Steven toured the world as a theatrical electrician, but when the global pandemic put a screeching halt to his career, he decided to make the leap into tech. Steven shares why Coding Dojo was worth it for him, and walks us through the benefits of their attentive teaching staff, project-based curriculum, and comprehensive career support. Plus, Steven shares his advice for other performing artists considering a tech career and which remote job search strategies worked best for him!
What inspired you to pivot from working in the arts to a career in tech?
I grew up as a theatre kid, went to college to be a theater kid, and launched a career as a theatrical electrician. For eight years, I managed stage lighting, touring national shows with a Broadway company, plus an international tour of DreamGirls The Musical in Shanghai and Tokyo. When the world came to a screeching halt in March 2020, one of the first things to immediately stop was the performing arts. It left me and a lot of my colleagues out of work.
I loved working in the arts, but as cool and exciting as touring was, it meant that I was away from home a lot. When the pandemic hit, it forced me to rethink my career options. I had enjoyed taking a few coding classes my senior year of college, but at the time I was running out of money and energy to continue pursuing it. When the pandemic hit, my wife reminded me of my interest in coding. My wife was working as a nurse in the emergency department during this pandemic, and I knew a lucrative transition into a tech career could alleviate some of her stress and allow her to find a more enjoyable role outside of the hospital.
There are so many online bootcamps now — why did you choose Coding Dojo?
My friend, Alex, made a career shift from audio into coding after enrolling at Coding Dojo. He shared his experience with me, and as I got more serious about attending Coding Dojo, I reached back out to him to see how realistic this career change was for me. The cost of the bootcamp was definitely a deciding factor for me. I spoke with another Coding Dojo grad, Jym, who had paid his own way through the bootcamp, which made it seem possible for me. Meeting Jym also turned out to be an important twist of fate as he later introduced me to the job I currently have!
What was the Coding Dojo application process like for you? Was there an application challenge?
There was no technical challenge, but there was an interview process for a culture fit. The interview assessed how interested, committed, and capable I was for this bootcamp.
After being accepted into the program, Coding Dojo offered introductory information on variables and very basic forms of coding.
What was a typical day like in Coding Dojo’s full-time remote bootcamp?
Which languages and technologies did you learn in the Coding Dojo bootcamp curriculum?
Since you attended Coding Dojo remotely, how did you connect with your cohort and instructors?
While I was sad that I never got to meet people face-to-face, the connections I made were still meaningful. We often made social connections through Zoom Rooms. We would regularly meet in specific rooms, so when we had questions or wanted to chat with each other, we knew where to find each other. It was nice to have the private space to work and connect with one another.
As far as connecting with teachers, we had a weekly 1:1 with our instructor, so we could discuss how we were doing in the program and get feedback on assignments. If we finished discussing the assignment in time, the last few minutes of the 1:1 allowed us to get to know each other better personally, which I really liked.
What kinds of projects did you build for your portfolio at Coding Dojo?
Many of our assignments tended to be project-based. For example, when going through the MERN stack, every assignment required creating a new React project, where we’d have to download the packages for React and set it up.
Our final assessment at the end of three weeks was a 5-hour test, where we had to build a project from the ground up. Our instructors offered us the wireframe and what associations to create, and we had five hours to get it done. To move on in the curriculum, you have to pass this assessment. They do give you a few retakes, if you don’t pass the first time.
The fourth week of the bootcamp is Project Week, where we were asked to build and create a large-scale project, alone or with teammates. Our project idea had to be approved by our instructor, and complicated enough that everyone on the team could work on it. We presented our projects for our cohort at the end of the week.
How did you prepare for the job hunt?
We were working with a career services advisor by the second week of the bootcamp. We started by drafting and revising our resumes and cover letters. Coding Dojo ensured we started on these early, so that by the time we graduated, we had a completed resume.
