Gavin Acquroff had a degree in electrical engineering, but a work assignment in low level C programming inspired him to pursue web development. Although he had taken a few computer science courses and was doing his own self-teaching, Gavin knew he needed mentorship and community support to level up his career to full stack web development. Gavin shares how Lighthouse Labs’ modern, full stack curriculum gave him the foundation and portfolio-work he needed to land his first full stack developer role at TalentMarketplace.
Since you already had an engineering background, what inspired you to enroll at a bootcamp?
I have a background in electrical engineering with a Bachelor’s of Applied Science at the University of British Columbia (UBC). At the time, I was dealing with mental health issues, which contributed to me not having the confidence to become a software engineer when I graduated. I also quickly realized that most electrical engineering jobs were going to be in-person roles. I took a few computer science classes while at university, but they were pretty basic and I wanted a flexible, remote tech job. I ended up working for two years at Sierra Wireless in a firmware engineering position that had me doing low level C programming. I started to teach myself some web-related programming and that’s when I was ready to take the leap and go to a bootcamp.
Do you recommend other university-taught engineers consider going to a coding bootcamp like Lighthouse Labs?
It depends on your situation, degree, work experience, and social circle. If you have a mentor that can help you through the process, you might not need a bootcamp. For someone who doesn’t have that experience or availability outside of work to learn a new skill, a bootcamp is a perfect way to go. For me, Lighthouse Labs has done its job and I feel prepared to work in this field now.
Why did you choose Lighthouse Labs?
I liked Lighthouse Labs because their curriculum covered topics that had come up in my own research. The tech stack that Lighthouse Labs teaches is aligned with the way the current market is going and I loved that. Lighthouse Labs is also highly project-based and their curriculum listed project after project, which was the experience I was looking for.
What was the bootcamp application process like for Lighthouse Labs?
Do you recommend that prospective students have some knowledge of coding before applying to Lighthouse Labs?
I don’t think you need any prior knowledge to enroll at Lighthouse Labs. Lighthouse Labs has designed the Web Development bootcamp so it’s accessible to both people with no tech background and people with tech experience. That said, during the bootcamp, I connected with people of different experience levels and I saw that the bootcamp is more work without experience, but you can always lean on mentor and instructor assistance. Most importantly, I found that at Lighthouse Labs you can lean on your peers, which is the best way to make it through the program with no background.
Did you have to complete any pre-work?
Lighthouse Labs recommends their prep course, and it takes 60-70 hours to complete. I thought the prep course was great! It covered the full range of what we would cover later in the bootcamp and it gave me a better sense of what I was getting into. In the prep course, there’s day-to-day work with small tasks and a few hours of programming assignments. There’s a forum where you can post questions as well as reply to and connect with other students. I found the forum really great; I was super active on it.
Why do you think it’s important to engage with the Lighthouse Labs community even before you start the bootcamp (could be completing the prework, intro courses, or 21-Day Coding Challenge etc)?
One of the reasons I wanted to go to Lighthouse Labs was for this community. It was a breath of fresh air to be able to connect with other passionate, like-minded individuals in the Lighthouse Labs community before the bootcamp began. They give you all of the resources to be able to connect with other people at Lighthouse Labs. I spent a lot of time in the pre-work forum chatting with other students. It felt like I had joined this social circle and that was helpful for me. If you’re starting at Lighthouse Labs, spend time reaching out to people and I’m sure you’ll find people who will welcome you.
What was a typical day like in the online Web Development bootcamp at Lighthouse Labs?
A typical day began with a morning lecture, which recapped material from the previous day or covered a general topic for the week. The lectures are interactive, so you can contact the instructor during it. Then we would be set up for the day’s assignments by touching on the specific topics. The assignments usually require 7-10 hours of work. The day’s assignments were structured so that you could build the foundation for the next task of the day. If you need help, you reach out to your peers or mentors in the assistance queue.
Did the Lighthouse Labs teaching style match how you personally learn?
The teaching style wasn't too theoretical. It can be easy to zone out of theoretical lectures where you don’t see the practical application of what you’re learning right away. At Lighthouse Labs, they give you a little bit of the fundamentals so you understand the importance of what you’re learning. Then they show you how to apply the concepts you’re learning so you can just dive right in. The instructor shares their screen and code editor so they can live code in front of you with all of the mistakes that might occur during a whiteboarding session.
What did the Web Development curriculum cover?
During the second half of the bootcamp, we refined our full stack knowledge. We picked up the popular front end library, React, and learned the Model-View-Controller (MVC) framework, Ruby on Rails.
