Steffany’s 10 years in IT and project management gave her a taste of the coding world – enough that she started teaching herself to code. She eventually enrolled in LearningFuze’s 12-week full-time immersive bootcamp in Irvine, California to launch a career in front end development! Steffany tells us about her experience learning React alongside students with varied backgrounds, how LearningFuze directly helped her with her job search, and how she’s enjoying building projects in React at TensorIoT!
What was your background prior to attending LearningFuze?
I got my associates degree 6 or 7 years ago, but I worked straight out of high school. I’ve worked in IT for more than 10 years. I started out as an office manager at my dad’s IT company and most recently I’ve been a project manager at a digital web agency. I learned how the IT industry worked on the job. I was managing projects and working hands-on with developers, and was fascinated with what they were doing. I’ve always loved solving problems and got to watch that daily. If we didn’t have enough hands, I tried my hand at coding through basic tasks in WordPress and front end development. I decided I wanted to make more money and felt learning to code was the way to go.
Did you consider teaching yourself or going to college to learn to code?
I definitely did. I think free online courses are great if you’re motivated, and if you can find the time and space. I had been looking at Free Code Camp, but I’d finish a project and then work or life would get busy and I would forget things because I wasn’t actively using those skills every day. Before LearningFuze, I also did some side projects but it wasn’t consistent because I was still working full time.
I decided to enter a structured, full-time learning environment to learn enough that would enable me to move forward, advance my career, and expose me to a wide variety of coding opportunities. I considered a few options. I spent a lot of time thinking about whether a bootcamp was right for me and whether I was able to validate investing finances into it.
A friend and coworker had been coding for over 10 years and helped me make my choice. I discovered that in tech and IT, it’s less about your degree and more about your proficiency and portfolio. Going to a community college would have been a decent option financially, but would have taken longer and I was worried I wouldn’t learn the same set of targeted and marketable skills for the daily tasks. I looked at several coding bootcamps like General Assembly, Redwood Code Academy, Coding Dojo, and Orange County Code School. Once I learned one of my coworkers was a graduate from LearningFuze’s first cohort I focused on them!
What was your impression of LearningFuze in your research?
I went to a LearningFuze info session to meet people, get an overview of the program and curriculum, and ask questions. I was mostly interested in the employment assistance after graduation. I was wary of speedy technology courses that sold unrealistic expectations of what students can learn in a short timeframe. However, the entire LearningFuze team was completely honest about what I could expect from the bootcamp. Their goal was to ensure I finished the program completely prepared for a career, not to get me through a 12-week program and send me away.
I toured the facility and asked questions about the staff and instructors. I really loved the feel of the place – they had Star Wars decor! I got to chat with current bootcamp students who answered my questions and gave me an insight into life at bootcamp. That was really helpful.
I met with TJ Kinion, the Program Manager, who asked questions about my background, my interest in the program, my technical knowledge, and why I wanted to make a career change. They ask candidates about learning style because it takes a specific type of person to thrive in a pressure cooker environment. They want to make sure that bootcamp is a good fit for you.
Who were the other students in your bootcamp cohort?
There were about 17 people from different ethnic and professional backgrounds. At least a third of the cohort was women and it was very ethnically diverse – I never felt uncomfortable. It was focused on everyone having the same experience, so everyone could be successful.
We all had a variety of different backgrounds. One of my cohort-mates had been teaching himself and doing projects on the side so he was way ahead of the rest of us. There were others who had a little bit of experience or picked things up quickly. One person came from managing an art gallery, a few people were in sales, someone was from architecture, and a few were students. Some people had a lot of coding experience, some had none.
When they paired us off into groups, they combined stronger members with others who might need some additional help. There was a lot of camaraderie and everyone helped each other out throughout the bootcamp. It helped to have people around me who were more comfortable with the tech world.
What was the learning experience like at LearningFuze? What was a typical day?
We would start with a skills assessment at 10am going over what we’d previously learned. Each day we’d have a lecture on a new topic, and then work on a project like a test or a prototype to apply what we had just learned to retain the information. For example, if we had just learned loops, we would build something small that included loops. After lunch, depending on the day of the week, there would be another lecture or time to work on a project. We had a new project each of the first six weeks, so they built in time for us to work on them along with learning new concepts.
Was React a main part of the LearningFuze curriculum?
The front end is focused on React and, just like the first six weeks, was really hands-on learning and the instructor was always available for questions. We would go over different pieces of React each day and build something out together. We’d start with a task-app and build it out over the week adding different features as we learned different things. My final six weeks was pretty much all React-focused.
What was your favorite project at LearningFuze?
