Unfulfilled in her dentistry career, Beth Collins traveled the world working gig jobs as she figured out her career options. When her sister told her about CodeOp, a coding bootcamp for women, trans and non-binary individuals that offers an Income Share Agreement, she knew it was the right program. Supported by the ISA, Beth attended the bootcamp without paying tuition until she landed her first developer role at open-source software company, Canonical. Beth shares how her CodeOp experience in 2020 has helped her quickly move up the tech career ladder, plus her 7 tips for bootcamp grads on the job hunt now.
What inspired you to pivot from dentistry to software engineering?
I spent time learning the basics on Codecademy before my sister told me about CodeOp, a bootcamp for women, trans and non-binary individuals where I could do the bootcamp and not pay anything until I got a job. I had run out of money so I didn't have a lot of savings to pay upfront for a bootcamp, so CodeOp was a good option for me.
Why did you choose to enroll at CodeOp?
The Income Share Agreement (ISA) at CodeOp was important to me as well as CodeOp’s focus on creating space for women, trans, and non-binary folks in tech. I put a lot of trust in my sister’s opinion because she had gone through a bootcamp herself and had attended many tech meetups. She got really good vibes from the CodeOp staff, and that was enough for me to know I should apply.
What was the CodeOp application and interview process like for you?
CodeOp is advertised as helping people who don’t know how to code learn everything they need to know to land a tech job. The application covered a list of questions about why I wanted to do the bootcamp, but there wasn’t anything technical that I had to complete in order to get in.
Would you recommend that someone have coding knowledge before enrolling at CodeOp?
I absolutely recommend learning the basics of coding for any bootcamp, even if they say you can start from zero. If you want to get your money's worth out of the bootcamp, it's good to have the basic knowledge before you go in, so then you've got more head space and more time to push yourself and learn as much as you can from the tutors.
I self-taught a little bit, but another woman in my cohort had done quite a lot before, so it just meant that in the lessons she was less overwhelmed by everything. When we were building a project, she could push herself a bit more and build a more complex project than what I could build.
Did the ISA payment plan at CodeOp work for you?
With the ISA, bootcamp grads had six months to get a job after graduation. If you didn't find a job in 6 months, then you didn't have to pay back the tuition. Of course, there were a lot of terms and conditions in the ISA, such as that you had to apply to so many jobs during the 6 months, etc. Whether I found a job or not, I was always planning on paying the tuition back because CodeOp are passionate about their mission.
What did you learn in the Full Stack Web Development Bootcamp curriculum?
The first six weeks was Lecture Phase, where we covered a topic in the morning with the instructor for an hour, then did some exercises. After lunch, we would cover another topic, then do more exercises. Any of the exercises you didn't finish had to be done before the next day.
Did the teaching style match your learning style?
The bootcamp was really intense because we had to learn so many new concepts so quickly, but I really liked it. I thrive in a learning environment. I love learning new stuff, so CodeOp was really fun.
That said, I think at the beginning, it was a little frustrating because I expected to be a bit more spoon-fed. Our instructors would offer us a theory and activities, and we were supposed to know what to do with it. That was jarring at first, but now that I'm a web developer I understand that that’s what it’s actually like on the job! You have to learn how to figure things out. CodeOp’s teaching style gave us a real world perspective of a web developer.
What was your favorite project to work on?
The MVP was my favorite because it was something that I came up with myself. I built a well-being app called Feel Better in Five where the user chooses different exercises and the app reminds them to do them each day. Wellness is something that I'm passionate about, and because I built this project myself, I felt a sense of achievement at the end of it.
The collaborative project was more challenging. Working with other students who are at different levels and paces took getting used to. Still, it was really fun and it was a good experience working on a team.
What is the community like at CodeOp?
My cohort felt like we were all friends, which was so nice. The day before we started, CodeOp gave us a big lecture about imposter syndrome. I hadn't even heard of it before the bootcamp, but I related to it when they talked about it! Coming from a background in dentistry, I doubted myself, but when I started at CodeOp, I realized that everyone was from different backgrounds, which comforted me from day one.