What kinds of projects did you build during Lighthouse Labs?
For the Midterm Project, we had to choose from a list of preset projects and build a full stack app. My group picked a buy-sell app, which is kind of like a mini e-commerce app. We picked it because we thought it would be a good mix of communication with the client, an admin role, a customer role, and messaging and selling of items. It had the full create, read, update, delete, and database operations going on. We were working on it until the deadline, but I think it went well. It was a great experience to take an idea and turn it into an app in one week.
For the Lighthouse Labs Capstone Project, my group built an app called Greengrocer, an app that enables, empowers, and motivates users to choose groceries with a lower carbon footprint when they make a shopping list. The user searches for a product in a live database, chooses the product, and then the app locates the origin country of that product. Based on how far the product travels to get to your location, we calculate a rough carbon footprint estimate so users can see the impact of their choices.
Did you present your final project at a virtual demo day?
We had a virtual demo day on the last day of the bootcamp. Everyone had to rehearse this quite a bit because we had a strict five-minute window to throw out our pitch. That window is not only to show off the work we did but also to show ourselves off to different employers. We did get some follow-ups from employers for our demo!
What kind of career services did Lighthouse Labs offer you?
The career services team is a big part of Lighthouse Labs. They check in with you throughout the bootcamp to offer resume services and provide feedback. Career services really kick in after the bootcamp has finished and everyone can begin applying full-time to jobs. They help you keep up your spirits while job hunting. I have a job right now, but much of my cohort is still working with the career services team to prepare for interviews. Lighthouse Labs also sends out our resumes to employers.
Editor’s Note: Gavin was among the first of his cohort to be hired, but the vast majority of Lighthouse Labs grads (87%) find employment within 180 days.
Which tech roles did you feel qualified for after graduating?
We did a lot of React projects, so I felt like I could do any role that required React or relational database skills. In general, I felt qualified for any kind of full stack position when I graduated from Lighthouse Labs.
When I was finishing my college degree in engineering, I felt like I still had a very limited view of the world of software. If I had not gone to Lighthouse Labs, it probably would have required 10+ hours a week of independent study for 6-12 months outside of work to be successful and learn more about software. By enrolling at Lighthouse Labs, I was able to level up my skills and get the full stack experience. Lighthouse Labs is so fast-paced and you learn so much, but it all ties together to show you how the internet works. You graduate from the bootcamp feeling like no matter what technology is presented to you, you can see how it fits into the big picture. That’s helped me not be so hard on myself when I have to face a new challenge and learn it. I know that given enough time and googling, I can do it.
Tell us about your new Full Stack Developer job at TalentMarketplace!
I was hired by TalentMarketplace to build their website. Scott, the CTO for TalentMarketplace, reached out to me for an interview after checking out our demo. He had gotten my resume from the Career Services team at Lighthouse Labs and wanted to learn more about me.
Did you feel prepared for the technical interview at TalentMarketplace?
The interview at TalentMarketplace didn’t have a coding portion; instead it was mostly behavioral. There were questions about the different kinds of work I did and how the projects went. I think they were mostly looking to see if I could talk well about technical things as opposed to watching me code.
That said, I did have a technical interview with another company in Calgary where I did live-coding over a screenshare. They had me do a factorial algorithm implementation, which is standard. I was nervous going into any kind of live screen sharing, but Lighthouse Labs definitely prepared me for what to expect in the challenge.
What type of team are you working with at TalentMarketplace?
The team at TalentMarketplace is small, which means I get to interact with everybody working on the front end, the back end, the website, and the infrastructure. I’ve only been there for a week, but everything has been great so far and I’m already learning a lot.
I am learning new tools and technologies on the job, but that’s just the nature of software development. We do use React and other technologies that I learned at the bootcamp, so that gives me a leg to stand on in my new job.
Do you have any advice for incoming bootcamp students?
Git and Google are some of the most important tools for any software developer, and these are skills you can develop on your own before enrolling at the bootcamp. Lighthouse Labs does cover Git in a lecture, but it requires multiple team projects to fully appreciate how powerful version control can be.
Googling is its own skill that you just have to build up over time. Google responds better to certain types of queries so you have to perfect your craft.
Looking back on this experience, was Lighthouse Labs worth it for you?
Lighthouse Labs was definitely worth it. I've managed to get myself a full stack job less than a month after graduation. My software engineering community has expanded 100x. I’ve been able to meet so many interesting people that have inspired me to take charge of my career and make it in the world of software.
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