Alumni Spotlight


From the Army to Software Engineering with devCodeCamp

Fatima konteh   devcodecamp alumni

By Jess Feldman
Last Updated December 3, 2020

U.S. Army veteran Fatima Konteh had dreams of becoming a nurse, but a digital course inspired her to pivot into tech. Fatima chose devCodeCamp because they accepted the GI Bill and had a supportive community of veterans to learn alongside. Fatima shares why learning the developer mindset is so crucial for career-changers, and why a coding bootcamp is an excellent experience for veterans who want to transition into tech. Plus, learn how devCodeCamp’s personalized career support for veterans helped Fatima land her first developer job at JPMorgan Chase in Columbus, OH! 

What inspired you to get pivot into software development in 2020?

I joined the Army about 10 years ago. I had always dreamed of becoming a NICU nurse, but when I was deployed to Kuwait, I became interested in tech after learning that a friend had gone to a coding bootcamp and become a developer. I wasn't very good at computers, so coding seemed unattainable, but I took a digital multimedia course through the Defense Information School. In the course, I learned how to create flyers, business cards, envelopes, and make websites using HTML, CSS, and a little Javascript. I caught on quickly, and I thought it was fun.

I then joined a non-profit that teams up Fortune 500 companies with military spouses and veterans. I was paired with a mentor who works for GitHub, and he taught me how to get started in tech. He recommended that I study and apply for a coding bootcamp. When I didn’t get into nursing school, I looked into enrolling at a coding bootcamp instead.  

So why did you choose devCodeCamp?

devCodeCamp caught my attention because they accept the GI Bill.

Before applying, I also read through devCodeCamp’s alumni reviews on Course Report to learn more about their outcomes. I also connected with another veteran who was enrolling in devCodeCamp at the same time, so that also inspired me to apply.

What was the devCodeCamp application and interview process like? 

devCodeCamp does not require prior knowledge of coding, so the application process didn't include a coding challenge. I was initially skeptical that they would accept complete beginners with no coding experience to the program, but this had no effect on the program itself.

Did you use any veteran benefits like the GI Bill to cover your bootcamp tuition?

devCodeCamp accepts the GI Bill, which is what I used to pay for my bootcamp tuition. 

What did you learn in devCodeCamp’s Software Development bootcamp curriculum?

I attended devCodeCamp in-person and then our cohort went remote for the last two weeks due to COVID-19 restrictions. We learned C# for the back end and SQL for databases. On the front end, we learned HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Though we were taught front end, the curriculum predominantly covered the back end. From my own experience, it’s easier to learn front end on your own, but learning back end requires more instruction, critical thinking, and problem-solving. 

What kinds of projects did you build at devCodeCamp?

In the beginning, we built console apps like a video game about robots versus dinosaurs. When we moved onto web applications, I built a movie library that sorted films by genre, director, etc. My cohort also built a lemonade stand where the price of the lemonade would fluctuate based on multiple factors including demand and weather. 

For my capstone project, I built a medical staffing agency web application. Using the app, a hospital nurse could sign up with their credentials and pick up extra shifts based on location, wage, and ward. It was like Lyft or Uber, but for nursing jobs! To build the app, I primarily used the ASP.NET framework. I used C# for the back end, and to design the app, I used Bootstrap on the front end. To store the information for my app, I used SQL. Since our cohort had to go remote due to COVID-19, we presented our capstone projects for our class through Zoom for our virtual demo day. 

Did the devCodeCamp teaching style match your learning style?

Learning software development is so different from how we learn at a standard American school. In a traditional school setting, students focus on finding a definite answer, but when you’re learning development, you have to fail in order to learn. Critical thinking plays a crucial role in this learning process. This was a huge learning curve for me. Every time I had a problem, I had to learn new things and try different avenues to solve the problem. Going through this experience is how we learn to become software developers. 

As a veteran, did you find parallels between going through a coding bootcamp and your military experience?