Also the community at CodeOp was just fun! The lecturer was just amazing. He's so good at teaching, and is really calm and relaxed. If you're getting stressed (which obviously happens when you can't do something), he has a really good way of helping you work the problem out yourself.
What was the biggest challenge in your journey at CodeOp?
Time! The whole point of a full-time bootcamp is that you can quickly make a career change, but 11-weeks flies by! When I was a bootcamp student, I kept wondering if I should have done the 6-month, part-time option instead so I had more time to let everything sink in. But when I was a teaching assistant at CodeOp for a part-time cohort, many of my students would sign on to class after just working a nursing shift or at a restaurant, and then they were trying to clear space in their heads to think about coding. That’s when I realized how hard the part-time bootcamp was for them — they were really tired juggling bootcamp and work, even though they technically had more time in the bootcamp. If you were able to just do the part-time bootcamp and not have to worry about working, that may be the best option, but that's not the usual case for most people.
How did teaching at CodeOp right after graduating from the bootcamp help you as a new software engineer?
As a TA, it was interesting to see that everyone teaches differently, which gave me a different perspective on the bootcamp. Being a TA also helps you realize how far you've come. Even though I was still new to my tech career, being a TA gave me a confidence boost to realize I actually understood the curriculum and I could help other people learn it. When students asked me a question, it may be something that I hadn’t thought of before, so it helped me understand everything in a deeper way.
How did CodeOp prepare you for the job hunt?
For six weeks in the bootcamp, I practiced being a web developer. Every morning in the Lecture Phase we did non code-related, general problem-solving tasks, and in the Project Phase we practiced algorithms in Codewars. We practiced whiteboarding in the last week of the bootcamp. I noticed I was more confident in interviews having spent so much time developing these critical skills.
Career services included a mock interview with a CodeOp alumni. Our career coaches shared a huge document with loads of keywords in it and their definitions. This would be really helpful in case an interviewer asked the meaning of various vocabulary. CodeOp also put us in contact with companies that were hiring.
What kinds of tech jobs did you feel prepared to apply for?
I applied for junior and entry-level positions, and mainly job titles like software engineer. I applied for anything asking for one to two years experience.
You’ve held a few different tech roles since graduating CodeOp in 2020. What was your first job after CodeOp?
My first job was actually an internship at a startup. They worked with PHP, which I didn't know how to use, and it was stressful. After a few months, I ended this internship so I could focus on building my portfolio and landing a role that I was passionate about.
I then landed my first real tech role at Canonical, about six months after I finished bootcamp. Canonical is the founder of Ubuntu, an operating system similar to Mac OS or Windows. It's also an open source company, which means all the code is open source. It's global, with about 750 employees and I’m in the Web & Design team with about 40 other team members. Within that team, there's about nine different squads, and then each one of them works on a different product or project. In my squad (the Vanilla Squad), there's me and my Senior, another engineer and a UX designer, and we work interchangeably with the rest of the Web & Design team. I've been at Canonical for almost two years. I started as a Web Engineer I and then was promoted to Web Engineer II last November. I don't feel like my job changed much, but I guess I've gotten better!
Recently, I landed a new developer job at Ammonite, a cybersecurity company in London. I’ve been hired as a Front End Developer where I'll be building a front end dashboard using Vue.js.
What kinds of projects did you work on at Canonical?
Have you used everything you learned at CodeOp on the job?
I thought I would end up with a solely front end framework job, but I’ve ended up using everything else I learned. What I haven't used as much as I'd like to is React.
What are your tips for bootcampers who are trying to land their first or their second tech job?
At this point in your tech career, was CodeOp worth it for you?
Definitely! Attending CodeOp was the best career decision I've ever made! I don't know what the hell I would be doing right now if I hadn’t enrolled at CodeOp to become a developer. It's just such a good job and such a good career to get into.
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