Flatiron School is celebrating its 10-year anniversary and graduating over 10,000 technologists! To mark the milestone, we spoke with Carla Stickler, a Broadway star who transitioned into tech in 2020 with Flatiron School. Even as a total beginner, Flatiron School’s curriculum, instructional support, and career services helped Carla completely pivot her career. Carla shares how she’s progressed as a developer since bootcamp graduation, and why artists make such important additions to tech teams.
What inspired you to pivot from Broadway actress to a software engineer?
I love performing — It was one of the greatest joys of my life and it enabled me to accomplish a lot of things that I always wanted to. That said, in my mid-30s, I hit a moment where I was really burnt out. I was missing a lot of life events by performing eight shows a week. I wanted a more stable career that would allow me to have the life that I wanted to live.
I got bit by the coding bug in 2018 when my friend showed up to my birthday party sharing how they had gone from a songwriter to a Software Engineer for Forbes after attending Flatiron School. Something about it grabbed me and I was so excited! I went home and started teaching myself. I took an in-person, front end short course at Flatiron School in New York, and I just fell in love with it. Coding is so creative! I wondered how I’d never heard of this before?! Learning how to code opened a door for me for a stable life with an income, 401k, and the ability to travel. I was hooked.
Note: This front-end short course is no longer offered at Flatiron School.
Why did you ultimately choose Flatiron School?
Since my friend had gone to Flatiron School and I'd seen how much success he had had with it, I knew this was going to be the path I would take. I like to fast-track things as much as possible; when I make a decision about wanting to do something, I want it to happen immediately. Enrolling at Flatiron School was a great way to fast-track my career goals.
Did you complete any prework?
Flatiron School offers pre-work that is really accessible for a person with no previous background in tech or coding. After dabbling with other programs' pre-work, I thought Flatiron's pre-work explained the basic concepts well and prepared me for the bootcamp.
Flatiron also offers a free chat feature, where you can talk with a live person, screenshare, and work with them. I got to connect with some really interesting people through this feature. After I graduated from bootcamp, I became one of these coaches!
Do you recommend incoming students try out Flatiron School’s free materials first?
Absolutely. When I enrolled at Flatiron School, they had an admissions test we had to pass to ensure we understood basic concepts. We had to be at a certain level to move forward. You don’t need a CS degree to go to a bootcamp, but having some concept of the basics will make your experience clearer and easier, and you'll leave with more context of what you learned. Luckily, there is so much free, accessible information on the Internet to help beginner coders!
Did you receive any tuition scholarships from Flatiron School?
I was offered a scholarship, but I ended up going with an alternative option. Flatiron School has many financing options to explore.
What did you actually learn in the bootcamp?
Did the teaching style match your learning style?
Yes, the teaching style matched how I learned for a few different reasons:
What is the community like at Flatiron School? Did you feel connected to your cohort?
Flatiron School intentionally creates a very supportive community. There was so much support. I adored my instructors and I loved my cohort. We did a Feelings Friday where each person had a chance to say something about their week and anything they were stressed about. It was a beautiful time of realization that we are all going through the same struggles and feelings.
We all went into this bootcamp to change our lives and we were all dedicated to it and want to do it well. It was a great team-building experience where we felt like we were all in it together. I still talk to a lot of people in my cohort. It’s so exciting to see them moving through tech and new jobs.
What was one of your favorite bootcamp projects?
What did you build for your capstone project?
For my final project, I built an audition tracker app, which helps actors manage their auditions. At the time, I was teaching voice lessons and thought my students could use it!
After our final project, we did a big Demo Day where we could invite people and talk about what we worked on. If you want to be really inspired by a group of people, go to a Demo Day at Flatiron School! It’s so inspiring to see the incredibly skillful projects that people build in such a short amount of time. I often tell people that coding is difficult, but it is a learnable skill that anybody can do. If you want to see evidence of that, Demo Days at Flatiron are a great way to see how quickly these skills can be built, in just a matter of weeks. It's incredible!
How did Flatiron School prepare you for the job hunt?
Flatiron School offers up to 180 days of 1-on-1 coaching for all graduates from their experienced career coaches. Flatiron School pairs each graduate with a Career Coach. My Career Coach was an invaluable resource to me. She and I had weekly sessions where we worked on my resume, conducted mock interviews, and talked about my goals. Flatiron provided a resource to keep track of all of the networking that I was doing and blog posts that I was writing. I left Flatiron School feeling prepared to go through the tech job search process.
What roles did you feel qualified to apply for after graduating?
I have a lot of imposter syndrome, as I'm sure most career changers do. People often say to "Apply for everything, even if you don't think you hit every requirement for the job,” but I felt more comfortable applying for the Associate, Junior, or Internship roles. The great thing about Flatiron School is that it taught me the language of tech, so now I know how to speak about technology and get a job in tech no matter what.
