Alumni Spotlight

From Chemical Engineer to Software Engineer after The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Last updated on October 31, 2022

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When Silver Ehiwario – a chemical engineer and mom of three – hit a roadblock in her job search, she decided it was the perfect time to learn a new skill set. Silver enrolled at The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin (offered in collaboration with edX) and excelled at the part-time boot camp as a busy mom juggling family responsibilities and a new pregnancy. Now five years after graduating from The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin, Silver reflects on just how crucial her boot camp experience was to helping her launch her non-profit and become the director of Women Who Code - Houston. 

What inspired you to pivot into software engineering in 2017?

I’m originally from Nigeria, and I have a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Benin. My family and I relocated to the US in 2011, and I then got my master's degree in chemical engineering from Colorado School of Mines in 2013. When my husband was transferred to Texas for work, we thought it would be a great place to get an oil & gas job, but as oil prices were going down, this was not the case! 

While I looked for a job, I saw an ad for The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin. I had no knowledge of coding or computers whatsoever, but after speaking with the boot camp admissions rep, I thought I should give it a try. I wanted a new skill set that would cut across all industries and not completely take me away from chemical engineering. You can really apply coding skills to whatever field you're interested in!

Did you teach yourself how to code before enrolling at the boot camp?

You didn’t need any background knowledge in coding to enroll at the boot camp. They gave me prework which I started working on with my son. The prework got me so excited about this coding boot camp, I couldn’t wait to begin!

Even in 2017, there were a lot of coding boot camps – Why did you choose The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin?

The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin was affordable compared to other boot camps, plus I received a $1000 discount on tuition. My husband got his master's degree from UT Austin, so the school was on my radar. It seemed like an easy decision.

What did you actually learn at The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin?

I enjoyed how the curriculum was set up. First, they teach you the hard way of wire framing, like building construction and getting measurements, before introducing libraries. When we learned there were libraries, we were floored that there was an easier way to code! We also learned back end and databases, including JavaScript, React, SQL, JQuery, Python, etc. We hosted in Heroku. I left the boot camp knowing how to build a fully functioning website. 

I also want to mention that I had some of the best Instructors, Camden and Mariam, who are still a resource for me even now.

How did you juggle parenting and this part-time bootcamp?

It was tough! I had two children, and then I found out I was pregnant just before starting the coding boot camp. I was up for the challenge and didn’t back away just because it was hard. I experienced all the pregnancy symptoms while in the bootcamp, but it was also a relief to be able to go to the boot camp.

Since it was my first time coding, I was always playing catch up and most times I tried to get a head start on the next lesson. I didn't let a day go by that I didn't understand what we were working on even though it’s a lot to take in! Normally, I take notes by hand because I'm from an older generation, but I found that it was too slow, so I just listened in class then reviewed at home. 

What kind of network did you build at The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin?

I always make friends with the most skilled learners in the class, so that if I have questions, I could reach out to them for help. I'm in touch with many of my cohort on LinkedIn and Facebook today. It's been awhile, but we made meaningful connections while in the boot camp. I also got connected with Women Who Code through my bootcamp network. 

What kinds of projects did you work on in the bootcamp?

We had so much fun working on our projects. We built a restaurant database app where you can search for restaurants in the nearby neighborhood by zip code and cuisines.

In another project, we created an app called Swap Cards, which offered users a way to trade gift cards. Personally, I've had gift cards that have gone to waste because they aren't places I shop. With this platform, you could trade your gift cards with people that shop at those places.

What was your first tech job after graduating from The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin? 

My first software engineering role was with Universe IT, which I got through my network in the Career Fair at The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin. I reached out to the connection on LinkedIn and a few days later I was on the job! In that role, I ended up working on Microsoft Dynamic 365. I helped build the Company CRM portal in Universe IT and supported most of their clients. I was also able to manipulate the Microsoft Dynamic platform using JavaScript, which I learned at The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin. I understood the code in the dynamics environment and  manipulated it to get the desired result. This role also taught me consulting and marketing skills. 

What advice would you give a recent bootcamp graduate who is looking for their first job in tech now?

  • When you're in the boot camp, connect with as many people as you can and make friends. Look beyond any adversities and expand your network as far as you can. You never know who's on your team. I needed to make friends to help me understand the coding, but even if you know how to code, it won’t hurt you to make more friends. 
  • Connect with people at the Career Fairs. Take their contact info, and don’t forget to follow up with them. 
  • After the career fair, keep working on projects, even if it's for free, and post them online on LinkedIn or whatever social media platform you may have. This will give you that visibility that is needed to get that first job

Has The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin or edX continued to help you with career support throughout your career?

