When Eli Kittross-Schnell realized that his legal career didn’t inspire him, he turned to his second interest: technology. After careful consideration, Eli applied to Lighthouse Labs and attended their 12-week intensive Web Development Bootcamp. Eli explains how Lighthouse Labs paved the way to his dream job as a remote Web Developer for Cultivated Code just six weeks after graduation! Plus, Eli shares his advice for anyone attending a coding bootcamp now in order to get a remote developer job.
What were you doing before enrolling at Lighthouse Labs?
In 2017, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. I thought I would eventually become a lawyer, so I joined a commercial law firm as a law clerk for two years to find out what a lawyer actually does. After about a year, I realized that law didn't match my vision of what I wanted to do; I found it incredibly boring. I have always been interested in technology, so I took free online coding classes through Udemy and found I really liked it. I decided I would have to be out of the workforce too long to get a Computer Science degree, so I went the coding bootcamp route.
Why did you choose Lighthouse Labs?
The most important thing for me when choosing a coding bootcamp was the school’s reputation. Lighthouse Labs had an accessible and clear outcomes report, and they offered reasonable expectations concerning how their graduates perform in the workforce. I spoke to others who enrolled in coding bootcamps, and the general reputation of Lighthouse Labs seemed strong to me.
What was the application and interview process like at Lighthouse Labs?
I filled out a short, online application explaining why I wanted to attend the bootcamp. Then, I went in for an in-person interview, which was largely informational. Lighthouse Labs emphasized the importance of being able to handle stressful situations because the bootcamp is an intensive process. Afterwards, there was a short technical brain-teaser focusing how well I did with problem-solving.
Did you have to complete any prework?
Any tips for paying the Lighthouse Labs tuition?
I was lucky to be able to take out a loan with my family. My girlfriend was able to pick up most of our shared expenses while I was in bootcamp. As for how other people in my cohort paid their tuition, it was a mixed bag. I’ve heard that Lighthouse Labs is now offering a scholarship for people who are struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What was covered in the Web Development Bootcamp curriculum? What did a typical day look like?
On a typical day, we would be on campus from 9am to as late as 10pm. Lectures were scheduled from 10am to 12pm. Then we would work through online platforms for the rest of the day. We had a given amount of work for each day with stretch work on top of it. Lighthouse Labs expected everyone in the cohort to be on campus for 10 hours. Even if we were ahead, there were plenty of extra curricular opportunities, including bonus projects and learning material. If we asked a mentor what to do next, they would find something productive for us to do.
If you had to be out for a day, though, Lighthouse Labs made it easy to work from home and not get held back. When I was out sick, I was able to watch my lectures online. Lighthouse Labs records each lecture, so we always had the option to watch old videos from previous cohorts if we wanted a different perspective.
Did Lighthouse Labs’s teaching style match your personal learning style?
Yeah, definitely. Having a hands-on approach is the most effective way of learning for me. It's great to hear the information explained out loud to me. I know that if I’m not trying something out myself, I won't learn anything.
What kinds of projects did you complete while you were at Lighthouse Labs?
The final project was also a group project, but this time we could pick who we worked with and the assignment was completely open-ended. Lighthouse Labs gave us lots of resources and made sure we fleshed out our plan and our team's development style. It was up to my team to decide what we would make. My team made a multiplayer naval shooter game, which has absolutely nothing to do with web development! The project didn't use any of the techstack we used previously. We learned how to build it with an open source game engine called Godot. We found out about Godot because one of our mentors mentioned that it was the next up-and-coming thing so we gave it a shot!
How did Lighthouse Labs prepare you for the job hunt?
Lighthouse Labs helps you with career prep in two ways. First, the educational team does around five whiteboarding practices sessions with interviews with students. My cohort did whiteboard and interview prep every other week, and they progressively became more challenging. Then throughout the course, the career services team hosts workshops on interview preparation, resume-building, and applying for jobs. The career services team is available whenever you need them. On top of that, Lighthouse Labs has relationships with local businesses and even sends out your resume to them.
