How do people balance a part-time coding bootcamp with other commitments? We spoke with three DigitalCrafts students, Lizzy, Nick, and Sarah, to find out how they juggled their jobs, families, and lives with learning to code in the Full Stack Flex bootcamp. Lizzy tells us how her employer encouraged her to upskill in Atlanta, Nick tells us about switching from IT helpdesk jobs to software development, also in Atlanta, and Sarah tells us about balancing bootcamp with caring for her 2-year-old in Houston. Find out how their hard work is paying off!
What led each of you to enroll in the DigitalCrafts FullStack Flex coding bootcamp?
Lizzy: I have a degree in communications and my first job after college was as an intern at a digital marketing company. At the time I was a freelance writer doing content, but I was more interested in the tech side of things, like web design and web development. I voiced that interest and transitioned into a full-time job as a project coordinator for the web development team. But I actually had almost no training on web development, and I found myself hiring freelance developers without knowing enough details. So, I decided to do this bootcamp to help me in this position and further my career down the line.
Nick: I have a degree in information technology. I had a lot of helpdesk type jobs and I definitely wanted to change that. I got tired of troubleshooting and being on the phone, I actually wanted to create things. A friend of mine helped me find DigitalCrafts where I could learn full stack software development and get the hands-on experience that I wanted.
Sarah: My background is in education. I have a degree in anthropology. I ended up at a financial investment firm where I was doing project coordinating for the software development teams and I realized I wanted to know more about what they were actually doing; what it meant when we were putting story points in our scrum process; and what it would take for me to create. I decided to go through DigitalCrafts part-time to get on the other side. Instead of scrumming and managing the development teams, I wanted to actually be a developer.
Why did you choose to do the part-time flexible coding bootcamp?
Lizzy: I didn’t want to put my career on hold to do full-time schooling, so the flex program was a great opportunity.
Nick: Having a full-time job, being married, and having a family meant it was important that I could manage everything. Doing the full-time program wasn’t an option for me at the time. I’m grateful that DigitalCrafts did have the part-time, it was the best of both worlds.
Sarah: I have a toddler at home, I’m a homeowner, and my husband is a teacher, so losing one income was not possible for us. The bootcamp had to be something that I could do part-time.
Why did you choose DigitalCrafts specifically?
Lizzy: A coworker referred me to DigitalCrafts and I had heard good things about them. I was impressed during the interview process with the space and everyone I met. It’s also in a great location for me.
Nick: I had a coworker who quit the job I’m working now to start the full-time program at DigitalCrafts, so I asked him about it. The tech stack definitely attracted me, too – DigitalCrafts offers Node and React which are so relevant right now.
Sarah: I was attracted by the location. It was close to me in downtown Houston. I was also attracted by the stack, like Nick said, it was all relevant. Then, lastly, I looked at the curriculum. A lot of bootcamps try to squeeze too much into a short amount of time for too much money. Being familiar with a lot of the technology already and knowing what real developers are using in the industry, I had a focused agenda of what I wanted to see on a curriculum. DigitalCrafts checked all of those boxes for me.
What was a typical day like in the part-time coding bootcamp program?
Nick: We would start with a refresher of what we learned the day before at the beginning of class. We would run through the code and the instructor would show us best practices. We got hands-on experience and critiques from the instructors which was helpful.
After the refresher of the previous day we would go into new material. I liked that there wasn’t a lot of lecturing. It was mostly discussion based and presentations were limited to a few slides. After going over the new material, we would go straight into coding.
Lizzy: The schedule for my part-time flex program is Tuesdays and Thursdays 6:30pm to 9:30pm and then Saturdays from 10am to 2pm. It’s convenient. If you arrive early you can attend office hours. I appreciate that it doesn’t go super late into the night either.
How did the teaching style at DigitalCrafts fit with your learning style?
Sarah: I learn better in a classroom and with a schedule to follow. I tried a lot of online learning on my own but wasn’t able to stick with it as dutifully as I wanted to. I loved having challenging, but fun instructors. I had Chris and Amanda. Their energy for coding was contagious. I became obsessed. I always wanted to show up and have conversations with them. It matched my style and what I was looking for. I also liked engaging with other people in my cohort.
Lizzy: The thing that worked well for me was having the two Developers in Residence (DIRs) in the classroom and having the instructor floating around. It’s a great student to teacher ratio. I can ask a lot of questions and the instructors are so patient. That’s been extremely beneficial.
Nick: I liked that we were able to walk through the code with the instructors. When I see something we’re going through that I have a question about I’m able to raise my hand and ask right then and get input from the instructor and other people in the class. I like being able to see the code step-by-step.
How were you able to balance your coding studies with your other commitments?
Sarah: One of the big reasons I wanted to make a career shift was actually because of my son. When I joined DigitalCrafts, he was only two years old. I knew that I wanted a career that was rewarding enough to feel okay with leaving him at daycare every day. We knew it would be better for the whole family, and the earning potential that I was going to gain after the bootcamp was also worth it. It was a lot of sacrifice on my husband’s part too – supporting us through that time. The time DigitalCrafts requires and the support they gave made it feel less challenging. We had a lot of support throughout the bootcamp and I’m still friends with a lot of the people that were in my cohort!
