Alumni Spotlight


How Thinkful’s ISA + Living Stipend Made Austin’s Career Change Possible

By Jess Feldman
Last Updated December 7, 2021

Austin was interested in computer science but working as a security officer. At Thinkful’s Software Engineering Bootcamp, Austin says he “found his people,” and expanding his network helped him land his first job at Xima! Learn how Thinkful’s Income Share Agreement and Living Stipend made the immersive bootcamp accessible for him, and how career services and a supportive cohort made the whole experience worthwhile. Plus, Austin shares his insights about interning and interviewing for jobs after a coding bootcamp.

What inspired you to pivot into tech?

I attended a semester of computer science at a university, where I learned the basic concepts of programming, like Conditionals and Loops. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had to leave the university for personal reasons, and then I worked several jobs in retail and restaurants. I was a security officer for most of 2020 before discovering Thinkful’s Software Engineering bootcamp, which meant I could learn how to be a developer. 

There are so many online coding bootcamps now – why did you choose Thinkful?

I had never heard of Thinkful, which was refreshing because I didn't want to choose a coding bootcamp based on its name. Thinkful had a unique branding approach, and I liked their JavaScript-based curriculum. I was also impressed by the financial assistance they could provide their students, such as the living stipend and financing options. I couldn't have done the bootcamp without the living stipend! To qualify for the living stipend, you have to be a student with an Income Share Agreement (ISA). I chose the ISA plus living stipend option, which turned out to be the most expensive amount to pay back, but it was the best option for me. 

What was the Thinkful application process like for you? 

There were a few calls with admissions to discuss the bootcamp, and the time and financial commitments a student needs to make to enroll. After those calls, I completed Thinkful’s free prep course. I built a final project during the free course which involved creating an HTML and CSS portfolio. The prep course is meant to take one month, but it took me five days because I had some background knowledge. I then did a technical interview, and once I passed that, I was able to enroll. 

What was a typical day like in the Software Engineering Bootcamp at Thinkful? 

On a typical day, we would start the morning with a live class with our instructor. The instructor would introduce us to that day's content, and each session would build upon the previous. After the introduction, we would break out into groups that rotated weekly, which allowed us to connect with different people in the cohort. We were required to stay in our virtual groups and work on our assignments up until lunchtime. After lunch, we had a 30-minute instructor session where we could go over any questions. We also had access to teaching assistants every day. 

Since this was an online bootcamp, were you able to connect with other students?

My cohort was quite connected. We messaged each other all day and wanted each other to succeed. I attribute my success to the support of my extraordinary cohort at Thinkful.

Most of the instructors were fantastic. They did a great job of laying things out in layman's terms and giving us specifics as we went along. They were skilled at fielding new questions and making helpful examples out of them, too.

What concepts did you cover in the bootcamp curriculum?

We began with learning the basics of JavaScript, such as outputs to the terminal, looping over arrays, and making and assigning objects. We moved into front end concepts, including HTML, CSS, and Bootstrap. We learned to make web pages dynamic using JavaScript directly in the browser. Then we learned React, explored back end concepts, such as making databases, APIs, and using technologies like Node.js, Express.js, and PostgreSQL. We learned object-oriented programming in the last section of the bootcamp, along with basic data structures and algorithms one might encounter in interviews or production. 

What kinds of projects did you work on at Thinkful?

For my final project, my group built a restaurant reservation management system. The user could keep a map of tables within the restaurant and assign parties that arrived at an open table. They were able to create, edit, and delete reservations. When the party left, the user could clear the table and open it to the next reservation. We had to build out each feature one at a time from the back end to the front end. It was a comprehensive project that covered everything we learned.

How did Thinkful prepare you for the job hunt? 

Career services were my favorite part of what Thinkful does because it's the most critical part of any career transition. When you graduate from the bootcamp, you're assigned a career coach that helps you in your job search for up to six months. This person is available to you at all hours of the day, at no additional cost. My career coach helped me understand what type of jobs to apply to, what messages to send to recruiters and hiring managers, how to keep things in perspective, and how to draw positives from an application rejection. As a bootcamp alumni, I still have access to all Slack channels and Thinkful's organization to gain insight from its Career Services employees. 

Which tech roles do you feel qualified to apply for since graduating from Thinkful?

I felt comfortable applying to developer or engineer roles like Front End Developer, Back End Developer, Front End Engineer, Back End Engineer, Software Engineer, and Software Developer. As I proceeded, I discovered that it was best to seek out junior opportunities to find my entry into the industry more efficiently.

You're now a Software Developer at Xima Software! How did you find this role? 

I thought I was going to land a job simply by applying to dozens of positions, and I applied to a lot of jobs before landing the position with Xima. However, a fellow Thinkful graduate and Software Developer at Xima ultimately recommended me for the role. 

What was the interview process like as a new developer? 

The job search process itself was a learning experience. Even if you apply and interview for 15 jobs and land none of them, those were 15 real-life practice sessions. When the right job comes along, you've practiced, and you're ready. I was far more ready for Xima’s process than I would've been without those previous interviews. 

Before the interview process, the company sent me a JavaScript screening challenge. I ended up scoring 100%, which is likely why I landed my live interview. During the interview process, there was plenty of discussion about my portfolio and the company itself. They sent me through to a second take-home challenge, followed by the final interview, during which I gave a 45-minute presentation explaining my thoughts on the take-home problem and answered some of their questions. 

You’ve just started this job, but what kinds of projects are you working on at Xima?

We're working on an Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) agreement with a particular phone system. I'm working with my team to integrate their API with our services and product to make our reporting and recording software available to them. 

Are you using everything that you learned at Thinkful on the job today?

I'm working primarily on the back end right now. Even though Thinkful is mainly a front end bootcamp, I'm still using the coding processes that I learned at Thinkful. Learning class-based JavaScript helped me pick up Java a lot quicker than I would have otherwise because Java is completely class-based. The basics are pretty much the same.

You did a 3-month internship at Onboardlist before landing your current, full-time role. Do you recommend other recent bootcamp grads consider doing an internship?

As a bootcamp graduate, choose your internship wisely. If it's unpaid, then be sure that you’ll be working with an excellent company that has set processes for interns. I went into my internship without much research, and it wasn't as stimulating as I would have hoped. I might have experienced more growth doing hackathons, for example. Regardless, the internship gave me some experience, and it bolstered my resume. 

What has been the biggest challenge in your career change journey?

Working in this industry is as much about communication and fitting in with a company's social culture as it is about your skills and ability to code. I was not the most social person coming into this industry, and I expected my work to be mostly independent. However, I spend 80% of my day talking to people in my role about different approaches to problems, and I never imagined that would be the case!

Looking back on this year, was Thinkful worth it for you? 

Absolutely. No bootcamp is perfect, but I wouldn't be where I am without Thinkful. If given the option, I think everybody should enroll in an immersive, full-time program. Having a tight-knit cohort and forming relationships with folks with similar goals is the most incredible resource out there. Your network is just as crucial as the bootcamp. My advice is to invest in your network from day one by making new connections and having meaningful conversations and interactions with people. That's where the opportunities come in. I feel like I found my people at Thinkful, and that's priceless. 

Find out more and read Thinkful reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Thinkful.

About The Author

Jess is the Content Manager for Course Report as well as a writer and poet. As a lifelong learner, Jess is passionate about education, and loves learning and sharing content about tech bootcamps. Jess received a M.F.A. in Writing from the University of New Hampshire, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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