From high school dropout to lead developer for a marketing agency at just 19; Temple Naylor took a huge risk and it paid off. He left school at 16, taught himself to code, then enrolled at The Tech Academy’s online coding bootcamp for a more structured learning environment, and to boost his professional skills. Temple tells us what it was like studying remotely with The Tech Academy, how his instructors went above and beyond for him, and how he landed his Lead Developer role at Coates Kokes!
What is your pre-bootcamp story?
I’m 19 years old. I left high school at 16 because I felt the classes I was taking would not apply to my future career goals in technology. I was already involved in technology on the side – freelancing and helping people out. It’s something I knew I could excel in, so I took a leap of faith, I didn’t apply to any colleges and said I’d make it work. When I first left high school I was doing a lot of photography creation, creating websites through SquareSpace and WordPress, and helping people put their brands online, using things like Instagram marketing.
At what point did you decide learning to code would be a good move in your career?
As soon as I no longer wanted to rely on WordPress and Squarespace to make websites! Also, I have an uncle in the tech industry who runs a successful SaaS company. I went to his house after I left high school, and saw that he had this control panel like an iPad on the wall. He used this to control his entire house – his fridge, his stove, his hot tub, etc. That boosted my enthusiasm for tech, and made me realize that coding is something you can actually use to create things and make your life easier.
Did you try to learn on your own before you thought about a coding bootcamp? What types of resources did you use?
Yes I did. Udemy courses were great, and TeamTreehouse also had some great courses to take if you want to deep dive into a specific technology or niche. I also believe in just building, building, building – that’s how you learn. I took a lot of online courses at first and read a lot of books, but because I wasn’t really building, I wasn’t learning anything. As soon as I realized that you don’t really learn until you fail, I really started moving forward.
What made you think you needed something more than just teaching yourself? Did you consider college?
I wanted a bootcamp to have someone to talk to at the end of the day – someone to plan everything for me, and to say hey, here are the resources you need, run with it. So that’s what I did.
I started out looking into colleges, then realized I couldn’t get into college because I was a high school dropout. Then I discovered coding bootcamps, and saw that they took anyone who had the enthusiasm and passion to move forward. I liked that coding bootcamps were self-progressive in that you don’t have someone holding your hand – if you don’t do the work you’re not going to excel at it, or get anything done. That’s how my whole life has been structured – I’m always helping myself, and pushing myself forward without anyone’s help, so I thought a coding bootcamp was a viable option that would allow me to grow.
Did you research other coding bootcamps? What made you choose The Tech Academy?
I was living in a really small town called Fort Bragg in California. I wanted to do an onsite bootcamp, and I wanted to move to Portland, so I started looking there. I kept coming across The Tech Academy in Portland, and saw they had really good ratings. I decided between that and Coding Dojo, in Seattle.
I eventually chose The Tech Academy because of their 99% job placement rate, and the career training part of the course. I knew I could teach myself to code, but I needed someone to teach me how to be professional in an environment I’d never been in. The Tech Academy really stood out to me because of that.
How did you pay for the tuition? Any creative tips you can share with our readers?
I just worked really hard and saved up money. I came halfway close to affording the whole tuition. I was going to work even more and save up the rest, then my uncle saw how hard I was working, and gave me a loan to go for it. He said I could code some stuff for him in the future in exchange – I’m really thankful to him.
What was the application and interview process like for you?
They made me take an IQ test and a personality test. It was a standard personality test that asked what you would do in certain situations, how certain things affect your mood, and that kind of thing. They also asked me about my future goals, and why I wanted to move forward with a tech career. They were definitely curious, instead of just trying to grab everybody’s money. They wanted to know what I wanted to do with this education and where I wanted to go.
What was the learning experience like?