My favorite was our group project in the final six weeks of the cohort. We built an app in React, and I was one of the main front end developers for it. The app helps you find a new mobile game to play – if you’re bored with your current games, this provides options to find a new one. I was able to learn a lot about React in that project because there was so much involved and as a former project manager, I liked that React is set up in components so the code stays cleaner.
How did LearningFuze prepare you for the job hunt? What types of career guidance did they provide?
The career guidance from LearningFuze was fantastic. there’s a lot of prep work to help us feel more comfortable. We had whiteboard sessions with the team to imitate a day-in-the-life of a developer. TJ and Bill Cunningham, the founder, set up mock interviews with us, gave us feedback on our resumes and our speaking skills, helped us see what we could do differently, and suggested additional tips to make ourselves more marketable. Because I’d been in tech so long, I knew a lot of answers to the interview questions but they helped me tailor my responses towards development.
We also picked three different projects to clean up and refine for our portfolios. I spent three weeks after the course ended cleaning up those projects so I would be interview-ready. TJ and an instructor gave suggestions for improvements and, by fixing the projects, we learned more skills because we had to fix things in real time. Once our portfolios were approved, TJ helped us apply for jobs. A member of the team called me once a week with tips and tricks, chatted with me about job hunting on a Slack channel, and provided information and resources.
Congrats on your new role at TensorIoT! Tell us about how you landed the job.
The LearningFuze team keeps a pulse on who’s hiring – I actually got hired because someone approached the school and TJ sent them my resume! If I ever had questions about interviewing or a coding challenge, they were willing to help guide me. I was nervous about interviewing in a new field, but everything my new manager asked we had already gone over in our mock interviews. He asked me questions about React and working with APIs, and I felt really prepared. LearningFuze empowers you with the knowledge to make your employment search successful. They’re a great resource and support system.
What does TensorIoT do and what is your role there?
TensorIoT does a lot of work with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and we do proof of concept work for projects involving the Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning, and smart devices. I’m working on six projects right now, so there’s a lot happening and I’m learning new things on each project! I work a lot with React dashboards to track data from different IoT devices. I parse the data coming back from different sources like AWS or back end, and display it to the customer in a format that’s easy to view and understand. I’m currently on a team of 24 people (and growing!) There are five of us on the front end development team and two of them were in my LearningFuze cohort! It’s been great working with them.
Did you feel prepared for the role? Are you using React?
LearningFuze’s philosophy was, “we’ll teach you everything we can but there’s no way to teach you everything,” which was an important and honest distinction. They taught us the core knowledge of how to learn, how to look for things, and how to Google for answers. I’ve learned a crazy amount since joining TensorIoT but I would have been in a more challenging position if I didn’t have those basics. It can be overwhelming and fast-paced, but I felt prepared for my role.
I’m mainly working in React and I have learned a bit of Angular. I’ve learned new aspects of React too and I’m improving all the time. Recently I was looking at one of the projects I worked on when I first started, and even though it’s only been four months, I couldn’t believe how much better my code has gotten! I have a better understanding of how React handles different things and components, I have a better understanding of implementing items and adding to them, and how to use the power of React to confidently build projects.
TensorIoT is focused on our learning and bringing new ideas to the table. They provide access to Udemy, are open to additions to the tech stack, and empower you to learn new things and make the company better.
How have you used some of the skills from your previous job in your new role?
My experience from my project manager role has definitely helped. I can manage projects and clients effectively and I’m good at managing my time. I worked a lot with budgets and time restraints, and I understand how long things should take. Clients always ask for extra deliverables so, having been a PM, I can notice those and address things more quickly and make recommendations.
Looking back, do you think you would have been able to get to TensorIoT through self-teaching?
No, not even close. I would never have been able to do it without LearningFuze. It was a stressful time (never attend a bootcamp while planning a wedding!) but overall, it was a great experience. I spent a lot of time focusing on something I enjoyed. With my tech background, I knew I wouldn’t be terrible at coding, but after a few weeks, I realized I loved it and wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner. It’s been life-changing for me – I’ve finally found what I want to do with my life! It’s a great combination of my skills and things I enjoy, and LearningFuze’s environment helped me feel comfortable and confident in what I was doing. There’s no way I would have achieved that on my own or in a less focused environment. LearningFuze made a massive impact on my success. I loved working with them and it was a very noticeable impact on my success.
What advice do you have for others considering a career change with a coding bootcamp?
The most important thing for me was making sure I was mentally prepared for it. The second week I was questioning whether I had made a horrible decision, but I pushed through and made it. It’s a pressure cooker environment. You’re not going to sleep, you’re working all the time, you probably won’t speak with anyone, and you’re putting your life on hold. But LearningFuze was committed to helping each student regardless of their learning path or the assistance needed. It was a very focused and personalized experience to make you successful beyond graduation.