Written By Jess Feldman
After years of trying different career paths as a salesman, bartender, and caterer, Rory Fahy realized that his future was in technology. When Holberton School’s New Haven campus opened up right near his home, Rory took it as a sign to enroll in the Full Stack Web Development career pathway. After completing the Foundations portion of the program, Rory landed an internship at Lockheed Martin. Learn what Rory plans to pursue next in Holberton School’s Specialization program, plus his advice for others looking to launch a tech career.
What inspired you to apply to Holberton School?
I have a degree in Biophysics from the University of Connecticut, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it, so I explored a variety of career paths. I worked in door-to-door sales, bartending, and catering. I was interested in tech, so I did a Udemy Python course and found it to be really cool. When I found out that Holberton School was opening a New Haven campus, I decided it was time to pursue a tech career.
What factors were important to you when choosing a bootcamp? Did you consider moving to San Francisco to take the Holberton course there?
I was drawn to Holberton School because it has second year Specializations in machine learning, and I’ve been really interested in maneuvering my career in that direction. I did briefly consider moving to San Francisco to attend Holberton School there, but I realized that living in San Francisco is expensive. Since I already lived just 10 minutes away from the New Haven campus, it made the most sense to attend the school there.
What is the New Haven tech scene like?
District in New Haven has a reclaimed abandoned bus depot and transformed it into a coworking space for startups as well as larger tech companies. District hosts lots of events and meetups in the building. The digital advertising company Digital Surgeons were the forerunners of this District project and they host plenty of events as well. There is also a Slack channel called New Haven IO just for the New Haven tech scene. I recommend checking it out —there are a lot of good people on it!
What was the application and interview process like at Holberton School?
Once you were accepted, did you have to complete any pre-work?
I had three months between my interview and the beginning of the course, and Holberton School suggested that we choose to read one of three books about C. It wasn’t required reading, but the more work you did upfront, the more prepared and easier it was to work through the curriculum when you started the curriculum. In hindsight, I wish I had put in more effort before I started because I had a harder time keeping up at first.
How did you pay for your tuition – did you use the ISA?
I went with Holberton School’s income share agreement (ISA). Not having to pay the tuition upfront was what made it possible for me to attend the bootcamp. Without the ISA program, I wouldn't be on the career path I am now.
Since you have completed the Foundations year, what has the Holberton School curriculum covered?
The curriculum heavily emphasizes learning low-level languages, like C, because that gives you the tools and understanding to figure out any language. Other bootcamps teach specific languages without the students knowing what is going on underneath. Holberton School tries to bridge that gap by giving students knowledge of the foundation programming languages.
What kinds of projects have you worked on at Holberton School?
In the first trimester of the Foundations year, my very first project was Printf in C. At the end of the first trimester, I built my own shell in C with a partner, and we had two weeks to implement the Thompson shell. In the second trimester, we began building an Airbnb clone, which we consistently worked to build up our fundamental understanding. Over 6 months, we would build different pieces of the Airbnb project, starting with making a basic console, then building the back end, managing servers, front end, HTML, and CSS.
Our final project of the Foundations year was completed in teams of three over the course of a month. My partner Sam had a background in programming, and I wanted to work with him on that project because I knew I would learn a ton. Sam came up with the idea to create a desktop app that would allow people to choose the mood they were in and then receive a playlist of ambient music. Sam got the idea because he was looking for an app that would allow him to quickly select background music while playing Dungeons and Dragons. We built the app in the Kivy framework for Python, and it is compatible with Linux, Mac, and Windows. We had to plan and document all of our work and meet deadlines throughout the project.
How has Holberton School prepared you for the job hunt?
The curriculum prepares students for employer interviews. We had mock interview days with our cohort where we would switch off acting as an interviewer or interviewee for a few hours. After a project was submitted, Holberton School would split us into groups, so we could teach one other the project to gain clarity. Teaching other people helped with my communication skills. During this time, I was networking with other companies outside of the bootcamp, but I wasn't yet actively applying for jobs.
Tell us about your Software Engineering internship at Lockheed Martin!
Lockheed Martin is a partner of Holberton School, and they hired myself and two other people from my cohort as software engineer interns. Anyone from our cohort was eligible to interview with Lockheed Martin when they came on-site to interview for the internship. There weren't any coding challenges in the interview, but they wanted to know if I am a good cultural fit for their team. It’s a full-time, paid internship for six months, and if I continue to do a good job, Lockheed Martin will hopefully offer me a full-time position which I intend to accept. Lockheed Martin has put a lot of faith in me and so far they are very pleased with my performance.
What are you working on at Lockheed Martin?
Are you able to work remotely at Lockheed Martin?
I was going into the office, but after the COVID-19 situation, Lockheed Martin went fully remote. Lockheed Martin had already embraced the work-from-home culture prior to COVID-19, so they were prepared with the right infrastructure to enable the transition. As a defense industry company, Lockheed Martin has a lot of firewalls and security in place so we have secure networks and can safely work from home.
Do you recommend that others make the career-change into tech?
It depends on the person. If you are trying to do it only for job security, you might be unhappy. There are times I'm sitting on a problem without the answer, and it's frustrating. Getting to the answer is very satisfying. If it wasn't satisfying, I wouldn't know why I was putting myself through being a software engineer. There will always be opportunities with a career in technology, and for me, it worked out. If it's the right fit for you, do it.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced on your journey to becoming a Software Engineer?
There can be insecurity coming out of a bootcamp. I worried that I wouldn't be seen as competent as a four-year computer science college student. It was a scary period between attending Holberton and finding that first job experience, so I'm really happy to have experience working as a software engineer on my resume now. It's extremely valuable. I have a lot more opportunities because of my internship. It's an official stamp of approval, even if it's just in my head.
Another challenge I’ve faced is learning to sit with the uncertainty of a problem. I have had to learn to be okay with the fact that I don’t always have the solution. I might not have a resource to ask and have to figure it out myself. That's an uncomfortable feeling that I've been working at. It's a battle to manage that emotion to be more effective and get through problems faster. I’ll be really motivated and feeling like I can do anything I put my mind to until I'm stuck on a problem and then it feels like I can't do anything. Managing that emotion is critical and I'm getting better at it.
What advice do you have for people just starting out in coding bootcamps like Holberton School?
Put as much effort as you can into it. Get the work done, but explore as much as possible. The more that you learn, the more you realize how much is out there and how much more you have to learn. When I see senior engineers flying through something, I think, "How did they do that? They’re like wizards!" You have to put in the time and work hard to get there.
Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps.
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