The great thing is, I got the experience of both worlds – the remote and in-person training. The Tech Academy offers an online training program with students across the world. When I arrived in Portland, some family emergencies came up, and I had to head back to California. I’d already enrolled and my start date was within two weeks, but The Tech Academy was very flexible and the team transitioned me into the online course instead. They called me through Skype, and I could message them to ask questions, or send emails. I ended up doing the whole program remotely. Upon finishing the course, they allowed me to go work with them for a bit so I got to see the campus, meet students, and see how the onsite course works.
What was a typical day and teaching style like?
The Tech Academy goes through the really easy stuff first, like HTML and CSS, then you start learning back end technologies. On a typical day you have to get through a certain number of pages and exercises. Each day starts out with reading a bunch of definitions to get the terminology down for that day’s lesson. Then you watch some course videos and you get a problem to work through. The instructors explain what you need to do, but they are very vague on how to do it, because they want you to figure it out. That teaching style is very beneficial for the real-life coding world, because that’s how it is – your manager is not there holding your hand telling you what to do. At end of day, you check in with your Tech Academy instructor, and they ask what you had trouble with that day, what did you feel you really benefitted from, and what did you learn, etc.
How often did you interact with students in the remote course?
When you work remotely, you mainly work on your own. There is a live project at the end where you work with other students. It’s better to do it in person if you can, but I did it remotely, and it was still very beneficial. We had Slack channels where we could communicate, we had morning meetings, standups, and talked on the phone. I was very much there, even though physically I wasn’t.
How often did you interact with instructors and The Tech Academy staff?
Every day pretty much. When I had a simple question, they would try to answer via email, or if it was something more difficult, I could talk with someone one-on-one. I once had an instructor who called me and we were on the phone for two hours trying to figure something out. Then at the end of the day sometimes they’ll text you or check in to see how your day went. They are definitely there to help you.
Every Friday, The Tech Academy has a live tech talk, where people already successful in the tech industry – sometimes it would be an alum – would visit the Portland campus, and remote students could watch it live. They talk about strategies, what to do, and sometimes The Tech Academy CEO does tech talks about becoming a software developer.
What was your favorite project that you built at The Tech Academy?
I didn’t really build any complete projects during the course because I went through it really fast – I wanted to get through it and get a tech job.
One of the coolest projects I worked on was when The Tech Academy hired me to go on site after I graduated, and we built out a whole new online system for them. That was really fun.
How long did it take you to finish the program? Was that the standard length of time?
It took me 4 months full-time. The standard length of time is 5 to 6 months. They try to wrap everyone up in 6 months, to get out and start applying for jobs. They do have students who finish as early as 3 months, but I’m not sure how that’s possible!
How did The Tech Academy prepare you for job hunting? What advice do you have for other bootcampers going through the job search?
That’s where I found The Tech Academy really excelled. Every Wednesday we had terminology training where they would ask us basic tech questions, and a lot of database questions which get commonly asked in interviews. Also, the Job Placement Director, Aaron Frichtl, would sit down with us every morning and do mock interviews and prep. He would ask in a one-on-one how the job search was going, and how many jobs I’d applied to.
Aaron attends tech meetups pretty much every day and is constantly making new connections. When I graduated he was sending me constant jobs and referrals, and told me what to apply for.
Tell me about your job search once you graduated.
I was living in a really small town, and that really hindered my job search. I found some remote jobs with clients, but couldn't get a full-time job. I was also applying for jobs in other cities, but employers usually wanted me to attend interviews in-person. In the tech world, they say you can attend interviews remotely, but I found that wasn’t really the case for junior roles. They want to see you in person, see your mannerisms, and how you react. I would get leads who would say, “Come into the office,” and I would say, “I’m in another state,” and the whole thing would end.
Eventually, one of The Tech Academy instructors saw how hard I had been working to find a job for 3 to 4 months and how I was having a hard time. He offered me an opportunity to come out to Portland, and work on a website in-house at The Tech Academy. He said, “We know you’re a hard worker, and you can look for a job on the side.” So I moved to Portland, where they taught me a lot more .NET to build the site, and we used React as well. It seemed to be an odd combination using React and .NET but it was really fun. That role provided me with the flexibility to do job hunting and go to interviews when I had to. This was about 3 months before I found my current role.