Did Lighthouse Labs help you land your job as a Web Developer at Cultivated Code?
Yes! The remote web developer job I landed at Cultivated Code was an opportunity that came to me through the Lighthouse Labs network. Lighthouse Labs career services sent in my resume and connected me with Cultivated Code. That said, in the six weeks to land this job, I applied to 100 jobs and had two interviews. It was a grind! But I know I am one of the lucky ones. Out of my close friends from the cohort, I'm the only one who has a full-time, salaried job right now. Most of them have contract-work, but it isn't full-time with benefits.
Were you specifically looking for a remote Web Developer position?
During my job search, I was applying for both onsite and remote positions, but working remotely has always been one of my end goals. I wanted to enjoy the freedom that working remotely brings to your life. I thought working remotely would be something I would achieve further down the line in my career when I had more experience. I got lucky landing a remote job right away.
How did Cultivated Code onboard you remotely?
Cultivated Code made it clear that they will be there to help whenever I needed guidance, all I had to do was ask. If I shot them a message, they would be on a call with me in minutes. The key to onboarding and working remotely is open communication on both sides. I was initially afraid to ask too many questions or bother them, but now I know if I don't say anything, no one will know something is wrong. I had to overcome that fear. Keep in mind, though, these are the same types of obstacles I would have faced if I was working at an onsite job!
What does a day-in-the-life of a Remote Web Developer at Cultivated Code look like?
Cultivated Code is a contract web development company. This means that other companies come to Cultivated Code with a problem and we solve it for them. Our projects range from creating websites to full applications, and we might work on the entire project for them or only a portion of it, depending on their needs.
My current role is back end development focused on APIs. My job is fully remote, but I’m typically online and working between the usual hours of 9am to 5pm. Throughout the day, I work on whatever issue I'm assigned to. If I get stuck for more than 45 minutes, I reach out to the Senior Developer, and we’ll problem-solve together over a call. By 5pm, I make sure to stop. I really try to adhere to stopping at 5pm because it gets easy to say, "Oh, I just have one more thing” and end up working all night. I'm afraid I will burn out if I'm not careful.
What programming languages are you working with now?
I'm working entirely in Elixir right now, which is a language I had no experience with before starting this job. I had to take a crash course in Elixir and it’s ongoing. Elixir is a very new language built on the old language, Erlang. There are a lot of good resources to learn from. Funny thing is I first heard of Elixir when I attended Lighthouse Labs! I had a person in my cohort who did the back end of their final project in Elixir. When I realized I would be working in Elixir at Cultivated Code, I immediately contacted that person in my cohort to find out how best to learn it.
So far, is your career as a remote Web Developer what you expected? Did the Lighthouse Labs in-person bootcamp help prepare you to work remotely as your first job?
Yes! Every day is actually a lot like attending the bootcamp I graduated from. It’s similar in our agile setup with sprints and the tasks I need to complete in a certain amount of time. I'm just coding away at my computer. The big difference is that I’m now addressing business needs and actual constraints.
What do you think your biggest challenge was in becoming a web developer?
Honestly, just doing it. I postponed my Lighthouse Labs interview for about six months. It was an automated system that allowed me to reschedule 24 hours before the meeting, and I kept rescheduling that meeting for a full six months. Committing to Lighthouse Labs and this career change was the hardest part for me.
The job search was another big challenge. It is a hard and painful process, but anyone who has ever searched for a job in anything knows that's true.
Do you have advice for someone who is going into a coding bootcamp with the hopes of working remotely?
The most important thing is to commit 100% to it. Go in there and do it all. Make sure to use the mentorship available. I think that mentorship makes a big difference. While online resources are really good to teach yourself how to code and you can do a lot with them, there is nothing quite like having an actual professional developer guide you in the right direction. When preparing for remote developer jobs, become the best web developer you can. Being a good developer will give you more options inherently, and more options includes remote work.