One thing Coding Dojo advises, especially for junior developers, is that it's less about what you know and more about who you know. Our advisors recommended that we go on LinkedIn and GitHub to make connections with people in the field, and ask general questions to build a relationship with them. Once it’s time to graduate, you can thank them for their help and also tell them you're looking for work. I’m an introvert, so it was difficult for me to make connections with strangers for the sake of getting hired. However, I got the job I currently have because I knew someone that worked at this company!
After graduating, did Coding Dojo continue to help you in your job search?
Coding Dojo’s career service advisors are with you for life. Every two weeks during the job hunt, I would meet with my advisor to discuss successes and failures, and talk more in-depth about how the interview and application processes were going. It was my advisor’s way of checking in to make sure I was doing alright, that I was applying for work, and that I never got into a slump. If I was struggling, he would find mini successes to encourage me to keep applying. If you take advantage of the career services at Coding Dojo, like I did, then they are incredibly helpful to stay motivated.
Congrats on your new DevOps Engineering job at Airbiquity! What is your current role?
Airbiquity develops software for cars. If you've ever been in a car that has an interactive computer in the side panel, Airbiquity might be one of the companies powering that! I'm working on the DevOps team, where we take the finished code and put it in the cloud. From there, car companies use the code for their cars. Our team is also in charge of ensuring our servers are operating properly, which partially includes being on an on-call rotation where we would be notified if a server failed and would have to respond to it as quickly as we could, even outside normal work hours.
What was the technical interview process like at Airbiquity?
Coding Dojo definitely prepared me for a technical interview, but I wasn’t really given one for this interview. The Airbiquity interview focused more on theoretical concepts than technical coding challenges. I was asked about skills I knew, concepts I’m aware of, and software I’m familiar with, but I didn’t have to solve a challenge. I feel fortunate to have dodged that, though I did practice a lot for it and I was prepared for it should I have had to.
What kinds of projects are you working on at Airbiquity?
A lot of DevOps is cloud-based, and one of the biggest cloud providers is Amazon Web Services (AWS), so I've been working a lot with AWS, command line interface (CLI), and Linux. When I started this role, I was introduced to Airbiquity’s legacy systems to get comfortable with Linux and their servers. I then wrote a report on their server history and the last time they were utilized. This gave me a chance to learn their systems and gave Airbiquity an idea of which systems haven't been touched in awhile, so they can save money on things that don't need to be running.
I’m currently working on a systems state manager (SSM), which tracks logs as they’re deploying projects. This gives us a detailed view of all the different scripts to see if they ran successfully, failed, or were in progress during deployment. I’m also working on actually going to the data centers and physically interacting with our HP servers to get a more in-depth look at their status, hard drives, and batteries, then communicating with their distributor to get replacement parts so we can actually fix these issues. They’ve been pushing me in the direction of keeping the servers up and running.
Are you using all of the tools and languages that you learned at Coding Dojo?
I’ve used what I’ve learned from Coding Dojo on the job, and I’ve had the opportunity to learn AWS. Although primarily my job has required more detailed knowledge of Python, I have still been able to apply similar concepts from the other languages I learned.
Looking back on this experience, was Coding Dojo worth it for you?
At this point, yes, 100%. It was a long, tough, complicated process and a huge change, but now that it’s all happened, I’m earning twice the salary that I made in the arts and my family is happier and safer. I wouldn’t be here without Coding Dojo and I have no idea where my life would be right now if I didn't go through the bootcamp. I appreciated the career services that Coding Dojo offered and my instructors who were knowledgeable, personable, and great to talk to. I really liked my classmates and still keep in touch with them through Discord as we revel in our successes and vent our frustrations about the job search.
Do you have any advice for other artists considering a career pivot into tech?
It is hard for people in the world of theatre and performing arts right now. Theatre has been my whole life and it was hard for me to make the switch to coding. It's not for everybody, however, the tech industry is looking for smart coders.
Coding might be worth looking into if:
Coding might be challenging for you if:
If you choose to stay in the theatre, more power to you and I wish you the best! I can't wait to go back to seeing live performances again. But if you are seriously considering a career shift into coding, I'd say give it a shot if you can.
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