Marine Veteran Schaine McDougall used his Post-911 / GI Bill to earn a degree in cinematography when he first separated from the military. When Schaine was laid off from his film job, he knew he needed to change careers. After being accepted by the VET TEC program, Schaine chose to attend Sabio, and not only learned the skills he needed for a career in tech, but within four months, Sabio’s Career Services team also helped him land a Software Quality Analyst position at ServiceNow!
What inspired you to pivot into tech?
After leaving the Marines, I worked in the entertainment industry, specializing in cinematography and post-production, which meant I was out in the field behind the camera and editing action sports. When the company I worked for downsized, I was laid off.
I was a Diesel Mechanic in the Marines, and the mindset of a mechanic and a developer are the same. When there are issues, you need to troubleshoot and work out the variables. A coding bootcamp appealed to me because it is 110% focused on what is necessary to enter and navigate the tech world. I didn't have the benefit of going back to school with a full GI bill because I had spent nearly all of it on learning cinematography and post production, so when I heard about the VET TEC program, I jumped on it and did my research. Sabio was the best bootcamp that partnered with VET TEC.
Did you teach yourself to code at all before applying to Sabio?
No, I did not. I wanted to push through as quickly as possible with my VET TEC application, and since I didn't have a job, I was looking to get into a coding bootcamp as soon as possible. VET TEC gives you an assessment before you’re accepted, so I took a few weeks to study up on concepts like jQuery.
How difficult was it to get accepted into Sabio?
Since I didn't know how to code, the Sabio assessment wasn't easy and I only had a small window to study their pre-bootcamp materials. They needed to know that I had a base understanding, and the assessment tested how well I could read into documentation and the repetition of codes. Luckily, Sabio wasn’t looking for me to ace the test! Instead, they are looking for people who have the ability to ask the right questions.
What was a typical day like at Sabio?
Sabio’s Irvine campus was 20 miles away from my home, so I woke up early and got to campus before everyone else in my cohort. By 8:30am, everyone else would roll in and we would get started. During the week, I was spending 60-70 hours in the classroom, and I would stay on campus until 10PM. You have your lunch period and breaks and between those you're coding. The first two days were the most stressful because they introduced us to ReactJS and let us stew in it. That’s typically how they teach; the Sabio instructors help you, but they also want to see if you can pick it up on your own.
Did you feel that the teaching style matched your learning style?
One of the things that I enjoyed about Sabio is that the mannerisms and behaviors of the bootcamp emulate what it's like to work in the real tech world. People in the world of tech do not benefit from having their hand held, so the bootcamp is geared toward people with the aptitude to self-learn. At times, this was uncomfortable for me. Sabio wanted us to research, troubleshoot, and navigate through the issues ourselves. When we couldn't make progress, they expected us to reach out and ask for help. Since graduating, I've spoken to people who are Senior Developers and Chief Architects that say that feeling when you’re struggling to figure something out doesn't end.
What was your favorite project that you built at Sabio?
At the end of the bootcamp, we got to work on a real-world project for an entrepreneur. My cohort built a medical industry application that assists facilities with their medical records. Medical providers were having issues keeping their records in compliance, and people were receiving false information, resulting in fines, so our app ensured that providers receive the right patients and the patients receive the right treatments. I liked that we built an application that had a place in the world for helping people.
How did Sabio prepare you for the job hunt and then support you in your job search post-graduation?
The job prep portion was probably the most stressful part of the program! Sabio gave us a few mock technical and soft skill interviews, and they focused on building our confidence. Those interviews felt as real, if not more, than the interviews I later had with prospective employers.
My cohort graduated in early February, and that last week of the bootcamp, all of us were pushing out resumes, networking, and meeting people. Then March came and the pandemic struck. The benefit of Sabio is that they have been around for quite some time, and their alumni have risen up the ranks in their respective companies, so they have solid connections. Those Sabio alumni can create opportunities for other Sabio graduates, and Sabio alumni reached out to tell us when their companies were hiring. While 90% of the job hunt work was done by us, sometimes the instructors would find opportunities for us. I knew of ServiceNow and sent my resume, but Liliana from Sabio reached out to ServiceNow to find a military veteran to interview me. Sabio was able to make the difference and get me in the door.
Tell us about your new job at ServiceNow! What team do you work on at ServiceNow?
My job at ServiceNow should be in the office, but we are remote now due to COVID-19. Being new to the tech world, I want to surround myself with the best people, and ServiceNow has that. My department is Advanced Support Technologies, and they have been awesome helping me learn the ropes the past six weeks. I'm happy to be employed and I'm doing the best I can to pick up on things quickly. I'm onboarding remotely, but it hasn’t been too difficult. My department supports and improves on the platform. For me, as a QA Analyst, I try to make everyone's lives easier on the developer-side. As the developers create things for the applications, I create test cases to make sure they are 110% before they are delivered to the product owners.
Which programming languages are you currently using as a QA Analyst?
Did you feel prepared to work remotely in your first tech job after graduating from Sabio?
Working remotely is not ideal for me, but yes I did feel prepared to do so. I work the best around people, but really the only skill set I need is that I can work on the computer. As long as I have that, I'm still able to do my job. ServiceNow makes it feel like the difference between being at home or in the office is just a matter of location. The communication and opportunities to seek help are there. A week after I was hired, they sent me my laptop, and when I turned on the laptop, it said "Welcome Schaine!" I didn't even need to download anything. ServiceNow made the onboarding process and being able to fit in remotely very easy.
What has been your biggest roadblock during this career-change?
Sabio taught us not to compare ourselves to others, but it's difficult. There were moments when I would let it get to me that other students in my cohort were more experienced than I was. It can be a huge blocker to beat yourself up. I live in California where you can throw a rock and hit a developer. We aren't in short supply and that creates strong competition for job positions. I was lucky to find the opportunity that I did.
Do you have any advice for bootcamp grads who are starting a new remote position?
I'm still trying to adjust myself! There are variables you can't control, and you wouldn't think they would bother you. There are certain things you have to work around. I recommend getting noise-canceling headphones and a good chair. Set up a schedule for breaks otherwise you'll burn out. Just be open to learn. A company won't expect you to know everything the first day, so don't beat yourself up about it. Be open to seeing how your position contributes to the entire team.
Do you have any advice for veterans who are looking to transition into tech through a coding bootcamp like Sabio?
Try the Free PreWork at Sabio or online courses from Codecademy to see if it feels good for you and aligns with where you want to be. Familiarize yourself with it. Don't go in thinking coding bootcamps are like college because they are not. College delivers information at a slower pace. Be prepared to constantly learn new things. I just ordered a book on Java, Selenium, and test engineering. When you think you don't need to learn anything new is when you will start failing.
A lot of people are asking “is now a good time to do a bootcamp?” What do you think – was Sabio worth it for you?
I am very happy that I did this. Due to COVID-19, the world of cinematography and post-production has come to a halt. The timing of being laid-off and accepted into Sabio, and even the way COVID-19 lined up all helped me to land my job at ServiceNow. I wouldn't be in the financial realm that I am now had I not been laid-off.
Find out more and read Sabio’s reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Sabio.
Jess Feldman is the Content Manager at Course Report. As a lifelong learner, Jess is passionate about education — She loves learning and sharing insights about tech bootcamps and career changes with the Course Report community. Jess received a M.F.A. in Writing from the University of New Hampshire and lives in southern Maine.
Just tell us who you are and what you’re searching for, we’ll handle the rest.