For a decade, Meghan Hein traveled the world and learned many life skills, but when she was laid off from the service industry due to COVID-19, Meghan turned to Lighthouse Labs to guide her way into tech. Meghan shares how their COVID-19 Scholarship Fund made her career change possible, and what sets Lighthouse Labs remote Web Development Immersive apart from other bootcamps. Plus, learn how Lighthouse Labs is preparing and supporting Meghan for today’s remote job search!
What inspired you to pivot into tech, Meghan?
For the last few years I’ve dedicated my life to environmental conservation by disrupting illegal activity and marine devastation in the high seas around the world. As rewarding and important as it has been, it has left little room for personal gain and career building. Predominantly, I’ve been volunteering my time. When I have come back to land, I’ve found quick, unfulfilling, grueling jobs to fuel my activism.
Last summer, I decided to take a hiatus from ocean conservation and move back to my hometown of Toronto to be close to family. Moving back here was a huge wake up call. With little professional background in any particular market, I felt stunted in searching for a well-paying job in the city. I found myself working in the service industry at two different restaurants and feeling completely unsatisfied with what I was doing. I knew it was time for a change.
Web development has been on my radar for many years. I started a photography BFA at Ryerson in 2009, which was my first introduction to Dreamweaver and, with it, preliminary HTML and CSS coding. My brother co-founded Rose Rocket, a startup focused on developing transportation management software and I’ve watched his company grow over the years. So, the idea of moving into coding has been appealing and I’ve been trying to navigate how to get into the industry. When I was laid off of work because of COVID-19, I was presented with time to finally immerse myself in a web development program.
There are so many coding bootcamps now! What made Lighthouse Labs stand out for you?
Lighthouse Labs is a Canadian company, and after spending so much time overseas, it was comforting and nice to support a Canadian company. Also my brother has hired a bunch of graduates from Lighthouse Labs, including three classmates from my own cohort! His recommendation meant a lot to me, too.
What was the Lighthouse Labs application and interview process like for you?
Did you have to complete any pre-work?
We had to complete two weeks of mandatory pre-work through Lighthouse Labs’ Compass program. If you have any questions while you’re completing it, you can easily ping your classmates on a forum. The pre-work was tough, but I pushed through it.
Because you were laid-off due to COVID-19, did Lighthouse Labs help you with tuition?
Lighthouse Labs awarded me a scholarship from their COVID-19 Scholarship Fund! Once I was accepted into the program, I then answered two essay questions in order to be considered for the scholarship. The essay questions asked how I have been affected by COVID-19 and why the course at Lighthouse Labs was important to me. After a few weeks I received word I had been selected for the scholarship. I was so thrilled! The financial stress of attending a bootcamp during COVID became a lot more manageable after receiving the scholarship. What an incredible opportunity!
What was a typical day like in Lighthouse Labs’ remote immersive?
A typical day in the online immersive runs from 9am to 5pm like a normal workday. Lighthouse Labs gets you accustomed to coding for 12 hours a day. At 9am, we would either begin coding or read ahead. There were supplemental materials we could do if we weren't busy. From 10am until 12pm, we would have a lecture. Often during the lecture, the instructor would break us up into small groups to work on problems together. In my class, I had three mentors who would rotate depending on what we were learning. Our mentors were always available to message or chat with. After lecture, I had coursework outlined each day through Lighthouse Labs’ Compass program to complete. If I was ever stuck or needed clarity, I could request assistance through Compass and it would pop me into a virtual queue. Soon, a mentor would hop into a chat to speak with me one-on-one. Fundamental Fridays involved a 2-hour test to gauge how well we were doing and where we needed extra help. On the weekend, we had reading assignments or small exercises to gear us up for the next week. In total, I put approximately 60 hours a week into the immersive.
Did the Lighthouse Labs teaching style match your learning style?
There were so many mentors, and the variety allowed us to receive instruction from different perspectives. If the information didn't click with one of them, another would have a different way of teaching it. Also, if one of the mentors was receiving the same question a lot, they would offer an optional breakout lecture for the whole cohort to have an open Zoom chat about it. It was great to have those moments to chat with my classmates and learn together. I found this a really effective teaching style for me.
Since this was an online bootcamp, how did you communicate with your classmates and mentors?
Lighthouse Labs fosters a beautiful network and community for developers and aspiring developers. From my very first day, I had a huge wealth of support and knowledge at my fingertips! There was instant access to my mentors, liveshare on my screen, plus a Slack channel where I could chat with my cohort and staff members. After I finished the course, Lighthouse Labs moved me to an alumni Slack channel. In that alumni channel, there are frequent messages for hackathons, questions from other grads, and overall a community that I can tap into when I need it or have time to contribute.
