When Fabian Tovar left the U.S. Marine Corps, he took it as an opportunity to start a new career in software engineering. By using his military benefits, Fabian discovered he was able to fund a coding bootcamp tuition. Find out why Fabian has no regrets about choosing Sabio, and how that intensive coding bootcamp prepared him for a tech apprenticeship at AWS!
What inspired you to get into software engineering after your military service?
I was a combat engineer in the Marine Corps for four years. Once I left the military, I wanted to pursue a different path, but I wasn’t sure what. I've always been fascinated by technology and automation and the ways in which they work to make our lives easier as humans. Everyone turned to technology during the pandemic, so I realized it was a recession-proof field with massive opportunity.
I considered college, self-teaching, and coding bootcamps. VET TEC is a program through Veteran Affairs (VA) that offers veterans scholarships in STEM. Several bootcamps were listed but I wasn’t clear on what their curriculum offered, so I did some research on basic tech terms, like full stack, front end, and Java to determine if this was the path I wanted to take.
There are so many coding bootcamps now — why did you choose Sabio?
Sabio was the only bootcamp that offered a full stack curriculum, which meant they covered everything from front end to middle tier to back end to database — everything you need to create a web application or a website.
The one thing I was concerned about was coding for 12 hours a day, but I attended an info session at Sabio and they made it clear what you’re getting into and what to expect when you graduate. That info session eased my concerns and made me confident in the program. I enrolled with an “all-in” mentality, excited to learn!
Did you feel like you had to know basic coding in order to apply to Sabio?
After those courses, Sabio offers an enrollment option of either 13 weeks or 17 weeks. If you did the prework and passed an assessment, you can enter their 13-week program. If you come from a non-technical background and it's all new to you, you can start the 17-week program, which still covers the prework, but with the added availability of instructors.
Were you able to use your military benefits towards the bootcamp tuition?
As a military veteran, Sabio accepts VET TEC and the GI Bill. VET TEC supplements beyond the GI Bill and offers the same benefits as the GI Bill without decreasing any of your GI Bill days! VET TEC still provides the basic housing allowance (at the virtual federal rate, which is a little less), but it does not reduce any of your actual GI Bill days, which is a huge benefit. I ended up using my GI Bill because I didn’t know anything about coding and I wanted to start sooner rather than later.
What was a typical day like in Sabio’s online bootcamp?
From day one of the bootcamp, we were in the developer environment and mindset! Each day started with a morning standup (a common practice with any developer team) where we talked about what we did the day before, where we had issues, what we could work on today, and other goals. It is a great way to get the team on the same page in the direction you’re headed.
The rest of the day was partly self-guided coding with regular access to instructors for review or clarification. We ended the day with team huddles, where we talked with our classmates. The first three months of the program is strictly learning. Then we got to talk with each other and to see where everyone was. If you get stuck on something, you also have your classmates to lean on because they might pick up something that you don't.
What did you learn in the bootcamp?
We also did use React, more for UI or user interface manipulation. For the back end, we used .NET core and C# for API calls and HTTP requests. We used a Microsoft Server Management Studio, SQL, to handle the database. Sabio also covered tables, operations, foreign keys, and how to manage and manipulate tables, how to call them and test them — the works!
Did your Sabio instructors have professional experience as software engineers?
All our instructors were Senior Developers or had worked in a Senior Developer position. They were very knowledgeable in everything that we needed to know. Finding a bug that would’ve taken our entire class 2-3 hours, they could find it in 5-10 minutes! They definitely understood everything about software engineering.
Since this was an online bootcamp, did you feel connected to your cohort?
Yes, I actually did. It was helpful to have those morning standups because sometimes it felt like I was falling behind or not understanding something, but chances were 80-90% of the class felt the exact same way. My cohort was very friendly, and the ones that understood the content were always willing to help.
What kinds of projects did you work on in the bootcamp?
Something that stands out about Sabio that I haven’t seen at other bootcamps or college courses is that they work with real entrepreneurs and companies to create MVP models. We worked with a real world client that had a specific request to be built. From there the instructors would break down the necessary tasks and we would build their project ourselves!
My cohort worked on a project for an e-commerce design website. My specific portion was working on the login features. The biggest thing that I learned for that is there's still so much more to learn about code! When I look back at my progress and the amount of work we did in the bootcamp, I never would have imagined I could do it all in just four months! I knew how to solve questions I had by knowing what resource to use and where to go to find the answer.