Two skills the military taught me that I could use to my advantage at devCodeCamp was discipline and being accountable. To complete the coding bootcamp, I needed to be self-motivated and willing to figure out what I didn't know. When I had a question, my first course of action was to ask myself, "How can I figure this out on my own?" That is a very similar mindset to the military. If you don't know an answer, you don't run to your sergeant to ask them for help. First, you try to figure it out yourself, then you can go to your instructor for help.

You mentioned that you went through devCodeCamp with another veteran – were there a lot of veterans in your class?

A quarter of my class were veterans. There were three female veterans and six male veterans. Plus, my capstone group project ended up being all vets! My cohort was also taught by an instructor who was a veteran. Learning beside other veterans made the bootcamp easier for me. I knew there were like-minded people in my cohort that I could relate to. 

What advice would you give a friend about to start at devCodeCamp? 

Do as much prerequisite work as possible to prepare yourself for the course.

My biggest challenge in this career change journey has been adapting to an alternative style of learning. It's difficult to reprogram yourself to accept that a work day can still be productive even without a tangible outcome. Software engineering forces me to accept that not knowing the answer to a problem is okay. I may not have found the answer, but I developed my problem-solving and critical thinking skills. 

How did devCodeCamp prepare you for the job hunt? 

devCodeCamp prepared us for the job hunt with interview prep and resume writing. All of the veteran students in my cohort were matched with a Career Coordinator named Erik who is a Marine Corps Veteran. There was actually a whole separate career coordinator for civilians. Erik let us know about different veteran employment programs, which is how I got my job! Once we graduated from bootcamp, Eric continued to interact with us and help us on our job hunt. 

Congrats on your Front End Developer job at JPMorgan Chase! What was the remote interview process like?

My career coordinator, Erik, set up my initial contact with the Chase recruiter for me. After that there was an interview and I completed a code challenge. I spoke to my future supervisor and a few Chase employees over the phone. It took a few months before I got the job offer. 

There is a large veteran presence at Chase. Since signing on with Chase this August, I have joined a few business resource groups, including a military pathways group.

What does it mean to be a front end developer at Chase? Tell us about your job!

I work in JPMorgan's online banking platform, and I am using the basic principles that I learned at devCodeCamp. Chase uses different languages than what I learned at bootcamp, but the beauty of software engineering is that you don't have to know every language. There will always be something new, better, or different to learn, so it’s impossible for a developer to be proficient in every language. I learn something new every day at work. It blows my mind how much I learn from my coworkers, manager, and other team members. 

What has it been like to transition from the male-dominated world of the military to this male-dominated world of software engineering?

This transition from military to tech has been really inspiring and makes me want to get more women involved in tech. Being a Black female veteran, I'm a minority three times over in tech! The females I met through devCodeCamp and Chase are all for female empowerment and getting more women in the industry. I feel that it's my duty to get the word out and show women that they can do this career. More women need to become knowledgeable about software and computer science. 

Are you happy that you went down this route and became a developer?

Absolutely! My decision to attend devCodeCamp changed my life for the better. My ultimate career goal is still to help medical professionals do their job more efficiently. Now, with my software engineer training, I can participate in the medical field but from a tech perspective. Plus, I’ll have a higher salary and a lot less stress than if I was a nurse. 

What is your advice for veterans who are looking to transition into tech through a coding bootcamp like devCodeCamp?

Be open-minded and be okay with being uncomfortable. It's so ingrained in us to be technically and tactically proficient. Coming into software, you need to let go of that. It's okay to fail and ask questions. Allow your thought process to absorb that because it will help you make the most of the learning experience. Be vulnerable and realize that you aren't a failure for not knowing something. Not knowing pushes you harder to learn. If the military deployed you to another continent and you survived that, then you can absolutely do this. 

Find out more and read devCodeCamp reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with devCodeCamp. If you are interested in learning more or have questions about devCodeCamp, contact school certifying official Wendy at 414-533-0639 or wendy@devcodecamp.com.

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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