Alumni Spotlight


From Teacher to Remote Software Engineer: Why James Chose LearningFuze

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By Jess Feldman
Last Updated September 3, 2020

James Dinh didn’t have the confidence to pursue his love for technology until he discovered LearningFuze. After spending years in college to become a history teacher, James enrolled in the Full-Immersion Coding Bootcamp at LearningFuze. Within three months of looking for a job amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, James landed his first remote software engineering job! James shares how LearningFuze continues to help him grow as a software engineer, plus his advice to other teachers who are looking to pivot into a tech career now. 

What were you doing before launching your tech career?

When I was in college, I was passionate about computer science, but I didn't have the confidence to pursue it. Instead, I became a high school and middle school history teacher and an athletic coach on the side. I ended up on the Leadership Team at a school, which meant I was responsible for integrating computer science with the history curriculum. In order to figure out how to incorporate computer science into a history class, I learned the basics of coding, such as HTML, CSS, and a little Javascript. When the school underwent layoffs, I followed my heart and decided to make the career change into tech. I knew I didn't want to go back to college for another degree because I wanted to reach my new goal faster. So I began researching coding bootcamps on Course Report.

There are so many coding bootcamps now! What made LearningFuze stand out for you? 

I’m a social person and like to work in teams, so I get more out of building a relationship with my instructors and interacting with my classmates. I knew an in-person bootcamp was the ideal choice for me. After researching coding bootcamps, LearningFuze caught my attention. I went to an info session at LearningFuze, and it made a great first impression on me. The staff were inviting and they made me feel like I belonged there. 

What was the LearningFuze application process like? 

If you plan to do the bootcamp, I recommend doing their prep course first! LearningFuze has a technical assessment, which I took when I was halfway through their prep course. The assessment involved HTML, CSS, and Javascript. It was a little difficult, but the prep course laid the foundation for me to pass the assessment and get into the bootcamp.

Any creative tips for covering the LearningFuze tuition?

LearningFuze gives a tuition discount when you pay upfront. I ended up paying my tuition upfront, so I could receive that discount. 

What was a typical day like at LearningFuze? 

A typical day runs from 10am to 6pm, but I would arrive early to get comfortable and put extra time into my projects. At 10am, LearningFuze begins the day with standups. The instructor discussed what we would be working on during the day and what we would be learning. Everyday was different. Some weeks were project-focused, and other weeks were focused on coding lessons. We would end each day working in teams on our projects, portfolios, or other assignments. 

Did the teaching style match your learning style?

Yes! LearningFuze uses project-focused instruction. There was less college-style lecturing, and more independent learning encouraged and directed by the instructor. We often worked in teams to bring the information together and make something out of it. To let the students figure out the answers on their own instead of explaining it through a lecture echoed my own values as a teacher. This teaching method also matches what it’s like to work in the field as a Software Engineer. 

What did LearningFuze’s Software Engineering bootcamp curriculum cover?

LearningFuze focused on two different skills: technical skills and soft skills. For our technical skills, the curriculum covered Javascript and React on the front end, and Node.js for the back end. Our databases were PostgreSQL, and we also learned jQuery. For our soft skills, the curriculum taught lessons concerning communication skills, teamwork, and finding a job. 

What kinds of projects did you work on while at LearningFuze?

Throughout the bootcamp, there were group projects, individual projects, and hackathons. Every project we did at LearningFuze could be used as examples of our work to present to potential employers. In one of our first projects, we created a memory match game. Towards the end of the bootcamp, the projects asked us to apply every lesson we learned at the bootcamp in order to create a full stack project. Our capstone final project was completed as a team of three or four people, and we had free reign over what we wanted to build. We built a habit tracking app with JavaScript, React.js, Node.js, PostgreSQL, HTML5, CSS3. I appreciated that LearningFuze gave us a lot of resources and creative freedom with what we built.

How did LearningFuze prepare you for the job hunt? Did LearingFuze continue to help you with your job search after you graduated?

Our instructors did a great job at preparing us for the job hunt. There were mock interviews and opportunities for whiteboarding. Once a week, there was a presentation on various career services: how to send out resumes, how to approach networking events, how to set up LinkedIn Profiles, and how to create your portfolio. On a networking day, I even had the opportunity to present my portfolio to potential employers! 

After graduation, LearningFuze continued to support me with my job search. Once a week, my career instructor from LearningFuze went over the job search with me. They asked me what employers I had applied to, recommended certain employers I should check out, inquired about interviews, and answered any questions I had. LearningFuze also hosted networking events, where they would bring in a Senior Developer or Manager from a local company to talk about their experiences, what they were looking for in job candidates, and what we should be doing as bootcamp graduates. I also sent my resume to LearningFuze every week for more feedback so I could make adjustments. 

Since you were on the job hunt during the pandemic, how did you structure your remote job search? 

