Günther von Häfen’s itch to learn something new started while he was working as a lawyer in Germany. He began dabbling in web development courses online and loved it so much that he decided to make a career change and enrolled in a CareerFoundry bootcamp. In just 5 months, working in the wee hours of the morning as a full-time dad, he landed a full-time job as a Web Developer at 3B Scientific while still working on the course with just having finished around 50% at that time! Günther tells us why he chose CareerFoundry, what (and how) he learned in the JavaScript curriculum, and how he balanced fatherhood with his career change. 

What were you up to before CareerFoundry?

I studied law and started working as a lawyer in 2013 for a big law firm that specializes in debt collection here in Hamburg, Germany. In Germany, there’s a popular payment method called “Invoice” where you can order a product and pay two weeks later – as you can imagine, there are some cases where invoices are not paid. I worked specifically on those cases.

What made you want to change career paths and do a coding bootcamp?

From time to time in the past years I was itching to learn something new and different. I could have specialized in a different type of law or something but if I would have learned something new I wanted to do something completely different. When I was younger I played a lot of LAN parties with friends – we would all bring our PCs together and connect to each other through a network and stay up playing all night. I remember there was always some bug we would have to fix before we started playing. I always thought it was fun, finding the problems, troubleshooting, and fixing bugs. 

I thought, why not do something like that for a new career? I researched a lot and found web development. I booked a course on Udemy in May 2018 for web development. From the beginning, the simplest things seemed incredibly cool to me. I worked through the whole course, had a lot of fun with it, and realized that coding and web development were things that I could learn quickly and with ease. I decided then that I wanted to keep learning to the point where I could get a job in this industry. 

How did you choose CareerFoundry?

After doing the Udemy course, I started researching how to get into web development as a career. I did some tutorials on Codecademy and then I made the decision to do a bootcamp. I researched a local bootcamp in Hamburg. But there you have to be present like in a full-time job for about three months which did not fit my situation at that time. 

I started looking for another option that would hopefully be more flexible because I also have two kids. A coding bootcamp is like a full-time job in a completely new career, so I was wary of that. In the end, I chose CareerFoundry because they were also based in Germany and because the web development course was being redesigned to teach in-depth JavaScript which was exactly what I was looking for. The new curriculum was comprehensive including Javascript, Node.js in back end, React, Angular, Vue and more. I started that course in January 2019. 

Did you ever consider going back to college to learn web development instead?

I actually did one semester in the beginning of 2018 at a distance university doing Computer Science. The problem, for me, was that you learn old languages of coding that aren't relevant. Another disadvantage of university is that it takes many years. I wanted an education that was quick and relevant. 

Once you decided on CareerFoundry, what was the admissions process like?

CareerFoundry basically says anyone can learn to code, no matter what background they have. For the course that I took, there was no prep course or application. I did a phone interview, signed up, and paid. In the end, they make sure it's all about the student. 

How was the CareerFoundry curriculum structured?

The course was divided into six achievements. Each achievement was a project like an application or website that I had to build and was made up of about ten assignments. Each assignment had an introduction, details and examples section, a summary, and a list of tasks to work through for the assignment. 

Did you have a mentor or an instructor assigned to you?

You submit each assignment to your assigned Tutor and they review it. You could reach your tutor via Slack or in the CareerFoundry dashboard. When you submit your exercise you can write a message letting your tutor know what you struggled with or ask any questions. I had a lot of contact with my tutor. 

I was also assigned a mentor who had at least 5 years of job experience. The mentor reviewed the achievements with me. You get the opportunity to schedule eight total Skype calls with your mentor. You can talk about anything you’re struggling with, job applications, things like that – my mentor was great!

Even though you learned online, did you get to communicate with other students who were also taking the course?

There was a Slack channel for the whole group where all of the students could talk about their problems and help each other. We had daily conversations in Slack – there was always someone sharing useful information or asking questions that we tried to solve together. 

Did the curriculum go deep into Javascript the way that you had hoped?

Yes! It was amazing. It's on the cutting edge and this course truly covers everything you need to know. When I started working as a Web Developer in June, there were no surprises in my new job. I felt comfortable with the code. 

