Alumni Spotlight

How to Land a Job After Tech Elevator

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Jennifer Inglis

Edited By Jennifer Inglis

Last updated on April 2, 2024

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With the recent turbulent tech job market, are bootcamp graduates from Tech Elevator still getting hired? The short answer is yes! We caught up with Kevin Apolinario and Joel Salas, both recent graduates of Tech Elevator who have launched software engineering careers at Travelers Insurance and JP Morgan Chase. Kevin and Joel share their insights on what it takes to stand out in today’s tech talent pool, and how they landed their first software engineering job in the past year. 

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You both made career changes into software engineering recently — Why did you choose Tech Elevator to help you make that career pivot into tech?

Joel: I was recommended to Tech Elevator with glowing reviews by several alumni, including my dad’s coworker at Progressive and my friend who is the Director of IOT and works with several Tech Elevator alumni. I also chose Tech Elevator for their in-person campus in Columbus with local connections to companies. 

Kevin: Similarly, I had two friends who had gone through the program. At the time, one of them was still in it and had not gotten hired yet and the other had finished the program and was two years into the career. They both shared rave reviews! I'd heard about bootcamps and understood the risks and rewards of fast-tracking into a new career, but knowing that my friends had a successful outcome made choosing Tech Elevator a no-brainer!

The tech job market has been a bit of a roller coaster the past year or so. How did Tech Elevator prepare you for success in this current job market, Joel?

Joel: One major way Tech Elevator prepared me for the job hunt was through preparation and practice of the interview process. They taught us how to interview, then offered opportunities to interview with instructors, and then went the next step to do a mock behavioral interview with third parties. The feedback I received from the interview prep at Tech Elevator was imperative for my success in the hiring process at JPMorgan.

What types of jobs were you applying for after graduating from Tech Elevator?

Kevin: I was looking for entry-level, junior developer roles specifically at banks and insurance companies. In my research, I noticed that banks and insurance companies were more apt to hire entry-level candidates than tech companies, which tended to expect more experience and were more competitive to get into.

Joel: I love cloud development, so I focused on finding a company that used AWS. I knew JP Morgan went to AWS re:Invent and signed a deal with AWS, so I made it known throughout my hiring process that I wanted to do that. I also applied to a couple other companies, such as Wells Fargo and Progressive, but JPMorgan was the first to extend an offer and I took it. 

How many jobs did you apply for over the course of your first tech job search? How long did it take you to land a job after graduating from Tech Elevator?

Kevin: I was very proactive about the job search and started laying the seeds for it (like networking and scheduling 1:1’s) more than a month before I graduated so that by the time I graduated I had applied to 100-150 jobs! I was fortunate to get hired before I graduated, but I was still rejected a lot!

Joel: I applied to 75-100 jobs. I graduated December 15th and December 13th was the application deadline for JP Morgan’s Emerging Talent Software Engineering (ETSE) program for people who don't have a technical computer science degree. I applied and didn't hear anything for about a month, then on January 20th, I heard that I had an interview for the final round. At that point, I pumped the brakes on other applications to focus on the interview. I think my applications were quite low compared to my colleagues who graduated at the same time. The final round of interviews consisted of two, 45-minute behavioral and technical interviews and I got an offer a couple of days later!

Which tech stack did you find that employers are looking for in new tech hires?

Kevin: It's definitely changed. When I was looking in 2022, I saw a lot of MERN (Mongo, Express, React, and Node.js) stack, but now I see AWS on every application. I'm seeing Python more, and I'm starting to see a lot of large language model experience with libraries like LangChain and HuggingFace. Employers are looking for different skills as companies try to lasso AI to build something marketable with it.

Joel: As a back end engineer, I primarily saw AWS, Terraform, and Kubernetes. Plus, employers wanted the AWS Solutions Architect Associate Certification as a baseline.

What were employers looking for in the technical interview portion? Was it important to employers that you got the problem “right”?

Kevin: It definitely depends on where you're interviewing. Companies like Amazon expect a high-level knowledge of data structures, algorithms, and object-oriented programming, even for entry-level roles. Interviews at Travelers Insurance focused more on attitude, behavior, and personality fit than technical prowess. They were interested in whether I could work well on a team, if I was friendly, and how I’ve handled conflict in the past. 

Travelers sent me a technical assessment of eight questions and I was only able to answer two of them. I was sure I bombed it and would never hear from them again, but I got a call back and got an engineering job! They said the assessment was just to gauge where I was technically, more than getting every question correct. I was able to grow out of my initial role once my foot was in the door with the company. 

Joel: After I submitted my resume, JPMorgan sent me two timed HackerRank problems and I had 30 minutes for each question. In the first section, I was able to pass seven of the ten test cases. I couldn’t finish the second one, so I wrote down comments for what I wanted to do. From there, I had a technical interview with an actual person who gauged my knowledge and understanding of coding through two whiteboarding problems. On the first one, I was asked to walk them through how I would solve the problem, and then code it, and I actually couldn't complete the code because I was nervous. The second question asked for three answers to a problem to see how I could communicate what I wanted to do in different ways. Communication is key in coding!

In your recent cohort, was Tech Elevator available if you needed career support after graduating from the bootcamp?

Joel: Tech Elevator offers career support for up to a year, so I met with the Pathway Program directors on a daily to weekly basis depending on how busy they were. They also have an amazing alumni technical team. One team member held Zoom meetings a few times a week, reviewing everything we covered throughout the bootcamp. After graduating, I felt set up for success. I definitely recommend taking advantage of Tech Elevator’s career support! 

