Madelyn Arsenault was a disheartened college student who wanted a career that she was passionate about. After speaking with satisfied Devmountain alumni and their family, Madelyn enrolled in the immersive Web Development bootcamp in Dallas, Texas. Madelyn explains how Devmountain helped her transition from student to Junior Front End Developer, tells us if she thinks Devmountain was worth it, and shares her advice for bootcamp graduates who are on the job hunt now!
What were you up to before enrolling at Devmountain?
I got a double degree in Chemistry and Geology from the University of Montana. I originally went to college to study geology because I was interested in how to do oil fracking without hurting the earth. I was looking for a field of study that I would be passionate about, but I never found it at college. After graduating, I took a job as a waitress, and that’s when I discovered Codecademy. I did their free courses for fun and loved it! I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life. I contemplated whether I should return to college for Computer Science or attend a coding bootcamp. I wanted a more personal perspective, so I sought out an alumni from Devmountain, which totally sold it for me!
What was the Devmountain application and interview process like? Was it easy to get in after doing Codecademy?
I decided to attend the in-person Web Development Immersive at the Dallas campus so I could avoid distraction from family and friends. When you sign up at Devmountain, they give you a coding challenge that determines if you are accepted by the school. There is a discussion board to help you with the challenge. The challenge wasn't easy, but the communication was! Devmountain was great at replying and being on top of my questions and concerns. After that, I did a phone interview with a Devmountain rep. Throughout the process, Devmountain was so kind and made me feel welcomed. When I toured the campus, I was introduced to the faculty. The Devmountain team gave me a warm reception and my interactions with them felt personal. That was an important factor for me.
Did you have to complete any prework/prep course?
There is optional pre-course work, and Devmountain encourages you to study before the program begins. My roommate was studying from books everyday and taking notes. I regret not studying as much as she did!
What was a typical day like at Devmountain?
Since Devmountain offers its students on-campus housing, my Dallas cohort only had to walk down the stairs in our building to be in class. Devmountain had tea and coffee provided, and even went out of their way to offer herbal tea as a decaffeinated option for me! On Fridays, Devmountain would bring in breakfast for all of the students. When class began at 8am, we would start with a warm-up from the mentors for about 30-35 minutes. After that, the instructor taught the lesson. We would break for lunch, and then work on our assignment. Our instructor and mentors were there if we ever needed help. At the end of the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Devmountain instructors offer optional reviews that I found extremely helpful. Additionally, we were assigned prework for the upcoming day, including videos to watch. They do their best to prepare you for each new day.
Did the Devmountain teaching style match your own learning style?
Yes! I'm a visual learner and our instructors would connect to two giant monitors on each side of the classroom. They would write everything out on the whiteboard. The instructor always asked if anyone had questions before moving onto a new concept. He wanted to be certain that we all understood. They also offer more mentors to cover larger classroom sizes.
What did you learn in the Web Development Diploma curriculum?
What kinds of projects did you work on at Devmountain?
Our very first project was a .Node database that we independently created. We also completed one personal project and one group project. The group project was my favorite! Devmountain pairs you up with random people, and I'm still friends with my team. We created a copycat of a website called Bands in Town and called our project, Concert Quest. Concert Quest allows users to make an account and track their favorite artists. It also sends notifications when those bands are coming to perform near the user. We even emailed Bands in Town and asked permission to use their API. We spent many sleepless nights getting that API to work, but it was fun. We used React as our framework and Sass for styling. Working on a team involved a lot of communication! The last day of the program, when we presented our projects, I felt so accomplished and proud of myself.
One of Devmountain's course requirements was job prep, which involved creating a portfolio and resume, as well as optional mock interviews. Towards the end of the course, while we worked on projects, an instructor and mentor would sit in a separate room and bring in students one-by-one to interview them. They assessed our strengths and weaknesses, and gave us feedback. Interviewing scares me, but I felt better knowing that my first interview was over. Devmountain also gives all of their students a credit for Heroku to keep their websites live for up to a full year! Thanks to this benefit, I still haven't had to pay for my website that hosts my portfolio and projects.
Since you were on the job hunt during the pandemic, how did you structure your remote job search? What strategies worked best for you?
After leaving Devmountain, I kept up with coding and doing my own projects on Github. I also worked on a website for a family friend to continue stimulating my brain. It's like muscle memory; it's important to keep up with coding while you look for a job. I networked online on LinkedIn and in real life and searched on Indeed. When I had an upcoming interview, my Devmountain mentor got on a call with me for over an hour to give me a mock interview! It really helped me go into my interview with so much confidence. I graduated in November 2019 and landed my job this May.
Congratulations on your new job as a Junior Front End Engineer! How did you get the job?
My mom sent me an Indeed post that wasn't for a software engineering job, but she told me to call them anyway and ask if they had any openings for developers. I did and they asked me to send over my resume and portfolio. Less than 30 minutes later, I received an email asking to set up an interview! From there, I had three interviews: the first one was just talking, and the second was a coding interview with the lead developer.
Since you attended Devmountain in-person, did you find it more challenging to do technical interviews remotely?
Since I didn't find a job until the Covid-19 pandemic struck, all of my interviews were remote. I found it was a lot less stressful for me to do interviews over my computer in the comfort of my own home instead of in-person. The only stress is wondering what they might ask you. How you answer is so important. If you don't understand a question in an interview, remember that it's okay to ask them to reword their question. That also gives you a little time to take a moment to think your answer through. Another thing that Devmountain taught us is that it's okay to admit that you don't know the answer, but also mention that you are willing to learn the answer. In an interview, make sure to always demonstrate your determination and drive to learn and succeed.
What problems are you solving as a Junior Front End Engineer?
Since you learned to code at Devmountain in-person, did you feel prepared to work remotely in your first job?
I was not expecting to be working remotely in my very first developer job. However, Devmountain's guidance applied to both remote and in person employment opportunities, and it’s helped me in my new remote role.
What has been the biggest roadblock in your journey to becoming a developer?
Before Devmountain, my biggest roadblock was figuring out how to become a developer. While I was at Devmountain, my biggest roadblock was having confidence in myself and remaining vigilant. After graduating from Devmountain, the greatest challenge was finding a job. There are postings for junior developer positions, but these positions say they require 10 years experience and an 8 year college degree — that's not a Junior Developer! At Devmountain, they taught us to apply for everything, even if we do not feel qualified, even if it is for a senior developer position. The worst thing that can happen is rejection.
How are you maintaining a good work-life balance as a first-time remote developer?
I'm happy with my work/life balance. Being able to work from home is comfortable, but requires self-discipline. Staying on a strict timeline is best. I'm also not living for the weekend. I love waking up and working for this company. When the day is over, I feel productive and successful.
Was Devmountain worth it for you? Are you happy that you became a developer in 2020?
Absolutely! I was looking for a way to obtain this knowledge without going back to college, and Devmountain made that possible. I would recommend a bootcamp to anybody! I have friends who are attending university for a Computer Science degree, and they feel so lost because it's all over the place. I tell them, "You should have gone to a bootcamp, and you still can, even after you earn your degree!" I'm a big coding bootcamp advocate. A bootcamp is difficult and takes a lot of determination, but the reward is huge.
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