When the pandemic opened up a window of time at home, Cris Matson had the opportunity to enroll in Eleven Fifty Academy’s online Web Development bootcamp. Learn how Eleven Fifty Academy’s Progressive Income Share Agreement (PISA) and CARES Act funding made it possible for Cris to finance the bootcamp tuition. Plus, Cris shares what they’re working on toady as a Software Engineer at Terminus and advice for those considering a bootcamp like Eleven Fifty.
What inspired you to pivot into software engineering?
After initially pursuing fine arts, I worked in customer service at many different companies. During that time, an Iron Yard bootcamp graduate told me what a great experience it was, and that conversation planted a seed of interest. I began to work through a few online coding resources, including freeCodeCamp. I enjoyed learning how to code, but I didn't have the time to pursue it because I was working full-time. At that time, I also didn’t have the financial means to enroll in a bootcamp full-time. When the pandemic forced me to stay home in 2020, I finally had ample time to dedicate to learning code.
With so many coding bootcamps out there now, what set Eleven Fifty Academy apart?
I live in Indianapolis, so I liked that Eleven Fifty Academy was local to me. They have a downtown office that I live about 10 minutes from. I also liked that I saw people who looked like me on their staff and I appreciated that diversity.
Did Eleven Fifty Academy require you to have previous coding experience to apply?
You do not need to know how to code to apply to Eleven Fifty Academy. Now as a Learning Assistant with Eleven Fifty Academy, I have helped with student applications and onboarding and I have seen people from a variety of backgrounds attend the bootcamp. I genuinely believe that anyone – from a high school graduate to your grandmother – can make it through this bootcamp!
Did you have to complete any pre-work?
You enrolled using Eleven Fifty Academy’s Progressive Income Share Agreement (PISA). What is the application process like for the PISA?
Eleven Fifty's admissions team handled every aspect of my financing. For the PISA, I read the contract thoroughly because it was a huge undertaking. The total bootcamp tuition was $13,500, and I didn't want to be on the hook for paying the total amount if I didn't graduate. With PISA, I financed $3,000 and used CARES Act funding to pay the rest. My income share was 5% of my pre-taxed income each month, and I am currently paying back what I financed through a manageable payment plan.
What was the application process like to receive CARES Act funding towards your bootcamp tuition?
The admissions team at Eleven Fifty Academy also helped me get CARES Act funding, including solidifying this grant while I was enrolled to receive funding sooner. The school is a nonprofit so that they can understand and navigate government workforce grants. I filled out a brief application on the CARES Act's WorkforceNow portal, which triggered a call from admissions at Eleven Fifty.
What is the difference between a PISA and a standard ISA?
Eleven Fifty Academy offers a PISA, and it includes both a finance cap and a finance floor. Once a student graduates, they don't begin paying until they land a job making at least $42,000. After you graduate, and begin earning over $42,000, you will only pay 5% (which is the cap) of your monthly income and you only pay back the amount you borrowed.
Would you recommend PISA to incoming Eleven Fifty Academy students?
Absolutely! The PISA worked well for me, and the payments have been easy for me to make, especially with my new position.
My financing was competitive, so I didn't look into scholarship opportunities, but Eleven Fifty Academy offers them to students. Eleven Fifty will go out of their way to make their bootcamp financially accessible for students. Admissions worked with students who couldn't make their financing work and found a way to provide them a full-tuition scholarship. Finances shouldn't keep you from applying!
What was a typical week like in Eleven Fifty Academy's online web development bootcamp?
The bootcamp ran on a classic 9am-5pm schedule, typically with a one-hour break for lunch. Instructors encouraged but didn't require students to have their cameras on, which I appreciated. There are also optional study hours in the evening if you want to learn in tandem with your peers. The Instructor Zoom Room was always available, too.
What did the web development bootcamp curriculum cover?
Did the online teaching style match your learning style?
Yes! The hands-on curriculum and repetition are important for my learning style. I don't know how to do something until I've done it myself, and this teaching style is encouraged in the curriculum. For example, there is a lot of text you can't just copy and paste but must actually type out. It can be tedious, but it was helpful in my learning.
What kinds of projects did you build at Eleven Fifty Academy?
My first and favorite project was my portfolio, which I built in HTML and CSS after three weeks in the bootcamp. My second project was a group project, and we created a to-do list application. I made an online posting board, similar to social media, for my third project.
We presented our projects in class after completing each badge.
How did Eleven Fifty Academy prepare you for the job hunt?
Eleven Fifty Academy offers mock interviews, which many in my cohort found helpful. The Career services department is very active in the alumni community and will assist people with job placement. Career services worked with me on my online image and personal branding.
Did Eleven Fifty Academy support you in your job search after graduation?
Yes! I was overwhelmed during bootcamp and ended up working with career services as a graduate. I began an intense job search after graduating, and career services got to know me well and helped streamline my search efforts.
Congrats on your new job as a Software Engineer at Terminus! How did you get the job?
I cold-applied for the job, but I had a few ties to Terminus. The founder of Eleven Fifty Academy once worked with the CTO at Terminus, plus the CTO at Terminus was close with the chef's family at the restaurant I worked at before attending bootcamp. This meant we had a lot to talk about in my interview, including the incredible transferable skills you get from working in the foodservice industry!
What team are you currently working with at Terminus?
I am a Software Engineer on the chat team and consulting on the architecture review board. In this quarter I’ll get to dig deep into the logic of the chat platform, and really take ownership of some of the features we provide.
Are you using all of the concepts and tools you learned at Eleven Fifty Academy or have you learned a lot on the job?
So far, is software engineering the career you expected?
As far as what I expected two years ago, this is very different. I never imagined a career like this for myself. I'm now 11 months into coding, and even though it sounds corny, my job feels like a dream come true!
You're also a learning assistant at Eleven Fifty Academy! What are the benefits of teaching others how to code after graduating from a bootcamp?
As a teacher, you gain a lot of knowledge about a concept by explaining it to others. Students ask great questions that keep you on your feet. It is also a great reminder that as a developer or an engineer, we are always learning.
Reflecting on this past year, was Eleven Fifty Academy worth it for you?
Absolutely — I have even gotten my girlfriend to take the same course as me!
Do you have any advice for anyone about to start at Eleven Fifty Academy?
My first tip is: Lean on your classmates.
My second tip is: Do it again, tomorrow! Bootcamp can be super challenging, especially when you don't understand a concept and feel like you'll never understand it. So be easy on yourself, come back to the concept or problem you're struggling with, and try it again.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career change journey?
I started having imposter syndrome in my new software engineering position. Sometimes it can be hard to get back that positive perspective, and re-read the documentation. I have to remind myself that I've felt this feeling before, I've talked myself through it, and I can do it again.
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