing more work in Excel, and realizing that I needed to learn the programming language R.

I started taking online data science courses using R through Johns Hopkins University on Coursera. After a few classes on Coursera, I started using R in my work too.

How did R help you be better at your job?

Instead of pulling data from multiple sources and merging it manually in Excel, I would write R scripts to merge those datasets together in a meaningful way and then summarize them. I could spend more time actually analyzing data rather than manually wrangling tasks. That's really where I began to see how powerful programming was and knew that this is something that I would love to do day-to-day.  

Why did you feel you needed to attend a coding bootcamp rather than just continue to teach yourself through Coursera and Codecademy?

Codecademy was great, but I wasn't at a point where I could build a website or an application on my own. I needed more practical skills in terms of debugging and troubleshooting, scaling a project, etc.

At the same time, I found out that my job was moving to Minnesota, which prompted me to really make a change. The timing was finally right and it was a great opportunity to make a change.  

Did you research a number of coding bootcamps or did you only apply to Sabio?

I looked at several, but Sabio was the only bootcamp that I actually met with in-person in Orange County. I found that most bootcamp websites had very minimal information, and coming from the for-profit education industry, I was looking for transparency. I read reviews on Course Report, and it seemed like Sabio was the way to go, especially as they were starting a cohort in Newport Beach.

After meeting with Gregorio and Liliana, I learned what really sets them apart from their competition: you're really working in a group on an actual project that a client is going to use. Working on mini portfolio projects is great, but there’s nothing like building real, viable products.

I like that Sabio caps their class sizes at 10 students, and I was fortunate enough to have just 7 students in my cohort. It was good size group, and I felt like I had the support and help that I needed when I needed it.

Also, I got a small scholarship to Sabio for being a woman in tech.

Were you looking for a coding bootcamp that specifically taught the .NET/Microsoft stack?

Not specifically, but they explained that Sabio teaches the Microsoft stack because it’s in-demand. I did my own research on Indeed and LinkedIn and I saw a lot of the developer positions were in LA and San Diego were in .NET.

We just talked with Aaron from Sabio about the OC campus- he must have been your instructor, right?

Yes, we are fortunate enough to have Aaron as our instructor for the pre-work. It’s important to note that Sabio isn’t just a 12 week, intensive, immersive program, but we also had 6-8 weeks of pre-work, where we'd meet on Saturdays for about six hours a day, and practice the fundamentals of JavaScript, SQL server, and C#. It was really helpful, and it was a smooth transition into the immersive program, having worked with Aaron previously and knowing his style. It was a really, really good experience.  

What was the interview and application process like at Sabio? Was there a coding challenge?

I filled out an application, then met with Gregorio and Liliana, who asked me questions about my background and my goals. I did a coding challenge with Aaron towards the end of the pre-work session to make sure I was at the right level to succeed in the full stack immersive program.

That’s a really interesting application process. It’s almost like a self-selecting screening period as opposed to an application.

Right; I think we started with 15-17 students at the beginning of the pre-work sessions, and we ended up with 7 in our cohort. The pre-work is like a step before taking the big plunge into going into the full stack immersive to make sure it's a good fit.

Was your cohort diverse in terms of gender, race, and background?

Yeah, we were a pretty diverse group. There were two other women, and we were pretty racially diverse. Everyone had different backgrounds; one gentleman was an engineer from South America, and another woman was from the Philippines. Another guy had a mathematics background. It's cool getting to work with people from different professional and cultural backgrounds.

Can you tell us about a typical day at Sabio?

We got in between 9am and 10am, and did a daily standup meeting where we’d talk about the feature that we're working on, anything that we're stuck on, and what our plan is for the day. Aaron was our teacher and our project lead. We had occasional lectures, but were mostly building features. Aaron was always available if we ran into roadblocks, and there was a lot of encouragement to try things on our own. We also had meetings every so often with the actual client that we were building our project for.

Can you tell us about the project you worked on at Sabio?

We built a new administrative UI for a small company called Beauty Streams, which is a Parisian company that forecasts trends in the cosmetics industry. Their team documents the patterns, color schemes and trends they’re seeing at runway shows, then creates content for their subscribers.

Their existing UI wasn't really user-friendly, and it was about seven or eight years old, so it was time for a refresh. We decided not to edit the old codebase, but rather to start from scratch. The main feature that I worked on was a drag-and-drop content editor.

How did you learn everything you needed to know as you built those features?

We started with the database side since we'd had a bit of a foundation in terms of learning how to setup a table. Aaron gave us guidance on best practices for database design. Then we went into the C# layers so that our data actually spoke to the middle tier to be presented on the front end.

Throughout the project, we ended up learning Angular and JavaScript. And we got the opportunity to work on a couple of different plug-ins that assist with image and file uploads, downloading zip files etc. Aaron had presented a couple of options for helpful libraries and some plug-ins that we could use. We read a lot of documentation in order to ultimately get it working for the Beauty Streams project. Beauty Streams was ultimately satisfied with what we built out, and we helped them become more efficient and effective.  

