Alumni Spotlight

How Valerie Went from House Cleaning to Coding with 4Geeks Academy

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Liz Eggleston

Edited By Liz Eggleston

Last updated on January 9, 2024

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Valerie Dubach hit a wall with her job cleaning houses and was looking to start a rewarding career without a college degree. She learned about coding bootcamps and landed on 4Geeks Academy, which offered part-time online learning, scaffolded curriculum, dedicated career services, and lifelong mentorship. Valerie graduated in April 2023 and after career coaching from 4Geeks Academy and persistent job searching, she landed a role as a PHP Developer at the internet marketing company, OMG National! Now a TA at 4Geeks Academy, Valerie shares her tips for incoming bootcamp students on how to make the most of the program — #NoExcuses!

What inspired you to pivot from gig work to working in tech?

I was working as a maid and making decent money, but the work demanded 12-hour days. I didn’t have any time to myself and couldn’t progress in my job. A cleaning client offhandedly mentioned that degrees can be overrated and that his company was mostly hiring recent coding bootcamp graduates — that piqued my interest about coding bootcamps! 

What set 4Geeks Academy apart from other coding bootcamps?

A lot of the bootcamps only serviced certain areas and being in Georgia limited the ones that were available to me. I considered the coding bootcamp at Georgia Tech, but it was going to be way too costly to do upfront. 4Geeks Academy was cheaper and with their Income Share Agreement, I didn’t require payment until after I found a job.

4Geeks Academy said that normally graduates land a job within three months, which was definitely motivating to me because I had to quit my full-time job to do this and was living off of savings. It was really important to know that I would get a job after attending this bootcamp. 

It was also very important that I could do the bootcamp part-time online so I could still work some. 

Having gone through the bootcamp and landed a tech job, do you still feel like the Income Share Agreement was the right path for you? 

The monthly payment is pretty high, but I will pay it off a lot faster than people pay off most student loans. The monthly payment was determined by my income, so the payments represent a percentage of my income. I remember thinking this is going to be a lot of money out of my check when I do start getting money, but it's a lot of money that I wasn’t making in my last job. And it’s nothing near the $30,000 that other bootcamps wanted, or what some people take out with student loans. With 4Geeks Academy, my loan should be paid off within only three years.

What was the 4Geeks Academy application process like for you? Was there an application challenge?

It wasn’t hard to get in and was a very fast process! I showed interest and heard back from an admissions rep the same day and was situated with my pre-work and loan within three days of applying. There was a fairly basic logic challenge and I don't think I even scored that well on it — I think that worried me, but I still was able to get in. 

In your experience, did you feel like you had to know basic coding in order to apply to 4Geeks?

No, not at all!

What did the pre-work cover?

The pre-work covers HTML, CSS and some JavaScript, which we go over in-depth once you get into the cohort. The pre-work is more about overcoming the shock of looking at code, a code editor, getting used to using GitHub, and feeling more prepared going into the bootcamp so it’s not all brand new.

What was a typical week like in the part-time, online Full Stack Coding Bootcamp

We met on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Each instructor sets up their class differently, but the main idea is that we had a lecture that related to what the daily project was going to be, discussed the material, and then went into breakout rooms with 2-3 other people to try to work on the project together. There were extra modules to do in between classes, and if you didn’t finish your project in class you needed to work on it outside of class.

For me and a lot of students, if we spent the three hours from class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday doing our projects, we didn’t take a lot of it home. I spent a lot of time outside of 4Geeks working on coding stuff that wasn't specific to the curriculum. The one thing 4Geeks emphasizes is teaching you how to understand the world well enough for you to teach things to yourself. At the end of the day, they can't teach you everything that you'll need for your career — no one can because no one knows what your career is going to be. 

What did you actually learn in the bootcamp?

For the front end, we learned HTML, CSS, Bootstrap, and JavaScript. We cover JSON briefly,  React, then Python, Flask, SQLAlchemy for the back end. 

Were you able to juggle work while completing the part-time bootcamp?

I have a hard time speaking to that because I was working, but I was working for myself cleaning houses. I didn't have a 9-5 job for 40 hours a week. I had clients that were very understanding if I was up too late with a project and needed to reschedule. I had the means to make extra income that was flexible and that made the bootcamp a lot easier for me versus people who were juggling a 9-5 job. 

At the same time, when you have a 9-5 job, you have a little bit more structure than you do when you have a job like I did. As long as you form your habits around your job, I don't think it would be difficult to devote the time you need to to the bootcamp.

What was your cohort and instructor like? 

We had 4Geeks Academy’s CEO Alejandro as an instructor for part of our cohort and he gave us the experience he envisioned for 4Geeks. 

Most people who were taking the online bootcamp were based in Florida, Georgia, or somewhere on the East coast, but we did have someone who was living in Africa at the time, another member from China, and someone from California. As a student, it was difficult for me to connect with random people across the country and since I was taking the bootcamp with my husband, I wasn’t really looking to connect with people. Now that I’m a TA at 4Geeks Academy, we are taking a more intentional approach to building community within the cohort by teaming people up for their breakout rooms instead of making it random. 

What kinds of projects did you work on in the bootcamp?

The projects start small and build in difficulty. We started with a static HTML/CSS postcard, then an Instagram post with more CSS where you're worried more about appearances than the last one. When we got into the bigger projects, like with JavaScript, one of the fun ones was an excuse generator where you do a Mad Lib of words thrown together to make an excuse. 

