When pediatrician Veej Rangarajan felt called to learn tech, she looked to Code Fellows to make her career change possible. Veej completed all four levels (102, 201, 301, and 401) offered by Code Fellows, and when the bootcamp went remote, she decided to become a Teaching Assistant. Veej shares how the unique network and career support at Code Fellows helped her confidently land her first developer job at Zonar, and why Veej says Code Fellows was worth it for her!
What inspired you to pivot from the medical field into tech?
I was a pediatrician, first in New Zealand and later in the United States. Over the years, I found I was becoming more interested in data. I feel that I can positively affect more people in the medical field through technology than as a doctor and I love the challenge of learning, so in 2019, I took a break from the medical field to learn something new. My husband works in tech and encouraged me to try free coding tutorials online. I found I really enjoyed learning new languages, so I began researching coding bootcamps in the Seattle area, and Code Fellows spoke to me.
What specifically spoke to you about Code Fellows?
I toured Code Fellows while they were hosting a Partner Power Hour event and I was impressed by it. The event really struck me as a quality learning experience. Overall, Code Fellow’s atmosphere, teaching style, and small cohort sizes were big factors in my decision to enroll in their bootcamp.
What was the Code Fellows application and interview process like?
If you commit to a 201 course prior to enrolling in a 102 course, you will receive a $500* credit towards your 201 tuition, in addition to having a seat in the course reserved. The intro course was an excellent investment because halfway through the week, I completely fell in love with coding.
At Code Fellows, a bootcamp student can progress from Beginner (102) to Advanced (401). What did you learn at each level?
The intro course (102) took a week to complete, and then I enrolled in the 4-week 201 Foundations of Software Development course. The 102 Beginners Software Development course covered basic concepts and how they work. In 201, we learned front end development, and we built a front end web application. Both the 102 class and 201 class taught me how to learn using stacked modules.
In the 4-week 301 Intermediate Software Development course, we added the back end. We learned the server and how to connect it to the database. We built a much more dynamic website during our project week which allowed us to apply all of the concepts we learned.. After 301, I felt confident about learning new languages. You can call yourself a Full Stack Developer at the end of this course.
Code Fellows teaches you how to learn. At every level, we were learning and immediately applying that knowledge. Depending on your previous experience, it’s possible to test into the bootcamp at the 201, 301 or 401 level. I took every course level at Code Fellows because I was completely new to coding and I am so thankful I did.
What kinds of projects did you build at Code Fellows?
In 102 and 201, we built simple web-based applications. In 102, I built an "About Me" game where the user answers questions. My seven-year-old daughter played the game and loved it! In 301, we built a job search app called MyCareerAssistant. Part of the group worked on an API call. A user would enter a location and the job they were interested in and search for the opportunities that were most relevant to those queries. It would make a list out of them and save those jobs to the database for later review. I worked more on the MyCareerAssistant app in my 401 class and created user logins and quality features. I presented the job as a Kanban board where the user can change their status and track the progress in a visual display, and users can share jobs with one another.
In your experience, do you need to finish every level at Code Fellows in order to land a job?
After 301, I think you could find a job without going on to complete 401. I landed a Teaching Assistant role right after 301, and some of my friends at Code Fellows landed internships after they completed 301. I didn't apply for permanent jobs because I wanted to learn Python and complete the final level (401).
Your courses at Code Fellows transitioned from in-person to remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What were the major differences between learning in-person and learning remotely?
Code Fellows did a good job transitioning to remote learning. Our instructors quickly converted everything from in-person to remote using Zoom. The collegiality of instructors and the cohort were the same both in-person and remote. My remote cohort had a mixture of backgrounds and life skills, which made remote learning a richer, more unique experience for me.
Because of social distancing, networking is challenging. What I found helpful was connecting with the speakers during the Virtual Partner Power Hours. That’s how I made the connections that led me to my job interviews.
What was a typical day like at Code Fellows in-person versus remote?
When we were in-person, class ran from 9am to 6pm, but some people came early to work on their assignments. We had three hours of lecture, either from 9am to 12pm or 1pm to 4pm. The other half of the day was lab work, which was used to apply the knowledge and skills we learned. The pace was fast, but the instructors were wonderful at helping us handle the stress and get through to the next level. The cohort was also very supportive of each other.
Remote learning retained the same schedule and supportive environment. The only format that changed was that we moved all lectures to the morning. Lab started at 12pm and ended at 6pm.