After the boot camp, I indicated interest in the career services. Esmerelda in Career Services was so helpful, as she connected me with several contacts and companies for interviews.

How have you changed as a software engineer since graduating from the boot camp?

Since the coding boot camp, my entrepreneur spirit has skyrocketed! Anywhere I go, I think about how I could make things better through programming. If I see people doing things manually, I think of automating the process.. As a chemical engineer, the expansion for creativity wasn't there. But now as a software developer, I can't stop thinking about how to refine processes through programming.

You’re now a co-founder of the organization, ITExperience Inc, which was inspired by your own experience getting into tech. What does ITExperience offer its users?

When I graduated from boot camp, I felt I needed more community and mentorship to gain experience. If you don't have real-life IT project experience it can be hard to get that first job, and often companies are not willing to train new bootcamp graduates with no experience. I created ITExperience Inc., a platform for people to train, keep learning, work on projects, etc. as a way to help people get that experience and community they need as they start their new tech career. ITExperience offers people the experience they need to get that first job or the confidence to freelance. It’s a space to work on projects, work in teams, gain mentorship/mentor, volunteer, and gain experience to put on your resume. ITExperience is geared towards women, underrepresented communities, minorities etc. Our community is growing every day and I'm happy to give back to the same society in which I was able to learn coding.

Are you hiring bootcamp graduates at ITExperience?

Currently, we’re operating on a volunteer basis, but my goal is to be able to hire paying roles in the future. For now, people are giving back to their local tech community, for which I am so grateful. Our volunteers add flavor to the community. They volunteer to teach courses that will make learners job-ready, such as: 

  • Python 
  • Data Analytics
  • Project Management
  • IT support
  • UI/UX etc

You also volunteer with Women Who Code — What kinds of work are you doing there?

I've been the Director of Women Who Code in Houston since 2019, which has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing women from different backgrounds and relate in different areas of the industry. I mentor women and girls in coding because I have a background in tech, which started with The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin. I've been able to put a lot of what I've learned into this program.

How does Women Who Code help future technologists in Houston?

The benefits are huge! Being a woman in tech can be very lonely, especially when making that initial transition, so having that mentorship offers you a community and sense of belonging. Having this community helps women thrive in tech. 

Women Who Code also offers a space to practice soft skills, like communication, learn language specific skills as well, etc. Being in this community offers the invaluable opportunity to share stories and learn how others navigated their tech careers. You never know who you’ll connect with at Women Who Code. This form of mentorship is what we need to move the needle forward in tech.

You graduated from The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin almost 5 years ago! Are you still using the tools and languages that you learned at the boot camp on the job today?

My roles have changed a lot, but the skills I've learned and the connections I've made from the boot camp have helped me so much. I can look at a code or an existing website or platform and be able to say what code is controlling what operation, navigate through it, and understand the tools as well.

The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin has helped me evolve in so many different aspects of my life. I use the skills I learned at boot camp in my own company ITExperience and work with clients who need websites and mobile apps built. I also use these skills in my work at the Houston Ballet. Because of the boot camp, I know how to manage tech teams from different places and I understand how they think and work.

At this point in your tech career, was enrolling at The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin worth it for you?

Everything I’m doing today is because of The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin. For me, it's been the best investment because now the tech industry is such a lucrative and desirable industry. I'm happy I started when I did. I could have let pregnancy slow me down. I could have let my inexperience in coding stop me from pursuing this career. I could have let self-doubt stop me. Instead, I just stepped into it. If I hadn't taken that step, I might not be Director of Women Who Code in Houston. I might have had ideas, but not know how to start executing them.

Being able to build my own websites has given me such financial freedom. I can start whatever I want to start. Even if it's on Wordpress, I understand the templates and how to use them. Enrolling in The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin was a great investment for me that gave me the headstart that I needed.

Any final advice for future bootcampers about transitioning into tech?

My advice is to go for it. Knowledge of tech will eventually be the norm because there's no way to do most jobs efficiently without applying digital skills. That feeling of creative freedom from being able to create anything, feels unstoppable. 

When planning to take that leap into tech, don't look at the end product. Sometimes when you look at the whole spectrum you can get scared and wonder how you’ll get there. Don't wait until there's a right time because there will never be a right time. Start now and take it one step at a time.

If you need a headstart, starting with a boot camp can help you get your balance.

Find out more and read The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin.

About The Author

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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