How did Sabio help prepare you and your classmates for finding jobs as developers?

We spent a lot of time learning computer science fundamentals, which really prepares you for technical interviews. We did a lot of interview prep and some mock interviews in the last three to four weeks. Recruiters gave us basic interview tips and told us what to expect in tech interviews, good habits and how to prepare yourself for the interview, how to phrase your experience and background. We also had guidance in building out our resume.

So what are you up to now? Did you land a job as a software developer?

I'm now a software developer for a SaSS company called XDimensional Technologies, based in Brea, California. Our product is used by insurance companies to manage their agencies & branches, invoicing, and policy management. It's a big, robust product.

I've been in my role for almost two months now. When clients have an issue with data, my job is to go in the backend and resolve the issue for that client. More recently, I've been starting to work on actual app fixes in the codebase that will ultimately help the product perform better for clients. Actually, I have three or four fixes coming out in the new release that will go out to our clients next weekend. That's pretty exciting.  

Congratulations! How did you find the job?

I found this job through Dice. I had my profile on Dice, Indeed, LinkedIn, and I spoke to a lot of third party recruiters. I had a couple of really promising meetings from those sites. When XDimensional Technologies reached out, I had a phone interview- which threw me off a little because it was pretty technical! I made it past that round, then met with several of the employees in-person.

What made you excited about the offer from XDimensional?

I accepted their offer because I liked the idea of working for a relatively small company. They had an established development team, and they're actually working on a software product. I felt like it was a great first step after graduating from Sabio.

What's a typical day like for you now as a software developer?  

Typically, we have a priority list of dated bugs that come in from our support team. Our first priority is to get those taken care of. Then I move to working on app fixes. Those are improvements that are impacting all of our clients. I’ll investigate through the code and through the stack procedures and SQL server to find the issue. There are six developers on our team; a few senior developers, a couple of mid-level developers and then myself.

You learned the Microsoft stack at Sabio- have you had to learn new technologies in your new job?

I am using the Microsoft stack. I have had to learn some of the older technologies like VB and ASP.NET Web Forms because our codebase has been around for a while so there’s some old legacy code that still works. But it wasn't too much of a reach after being familiar with the Microsoft stack already.

We also use the SQL server, which I was already familiar with, but it's really cool getting to see some really robust, intense SQL procedures because the ones I've been accustomed to were more straightforward. They have hundreds of different tables in any given database and it's architected in a way that is optimal for their product, but you have to get your hands dirty in exploring some of these 800-line stored procedures and SQL servers. It was a bit of an experience, but I'm getting more and more used to it.  

What’s the biggest challenge you've faced so far in your new career?  

My biggest challenge is getting used to working with a product that's so vast and so multi-faceted. I’m getting used to finding the tools and the resources I need to do my job well. It's been a challenge, but in the past few weeks, it's been getting a bit easier to get a handle on.

I love that you got to work on a real project with Beauty Streams during Sabio- do you think that helped you get your first job and transition into being a real software developer?  

Yeah. I think that was really helpful because a lot of applicants with CS degrees or other bootcamp grads may have a lot of small projects to show, but I was able to show an actual product for a company, which set me apart. I thought that was a big help.  

Have you stayed involved with Sabio after graduating?

Sabio hosts professional development sessions for alumni each month in Culver City. Those cover topics that are helpful to new developers, like React.JS, computational theory, and Computer Science fundamentals.

Also, Sabio encourages their fellows to get involved in hackathons. I haven't had the opportunity to do one in-person yet, but I dabbled with one of my cohort members on a virtual hackathon for Angular2.0. We had a lot of technical issues, but it was a good experience! I look forward to having that opportunity to go compete in a hackathon in the near future. Our alumni also have a pretty active online community and a Slack channel where we keep up with each other.

What advice would you give to someone considering a coding bootcamp?

First, make sure that you have a good support system in place. You should be able to allocate a lot of time, because a coding bootcamp is going to take a lot of time and focus. In my case, I had to make sure that my boyfriend was prepared for Sabio as well! He knew that I was going to be in class for 10 to 12 hours a day and then after dinner, I'd be working on code again. He was really helpful and supportive, which was important! Similarly, you have to prepare your friends and family so that their feelings aren’t hurt when you have to prioritize a deadline or a project.

Would you recommend Sabio to future bootcampers?

I really enjoyed my experience at Sabio. I love that we have an active alumni community even after we graduated from the full stack program. And I like the idea that Sabio is there to support us for five years after we've completed your program. I like the fact that their professional development sessions carry on after you graduate, because with all of the other bootcamps that I looked at, you finish your program, and that's it.

Find out more and read Sabio reviews on Course Report. Check out the Sabio website.

About The Author

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Imogen is a writer and content producer who loves writing about technology and education. Her background is in journalism, writing for newspapers and news websites. She grew up in England, Dubai and New Zealand, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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