D Parker took advantage of the career training offered to Apple retail employees, but eventually decided to fully pursue coding as a career. D enrolled at Tech Elevator tuition-free, thanks to Tech Elevator’s Represent Tech Scholarship and a workforce development grant. Three years since graduating from Tech Elevator, D has made their way back to Apple, this time in a DevOps role as an Automation Lab Manager! D breaks down how Tech Elevator helped make this career change possible, and their insights for anyone considering pivoting into tech.
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D, what inspired you to make a career change into software engineering in 2021?
My mom was a programmer in the 1980s, so growing up, I was always tinkering on computers. I wanted to study English, though, and thought I might become a teacher. When I realized how long college was taking and that I didn’t have enough money, I left school and got a job at a Starbucks in the mall where I got to know the employees at the Apple Store. Eventually, I got an entry-level tech job at the Apple Store. While I was a Genius there, I took an intro coding class and realized how much I enjoyed it!
Apple offers career experiences specifically for its retail employees. I took a software engineering program that lasted six months, where I mostly learned Python. By the time I finished that program I was confident that I wanted to pursue coding as a career. I left Apple and, thanks to a friend, got a job at a help desk for a NASA facility and that’s when I started looking at coding bootcamps. I applied for Tech Elevator’s Represent Tech scholarship in Fall 2020 when everything was shut down.
Are there any transferable skills between help desk technician and your new role in DevOps at Apple?
Customer service is a majorly transferable skill — much of which I learned working at the Apple Genius Bar! Knowing how to work with people and ask questions is vital to working with other teams and supporting people when they need help writing tests. The soft skills of being able to handle spontaneity and supporting others when they’re stressed or need help have definitely transferred into my new engineering role.
There are so many coding bootcamps now — what stood out about Tech Elevator?
Two of my friends graduated from Tech Elevator and raved about their experiences. After comparing Tech Elevator to other online bootcamps, I was convinced that their dedication to professional development would land me a job after graduating — I didn’t feel the same confidence about the other programs.
Did you need to know basic coding in order to apply to Tech Elevator*?
I knew that I had to solve a logic problem, which I felt confident in. I knew that it would help to have some background in coding, but the application didn't make me feel like coding was a barrier.
*Note: Tech Elevator does not require prior coding knowledge in order to apply!
Tell us about the Represent Tech Scholarship! Was there a separate application to be considered for it?
The scholarship covered partial tuition, which was around $13,000. I then applied for a grant through the state of Ohio to cover the rest of my tuition. I’m not sure I would have done Tech Elevator without it because I knew I would have to stop working to complete the bootcamp and I didn’t have a lot of savings. Without the scholarship, I may have tried to do a less expensive bootcamp.
The initial Tech Elevator application interview was easy, but the interview for the scholarship was the most nerve-wracking part of the application process. I had to record a video interview without knowing what the questions were beforehand!
What was a typical day like in Tech Elevator’s online bootcamp?
We were the first cohort that did it completely online on Zoom, which really prepared me for remote work! A typical day included a lecture from 9am to 12pm that focused on the reading from the night before. Then we had time to work on assignments (often due the next day) in groups or independently. There were times at the beginning of the bootcamp when we were learning Java that I worked 12 hours a day! It took me a minute to get down the rhythm of the bootcamp, but toward the end, it leveled off into a regular 9-5 day.
What were your instructors like at Tech Elevator?
Tech Elevator has highly knowledgeable instructors! There were two instructors for my cohort, Frank and Mike. Frank had 30+ years in the industry, ending his career as a freelance developer. Mike worked for Microsoft for many years, and his assistant, Ben, also had a decade of experience at Microsoft.
Were you able to connect with your cohort and alumni in the online bootcamp?
I'm not a person that naturally connects with people over chat and video, so it was really difficult to connect at first. After a month it got easier, and by graduation, we were friends. I still talk to a couple of them — six months after our cohort graduated we met up in-person for dinner!
What kinds of projects did you work on at Tech Elevator?
One of my favorite projects was a vending machine application. I enjoyed it because it was heavily focused on the back end. They pre-filled parts of the project, then we had to build an entire Java back end using Spring and a Postgres database.
Our final project was to build a social media app. It was cool to get to do a full-stack project. We split our group into back end and front end teams, and we met every day to plan and architect the project together. It was encouraging to see how good it looked when we were done!
Did you present your final project at a Demo Day?
We had virtual rooms set up to present it to everybody. It was great to get support from the rest of the cohort.
How did Tech Elevator’s Pathway Program prepare you for the job hunt?
So much of the job-hunting process is about managing emotions and the Head of the Pathway Program at Tech Elevator was an incredible support. She validated that we would absolutely get rejections, but we would also get opportunities! She clarified how many applications to send and how to get our LinkedIn set up.
The Pathway Program brought in local professionals for mock interviews, so we got real-world interview experience. By now I feel like I have so much experience with tech interviews, and Tech Elevator was vital in providing early exposure to that process.
Which tech roles did you feel qualified to apply for after graduating?
I felt qualified to apply for junior developer roles.
You’ve been working in tech since 2021! What was the first tech role you landed after Tech Elevator?
I got a job at Hyland Software working for the consulting arm of a company as a Solution Developer (which is a full-stack developer). I learned about APIs in this role as well as how to plan out an entire software project.
Was Hyland interested in your Tech Elevator bootcamp experience?
Definitely! They needed people that could come in and do the job, and after a quick tech interview, I was in!
What are your tips for recent bootcamp grads who are on the hunt for their first tech role?
Statistically speaking, your first job won’t be where you end up working forever, so don't be afraid to take something that seems different than what you expected. Position yourself in a place where you can learn a lot. Don’t reject the first offer if you think you might be able to learn transferable skills to develop your future career. Try to find a place where you’re not just a cog — find a place where you’re able to get hands-on with the technology.
You’re now back at Apple, but this time working as an Automation Lab Manager! What does an Automation Lab Manager do?
My job at Apple is really a DevOps role — we're making the process of building software easier. Half of my job is being an automation engineer who writes scripts and software that is used to automate processes in our software testing lab, and the other half is managing the lab and ensuring the devices are operating correctly. Our team also builds tools that automation engineers use.
When did you stop feeling like an “entry-level” engineer?
I actually just had that moment a couple weeks ago! I was showing our newest interns around and realized I was no longer the new hire!
What brought you back to Apple?
I couldn't stay away! I love the culture at Apple. As fate would have it, a friend reached out to me saying they had a dream that I was the new Lab Manager they were looking to hire, so I applied and got it!
What are some of the main languages or tools that you’re using in your DevOps role?
A lot of Python as well as a lot of Ansible, a tool used to manage servers and different computers. Everything else is pretty specific to Apple.
Are you using what you learned at Tech Elevator now on the job at Apple?
Definitely. The main things I’m still using after Tech Elevator are how to manipulate and work with a JSON (which is critical to DevOps back end web development) and understanding how to work with an API.
At this point in your tech career, was Tech Elevator worth it for you?
I would have done it sooner if I could have! It’s hard to describe how different my life is now. Before I enrolled at Tech Elevator, I never made more than $55k a year. After graduating Tech Elevator, I’m making astronomically more in only a matter of a few months! I would definitely do it again.
Find out more and read Tech Elevator reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Tech Elevator.
Jess Feldman is the Content Manager at Course Report. As a lifelong learner, Jess is passionate about education — She loves learning and sharing insights about tech bootcamps and career changes with the Course Report community. Jess received a M.F.A. in Writing from the University of New Hampshire and lives in southern Maine.
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