As Army Veteran Brady Keegan returned to civilian life, he met another veteran who showed him the path to Software Development. Now he’s attending Sabio and learning .NET while building a real full-stack portal for a client project! Find out why Brady chose Sabio, the importance of Sabio’s PreWork course, and why he decided to use his GI Benefits instead of doing the Vet Tec Program.
What were you up to before Sabio?
I was Active Duty in the Army for four years and then I transitioned into the Air Force Reserves. After I completed Active Duty, I began going to school to be a teacher, which is something I'm still passionate about. But I've always been enthusiastic about technology. I went on my first Air Force Reserve annual tour in August. While I was on Annual Tour, I met a guy that was a Software Developer. I asked him how he got into Software Development and he told me about the VA Vet Tec Program and the bootcamp he went to.
Did you try to learn to code on your own before doing a coding bootcamp?
When I was getting out of Active Duty, I participated in a Transition Assistance Program with Cisco – it was basically a paid internship with Cisco and I learned some coding for their routers and switches. That coding was different than software development, though, because it was super specific and I found it dry. After that, I played with Swift. I knew I wanted to do software development, but I didn't know how to get into the profession.
What made you choose Sabio?
When I came to Sabio and began speaking with their staff, Brijesh and Liliana, I asked them what makes them different from other bootcamps. They told me that the difference is that halfway through the bootcamp, Sabio students get to work for an actual client building an actual website and mobile application which they can put on their resumé. Speaking to the staff at Sabio swayed me. Sabio is job focused and has a strong alumni network, which is a huge factor for me. I didn't do a coding bootcamp just to learn how to code – the end goal is to find a job, of course! We just started our client work two weeks ago and it's been a great experience so far. Getting to work with a client during bootcamp is amazing.
Did you end up using VET TEC to attend Sabio? How was the process?
I did not go through with the Vet Tec benefits because the Vet Tec Program didn't pay for Sabio’s PreWork. However, the GI Bill did cover PreWork so I used my GI Bill benefits.
Tell us more about the PreWork – how long did it take?
The PreWork was mandatory for entrance to Sabio. It took about a month to complete, then about two weeks of Labs before starting the full-time program with my cohort. I treated PreWork like it was a full-time job, but you could have time for other things like a full-time job.
What did you learn during PreWork?
After PreWork, the Labs honed our skills for what we should expect on day one. Twice a week we would get on a group call with the Lab instructor. We went over Ajax and JQuery during labs and learned how to push and pull data.
Was PreWork online or in-person?
My class was the first class that did PreWork completely online.
Tip for other GI Bill students: in order to get the benefit, have to spend at least 18 hours per week on campus so myself and a few other people did the PreWork on campus. It was nice because we got to talk to some of the cohort members and instructors here on campus. We also got to feed off of each other while learning. In my opinion, the in-person environment is always better. Having the liberty to do the PreWork at home was nice too, though.
Did you work with a real instructor or any of your cohort before you started the full-time course?
The five of us that were VA students taking the PreWork course on campus made a plan to show up together on the same days. We got to know our instructor beforehand just by being on campus. Sabio also had a Slack channel with all of the PreWork candidates for that time-frame so I got to know some other people and chat with them on Slack before we started cohort. I got a pretty good feel for the instructors and my peers beforehand.
How did Sabio’s PreWork compare to learning how to code on your own?
Do you think the PreWork helped you once you got to Sabio’s full-time bootcamp with your cohort?
If it wasn't for the PreWork, I wouldn't be able to do the bootcamp whatsoever. On Day One, we started working on projects and without any of the foundation from PreWork, it would have been impossible. PreWork paved the way with building blocks so that we could start working towards becoming developers on Day One. Unless you have experience as a developer before Sabio, I’d say that PreWork is absolutely a part of the curriculum.
Any advice to someone who's about to start on the PreWork at Sabio?
Once you started at Sabio, what was your cohort like?
