Alumni Spotlight

From Web Developer to Data Curriculum Engineer with Berkeley Boot Camps

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Last updated on December 14, 2021

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Dominica’s love for tech, plus some major life changes like a divorce and a pandemic, ushered her out of a career as a tour guide and into a data analytics career. Needing to refresh her tech skills, she chose Berkeley Boot Camps, offered in collaboration with edX, to catalyze her pivot back into tech. Supported by her experienced instructors and a diversity in tech scholarship, Dominica learned data analytics, confidently pursued her passion for continued education and development, and landed a role as a Data Curriculum Engineer at 2U.

You have some background in web development — what inspired you to pivot into data analytics?

Many years ago, I had initially explored web development because I enjoyed building websites for myself, but when I got a job with a small business building websites for clients, I quickly learned I didn’t enjoy that line of work. When the pandemic hit, I wasn’t able to work as a tour guide anymore, which piqued my interest in pivoting to a more lucrative career. I was also processing a divorce and custody battle, so being financially independent became critical. I considered returning to web development, which has changed considerably over the years. The skills I had then are outdated and I knew that if I wanted to get back into tech, I had to upskill. After speaking with a Berkeley Boot Camps admissions rep, I began considering both the Data Analytics and Digital Marketing programs. I chose data analytics because I thought I would enjoy doing that kind of work more than digital marketing.

There are so many data analytics boot camps now — what stood out about Berkeley Boot Camps?

UC Berkeley's reputation was definitely part of the reason I chose this boot camp. When I initially reached out to the boot camp, I appreciated the personal attention from the admissions team, which made me feel like I would be a valued student.

Did you receive any scholarships to attend the boot camp?

As an autistic woman, 2U gave me a $2,500 inclusion in tech scholarship that helps underserved members of the tech community. I then financed the remainder of the tuition with UC Berkeley's interest-free payment plan

What was the boot camp application process like for you? 

There was a short multiple choice assessment of our research skills. I knew some answers from my tech background, but the ones I didn't know I was able to Google, which is part of what they were looking for. Once I was accepted into the boot camp, I completed some pre-work of installing most of the needed software for the program, such as Python. 

What was a typical week like in the online Data Analytics Boot Camp

We attended class on Zoom three times every week, either on Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. The evening classes ran from 6:30pm-9:30pm and 10:00am-2:00pm on Saturday. I was able to fit in my homework assignments between everything else going on in life.

Were the instructors part of Berkeley or were they edX instructors? 

UC Berkeley Extension approves the boot camp instructors that edX hires and trains. Our instructors were experienced data professionals that gave us invaluable insight into the reality of being data scientists and data analysts.

Did the online teaching style match your learning style?

Yes, I really enjoyed the style and structure of the boot camp. Our instructor explained coding activities then offered room for questions and clarification. I appreciated having the chance to code independently in class with room for exploration and refinement. 

It also helped to have live interaction. I didn't need a lot of help with my assignments, but when I found the wording confusing, I was able to ask clarifying questions. In general, I found the boot camp to be pretty straightforward.

How did you juggle parenthood and attending the boot camp in lockdown?

Fortunately, my kids are self-starters and were able to be self-sufficient during the pandemic, so other than waking them up and feeding them, and spending some social entertaining time with them, I was able to focus on the boot camp. My kids didn't need much help with their distance learning.

What did you learn about data analytics in the boot camp curriculum?

We started with Excel and VBA, followed by an intro to Python. We covered relevant Python libraries, like Pandas, Matplotlib, and web-scraping modules. Then we learned JavaScript, so we could display graphs on a webpage. We spent a week on machine learning and I wish I had more time with this unit! I see now in the job hunt that many companies are looking for machine learning skills. Fortunately, the course has since been updated to cover expanded topics including supervised machine learning, unsupervised machine learning, and deep learning.

Since you did this boot camp remotely, were you able to connect with other people in your cohort?

I liked that communal aspect of UC Berkeley's boot camp. Throughout the boot camp, we had four group projects, with the option to choose our members. I often worked with the same group, since we enjoyed working with each other so much. 

What was your favorite group project?

I absolutely have a favorite project! I worked with a partner to develop a web app related to Pokemon data. My favorite part of the project was how data was able to offer information on Pokemon. The project enabled members in a Pokemon battle to research their opponent’s Pokemon to assess and determine the best counter move. Using MongoDB, Python and Flask we built the back end, and then we filtered data through JavaScript. 

Were you able to present your final project in a virtual demo day?

Yes! It was so helpful to get feedback from industry professionals.

How did the boot camp prepare you for the job hunt? 

Berkeley Boot Camps’ career services is a big reason why I chose this program! They offer resources and feedback on all the materials you would need to apply for jobs. They helped us build professional profiles, like our resume, LinkedIn, and Github profiles. There were career webinars to attend, and I had personalized time with the Career Director every 2-3 weeks. I received career advice, insight, and mock interview preparation. 

Which tech roles did you feel qualified to apply for after graduating from the boot camp?

I knew I wanted to code, so I gravitated toward data scientist roles instead of data analyst jobs that focused more on Tableau. Because of my previous background and experience with web development, I also looked at software engineering and web development roles. 

Congrats on your Curriculum Engineerrole at 2U! How did you get the job?

Thanks to the robust career services webinars at the boot camp, I was able to connect with so many talented presenters on LinkedIn. One person was particularly active in my feed and I responded to a question they posed for boot camp students. After some dialogue, he suggested the position as a Data Curriculum Engineer at 2U and connected me with a hiring manager. I applied for the position, had the interview, and got hired part-time. 

What kinds of projects are you working on at 2U?

I'm working as part of the curriculum team for the same boot camp that I graduated from. The Curriculum Engineer role is interesting to me because I value education and want people of diverse backgrounds to have the same education so that they can be prepared to work in the industries, like tech.

Are you continuing to apply to data analyst jobs?

I am open to opportunities but I'm not actively looking. I applied to move to full-time in my current role.

Even though I got good grades on my final assignments, I knew I could have done better in the job application process. But I was exhausted! That said, it was definitely easier to find success by connecting with people through LinkedIn, which led me to my current job.

At this point in your career journey, was Berkeley Boot Camps worth it for you? 

Yes, absolutely. My life has changed considerably as a result of going through this boot camp. I don't know where I'd be right now if I hadn't taken it and I'm glad I took the chance.

What do you wish you knew before attending Berkeley Boot Camps? 

It would have been nice to know what kinds of jobs existed earlier on, so that I could have been more intentional with how I approached my projects. The projects you work on in the boot camp are what get showcased to potential employers, so future bootcampers who want to break into specific industries should think about what those employers are looking for.  

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

About The Author

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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