Megan Mulroy decided to pivot careers from graphic design to coding by attending Tech Elevator. One of her capstone projects was to build a website combining front end CSS and coding, back end Java coding, and pulling the website content from a database using SQL for a dynamic website experience. Megan walked us through her project, highlighted her favorite elements (one involves a raccoon), and talked about why she chose Tech Elevator to launch her new coding career.
What was your background before Tech Elevator?
I graduated with a degree in Graphic Design from the University of Dayton, focusing on print design and brand development. I lived in Colorado for a bit and then moved back to the midwest working as an in-house graphic designer at a consulting firm. Because I was the only designer, I got to do a wide variety of projects like photography, videography, and print design, before trying out some web projects – and that lead me down this new path towards coding.
How did you choose a coding bootcamp?
I was initially a bit wary of the bootcamp system so I applied for an apprenticeship. I didn’t end up getting accepted to that apprenticeship, but through the process, I realized how much I wanted to make this career change. I found a brand new coding bootcamp close to my job and chose it so I could maintain my routine. I visited them and they seemed great, however, after a week, I switched to Tech Elevator because the education didn’t match my learning style. I didn’t want to read on my own and do exercises on a computer; I wanted someone to teach me and help guide me into this new career. I contacted Tech Elevator, explained my situation, and they let me join a week late. I had to play catch-up for a bit, which was challenging, but I’m so glad I switched because I’ve learned a lot in this program.
That’s a unique journey! What advice do you have for students to avoid choosing the wrong bootcamp?
I definitely didn’t ask enough questions about how the first bootcamp was structured and how the lessons were taught. They had very qualified instructors, but the teaching style at the bootcamp was much different from what I expected. I should have asked how we were going to learn and what a typical day would look like. When I met with Tech Elevator, they were very clear in explaining how the day was structured – that we would code alongside the instructor during lectures so we could clearly see what they were doing, and then we would have afternoon projects either by ourselves or with a partner. Another piece of advice is to inquire about how the bootcamp will prepare you for the job hunt. We have done a lot of practice interviews at Tech Elevator – that’s something I wouldn’t have thought to ask during the application process.
What was the learning experience like at Tech Elevator?
Each morning begins with a couple of ungraded ‘pulse-check’ quizzes to check for questions about the previous lecture, to assess how you’re progressing through the material, and to see if we need to review any concepts as a class. We have a lecture – the topic of the day usually builds on what we learned the day before. In the afternoon, we do some paired programming with other classmates to figure out the concepts on our own and help each other out before breaking into our individual homework assignments. We normally were paired up with someone for the entire week and at the end of each module (there are four in the course), we have a project that we did with a different person.
Let’s see your project! Give us the elevator pitch!
This is the capstone project after our third module. We were all given the same type of website to build – they provided the National Park Geek logo and we were given wireframes and directions based on what the client was looking for.
We tried to make it as realistic as possible. All of the content, like the image names and descriptions, is being pulled from a database, created on the back end, and then displays on the website, providing a list of all the different parks in the database with an image and description. You can click on any of them to see more information on a specific park, plus a weather forecast in both Farenheit and Celcius which is pulled from the database. We also created a survey so you could pick which park is your favorite, the database stores the surveys, and the parks are ranked based on the results. Finally, we added a login feature – we had learned about creating a login on the last lecture day before the capstone project so we added it. It just creates a new account and stores it to the database.
How long did you have to do the project?
My teammate and I had three days to do the project. During those days, we didn’t have any lectures, we only worked on this project. This has been my favorite project – I felt this one clicked a bit more for me, perhaps because of my visual background.
Which languages did you use to build this website?
What did you learn during the project that you hadn’t learned in the Tech Elevator curriculum?
We had to Google some items and consulted Stack Overflow. I think the most fun thing our class figured out was how to make the mouse arrow turn into something else when it hovered over a button – we designed ours to turn into a raccoon. It wasn’t difficult since it was just CSS, but my partner and I had fun figuring out how to do it.
What roadblocks or challenges did you run into?
Since we learned the user interface concepts on the last day (the user login and registering users), we had to wait until the end of the project to do it. That ended up being the hardest part and we needed to reflow the website so it all worked together. We had to collaborate and look for our own answers, but the instructors were always there and willing to help and answer questions along the way.
What do you hope to showcase with these capstone projects?
After each capstone, we meet with the instructors for a code review. We look at both the front end and back end code and assess how we could have created it simpler or better. After that, we make any necessary changes and put it on GitHub to share with our future employers. For the final capstone project, we’ll receive a list of potential projects, we’ll vote for the projects we want to work on, and the instructors will create the groups from those responses.
How has Tech Elevator helped support your job hunt?
We’ve been working on it the whole time! We have a separate program called the Pathway Program which runs concurrently throughout the whole 14 weeks. At first, it’s not as time intensive – we focused on elevator pitches, resumes, and LinkedIn profiles – and lately, we’ve done a lot of practice interviews both behavioral and technical. They’ve been really helpful and provides you with feedback on how you answer questions with a potential employer.
Tomorrow, we start our first day of matchmaking with prospective companies – I have four interviews tomorrow and six next week. Each meeting is about 25 minutes – about the time of a phone interview – and everyone has about ten between the two weeks. If you don’t have a job at the end of the course, there is an additional day of matchmaking to give you more opportunities.
Do you have a specific new career goal that you’ve discovered at Tech Elevator?
I’ve liked everything I’ve done! I’m not entirely sure what I want to focus on quite yet so I’m hoping to get a full stack role to gain more experience. I want to work on a team and work with other people so I can continue to keep learning. The bootcamp is like the springboard – there’s so much more to learn.
What was the biggest roadblock for you in your bootcamp journey?
Switching bootcamps at the beginning was definitely a big roadblock as well as taking the time to figure out what I wanted. I’m usually very analytical and take forever to make a decision, so it figured that this one time that I decided to “just do it” was the one time it didn’t work out.
For me, the biggest challenge was pushing myself to do the bootcamp once I didn’t get the apprenticeship. It’s a lot of money, but in the grand scheme of life it isn’t that much and figuring out that I could do it and that I could quit my job for three and a half months was probably the biggest hurdle for me to overcome.
Do you have any advice for people considering switching careers with a bootcamp?
If you think a bootcamp would be a good fit for you, I suggest just doing it. My biggest hurdle was taking the leap and doing it, but I’ve loved everything about Tech Elevator and have learned a lot. I’ve enjoyed the people – our particular group is very chatty, it’s very eclectic and we’ve all learned a lot by being in the same class together.
Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students researching coding bootcamps. Her research has been cited in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and more. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube!
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