Congrats on your new job at Coates Kokes! What’s your role and how did you find it?
Coates Kokes a marketing agency and I’m one of the lead developers. I first saw the job on LinkedIn. They were looking for a web developer and I sent a resume in. I think my marketing experience with Instagram caught their interest, as well as my coding skills.
My job hunting involved sending tons of applications. I sent out around 1000 resumes in total. I got decent responses, but many didn’t turn into interviews. I ended up going to six or seven interviews before I got a job. Most of those interviews went pretty well, but it’s a tough world.
When did you start and what does your role involve?
I started on August 1st and I build out a lot of websites for clients. We have a lot of government and cause-oriented clients and one of our main clients is a huge hospital district out here called OHA. We also have Pelican Brewery which is one of the biggest beer companies in Oregon.
The marketing agency is pretty big, and includes PR and advertising. My team is just two designers and a freelance, part-time web developer. I’m the main developer onsite, working with the designers to build their designs into actual functional websites.
Are you using the stack/programming language you learned at bootcamp or a new one? How do you learn a whole new programming language?
I’m using a lot of PHP actually. They hired me for PHP which I didn’t learn at The Tech Academy, so I had to get up to speed on it. We also do a lot of custom WordPress websites.
How did you learn PHP so quickly? How did the company ramp you up and train you?
To be honest, they thought I was more experienced than I was, so they didn’t do much training. They put me straight into it and I had to fight the fires. It has definitely helped with my learning. If I had gone into a more entry level position I would have had a much slower learning process.
You’ve got to work hard, there’s no secret. It’s just lots and lots of hustle, dedication and ambition. Get up early in the morning, do some coding before work, then get to work and do more coding until you finally get up to speed and can start relaxing a little more. I just powered through – you’ve got to be a bulldog. I’m almost there now, but I’m always a hard worker. I love progress in any manifestation so I don’t think I’ll ever really take a break.
How has your previous background been useful in your new job?
It’s been really useful in that I’ve had experience dealing with customers. (I know how to deal with an angry customer, or a happy customer.) That definitely helps when I’m sitting in meetings with clients and it’s my turn to speak – I know how to talk professionally and simplify high-level technology jargon for someone who doesn’t know much about technology.
What’s been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learn to code?
Definitely the rejection. I sent out about 1000 resumes, and got very few replies. The interviews that I went to before I got hired seemed to go well, but I got emails the next day saying, “You’re a great candidate but we have better candidates.” The hardest part is when you know you’re very good at what you do, but you have a hard time communicating it to someone else.
How do you stay involved with The Tech Academy? Have you kept in touch?
I definitely keep in touch with the instructors, they are great people. One instructor is no longer working there, but he still texts and calls me to make sure I’m doing ok at my job and I’m happy. I work a block away from The Tech Academy campus in downtown Portland, so I go and talk to them, or go out for lunch. It’s a family over there – they don’t take your money and run because they really care about you like one of their own. They go above and beyond for their students.
What’s your advice to someone in a similar position to you, who may not be going to college, but wants to become a web developer?
There’s nothing to it but hard work. If you put your mind to something and power through it like a bulldog, you will accomplish anything in life, no matter what you want to do. That’s the key. There’s no secret formula, you’ve got to work really hard and act like you want it. It’s survival.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
Definitely teach yourself on the side, don’t just rely on what they teach you. With any resource in life, never rely on what they teach you, but always try to learn more. Try to expand your abilities and broaden your knowledge. Another thing is to find your technology niche. That’s one thing I didn’t do until very late and it hindered my progress. I knew everything, I was a jack of all trades, but couldn’t go deep into something.
Overall, always stick to what you believe and go forward with it. People might tell you that what you’re doing is stupid, that you can’t do it, you’re too young, too old, or you don’t have enough experience. But it doesn’t matter – you can always make it work if you want to make it work!
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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