Alumni Spotlight


From Music Teacher to .NET Developer after Eleven Fifty Academy

By Jess Feldman
Last Updated March 16, 2022

Phil Smith enjoyed his work as a music teacher, but the demands of the job had him reconsidering his career choice. After seeing a few friends make career pivots into tech, Phil decided to enroll at Eleven Fifty Academy. Phil shares how the guidance and career support he received at Eleven Fifty Academy helped him wisely choose a career in software development where he now works as a .NET Developer at NIC Inc! Find out how Eleven Fifty Academy helped Phil land his first software engineering role after bootcamp graduation, and Phil’s tips for other teachers considering a career shift into tech.  

What inspired you to pivot from music into tech?

I loved teaching and working with kids, but it’s a demanding job. I was looking for something more aligned with my skill set and I didn’t always feel the most confident teaching. My dad is a programmer, so tech has always been on my radar. A couple of my friends went through coding bootcamps like Eleven Fifty Academy, so I decided to give it a shot. I learned some basic coding on my own first, and then I quit my job and enrolled at Eleven Fifty Academy.

What set Eleven Fifty Academy apart from other coding bootcamps?

Since I was making my career change before the pandemic, I wanted to go to a local bootcamp so I could go in person. I wanted to be with people in a classroom setting because that's where I thrive. What set Eleven Fifty apart from my other choices was their admissions team. After doing some personality tests and talking to the counselor, he thought the Software Development Program would be a better fit for my career goals and it ended up being the best choice for me! He helped me through the whole admission process.

The other thing I liked about Eleven Fifty Academy is that it’s a non-profit bootcamp. I really liked that they are mission-focused. After working in the public sector as a teacher, I connected with that mission.

Did you need to know how to code to enroll at Eleven Fifty Academy?

There were no coding requirements in order to enroll. Instead, you go through a few personality tests so they can help you choose the right program and career. 

What was a typical week like in the bootcamp?

Due to the pandemic lockdown, the first half of the bootcamp was held in-person and the second half was held online, so I had both experiences. 

  • A typical day in-person would start with a coding challenge in the morning to get our brains working. Our instructors would put it on the board and we would try to work it out on our own, but we could also ask our neighbors or learning assistants. Then we would move into lectures and the instructors would take us through a couple of different concepts and give us practice exercises. Sometimes in the afternoons we would work on a group project or have a workshop about different tech-related things like Agile, scrum, or UX/UI. 
  • When we moved to online/remote learning, I was at the end of the course, so my cohort was working on group or individual projects. This part of the program was a lot more independent work, and we used Slack as a tool to get help from an instructor or classmate. We would also do presentations through Zoom. 

What programming languages did the curriculum cover? 

In the Software Development course, we primarily learned .NET. During the second part of the course, we worked with the ASP.NET web API and .NET framework. In the final part of the course, we used the ASP.NET MVC framework for building out a full-scale app.

What kinds of projects did you build at Eleven Fifty Academy?

The course was split into three sections and there was a project for each section:

  • For the first section, we built a primitive video game. We built it on the consoles and made a simple version of hangman to get the concepts. 
  • During the second section, we worked on building out APIs. My team chose a basketball API so we had a database of all the NBA teams and the players on those teams as well as their stats. We also had information about different games and the scores of those games. It was a cool project to work on because it was something everyone on my team could talk and be passionate about.
  • For the third section, we did our final projects. I completed an individual project where I worked on a social media app for music educators to share resources with each other. It allowed users to share resources, follow each other, view resources, and print out those resources to use in their classrooms. I was really proud of this project.

You were a Learning Assistant at Eleven Fifty after bootcamp graduation. How did that experience help you grow as a new software engineer?

I was a TA right after graduating from bootcamp, so it was like I got to experience the bootcamp all again. Seeing students go through the same things I had gone through gave me confidence because I was able to help them through it. 

Teaching concepts I had just learned myself was also helpful. One thing I learned as a music teacher is that if you can teach a concept, it helps you learn it better. Being a TA allowed me to reinforce those concepts by teaching them to others.

How did Eleven Fifty Academy prepare you for the job hunt?

We began career services during the first half of the bootcamp. We learned about the differences in a tech resume compared to a regular resume as well as how to set up and optimize our LinkedIn accounts. Next, I met with a career counselor to discuss my resume, portfolio, and LinkedIn. She gave me pointers on things to adjust as I was looking for jobs. 

The career services team was so communicative throughout my job search process. I would tell them I sent a resume to a job and they would talk to someone who already worked there or give tips based on previous applications. A connection through Eleven Fifty Academy’s career services was actually how I got my first job! I found a job posting on LinkedIn that I was interested in and I let my career coach know. She set me up with someone at the company and I had a job within five business days!

What kinds of roles did you feel prepared for after graduating from the bootcamp?

I was mostly looking for Junior Developer roles. I knew I needed something entry-level where I could have access to a mentor at the company. My advice for bootcamp grads on the job hunt is to remember that you’re never going to get a position if you don’t apply!

Tell us about your first job after graduating from Eleven Fifty Academy! What kinds of projects did you work on as a Junior Software Engineer at RICS Software?

RICS Software is a retail software company, and a lot of my first projects had to do with e-commerce integrations. These projects were based around ways for customers to push their products to things like Amazon and Shopify. During the pandemic, a lot of our customers needed our software because they couldn’t have their physical storefronts open or they had limited capacity. It was cool that the work I was doing felt helpful to a larger community.

You’re now a .NET Developer at NIC Inc.! How did you land this new role?

NIC partners with the federal government and state agencies to create e-government solutions. Being a teacher, I wanted to go back into the public sector to focus on helping everyday people. At NIC, we create software to help the government run better with more visibility and transparency. NIC also helps people access the government, which is a mission that connects with me.

The recruiting agency, Pinnacle Partners, reached out to me through LinkedIn about this role at NIC. It took a few months but once the job officially opened up, I applied and got the job.

What kinds of projects do you work on as a .NET developer at NIC?

I work on a lot of interagency apps as well as public-facing apps. Some of these projects have included developing portals to help people buy hunting and fishing licenses or help businesses calculate taxes. I’m currently working on an app for a state agency to help them with patient information.

Are you still using the skills you learned at Eleven Fifty Academy on the job?

I still use SQL server, C# and .NET. I learned the .NET framework at Eleven Fifty Academy, which made it easy to learn .NET Core. I also use various architecture patterns on the job. 

Looking back on your career change, was enrolling at Eleven FIfty Academy worth it for you?

Yes, 100 percent! Eleven Fifty Academy was invaluable for me in terms of learning coding and also career services. I got my first job with the help of Eleven Fifty and I know that landing that first tech role after bootcamp is always the hardest. I’m glad I made this career change by enrolling at Eleven Fifty Academy.

What skills do you still use from your teaching career? Any advice for teachers weighing their options?

People don’t realize that software development is a field where your best ability is being able to learn. What teachers know best is figuring out how people learn. They’re also good at recognizing how they themselves learn. If you can teach yourself, you can get up to speed much quicker.

Find out more and read Eleven Fifty Academy reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Eleven Fifty Academy.

About The Author

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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