We presented the features, how they worked, and we also explained what separates admin profiles from user profiles. It was especially encouraging to see people who started the program with no computer experience build these great websites and understand these new concepts! We always got positive feedback from all the entrepreneurs and clients that Sabio partnered with.
How did Sabio prepare you for the job hunt?
Sabio has an alumni mentorship program where previous graduates mentor new graduates to integrate them into the community. They also gave us study sheets with the most commonly asked tech questions in interviews and what to focus studying on and how to communicate in the interview. They showed us how to be good interviewees. They encouraged us to interview as often as possible because being a good interviewee is part of the interview process as well.
When we graduated, we were highly encouraged to apply to beginner and even intermediate roles. Even though some roles require 3-5 years of experience, we looked at the qualifications of each role. Sabio excelled at teaching us how to showcase our coding skills that can make up for the lack of years of experience.
Congratulations on landing the apprenticeship at AWS! How did you get the apprenticeship?
It was through Sabio! I was not planning to apply to Amazon because they’re such a major company and I had impostor syndrome. After talking with Sabio co-founder Liliana and some of the alumni, though, they gave me the encouragement to believe in myself. They affirmed my capability and deservingness of this role if I put in the effort.
The apprenticeship program was offered exclusively to military veterans but has expanded to non-veterans as well. When I applied, only 2-3 Sabio alumni had been accepted to Amazon but now we’re closer to 14 Sabio alumni at AWS!
What was the application process like for the AWS apprenticeship?
The apprenticeship program interview is a little different as it does not require any coding assessments, but they do require you to have some sort of technical background. The interview process is focused on AWS leadership principles and whether or not you've exemplified them in the past.
I reached out to the Sabio alumni that had been accepted to the AWS apprenticeship and they explained the process to me. They didn't tell me what to expect in the interview because we do sign an NDA, but they did give me the resources to help me. They were also available for mock interviews and offered positive feedback for improvement. They were with me the whole way, offering encouragement and availability to help. When I got my offer, I paid it forward by helping a handful of veterans get accepted into Amazon as well by giving them resources and referrals and helping in any way I can.
Is this a paid apprenticeship? How long does it last?
The apprenticeship is a paid position by the hour through Amazon, and is a year long. It starts with four months of instructor-led training, kind of like going into another bootcamp, but not as intense as Sabio. They go over Amazon standards of what they want you to learn.
After four months, you go into on-the-job training, where you are assigned to a team. You meet with your manager, either virtually or in-person. I chose to go in-person since my AWS location is pretty close to me. After meeting with your manager, you already know your team and what they deal with, but you don’t work with them until you get on-the-job training, and then they set new guidelines for you for what is expected.
AWS is a big company! What team do you work on now?
I'm still in the apprenticeship program, but I'm on an Alexa team that focuses on user experience of Alexa digital products.
Are you using what you learned at the bootcamp?
Sabio prepared me for this apprenticeship program, especially diving into new languages!
At Sabio, we learned C# as a back end language, but at AWS we had to learn Java – even then, I did notice a lot of similarities. Including Sabio, I've had experience with about 6-7 different coding languages so far! Sabio did an excellent job at preparing me for the apprenticeship. It hasn't been as difficult as I thought it would be because I can trace so much to what Sabio has taught me.
What position or team are you hoping to work with after the apprenticeship?
I actually wanted to be part of an Alexa team! I got to talk with my future manager and co-workers and they told me what the team focuses on, what they do, and I'm really excited to work with them and learn from them, and I'm excited to work at Amazon. It's such a great opportunity and blessing, especially coming from a non-technical background with about a year of experience in coding overall, to be in this position that I'm in — I just couldn’t be more grateful.
At this point in your career, was Sabio worth it for you?
100%. I highly recommend it to anyone. Every time I meet someone who is thinking about a career change, I always recommend tech and if they don't know where to start I always recommend Sabio.
Are you still using skills from your military service now on the job as a software engineer?
Yes, but it’s more of the intangibles that the military has taught me. I had leadership experience in the military — persistence and the mindset that the military has instilled in me to get the job done has really paid off on the job at AWS.
What is your advice to graduating bootcampers on overcoming imposter syndrome during the job?
My advice would be to reach out to someone. Don't keep it bottled in! Self-counseling does not give you the answers to your problems. Keep going! It’s a process — if it was easy, everybody would have done it, but it's well worth it in the end.
Jess is the Content Manager for Course Report as well as a writer and poet. As a lifelong learner, Jess is passionate about education, and loves learning and sharing content about tech bootcamps. Jess received a M.F.A. in Writing from the University of New Hampshire, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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