Phoenix Shane dove into programming by teaching herself SQL, but she knew it was only the beginning. In order to get a better footing with her tech career, Phoenix enrolled in Devmountain’s Web Development Immersive to develop a broader understanding of coding languages and the tech skills that developers use everyday. Learn more about Phoenix’s bootcamp experience at Devmountain, how she got an internship at TEKSystems during the COVID-19 pandemic, and her advice for kickstarting your software development career.
What were you doing before Devmountain?
I was a Logistics Operations Supervisor for the majority of my career, which required me to write Excel and Access reports. After I married a software developer, I began teaching myself SQL. One of my husband's mentees became an IT Supervisor and hired me as a contractor to work with SQL. I got the chance to work with them for over a year, and that’s where I learned more about software development and coding. When my contract ended, I wanted to remain in tech, but there weren’t a lot of jobs out there for SQL Developers. I did some research on coding bootcamps and even used Course Report as one of my resources!
What factors were important to you when choosing a coding bootcamp? Why did you choose Devmountain?
Price was a big factor, and I was looking for a web development course with a robust techstack. It also mattered that the bootcamp was emotionally supportive of its students. The bootcamp needed to genuinely care about their students’ well-being and success. I originally went through the application process at Coding Dojo, but I was hoping for a warmer and more inviting reception, and I found that with Devmountain.
What was Devmountain's interview and application process like?
It was an amazing process, and everyone was so supportive during it! Devmountain did a personality interview to see if I was technically-minded. They liked that I had previous coding experience. Afterwards, they gave me an onsite tour of the campus. The entire application experience was phenomenal.
What was a typical day like at Devmountain?
Every day was intense, but well-structured and organized. In the morning, we would have lectures from 9am to around noon, and we were assigned homework for those topics. After lunch, we would go to the lab and work on our homework. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they hosted afterhours where we could work with a mentor if we were struggling on a subject. Devmountain told us to expect 20-30 hours of work outside of school per week, and that was completely accurate. Every night, I spent 3-5 hours at home working on my assignments.
Did Devmountain's teaching style match your personal learning style?
The Devmountain instructors offered us the ability to code along with them during the lecture. It wasn't required, but for students like me who need to learn that way, it was available to us. The instructors would pause to let us catch up or help us out if we messed up. The homework reinforced the lessons, which gave us a chance to learn by doing.
What did Devmountain’s 13-week Web Development curriculum cover?
What projects did you work on while at Devmountain?
We worked on two personal projects and one final group project during the bootcamp. For the final project, my group (which included Josi!) developed a platform for mental health providers called Digital Couch. The platform allowed providers to take notes, and connect with their patients online through journaling and timelines. If a patient switched providers, their history would remain in the database for the new mental health professional to pick up and review. To build the platform, we used React, SQL, BCrypt, and Node. We did a lot to get it running, but the visual design isn't yet complete.
How did Devmountain's Outcomes team prepare you for your job hunt?
We met with Brittany of the Outcomes team, and together we would go over our LinkedIn, Github, personal portfolio, and any improvements we could make. Part of our career learning at Devmountain was setting up accounts on several job boards, like Dice, LinkedIn, and a few others. I struggled with technical interviews and whiteboarding, so Brittany shared tips and tricks on whiteboarding. She also gave me some exercises to practice, which helped me.
We had 2-3 guidance sessions on personal interviews. A few weeks before the course ended, we had a comprehensive set of lessons, exercises, and assignments that were graded. We had two full days dedicated to career presentation and interviewing. The first day focused on setting up our resumes, personal portfolios, LinkedIn, and Github. Every detail needed to be fleshed out in order to get credit for that portion of the course. The Devmountain team turned technical interview questions into a game with groups competing against each other. That was a lot of fun! Towards the end, they held mock interviews. Our mentor sat us down individually and asked us technical questions. We also signed up for time slots with certain employers who came in and did mock interviews with us.
One week after graduation, Devmountain held a hiring event on campus and each of us were able to set up our own individual table with our laptops, resumes, and business cards. Employers made their way around the room and spoke to everyone about their projects and experience. It was like speed dating for job interviews!
How did you structure your own remote job search during the COVID-19 lockdown?
When I graduated, I already had an online presence, including the 300 connections on LinkedIn that Devmountain required us to have. Almost all of my connections were technical recruiters and my strategy was reaching out to them. I was also checking job boards consistently. I submitted an online resume and was hired by a company as a web developer; however, a few weeks later that job was canceled due to COVID-19.
How did you land your current internship during COVID-19?
I had met a TEKSystems recruiters at one of Devmountain’s hiring events, so after my web developer job fell through, I reached out to that TEKSystems contact. TEKSystems has a development business as well as a recruiting business. Originally, I spoke with the recruiting side and they recommended me to TEKSystems global, which is the project side. I had a personal and technical interview over the phone with them. One of those interviews was supposed to be in-person, but they changed it due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements. They wanted to know my background, what technologies I knew, and how I would handle certain situations. After that, I received a call back accepting me into the program.
What are you learning at your internship?
What has it been like to work at the TEKSystems internship remotely?
Since TEKSystems wasn’t expecting to do this internship online, they had to throw the program together quickly. That's been a challenge, but the instructors, mentors, and program developers have been doing an amazing job. TEKSystems genuinely wants to improve upon the new online structure, so they have a Slack channel where we can submit our feedback. Even though there are some glitches with the online platform itself, the support we receive from the staff makes up for it.
Since this is a remote internship, do you think it is helping you become a better remote developer?
Absolutely! Everything we do is online, so we have to interact with all types of technologies, not just what we are learning. Everyday we have to interact with Git in our projects and upload to Github. Working remotely has taught me to adapt to a strictly online environment and has allowed me to become a better developer as a whole.
Will this internship open up opportunities to work at TEKSystems?
Anyone who succeeds in the internship will be offered a full-time position. It will be a two year, guaranteed position. They assure us that they have available spots for everyone that they accept as an intern. I am hopeful that I will successfully complete this program and receive that job offer!
What’s the difference between an internship vs a full-time position?
I would have preferred a full-time position right away, but I am grateful for this internship experience. My internship has helped me to become an overall better developer. It has been a great opportunity to reinforce my skills and add new ones to my resume. Even if the worst happens, and I don't receive a job offer from TEKSystems after the internship, it's taught me new technologies, and to be an independent researcher, finding solutions to problems.
Choosing this internship was a tough decision for me, especially since I'm not being paid. TEKSystems offers us a stipend, but it doesn’t match a paycheck. For me, accepting this internship ensured that I would continue learning, adding to my resume, reinforcing my skills, and potentially landing a good job after three months. Three months was something I was willing to sacrifice. It could take me three to six months to find a full-time job, so why not do this in the meantime?
What has been your biggest roadblock in your journey to becoming a developer?
My biggest roadblock is myself. I am still working on my verbalization of concepts. I can understand code and write it, but when it comes to technical interviews, I'm still trying to develop those skills. It holds me back on interviews because I cannot properly articulate all of my knowledge. Personally, I practice by using flash cards and answer the question out loud to myself. I have to get used to putting the ideas into layman's terms. It's harder for me to do that than to process it in my head.
What is your advice to bootcamp grads looking for their first job right now?
My advice is to stand out. Be the person who submits a cover letter and introduces yourself. Most people do not write an introduction and actually have a conversation with the person they are trying to connect with. That conversation can lead to a job or a referral. Share your journey in a LinkedIn post, but don't be negative. You can explain your challenges, but always remain optimistic and goal-oriented. Potential employers want positive attitudes within their culture. Get out there and be seen.