Lizzy: When I can, I try to get to class early. When I can’t, I make sure I block off the time in advance to study after class on Saturday, on Sundays, or in the morning before work. I’m excited about the opportunities that can come from the bootcamp, so I know that putting in the work right now is worth it.
Nick: It definitely took a lot of discipline and I had to build a schedule. My wife was so helpful and supportive with that. Even the days when I was tired and probably didn’t feel like looking at coding, I kept pushing myself to make sure that I stuck to that schedule. I worked on something every day. The hard work was rewarding. It was worth it.
How did DigitalCrafts support you in making sure you were able to juggle your coding and other commitments?
Sarah: One of the best things about DigitalCrafts is that all of the lectures are recorded. If I struggled through a lecture I would go back and watch the recording and I found that to be invaluable.
Lizzy: For me, the DIRs being there to answer questions was the most helpful. You can’t get that outside of the classroom environment. The class recordings are also extremely helpful.
Nick: The DIRs were flexible with setting up after class meetings to help you. The people in our cohort would also meet sometimes before class started to go over whatever we were working on. We would buddy up and help each other with questions. One of my DIRs held a little side class about React Native which was so useful, and it wasn’t even on the syllabus.
Can you tell me a little bit more about the DIRs?
Sarah: DIR is a developer in residence. They’re like a Teacher’s Aid (TA). A lot of them are a DigitalCrafts graduate or an industry resource.
What tips do you have for juggling a part-time bootcamp with your other commitments?
Lizzy: Making sure you keep to a schedule is the most important. Reminding yourself of where you are in your learning process and knowing that that’s okay, that you’ll get more experience and learn as you go. Going back through notes, rereading, reviewing, and gaining an understanding of industry documentation is vital! Having patience. Lastly, there is so much more on every topic we learn that can still be uncovered, go find it!
Nick: Keep to a schedule and stick with it. There are going to be times when you get frustrated, we’ve all had them. It’s learning something new! What you’re looking at right now might be hard for you to understand but sooner or later you’re going to look through it and completely understand.
Sarah: Leave your ego at the door. It’s new for everyone. There are going to be things you’ll be better at than others and there will be things others are better at than you. It’s all learning and there’s so much to take from each other. Go all in with your cohort! Make friends, get people’s phone numbers, network. Even if there’s not something you know that you need from them right now, you don’t know where they’re going to be in ten years. It’s a good opportunity to build that network from day one.
Lizzy, can you tell me a little bit about your goals for when you graduate since you’re still in the program?
Lizzy: Once I graduate, I hope to move into doing more web development on some of the redesigns at the company I’m working for. Maybe move up the ranks of web development. I’ll definitely be keeping some of those project management aspects and this knowledge I’m learning now is going to make me so much more effective at my job. I’ll be able to understand what’s going on, what the developers are doing, and be able to help with the actual development.
Has your job been supportive of you doing the DigitalCrafts coding bootcamp?
Lizzy: They have been extremely supportive. They partially funded the program for me. They’ve been great at accommodating the hours of my program and my co-workers have answered a lot of questions I’ve had. If you’re in an industry that can benefit from the skills, you’d learn at a bootcamp, ask your employer about it! If you present it well, tell them the tech stack you’re going to come out with, and how it will directly benefit them for you to do the program, you never know what they’re going to say.
Nick, what have you been up to since you graduated?
Nick: Toward the end of the bootcamp I started seriously job hunting. I applied for almost anything I could find. It took me about two months to find a job. It was a lot of work: checking my phone, emails, talking to recruiters, going to meetups around Atlanta, networking, getting my resume in people’s hands. I got a job offer on June 10, 2019 and that was exciting. The job I’m in now uses React, the front end library that we used at DigitalCrafts.
I’m now a front end engineer and I build the front end user interface of our technology that helps different companies determine when their machinery and technology might need maintenance. I learned a lot of the skills that I’m using now, like React, at DigitalCrafts.
Sarah, what are you up to now that you’ve graduated from DigitalCrafts?
Has this part-time DigitalCrafts bootcamp been worth it for you?
Lizzy: I expect the bootcamp to be an invaluable resource to me, especially with project management. I see it opening up an entirely new world for me, career-wise. Going through this brings me personal fulfillment as well. It is the most challenging thing I’ve jumped into. Even though it can get overwhelming sometimes, getting through that and getting the code is exciting and fulfilling. Overcoming the challenges is so rewarding.
Sarah: It's been so much fun adding breadth to my skill set. The most important thing DigitalCrafts teaches is how to learn! I'm able to quickly ramp up and find the resources I need to add value to my team.
Nick: To be honest, I don’t think I would have gotten here if it wasn’t for DigitalCrafts. The support, the help, the networking, the tech stack. I tried to study on my own and do online learning but being in a classroom with less than 15 other people with teachers and DIRs definitely helped me get to where I am now. It has opened up so many opportunities for me.
There were times in my last job where I was stuck working late nights and on weekends. Now I can go home to my family at a more normal time and I’m making a lot more than I was at my last job. It’s helped me support my family and carve out a great role for myself and a future career. There are definitely more technologies that I want to learn, and DigitalCrafts gave me the base to get there. I would definitely recommend it to anyone.