What did you actually learn in the curriculum at Lighthouse Labs?
What kinds of projects did you build?
Besides the midterm and finals, all projects were done solo. Early on, we created a multi-page website with Node and Express. We built a mock Twitter project called Tweeter, where we focused on the front end development and learned Sass. We also learned TDD (Test Driven Development) by using Mocha with Chai and then Cypress, Jest and Rspec.
For our final project, Lighthouse Labs gave us the freedom to make what we wanted to and pick the stack. It could be a completely new language or something familiar. My team chose to build a single-page desktop app with React bolstered heavily by a few key libraries, namely Konva, a canvas-building library and Tesseract OCR. It was a big undertaking learning new, in-depth and complex libraries in only 10 days and applying them to our project!
What advice would you give a remote bootcamp student?
I spent a lot of time searching for answers myself, not acknowledging the tech community out there that I could reach out to and utilize! Developers are on their computers all of the time, so if you ask a question in Slack channels, StackOverflow, and forums, you will probably be answered in 24 hours or less. My advice for brand new, remote bootcamp students is to be more active in the larger tech community and don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are many people out there who are passionate about tech that will happily answer your questions.
How did Lighthouse Labs prepare you for the job hunt?
The Lighthouse Labs immersive is very career-focused. We did mock interviews four times throughout the course. I had a different mentor for each mock interview who asked me to do whiteboarding, questions, and code reviews. Lighthouse Labs has an amazing career services team who did many seminars with us. They taught us how to build our resumes and were always there if we needed to reach out.
I was living in Toronto when I was taking the bootcamp, but knew I would be moving to Vancouver after graduating. Lighthouse Labs has a careers team in both cities that work together. As soon as I was done with the bootcamp, Lighthouse Labs shared all of my information with the Vancouver career services team. I know Lighthouse Labs will be there to assist me in finding a job, even five years from now. They are always there as a support system. Even since I’ve graduated, they invite me to workshops and demo days. There are also alumni meetings to network and share what we are working on.
Since your cohort was remote, did Lighthouse Labs host a demo day?
Lighthouse Labs hosted two virtual demos in one day, one for employees only and another for family and friends. It's a nice structure. You sit backstage and an allstar Lighthouse Labs rep MCs the whole thing. The MC brings your group up on the virtual stage and one of you shares your screen at the top. There is a chat for questions, too. Each group does a five-minute presentation and then hops into a breakout room with employers to answer questions.
Since graduating from Lighthouse Labs, which roles do you feel qualified for?
I graduated from the full stack development course, and some of my classmates are focusing just on front end or back end development, or pursuing one language, or want to go into data. Personally, I want to find a full stack position. The first year as a junior developer is full of learning and growth, and I don't want to pigeon-hole myself at the beginning of my career. Even if I find a job that only works with React, I'll be focusing on other languages with my personal projects in order to keep learning.
You’re on the job hunt now! How are you structuring your remote job search?
When I get to Vancouver, I’ll be connecting with some contacts that I made through my brother, so we will see what happens from there. Lighthouse Labs’ career services also has a network of employers that trust them. I will find out from the Vancounver career services if they have something for me. Other than that, I use LinkedIn and search on job boards for listings that match my criteria.
What has been your biggest challenge in this journey to becoming a developer?
Before COVID-19, my greatest challenge was finding the time and money to enroll in a 12-week immersive coding bootcamp. Since graduating, Lighthouse Labs has given me more confidence, but I still struggle with imposter syndrome. I can’t stop asking myself, Do I know as much as I should? To combat it, I remind myself that a few of my classmates are already working as developers for my brother’s company Rose Rocket. The reason my brother likes hiring graduates from coding bootcamps is because a bootcamp takes a lot of commitment and determination to endure an intense immersive. Those are the qualities he wants in his employees. Developers need to be passionate and Lighthouse Labs develops passionate people. That makes me feel more confident in my own career-change. I've done other courses before, but this is the only one that has prepared me to jump straight into a lifelong career.
Do you think learning in a remote bootcamp has prepared you for working remotely?
Absolutely! I feel comfortable working remotely because my whole course was online. I went through all of the trials and tribulations of Git push conflicting, live sharing, working on different channels with classmates, using Zoom, Slack, Google Hangouts, and all of the different online tools to share and contribute.
At this point, do you think Lighthouse Labs was worth it for you?
Yes, for sure. I loved Lighthouse Labs’ boot camp so much that my partner will now be taking the course this October! Being a developer offers so much more freedom, so I’m happy we soon will share in this opportunity! Being able to work from home creates more job security in this ever changing world and I’m so glad I have begun the journey into this career. Lighthouse Labs fosters such a wonderful community that I can take part in, and it feels good to have the support of peers and mentors for years to come.
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