We have two other cohorts working alongside us – right now we have one cohort ahead of us and one cohort that just started. If we want to ask a question we can get an answer from someone who has been doing this a bit longer than us by asking the cohort ahead of ours. When the younger cohort has a question, they can ask us middle-tier students. To be able to explain the things that we just learned to the younger cohort strengthens our own knowledge. It's a cool experience.
What is the learning experience like at Sabio?
The learning experience is definitely unconventional. The first six weeks of the bootcamp is the Warmup Phase. For the whole Warmup Phase we work on one project and each assignment is a section of that project. There's a series of videos for each section. We independently watch the videos and work on that project alone. When we have a question or want more elaboration we put ourselves in a queue to get one-on-one instruction for however long we need to understand or fix our bugs.
After the Warmup Phase is the Project Phase. In this phase, we are given more videos to expand our skills and we have code reviews as a cohort. Every morning we meet with our team and have a code review with our instructors and then we talk once or twice a day about the bugs in our systems.
As a Veteran, do you feel like calling this a 'Bootcamp' is accurate?
I totally see why they call it a bootcamp! In a military bootcamp there is a ton of information that is crammed into your brain in such a short period of time (about three months). Sabio is also about three months long and is the same information overload. You have to master so much information in such a short period of time in coding bootcamp.
So you’re now working on the client project – who is your client?
The client is a business student out of UCLA. He has a business that takes medical information and demographics that doctors have to report and streamlines the process through an online portal. The client explained it like this: it's an $18 million process right now but with the website and application we're building we will be able to streamline it into a $500,000 procedure. Instead of sending demographic data to report to the insurance companies every three months over fax, the office will be able to submit the information much faster via a back-end portal.
What technologies are you using to build the client's deliverable?
How long is the Project Phase?
We're working on it with our entire cohort like a team for about 6 weeks total. We’re each working on separate sections – front end and back end.
How does your Sabio instructor help you with the client project phase?
It's easy to get one-on-one time with any of the three instructors here on the Irvine campus to get the help that I need. Hector, the downtown Los Angeles instructor is actually our cohort spearhead. Anything that has to do with our client project goes through Hector kind of like a project manager. We get on code reviews and team project meetings with Hector. It's cool because I get to work with both instructors.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I haven't started job hunting yet but that is coming up within the next four weeks. I definitely want to get a career in software development. After doing this for a few months now I've found a love and a passion for programming. Once my skills are honed and I've been in the industry for a while I can see myself picking up some mentees and helping the next generation get programming.
Do you think that this is a good path for other people who are transitioning out of the military into civilian roles?
Definitely – the military experience is a huge help. The dedication and work ethic that the military teaches you is definitely applicable to the coding bootcamp. We know what it takes to be disciplined and work as a team. Everything we learn at Sabio is team-oriented. Having the team spirit brought back into this has been great.
However, on this path to software development, you have to be passionate about it. There's a lot of hard work and dedication needed to get through a bootcamp. It's a great career for anyone who is even remotely interested in technology – to be able to build something that you are actively using and that everyone uses has such a rewarding feeling to it.
What’s been your biggest challenge or roadblock in learning to code?
I've had two major challenges. Coding is so vast and I’ve referred back to Google and Youtube quite a bit to understand things in a different way.
On a personal level, I've had some challenges that required me to take time off. It's tough to take time off from Sabio, but Sabio has made it easier by letting me take remote days so that I can work from home to take care of my daughter. My peers has been helpful with that too. If I have to miss a day I can catch up with them and they can fill me in.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a bootcamp like Sabio?
If you’re a veteran, look at all of your options for funding and figure out what works best for you.
Aside from that, go ahead and do Sabio's PreWork. It's only a month long and it’s free. You get to test it out and see if you actually want to do software engineering. If you complete it you'll learn the basics that you'll need for any bootcamp. If you don't like it, you don't have to continue. Other than that, use YouTube and Google! Work hard, study, and be the best you can possibly be.