The U.S. Army helped Josi Reis-West discover her love of computers and programming; Devmountain gave Josi the skills to turn that passion into a career. Josi shares why the Devmountain campus in Dallas was a perfect match for her needs and how the Devmountain Career Services team helped her find and land a developer job at CitiBank. Plus, Josi’s tips for those on the remote job hunt today and why other tech-minded veterans should consider a coding bootcamp like Devmountain.
What were you up to before you enrolled at Devmountain?
I was a Satellite Network Controller in the Army for eight years and after leaving the Army, I became a Satellite Network Analyst for six years. During those years, I taught myself about computers, web development, and programming, experimenting with code to see what I could do. I read the O’Reilly books and the "For Dummies" books that covered programming. I also used sites like StackOverflow and search engine queries to find information. I used these self-taught skills to create tools for my coworkers with LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). I programmed tools to spot problems on the satellites and report them more efficiently.
How has your Army background helped you in your career as a developer?
My time with the Army put me on the path to get into tech. Without my technical experience from the Army, I might never have realized how much I love computers and programming.
Since you were already working in a technical role, why did you need Devmountain?
I was in a career rut. Programming was not in my job description, and the tools I made at my job were not a requirement. Since I wasn’t officially seen as a programmer at my job, it looked like I didn't have viable coding experience in my resume. So, I left my job as a Satellite Network Analyst at the end of 2016 to find a job as a programmer. During this job search, I got interviews, but after the interview, I was never called back. I tried for three years to find a developer job on my own until I decided to attend a bootcamp to earn proof of my tech skills.
What were you looking for in a coding bootcamp? Why did you choose Devmountain?
What was the application and interview process like at Devmountain? Was it hard to get in?
Before I started class, Devmountain offered modules about how to set up your home-classroom environment, and how to install Node and MPN.
Any tips for covering Devmountain tuition?
To pay for the tuition, I was approved for a loan through SkillsFund. Loan providers like SkillsFund offer deferred payments, so it’s a good substitute for what the VA offers veterans in a traditional education setting.
What was a typical day like for you at Devmountain? What did the curriculum cover?
We covered full stack development at Devmountain, from HTML and CSS, back end database creation, processing REST requests with node, and presentation on the front end. The curriculum covered every aspect of creating a website that you would need in order to get one up and running. Devmountain also has a GitHub repository that walks you through the entire process of deploying with Digital Ocean.
Did Devmountain's teaching style match your personal learning style?
Yes, for the most part. If your learning style doesn't match the teaching staff, there are mentors you can reach out to.
What kinds of projects did you build at Devmountain?
We had three major projects. The first project was creating a database website where we had static data that we fed to the front end. The second project was building a complete website that included a database. The last project was the development of a website that we completed as a team.
For this last project, my team chose to create a site to connect therapists and other mental health care providers with their patients. The site gave patients tools, such as journaling and mood trackers, and offered therapists access to those entries. This way when a client and professional meet, there is information that they can discuss. We used Node on the back end with a Postgres database, using Massive as the intermediary between Node and the database. On the front end, we used React with Redux to help store our data and present it, and Node to process the Rest requests.
How did Devmountain help you prepare for a remote job search?
Brittany Frank at Devmountain in Dallas was the person who walked us through the entire job search process. She covered preparing your resume, post-graduate goals, networking, and resources like classes and seminars.
For my own job search, I went to job sites and applied for every one that met my qualifications. I didn't have much of a game plan because there was some apprehension and confusion concerning what to do when the COVID-19 pandemic began. I graduated in February of 2020 and the pandemic began in March, so I played it safe.
Did you find a difference between interviewing remotely and in-person?
It felt like there was more anxiety in the remote interviews due to the lack of body language. In a remote interview, it is difficult to judge the other person's reactions. In an in-person interview, you can show your soft skills. On the other hand, when you interview remotely at home, it's more comfortable because you are in a familiar environment.
What’s your advice to others who are currently on the remote job hunt?
Keep at it. Continue to apply and have confidence and trust in what you have been taught. In the meantime, keep practicing. Work on your own projects from home and build on your skills.
What was the interview like for your current job at Citibank?
Brittany at Devmountain reached out to me, asking me if I wanted to interview for a job with Citibank. It was before the official COVID-19 quarantine started, so for this interview, I met up with the Citibank team at the Devmountain campus on the last full day it was open. The Citibank team gave me personality and logic questions. When the interview was over and I was walking back to my car, the Citibank team pulled me back in to let me know that I got the job.
What was it like to onboard remotely for your first developer job after bootcamp?
I was placed on Citi’s Rewards Micro Services Team, but Citi has a special program for new programmers to complete first. They place all the new hire developers on a team that we work with and learn from. It's been a challenge to do this program remotely, but my team makes a lot of phone calls to one another. Learning to reach out remotely is new territory for me, and I have to force myself to ask questions despite my concern that I might be bothering my coworkers.
Did you feel prepared to graduate from an in-person bootcamp and then work remotely?
It's been a challenge because I was expecting to work in an office with coworkers. I don’t feel experienced enough yet to be a remote work employee. I am excited for the day that we will be able to venture back into our offices, so I can meet my team in person and gain confidence as I interact with them.
Did you learn everything you needed to know at Devmountain or are you learning new programming languages at Citibank?
Currently, we are doing backend micro services with Java. We use Spring and Spring Boot for the micro services, Eclipse, and VSCode. When I started at Citi, I had to learn Java, but it wasn’t that difficult. There are a bunch of concepts that are applicable across coding languages, like control and looping, decision-making, data types, and data structures that are all conceptually similar. My advice for new developers is to not let a new language get too daunting. As long as you have the mindset, you can pick up on any coding language.
Do you have any advice for other veteran who are considering going into tech?
When veterans get out of the military, many of them don't know what to do. A coding bootcamp like Devmountain is challenging in a different way than a military bootcamp, but it is rewarding. Veterans can have a good life if they want to work in IT programming and web development, and coding bootcamps are a great path to reach that goal.
What has been your biggest challenge or roadblock in becoming a developer?
Myself. Self-defeating thoughts were something that I had to get over. I had to realize that this was something that I could do. I just needed to put my mind to it. Imposter syndrome is the feeling that you aren't good enough. To that, I say, "You are better than you think you are. You won't know what you are capable of if you don't try."
Was Devmountain worth it for you? Would you recommend that others use this time to change their careers into tech?
Absolutely! Even if I knew that COVID-19 was coming when it did, I would still do a coding bootcamp. Being a developer is my dream job.
It is always a good time to change your career to tech. It's a growing sector of the economy. I can't recall a time when developers were not in need. Even with the current challenges, if you want to take the plunge and start a new career, this time is as good as any. Don't wait. We don't know when this is going to end and you don't want to wait months or years to start a new life in a career field that you are excited about.