This October, I was at a three-day long web developer conference. There were a lot of workshops in current technologies like Angular and React. I felt very familiar with everything they went over at the conference. There was not a single workshop that I felt I didn't already know or understand. There was a workshop on Unit Testing, which was also covered in the CareerFoundry course with Jest. In that workshop, I was helping other people install it with Node.js! That conference was a really positive experience. 

How long did it take you to finish Career Foundry?

It took me about 10 months to graduate. 

I woke up around 3am everyday to work through the course material. I would work until 7am, whenever the kids woke up. That was difficult. My friends were always marveling at my routine but at least I was getting 6 hours of sleep! 

I had quit my job as a lawyer, but I was taking care of my kids during bootcamp. My girlfriend was finishing her economics degree, so I was basically a full-time Dad in the daytime and in the early morning I was a coding student. 

Do you have any advice for other parents who are balancing an online coding bootcamp with taking care of kids?

It's important to just do it. You need to take the first step. In my case, that meant waking up at 3am, but it eventually becomes routine. No matter what time of day you're working on bootcamp, there is always something there to distract you from what you need to do. That is why you have to be focused and disciplined.

Where are you working now? Tell us about your new job!

I've been a full-time Web Developer at 3B Scientific for six months now! 3B Scientific sells anatomical models – our famous anatomical model is the human skeleton called Stan – and I work on the eCommerce side of the business with one other colleague. 

Is your Web Developer job what you expected?

I wondered if I'd like coding as much once it was my full-time job as I did when I was learning. I love it! It's a great job and I'm happy doing it! I haven't had one day where I've thought in the morning, "Ugh, I don't want to go to work." It took a lot of pressure off of my shoulders and I'm proud of myself that I've done this. 

How did CareerFoundry prepare you for the job hunt?

I began looking at job opportunities in April to find out what kinds of jobs I could apply for later. My CareerFoundry mentor told me to apply for jobs whose descriptions listed skills that I already knew how to do. I started applying for jobs at the end of April (about halfway through the course) and I started my job in June. I had several interviews and consistently got positive feedback from my interviewers. Because I started early, I consulted my mentor to figure out my salary requirements. 

CareerFoundry also offers its own career services. That module of the curriculum is locked until you're finished with at least half of the course. I started applying for jobs before that module was unlocked. By the time it was unlocked for me, I had already gotten a job!

In your job at 3B Scientific are you using Full Stack Javascript or have you had to learn new technologies on the job?

In general, everything I learned at CareerFoundry is useful for my current job. At 3B Scientific, we work in Adobe Cold Fusion, which is a backend language. We built our whole site using Cold Fusion so I had to fully learn it on the job but I realized that I was getting another new language under my belt and most of the principles of programming languages are all the same. 

I took the challenge and learned it quickly. Because of the basics I had learned at CareerFoundry, it was easy for me to pick it up. As a programmer, you have to be prepared to be learning your entire life.

Do you think that your previous background as a lawyer has been useful in your Web Developer career?

I was the head of my department at the law firm, responsible for managing 30 employees. My experience working with people is still valuable now. I had to learn to communicate and give constructive feedback and those experiences are helpful now. 

Also, having the self-confidence to say "No." I can let my manager know when I don't necessarily agree with product decisions but in a respectful way. In that aspect, my former job helps me a lot. 

In another aspect, I know a lot about the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from my law career. I can read through terms and conditions. But my main focus is on web development.

Did your salary change much when you switch from being a Lawyer to being a Web Developer?

Of course, I took a salary cut to do this career change. 

I had to think about a minimum salary that I need to feed my kids, pay the rent, and living expenses – that salary is definitely possible as a web developer. The salary for mid-level and senior positions gets closer to what I earned as a lawyer as well. 

What was the biggest challenge or roadblock for you in this career change process?

Everything worked out how I wanted it to. I had no problems during the course, doing the exercises, or with my tutor or mentor. The job application process was fine. I did it on my own and found a job quickly. I grew so much as a person, too. It was a great experience. 

Read CareerFoundry reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with CareerFoundry.

About The Author

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Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students considering a coding bootcamp. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube

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