After hitting a ceiling with self-teaching and an internship at a startup, Jordan joined DigitalCrafts to quickly break into a web development career path. Now Jordan is working with Booz Allen Hamilton through a paid apprenticeship program, and continues to pay it forward by mentoring new students at DigitalCrafts. Jordan shares his insights on what it took to balance life commitments like parenting while succeeding in the online Web Development bootcamp.
What inspired you to pivot from working as an educator and musician to working in tech?
I grew up in a family of musicians and educators, so I naturally followed that path. Friends in high school were more interested in coding and video games, and I was always curious about what they were building. I participated in the early MySpace days of customizing a profile with HTML, but I still didn’t know how it worked.
I have a typical musician’s story: I studied music for two years in college, worked as a professional drummer playing in bands, taught private lessons for extra money, and worked a bunch of restaurant jobs. I started teaching more in the South Carolina and Tennessee school systems – now I’m utilizing those people skills as a software developer.
There are so many coding bootcamps now — why did you choose DigitalCrafts?
I used Course Report as a resource when I was researching bootcamps, and I made a list of 10 bootcamps, then whittled it down to five, and ultimately I chose DigitalCrafts because they were local to the Southeast, originally based in Atlanta. I liked the tech stack they taught, they had excellent reviews on Course Report, they had a flexible schedule from 10am-5pm so I could take my child to school without feeling rushed, and I hit it off better with the admissions advisor on the phone than other bootcamp recruiters. DigitalCrafts was also respectful with their emails and more relaxed than other bootcamps. They were more affordable than other bootcamps without being warily cheap. I liked the small class sizes, too — my cohort was only 10 people, compared to the 30 students I saw in others!
What was the DigitalCrafts application process like for you?
There was just an application, a phone screen, and then I paid a deposit. There wasn’t any coding or algorithms to solve to get into the bootcamp. They did have an intro course for web development that was suggested to take, but wasn’t required.
In your experience, did you feel like you had to know basic coding in order to apply to DigitalCrafts?
I would definitely suggest people learn as much as they can up front. The more you know going into any bootcamp, the more successful you'll be because you’ll be less overwhelmed.
Before DigitalCrafts, I taught myself to code with freeCodeCamp, Codecademy, and Udemy, which gave me enough knowledge to land an internship at a local startup. I learned a lot about React and front-end development at that startup. After I got turned down from a bunch of paying software jobs, I felt like I needed to know more, so I finally committed to learning from a coding bootcamp.
How did you obtain a tech internship before going to a coding bootcamp?
I just networked my way in! On their website, they had a career section saying they’re always taking applications to meet people and had space for internships. I just sent them an email — I didn't know anyone who worked there. I met with the CFO and told him what I was learning on my own. I didn’t have to whiteboard or anything. They gave me a dummy project for me to work on to see what it was like to be a developer.
What was a typical day like in the online Web Development bootcamp at DigitalCrafts?
Classes at DigitalCrafts started at 10am and for the first month we would talk for a bit and then dive straight into instruction until we had a good idea of some data structure and algorithm fundamentals.
Our instructor started every day with a Code Wars-style interview problem that he would increase the difficulty on every week. Everybody worked on the same problem together. We would get on Zoom, working in Python, and he would post the problem on our Slack channel and then he would give us 30 minutes to try to solve it on our own. Then we would come together and a few people would go around and show their solution or show where they got stuck. He would show his solution and other people would figure it out. He also gave us a critique of our work. After that there was a short break, and the rest of the morning until 1pm was lecture, watching him code and doing code-alongs. We would break for lunch then work from 2pm-5pm on individual code, pair programming, or projects.
The only thing that would have helped me more was to have more time to work individually on projects. I thought we paired up a little too often because there were times where I wasn't actually coding — somebody else might do more work off the top of their head and it was hard to follow what they were doing.
Who was your instructor?
My instructor was Dre who studied at Georgia Tech. He was incredibly skilled and experienced, and spent years working at Microsoft. Dez, the TA for my cohort, was also amazing to work with and was super helpful.
What kinds of projects did you work on in the Web Development bootcamp?
We built four projects in my cohort: Three were group projects and one was an individual project.
For all four projects, we gave demos to our cohort, other cohorts, and teachers. The final project presentation was in large attendance!
What did your group build for the final project?
We built an app called Rudy, a drum education app where you can practice drumming rudiments. Eventually, I want to make it gamified, where users earn badges when they master skills and teachers can track their progress.