What was your first tech role after graduating from Flatiron School?
After spending some time self-learning and applying for tech roles, I eventually ended up at a no code tech startup, Bubble, as a Customer Success Associate. I worked with customers and taught them how to use the product. Even though I was in a customer-facing role, I was still building a lot in Bubble. No code is interesting because it follows all the same patterns of coding, but using layman's terms. So even though this was a no code role, I was still practicing best practices on how to store data and learning more computer science topics.
Were you continuing to learn new tech skills outside Bubble?
When I wasn’t at Bubble, I worked on my own projects. I was doing a React course on the side to keep up the skill set. I knew that eventually when the pandemic settled and hiring freezes lifted, I would find another job.
Now you’re a Junior Software Engineer at G2! How did you get the job?
G2 really stood out from other jobs I was applying to because they listed a Junior Software Engineer position that said 0+ years of experience on the job posting. I tell them all the time how important I think it is that they did that. As a recent bootcamp grad, that gave me the confidence to know that they not only understood I was a beginner, but also wanted to mentor and support me into the best engineer I can be.
Was it easier to land your second tech role after bootcamp?
It was easier to land the second tech job because I was doing it while working my first tech job. I cold-applied to a bunch of places on LinkedIn, but I didn't apply to too many because I didn't want to stress myself out. I only applied to work I was really interested in.
It’s important to recognize that your first job does not have to be a forever job in tech, but it can help you relax a little bit while you continue the process. When the time comes to apply for more interesting work, you’ll be supported by these skills you’ve built and experiences to draw from and talk about in those new interviews.
Was G2 interested in your bootcamp experience?
G2 hires bootcamp grads, especially Flatiron School grads because there was a Flatiron campus in Chicago.
What problems does G2 solve or what product does G2 build?
G2 collects and hosts reviews for software. I like to say we're like Yelp for software reviews. Since we are collecting reviews, we also operate as a data company and work with businesses to direct that data. G2 is a unicorn, and it just hit that billion-dollar status! It's exciting to be working at a company that's really thriving.
What kinds of projects are you working on?
My team works particularly on the review form itself, which involves front end work like restyling, refactoring, and rebuilding. We're completely revamping the entire thing right now and making things from scratch — I’m having so much fun with it!
Are you using what you learned at Flatiron School now on the job?
I am using everything I learned and more! We use the Rails and React tech stack, so now I get to become an expert in these things that I started learning at Flatiron School.
So far, Is this the career that you expected?
When I first started thinking about pivoting into tech, I had a few people tell me I should go into product management, but I wanted to be a software engineer and I love my job. I love how creative it is, I love building, the flexibility, and that I’m problem-solving all day long.
Where do you see yourself in your career in a few years?
I see myself enjoying Engineering Management one day. Not a lot of software engineers like management, but I know I would do really well with my skill set and background. A lot of Software Engineers want to be Software Architects and or super Senior Software Engineers, but I want to help other people be as awesome as they can be!
You are also a member of Artists Who Code. What is the mission of Artists Who Code?
Artists Who Code is a group some of my friends started at the top of the pandemic. As many artists struggled to find employment and noticed remote possibilities, they got interested in tech but they also wanted to nurture their art, so we convened this group in solidarity. It's a really inspiring group and I'm grateful to have them and be a part of this.
Two years ago, we started with questions, like: “How do I survive? How do I get a job in tech? What is this thing? How do I do it?” Now, after many of us have graduated from coding bootcamps, we’re trying to figure out: “How do we do both art and tech? How do we have this life that we now love in tech and also make space for art and music?”
In your opinion, can an artist balance their art and a tech career?
Definitely. It depends on what they want and what their balance looks like. We’re all figuring out what works for us. For me, I don’t have plans to go back to Broadway, but I am now able to afford sponsoring art projects, like an upcoming concert my friend and I are doing.
One benefit to working remotely is the ability to use time differently. If you’re trying to act, you can use your lunch break to record and submit an audition. If you’re working in TV and film and you get a gig and need a few days off, most tech companies offer unlimited PTO and are pretty flexible about allowing the work to get done in your own time.
It’s also important to understand that the majority of artists are not working as full-time artists. They work in between jobs, or on small, occasional jobs. Tech roles are also flexible, so you could get a part-time or freelance tech job if you really wanted the freedom. Since the artists’ quest is always to find income to support their art, why not find that income in tech?
Looking back on this career change, was enrolling at Flatiron School worth it for you?
Oh, 100%. I would do it again. I loved my time there. I learned so much about myself and what I was capable of. It reminded me that I'm a really smart person! Working in the theater for so long, I hadn't used my brain like that.
Jess is the Content Manager for Course Report as well as a writer and poet. As a lifelong learner, Jess is passionate about education, and loves learning and sharing content about tech bootcamps. Jess received a M.F.A. in Writing from the University of New Hampshire, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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