Alumni Spotlight

From the Army to Software Engineering with Codesmith

By Jess Feldman
Last updated on December 8, 2021

When software engineer Minchan immigrated to the United States, he enlisted in the US Army and spent four years working in logistics and software management. After leaving the service, he realized he needed an immersive bootcamp like Codesmith to ratchet up his software engineering career. Here’s how the supportive community, hands-on learning, and job-relevant curriculum gave Minchan the technical skills he needed to land a job as a Software Engineer just one month after graduating. Plus, Minchan shares his tips for coding beginners interested in enrolling at Codesmith

To empower and support more veterans to break into tech and build successful careers in software engineering, Codesmith has teamed up with Oddball to launch the Veterans Coding Scholarship offering full-tuition scholarships for Codesmith’s part-time or full-time Software Engineering Immersive programs. Check out Codesmith’s scholarship page to learn more about the application process and eligibility. 

How did you get interested in software engineering, Minchan?

Before immigrating to the United States, I majored in computer science and worked as a software engineer for a year. After moving to the U.S., I joined the Army and became a US citizen. During my time in the Army for 4.5 years, I was working with logistics and software management. 

Since you already had a background in software engineering, why did you need to enroll at Codesmith?

I knew I wanted to return to software engineering after completing my military service. I forgot a lot of my coding skills while in the military, so I thought a coding bootcamp could help me jump back into projects and refresh my skills.

A friend of mine told me about Codesmith. I looked into it and watched a Codesmith YouTube video that explained coding in a way I hadn't experienced before, even when I was learning computer science at college. It piqued my interest because Codesmith is teaching their students to think differently. 

What’s the difference between learning computer science at a university versus learning a coding bootcamp?

The main difference is that in college the classes are more theory-focused. At a coding bootcamp like Codesmith, the classes are hands-on, practical application of technical skills and concepts directly related to the work you will do as a software engineer.

What was the Codesmith application process like for you?

I didn't have a firm grasp on JavaScript when I wanted to enroll, so I attended Codesmith’s free, online JavaScript workshops every week to learn the concepts in the application. The technical challenge at Codesmith wasn't so much about coding as it was about communication and problem-solving skills from an engineering mindset. I had never done a technical challenge before, so it felt like it was a different take on the application process. I had to express my idea to the Codesmith interviewer as though I was interviewing with a real company. 

My advice for future applicants: Codesmith accepts people who have some previous software engineering experience, so if you’re planning on making a career change without any engineering experience, learning some coding basics will help before enrolling. 

Fortunately, Codesmith offers lots of free coding courses for coding beginners. Under the Hood courses in Node.js and Data Structures & Algorithms to build that introductory knowledge. They also have free workshops to help you learn concepts, gain experience, and build problem-solving skills. 

Was there prework to complete before the bootcamp began?

There were three weeks of prework prior to the first day of bootcamp. It wasn't challenging, and it was designed to introduce us to topics leading into the bootcamp.

Were you able to use any veterans benefits towards Codesmith tuition? 

I considered using military funding to fund my bootcamp tuition, but I chose not to use it. The GI Bill requires you to attend specific coding bootcamps, but I was looking for the right bootcamp for me and not what was covered by the GI Bill. I thought Codesmith was more suitable for me even though it wasn’t covered. Since I already had some coding experience, I didn't want to start from the very beginning and at Codesmith, I didn’t have to. 

What was a typical day like in Codesmith’s online Software Engineering Immersive bootcamp? 

Each day started with a quick stretch to get us warmed up. For the first half hour we solved a data structure algorithm problem, then we would review the previous day’s problem for another half hour. From there, the day changed depending on what stage of the bootcamp we were in. 

Codesmith sections the curriculum into Junior and Senior projects. The Junior section was committed to learning the actual technology and hands-on skills necessary to apply on the job. In the Senior section, we built real projects that developers can use. We were given challenges from their repository, which I struggled with. Codesmith doesn’t teach you everything; instead they offer the concepts and tools while you build off past projects from their repository. 

Did the online teaching style match your learning style?

I resonated with the teaching style at Codesmith because they used a combination of lecture and project-work to teach us self-sufficiency skills. Instead of telling us the answers, they taught us how to solve problems. Codesmith offered me the internal tools I needed to solve difficult problems. 