Since this was an online bootcamp, did you feel connected to your cohort?
Yes! We were on Zoom from 10am-5pm together and we also had an active Slack channel. We were scattered between Charleston, Atlanta, Nashville, Chicago, Houston, and Richmond. Most students were making a career transition, but there was one person right out of high school. Someone else in my cohort had a computer science degree and wanted to deepen their coding skills.
Was it actually do-able to parent a young child while completing the bootcamp?
That's the million dollar question, for sure! It's a full-time program and I was still teaching drum lessons three days a week after the bootcamp. My wife was okay with it, but it definitely took its toll. It was hard, but my wife and I knew what we were getting into and agreed we could make it work for the four-month program, believing it would be worth it on the other side. DigitalCrafts was understanding when I had the baby with me and they also had a hard cut off at 5pm, which ensured I had my evenings free to be with the family.
How did DigitalCrafts help you prepare for the job hunt?
They ensured we completed our portfolio site and our resumes, and they were all reviewed by someone before we were able to graduate. DigitalCrafts posts jobs all the time on their Slack channel and they post when people get jobs, too.
You’re now finishing a Software Engineer Apprenticeship with Develop Carolina through the initiative, Build Carolina. How did you get this apprenticeship after DigitalCrafts?
Develop Carolina is local to South Carolina and only a year old. They have their own bootcamp based out of Greenville, South Carolina and an online platform where you can learn to code for free. It's tough to get into Develop Carolina — I applied three times before I actually got in! They have 80 applicants for the next cohort and I think they only accept around 15 people.
Is this a paid apprenticeship?
They give you a $15,000 stipend for six months and then you get paired with a company. Through that apprenticeship, I was paired with Booz Allen Hamilton!
What kinds of projects are you working on for Booz Allen Hamilton?
All eleven of us in my cohort got paired with Booz Allen Hamilton, and my title is Junior Software Developer. My cohort works as a team on an app that communicates with two other apps, kind of like the Google Docs team working with the Sheets team. I’m working with the same people all week on the same project.
What else does this Develop Carolina apprenticeship include?
They host meetings where we go over content and learn about software engineering from different perspectives, including guest speakers. There are assignments to support general knowledge of software engineering concepts.
Mondays and Fridays are spent building a full-stack program project. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, we work as junior developers on a real tech team, working on a real project.
Are you using what you learned at DigitalCrafts now at Booz Allen Hamilton?
I got more from the apprenticeship and job that I'm in now than in the internship, but I am using a lot of what I learned at DigitalCrafts on the job.
Will you be offered a full-time position at Booz Allen Hamilton after completing the apprenticeship?
Yes! I actually learned this week that I will be receiving a full-time offer from the company and am very excited about future steps!
What kinds of tech roles do you feel qualified to apply for after your coding bootcamp and apprenticeship experiences?
I would like to stay in a junior or mid-level role for another 1-3 years, to continue learning and not be in a school environment anymore. I learn computer science and coding concepts slower than most people — it takes me a minute to process and put it into practice. I’m better at figuring out team dynamics.
My dream situation in 5-10 years is to be a senior developer who gets to interface more with people, but still work on code.
You’re also a mentor at DigitalCrafts — How are you supporting students in that role?
I wanted to build leadership experience, so I reached out to DigitalCrafts to see if they’d take me on as a mentor. I work with two people on Mondays and I enjoy the feeling of helping others who are just a couple steps behind where I am now.
I also currently have three mentors between Develop Carolina and Booz Allen Hamilton — it’s been so helpful to have weekly time to talk to someone who’s been a developer for many years.
At this point in your tech career, was DigitalCrafts worth it for you?
DigitalCrafts was perfect for me in a lot of ways. People's experience varies depending on teachers and learning styles, but I really liked my teacher. He exposed us to different tools, like Jira and Scrum, and offered really practical life advice. The DigitalCrafts curriculum is really relevant. I feel more hirable after attending DigitalCrafts. I got more job interviews after going through the bootcamp and feel more confident in applying.
Do you think it’s possible to be a professional musician and a software developer?
Absolutely! Software development lends a lot of flexibility in hours and working remotely, and promotes a better work-life balance. Especially if you work for a company that lets you vary your hours, you would be able to manage performing in the evenings. There are people who do development on the road while they're on tour, but I definitely do not want to do that. I enjoy playing in my free time.
Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps.
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