Once your cohort went remote, how did you connect with your cohort and instructors?
Code Fellows created a web link that the entire cohort joined. It was set up much like a classroom with five to six people at every table. We could see where our cohort was and jump between tables and talk as if we were walking around and speaking with people in person. Video or audio could be used, and there was a queue of messages on the right-hand side to type in issues for TAs to see. The instructors were great at keeping everyone involved. Instructors encouraged participation and made sure students had a safe space to say what they were thinking and feel supported.
How did Code Fellows prepare you for the job hunt?
Through all the levels up to 401, Code Fellows offered Career Coaching that taught us how to successfully search for jobs. Career Coaching emphasized networking and exploring roles. Through 301 and 401, we received a lot of whiteboarding practice. Code Fellows makes sure to stay updated about whiteboard challenges in order to prepare their students. The questions worked on in my 401 whiteboard challenges actually came up in my job interviews! In 401, we covered mock interviews.
After you graduate from 401, Code Fellows offers a Career Accelerator Program. I met with the Campus Director and did a qualifying interview with her. She reviewed my resume and offered feedback. After graduating, I was also connected to the Code Fellows Industry Network, which is where I received all but one of my interviews. That network is a huge and important feature of Code Fellows.
What roles did you feel qualified to apply for after graduating from Code Fellows?
I am qualified to apply for full-stack developer roles. My primary interest is in full-stack roles or back-end dev roles.
You became a Teaching Assistant at Code Fellows. How did that role help you develop more technical skills?
Being a Teaching Assistant helped me to excel at problem-solving. I was receiving questions from students that I needed to break down. After working with them to figure out the issue and narrow it down, I would help them find the solution without giving them the answer. The role also helped me to work remotely. Using computer skills to take over their computer and check out code and maneuver without being able to physically look over their shoulder taught me about communication and gave me a deeper understanding of technical challenges and how to solve them. That's what made me confident about applying for a remote job as a Developer. If it were not for the remote TA role, I wouldn't be confident about my first remote dev job.
Congrats on your new job at Zonar! What is your role at Zonar?
I am a Front End Developer at Zonar, and I am on the team that works with Android. We are developing apps to gather and store data.
Did you get the job through a connection with Code Fellows?
Yes! In Code Fellows’ Slack workspace is a Job Leads channel, which is connected to recruiters and alumni who post job openings, and that’s where I found this job posting. Even though I did a massive amount of applications through Glassdoor and LinkedIn, all of my calls for an interview came through the Code Fellows network.
What was the remote interview process like?
It was challenging. If not for the Teaching Assistant role, it would have been even more difficult. Whiteboarding in a classroom is not as stressful as whiteboarding for someone over a computer when you cannot read their facial expressions. I had a lot of whiteboarding practice at Code Fellows, and recommend practicing lots more after graduating.
Are you using all the programming languages that you learned at Code Fellows, or have you had to learn a lot on the job?
What skills from your medical background do you still rely on today as a developer?
So far, the skills I still use in tech from my medical background include continuous learning, problem-solving, logical thinking, and communication. These are soft skills that I can use directly in my current role at Zonar. Coming from a medical background, working on a team and collaborating smoothly has always been easy for me. People don't realize that sometimes that is even more important than your technical skills in the tech industry.
What do you wish you knew before enrolling in Code Fellows?
I wish I knew how important networking was. I was so focused on learning the technical skills that I pushed off networking opportunities. I only started networking after the 301 course when I was comfortable with my technical skills. I regret not starting two months in advance! I didn't expect it to be easy, but I underestimated the support base that networking provides. It doesn't always lead you to a job, but it leads you to people who can help you with the job search, especially those who have gone through the same process.
Looking back, was Code Fellows worth it for you?
I took a pay cut making a career change from the medical field to the tech field, but I hope to one day use my medical background to find a job in the med-tech industry. The med-tech industry is still in its infancy, and I want to be a part of that when it grows.
But I am confident that Code Fellows was worth it. If I were to go back in time, I would do the bootcamp at Code Fellows all over again! My cohort and the Partner Power Hour events have been crucial for me during this remote period where I cannot physically work on my network by going to meetups and events. Partner Power Hour presenters have been great about networking and offering opportunities to us. Even if you are someone who has never done technology before, and you do courses online, you still need to network to gain exposure and find a job. Without meetups, a bootcamp is the way to go.
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