As an English professor, Michael Robinson wasn’t sure if he could ever pivot into a STEM career. The COVID lockdown offered Michael the opportunity to explore his career options and expand on latent tech interests he had his whole life. He found a new calling in software development after attending Coding Temple’s part-time, online bootcamp. Now a Developer Relations Engineer, Michael is kickstarting a new lucrative career thanks to the curriculum, instructor support, and career services at Coding Temple.
What inspired you to pivot from teaching at the college-level to launching a tech career?
Up until my career change, I was on a higher education career path, having earned my PhD in English. I have taught in English, Writing, Humanities, and Communications departments, and I once created and led a writing initiative within a Master of Communication Management Program at a university. Since I have a humanities background, I initially didn't think I had strengths in STEM at all, but I've always been someone who likes to tinker with things, like solving software and OS issues, switching out hard drives on my laptop, and solving problems with technical solutions. What my experience has taught me is that I do have technical skills and an interest in STEM, even if they were dormant.
Did you teach yourself how to code before the bootcamp?
I started my career change at the start of lockdown because I finally had the flexibility in my schedule to do some self-study. The first thing I did was teach myself HTML and CSS by building a website for my thesis editing business. That process of self-study got me curious about tech as a career. I completed some Coursera work, earning a Python for Everybody certificate from the University of Michigan, as well as a Data Science for Business Strategy certificate from the University of Virginia.
After I completed those short courses, I realized I enjoyed it! There's a whole community that supports this work that I didn't know about. I felt like I could do this. Those experiences were the foundation and validation that I needed to make the investment in the Coding Temple bootcamp.
There are so many online coding bootcamps now – why did you choose Coding Temple?
I was impressed by the reviews, the job placement rate, the portfolio approach, and the combination of Python, data science and software engineering in the curriculum at Coding Temple. I wasn't interested in being a data scientist per se, but I wanted some career options. I liked that Coding Temple’s curriculum gives students the potential to branch out to other tech roles.
What was the Coding Temple application process like for you?
The application process included quantitative and logic problem-solving exercises that were challenging but doable. I enjoyed the opportunity to interview with one of the founders of Coding Temple. It made a positive impression that someone at that level of the company was interviewing potential students.
Did you have to complete any prework?
There was some prework, mainly in HTML and CSS. I had learned HTML and CSS on my own, but the prework was a great opportunity to review those. I also had a meeting with a TA who had graduated from Coding Temple and offered invaluable insight into how to approach the course and extra prep I could do, such as getting a head start on training on CodeWars. That was helpful advice, but I eventually discovered that there's a reason they want you to complete the bootcamp concurrently with the other learning you do.
Since this was an online bootcamp, what was a typical day like in Coding Temple’s Part-Time Bootcamp?
The part-time program included a 3-4 hour class session each day. We would start with a whiteboard and then go to a Code Along presentation. That might be followed by a breakout, or individual or group project. Whenever Nate, my instructor, was presenting material, we were coding along and interacting with each other. We would end the session with an explanation of the homework due the next day or the end of the week.
How did you juggle the part-time bootcamp with working and parenting?
I have a toddler and I was teaching, which made it challenging at times. However, the upside to being an underemployed academic is a flexible schedule. I had remote teaching that didn't take too much of my time. I am fortunate in that I was able to treat my bootcamp almost like a full-time job. I am so impressed by my classmates who were working more rigorous full-time jobs and then the bootcamp at night.
Did you find there was a difference between learning at a bootcamp versus learning at a university?
As a teacher, I recognize the thoughtfulness that Coding Temple uses in scaffolding the curriculum. Each skill builds on the last skill and each project depends on the successful completion of the previous project. If you've done everything else, then by the time you get to the capstone you're well-positioned to have a functional project. I found their use of scaffolding to be very effective.
I also appreciated the availability of the instructors and TAs. My instructor was available and accessible for questions, even outside the classroom hours. On Slack, we could reach out to our TA and instructor with no problem.
What kind of projects did you build at the bootcamp?
By the end of the bootcamp, my portfolio included:
What did you build for your capstone project?
We were able to choose what we wanted to make for our capstone project. I made a catalog project for a book swap box using Python on a Flask framework, plus the Google Books API and a Postgres back end. I closely followed the recommendations made by Coding Temple on that project, making sure that I met or exceeded their requirements. While on the job market, I found that recruiters were impressed that I had created a full stack project that used an API. We presented our capstone projects in front of an audience, which was a fun and useful exercise.
What was the online community like at Coding Temple?
Community is important to Coding Temple and it is a big part of the way the curriculum is set up. We were in two Slack channels throughout the course and then we got transferred to the alumni channel, which was for community as well as job support.
The overall workflow and networking experience gave me exposure to the workflow that I could expect in tech. On the market, I could talk about the ways I had become familiar with the Agile software development process, had used Git and Github, and had collaborated with other students using continuous deployment in VS Code.
How did Coding Temple prepare you for the job hunt?
Coding Temple’s career support was hands-on and individualized. I've been on the job market for over a decade, and I've never had that kind of close attention to my materials. Marlene is the Career Coach at Coding Temple and she is amazing. She is so knowledgeable and seemingly always available! Marlene was available to assist with:
The career support at Coding Temple is unparalleled!
Which tech roles did you feel qualified to apply for after Coding Temple?
I initially focused on software engineer and developer roles because I didn't see myself as a data scientist or analyst. That said, I did feel prepared for data scientist and data analyst roles as well. Thanks to the bootcamp, I learned how to leverage my previous career’s managerial, communications, research, and teaching skills into a Developer Relations role.
You’re now a Developer Relations Engineer at Datakin! What was the interview process like?
Datakin takes a visual approach to data lineage, offering instantly available and highly granular data about data workflows via a lineage graph. Datakin’s engineers also helped develop Marquez, an open source project based on the Open Lineage standard. Datakin’s commercial product is able to troubleshoot workflow performance powerfully and offer metadata about any given node in a data ecosystem.
Since Datakin is a small company, my first interview was with one of the founders, then with an engineer, and then with the VP of Marketing, to whom I report. They didn’t use whiteboards in the interview but my training prepared me to answer behavioral-style technical questions when talking to the engineer as well as behavioral questions related to the outreach work that will be one of my responsibilities.
You just started in this role, but what does a Developer Relations Engineer do? What kinds of projects will you be working on?
Developer relations is a good fit for me because it combines outreach, communication, and teaching with engineering. I'll be able to draw on the knowledge that I have of data science architecture and tools, but spend my time doing engineering and outreach. I’m realizing that I have strengths in building projects and mastering frameworks.
What has been the biggest challenge in this journey to make a career change into tech?
Given my background in humanities, the hardest thing for me was whiteboarding algorithms. If my experience can offer any other humanities-oriented people any kind of lesson it's that early and often is the way to get better at algorithm training and whiteboards. Once you've gotten some practice on CodeWars, you can start playing with other online tools and joining communities. LeetCode is a logical next step after CodeWars.
Looking back on this year, was Coding Temple worth it for you?
Absolutely. I strongly recommend Coding Temple.
What do you wish you knew before enrolling in Coding Temple?
Do as much self-study as possible. Coursera offers affordable certificates in a range of languages and skills. Starting bootcamp without knowledge of Python would have made my experience much harder, and I might have quit. Having that exposure to Python before enrolling at Coding Temple elevated my bootcamp experience because I already had experience with the language. Self-study might be prone to some unlearning down the road, but it’s better to start the bootcamp with a little bit of knowledge, even if all it does for you is make you feel less intimidated.
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