Have you used your Tech Elevator network to help you in your tech career since graduating in 2022?

Kevin: While I was attending Tech Elevator, professionals came in and talked about different career paths that existed. When I was in week two of the bootcamp I met someone who worked at IBM who shared what he did and we are still connected today. I took every opportunity I could to connect with the people they brought in. Though none of the referrals that I got ended up leading to the job I'm working now, I was still able to get referrals, warm introductions, and get my resume in front of people in ways that I don't think would have happened if I had just gone through an online system.

I also benefited tremendously from the services they provided to my LinkedIn, resume, elevator pitch, and self-introduction. At Tech Elevator, they went through everything with a fine-tooth comb. I used everything they offered in the job I landed. Tech Elevator equips you with the tools you need to be successful, so if you put the work in, you can do it. 

Were employers interested in your Tech Elevator experience or the project portfolio you built while in the bootcamp?

Joel: JPMorgan was interested in what kind of projects I did with the frameworks and the languages that I used. They asked a few questions about my projects in the interview. JPMorgan and the tech sector in Columbus, Ohio use Java, so they wanted to make sure that I understood the different Java concepts.

Kevin: In my interview, there were questions about the portfolio projects. I used the projects to create talking points to speak to technical challenges and things I learned. 

What types of soft skills were employers looking for? 

Kevin: Most companies are going to want to know how you deal with conflict, if you can work with others, and how well you communicate. Travelers was very interested if I could work with a team of people. I see why now because only 10-20% of my day is actually coding. I spend so much time talking to people at a high level and explaining concepts to non-technical people to get business requirements or coordinate work between teams. Communication and the ability to perform and understand written communication are really important, but it was also important to them that I was a friendly conversationalist. The culture fit seemed more important than the technical skills. 

With the rise of AI tools this past year, did you find that employers expected you to understand AI tools or skills?

Joel: The jobs I was looking at weren't geared towards AI unless it’s an internal tool that the machine learning AI team specifically uses. It’s a serious infraction at JPMorgan to use AI for code completion.

Kevin: Travelers took a conservative approach to AI when it came out. It was initially banned and we couldn’t use ChatGPT until October 2023 and even then it was heavily regulated with a training course. There were still things we could or could not input, and for good reason! There are opportunities to use a chatbot to pull certain information, but there’s no need to know exactly how it works or be able to write a large language model yourself.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your tech job search? 

Joel: I was a chemist before jumping into software engineering so my biggest challenge was imposter syndrome. There were a few people in my cohort who I thought were better developers who got denied by JPMorgan! So I thought, if JPMorgan believes in me I can believe in myself! I look at people with 5-10 years of experience in awe but it takes time, practice, and a willingness to learn to get there. Understanding that I am a software engineer now has helped me believe in myself. Imposter syndrome will always come up, but I’m learning to be at peace with it. 

Kevin: The hardest part for me was also believing I could do it because I also switched careers! I was a professional chef for six years. It’s not easy to walk away from a world that I identified so heavily with and change the way that I think about work and the way that I view myself as a professional. Especially with engineering, which consists of so much knowledge and ambiguity in the role that you will never know everything and you will always need to rely on other people in some capacity. I came from an industry that did not allow for unknowing — I was expected to put out fires and handle everything — but it’s acceptable as an engineer to say, “I don’t know.” Keep an open mind and know that there are things you don’t know. 

I also experienced imposter syndrome — you just have to fight through it. Once you get your first job and get through some projects, the confidence will start to build and you'll feel more sure of yourself. It’s definitely something you have to earn. Remember that everybody is going through the butterflies, apprehension, and doubt at first. It's normal to feel that way!

It’s quite a competitive job market out there right now. What is your advice to new engineers who are currently on the tech job hunt? 


  1. Don't let a difficult job market dissuade you from trying. The strategy now is to look around and see what employers want. Be marketable to employers. Look at the job descriptions at the companies you're interested in and see what they are looking for, then build the roadmap of what you’ll do while you're looking.
  2. Contributing to open source is a green flag for most companies. I haven't done it myself, but I've heard from interviews that doing open source is a big way to stand out from the crowd.
  3. Find relevant technologies that you can learn and showcase to employers. This gives you another project to talk about and shows your willingness to learn.
  4. Network. Never stop networking! 


  1. A valuable resource is the AWS Skill Builder.
  2. Take the initiative to learn something new. One of the projects I did was called the Cloud Resume, and this proved helpful to talk about in my interview at JPMorgan. It showed them that I took the initiative to jump into something I didn’t know and learn it.

What are you both working towards now?

Kevin: I'm still trying to build up experience. I'm still green and working on getting a strong understanding of data structures and algorithms. We covered them in bootcamp, but not necessarily to the depth you may need, depending on where you want to work. I've been spending a lot of time going back to object-oriented design, learning about different design patterns within that, and eventually, it’ll play into system design. I would like to sprinkle some machine learning in there at some point to have a baseline knowledge of it. Right now the goal is to keep doing what I'm doing at my company and increase my skills and market value as an engineer. 

Joel: I plan on continuing using AWS and ultimately getting my Solutions Architect Professional certificate. The ultimate goal is to be a Principal Cloud Back End Engineer within AWS. Knowing JPMorgan and how they use AWS, I’m confident it’s an opportunity I can reach. 

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

About The Author

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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