Another one of my favorite projects is the random card generator. You create it so that when you click a button, it shows you a random playing card. It’s one of the projects where you have an opportunity to do a little bit more with it. You can do what 4Geeks asked you to do, which is make the card and get it to work, but you can go further and add a button to it, make it pretty and more card-like, or a step further is making it look like a deck.  

By the end of the bootcamp, do you have a portfolio of projects you've made?

By the end of the bootcamp, I had a very full GitHub! By the end of 4Geeks Academy, I had a solid 30 repositories of different projects made! 

After the cohort, I went back and redid some of the projects, mostly because I got a job as a TA, so I wanted to reacquaint myself with some of the previous projects before helping others with them. It was cool to see the two versions of my projects: the original and the updated one after I knew more of what I was doing. 

How did 4Geeks Academy prepare you for the tech job hunt? 

4Geeks Academy offers career support. They help you:

  • Put together your GitHub so it looks professional.
  • Tell you how to write your professional portfolios.
  • Show you websites you can use to create resumes.
  • Learn how to balance your tech skills and soft skills.
  • Learn how to make your resume compete with those who have a degree.
  • Build a LinkedIn profile, make connections, and message recruiters once you apply to a job.

They loaded me up with all of these tips! Interviewing doesn’t come naturally to me, so having the support from 4Geeks helped me channel that persona so I could get hired. 

Which tech roles did you feel qualified to apply for after graduating?

I was mostly looking at entry-level front end positions. We learned the Python stack but I wasn’t interested in working in Python every day, so I was looking at other junior positions. 

Do you have any tips for others on the job hunt right now?

Make a list of jobs you really like, and if you have seven of the 10 skills listed, write down the other three skills. See what they’re looking for that you don’t have. When I was on the job hunt, I looked at the jobs I wanted, tallied the skills I was missing, and figured out how to teach myself those skills. I learned PHP after 4Geeks, which was a lot easier to teach myself after learning JavaScript. Once you’ve already learned a coding language or two, it’s easy to pick up new languages. 

Also, be persistent. I applied to probably 800 jobs and I didn't hear back from any of them except for the one job I got. I told myself that it would probably take 1,000 job applications and only after 1,001 applications could I start to get depressed! 

Congratulations on your new job as a PHP Developer at OMG National! How did you land the job? 

I got this job as an Indeed EasyApply job. I hear people say that they won't apply to an Indeed EasyApply job because those listings have too many applicants, but it takes just 10 seconds to apply so why not try? It's the recruiter’s job to decide whether or not I'm qualified for it. It's just my job to send them my information in order to consider me. I applied to this job at OMG National and I actually met the qualifications for it and it just worked out!

Was OMG National interested in your coding bootcamp experience? 

I got hired on with two other people who are both 22-year-old guys that just got their computer science degrees last May. When I justified the skills I had without a degree, the hiring team seemed impressed by what I was able to teach myself in just a year. If I didn’t know something that they knew, they felt confident that I could pick it up. When I started my job, they used jQuery, which I had never used a day in my life. I figured that out on the job, which was what they were expecting from me.

What was the interview process like for you?

OMG National sent me home with a coding question challenge, so I didn't have to code it in front of them. When I handed in my response to the challenge, my now boss told me that I was the only one who solved it in JavaScript. Everyone else did it in Python but Python was not part of their stack! So that’s a good tip for other job-seekers: If a job sends you home with a question to solve, make sure to do it in a language that the job is asking you to know!

What kinds of projects are you working on at OMG National? 

I'm on a team of 6 people. I’m mainly working on maintenance and finding what is not working with their existing site, but we are starting to implement new things, like making a widget so the sales team doesn’t have to use two sites to time their work. We had a backlog of work that needed to get done when we were hired on, so now that those are taken care of we can start implementing new things.

Are you using what you learned at the bootcamp? 

Oh, yes, definitely! Even though I’m using jQuery and PHP, I did learn SQL Alchemy at 4Geeks Academy, which I use a lot. 

So far, was 4Geeks Academy worth it for you? 

Even outside of all of the coding, I feel a lot better about my life than I did when I started 4Geeks Academy. It was helpful to have the socialization of mentors and TAs after being pent up during the pandemic. I felt very lonely and 4Geeks helped me feel connected again, which immensely helped my confidence! It helped me feel like who I felt like before the pandemic happened to a degree because the pandemic stripped away all of this community from us. Now I feel like this kick ass woman that can code and help people! 

Without 4Geeks Academy, I don't know if I would have been able to get this job, or I might've cracked under the pressure and maybe left this job because that's something I've done in the past when things get hard. 4Geeks gave me the confidence to get to this place in my career and life.  

What is your advice for making the most out of the 4Geeks Academy experience?

The students who use the mentors at 4Geeks Academy do much better overall. Half of what I do as a mentor is building up my students’ confidence and telling them it's okay that this feels hard because it is hard! I've noticed with my own students that the ones who utilize the mentors do better. They also get used to asking their questions out loud, which often offers realizations on their own once they hear it. 

4Geeks Academy offers unlimited mentorships — there's always someone there to help you. You actually get to see people and talk to them and ask them questions, and that makes a big difference.

Find out more and read 4Geeks Academy reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with 4Geeks Academy.

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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