The supportive community stood out to me about Codesmith. Even though it's an online community, my cohort was close. We were ready and willing to help each other throughout the program. Our classes were online but my cohort really wanted to meet each other in-person, so one day we gathered in-person in Central Park to hang out! 

What did you learn in the immersive bootcamp?

In the bootcamp, I learned:

  • Algorithm data structure
  • JavaScript and React
  • Node.js and SQL
  • Git (and how to properly use Git)
  • AWS and Docker
  • Front end technologies
  • Security tools 

What kinds of projects did you work on at Codesmith? 

The projects at Codesmith are in constant evolution. We iterated on past projects from Codesmith’s repository, and the projects we personally built were added for future cohorts to iterate on. 

One project was to think of an idea to ease the lives of developers, so we used Docker to visualize the statistics of our container and their metrics through graphical user interface. We presented that project to our cohort in a virtual demo day. 

What was the biggest challenge in your journey at Codesmith?

The most challenging part of my journey at Codesmith was committing my time to long hours every day. On top of a 12-hour class session, we had to keep up with our assignments and our comprehension of the content. It was up to each individual to solve their own problems and stick with them until they were finished. The bootcamp is fast-paced and there is a lot of content to process. 

How did Codesmith prepare you for the job hunt

Codesmith prepared us for the job hunt by offering us practice sessions to present our ideas to each other. As a cohort, we did mock interviews and whiteboarding sessions, and during that time, we offered each other feedback. 

What kinds of tech jobs did you feel prepared to apply for after graduating from Codesmith?

I felt prepared to apply for front end developer and full stack developer roles. I knew that companies were looking for developers with experience in the languages and technologies we learned at Codesmith. Since I had previous engineering experience, I was aiming for mid-level positions.

What is your advice to recent bootcamp grads looking for their first software engineering job?

Codesmith will help you improve your resume to gain more attention from hiring companies, but even still, be prepared for the job hunt to take awhile. It took some of my cohortmates a longer time to find a job that I did. I got lucky and found mine in less than a month. 

My advice is to be patient and be consistent. Plan what you're going to do every day. It'll be devastating when you don't get jobs you want, but it'll work out if you stick with it. 

Congrats on your job as a Software Engineer at Capsim Management Systems! How did you land the job?

Capsim provides simulated education for companies and universities. I applied to jobs on many different hiring platforms like Vettery and tried to utilize everything I had learned at Codesmith. After graduating from the bootcamp, I had other job interviews set up, but I got hired after the first interview with Capsim!

What was the interview process like at Capsim? 

Capsim uses HackerRank to weed out unqualified applicants. After I passed that coding challenge, my technical interview included talking deeply about Node.js and SQL. They also asked me to use SQL to build a design, which I then had to talk through each step of my process with the interviewer. Last step was talking about front end skills. I was given a long list of JavaScript-related code rendering the front end, and then I had to discuss with the team how it behaves to show that I understood the code. 

What kinds of projects are you now working on at Capsim? Are you using everything that you learned at Codesmith? 

I'm working on CapsimInbox, where users can apply their expertise to the inbox-simulated technology, then sell it or use it to train employees. There’s a lot of ways the technology can be used, such as during the hiring process where interviewers can filter out candidates that don’t meet the qualifications they’re looking for. 

Codesmith offered me a baseline for skills and technologies, such as SQL and Node.js. With Capsim I’m able to take a deeper dive into the concepts I learned at Codesmith. Capsim uses Vue for the front end instead of React, so that was new for me. 

How did your military service prepare you for the tech world?

In the Army, I was frequently using SQL-related tasks in my logistics and software management role, which stuck with me after my service. The Army promotes soft skills, such as commitment, when working on a project. They taught me to stick with something until I figured it out. 

At this point in your career, was Codesmith worth it for you?

Attending Codesmith was definitely worth it for me. When I left the Army I considered self-study instead of attending a coding bootcamp, but I think self-study is only helpful when you know exactly what you need to learn. I decided to go to Codesmith to build on the principles I already knew but in a more intentional way. 

So far, is this the career that you expected? 

My primary goal is to build tools that will make people’s lives easier, and I like that I can do that as a software engineer. Even though the career can be hard and stressful, I knew when I took computer science classes back in college that I would be happy going down this route and now that I’m in it, I’m still happy.  

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

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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