I began looking for a job in early February, and by March, the pandemic lockdowns had occurred and everything was suddenly remote. I woke up early every day and spent the first half of my day job searching and sending out resumes. I tried to balance taking my time with sending out job applications and getting as many applications out as possible. I also worked on improving my LinkedIn profile, and building my professional network by reaching out to people on LinkedIn, which is important to do. The second half of my day was spent coding, working on projects, and practicing for interviews. At the end of the day, I would do another sweep for jobs, trying to be one of the first responses to any new listings. As time passed, I became more creative in my job search, and I began looking for other websites, such as remote.co and  justremote where I could network and hunt for job opportunities. I also began directly visiting company websites to check for openings, cold messaging businesses, and reaching out to my connections from meetups. Even with the pandemic, it took me just a little over two months to find my first developer job.

Congrats on your remote Software Engineer position at Jonel Engineering! What was it like to interview and onboard remotely for your first software engineering job?

After I applied for this job online, I went through three rounds of interviews. The first interview was a culture check with my soon-to-be boss to see if I was willing to learn and grow. The second interview was with the Lead Developer, but the conversation wasn't very technical, and instead was more of a culture-fit assessment. After that, the Lead Developer sent me a couple technical assessments that included programming languages I was familiar with along with a few unfamiliar ones. The technology stack for this position was completely different from what I learned at LearningFuze, and I was transparent with the hiring team that while I didn't know the technologies, I was willing to put in the time and effort to learn and grow. Keep in mind that it’s not just about the technology you know, but the skills you have! LearningFuze paved the way for me to continue to learn independently, read documentation and articles, and adapt to new technology.  

Once I accepted the position, I learned on the fly! My new manager walked me through our team’s current project, explained the issues we were looking to solve, and introduced me to the site to get our code. I picked up my first assignment and my manager walked me through the code and explained the company’s best practices. Communication is important, which is true for most remote companies. Since everyone on my team is working remotely and my manager lives in Central time, I wake up at 6am to match his time zone. That way if I have any questions, I know he’ll be available to help me.

What kinds of projects are you working on at Jonel? Are you using all of the programming languages that you learned at LearningFuze?

Our company has two technology projects for two different parts of the concrete industry. I’m currently working with my manager on the logistics of delivering concrete products and materials, so we track the trucks including their location, their load, and the like. 

My bootcamp experience was essential for me to be able to quickly pick up the new technologies at my current job. My company uses TypeScript, but Javascript is the foundation of that language, and of course, we also use HTML and CSS. Jonel also uses an assortment of technologies. For the front end, we use Angular and TypeScript, and for our back end, we use C# and .NET, Sass for styling, GitLab for storing our code, Slack to communicate, and Microsoft SQL servers. 

Even though you did the LearningFuze bootcamp in-person, did you feel prepared to work remotely in your first developer job?

Yes! I feel like that’s why LearningFuze stressed communication during the bootcamp. LearningFuze taught us the tools that were required to communicate with members on our team. My position at Jonel will eventually be a hybrid role, and I will be working out of an office. But what I learned at LearningFuze helped me iron out how to work remotely in my first developer position.

How is your previous career as a history teacher informing your new career as a software engineer?

I draw a lot from my past experiences as a teacher and a coach. Collaboration, teamwork, communication, and having grit are skills I rely on in my current position as a software engineer. I think many people believe that they are not good enough or smart enough to get into software engineering, and it trips them up. What they don’t understand is that getting into software engineering mostly relies on how willing you are to work hard at it! 

Would you recommend that other teachers who are considering a tech career right now make the jump?

In general, I encourage people to enter the tech industry. Teachers who are considering a career change should know that the skillset transfers well. Most teachers are hard-working, and when it comes to programming, it's about the work and dedication that you put into it. Critical thinking and empathy is also important as a developer. Especially during this crazy time, teaching roles may be shrinking, and if any teachers were ever considering a role in technology, now is a good time!

What has been the greatest challenge in your journey to becoming a developer?

Early on, I second guessed myself, worrying that I made a mistake. The jump felt risky and non-traditional. I wasn't certain if I could land a job or even an interview, for that matter! As I continued on this path, I gained a lot of confidence in myself. I knew that if I put enough dedication into it, something beneficial would come of it. I landed a couple of job interviews after graduating and that helped me to realize this career-change was the right decision. This is where I'm supposed to be. 

Was LearningFuze worth it? Are you happy that you went down this path to becoming a developer?

Yes, I am very happy! When I was laid off from my teaching job, I was sad, but now with everything that’s happening with COVID-19 and education, I realize I pivoted my career at a really good time. I appreciate my time at LearningFuze and the instructors there, and I'm really proud to represent the bootcamp! It’s fun being a software developer, and I encourage anyone who is walking down a similar path to look into coding bootcamps and use resources like Course Report to make an informed decision. Change your life and do something you really love!

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

About The Author

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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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