Alumni Spotlight


Meet Neha: From Chemistry Teacher to Web Developer Through Penn Boot Camps

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By Jess Feldman
Last Updated September 10, 2020

Neha Nautiyal’s love for learning led her to enroll in the web development program at Penn Boot Camps. Although Neha loved teaching chemistry, she found a new passion and talent for web development that eventually inspired her to switch careers. Neha explains how the instructors at Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp supported her in her journey into tech, her advice for other working moms getting into tech, and how she landed her first tech job at Vanguard after program completion! 

You loved being a teacher, so what inspired you to enroll at Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp?

I taught chemistry for eight years in the Philadelphia area at both private and public schools, and I never expected to switch into tech. My husband knew someone who had attended the Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp, and it sounded like something I might like to do. I wanted to be the learner again! My mother was living with me at the time and she could watch my two young children, so it felt that it was a great opportunity. When I enrolled, I never expected to leave teaching!

What was the application process like at Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp?

I had to take a timed coding challenge. I got 100% right! The challenge had 30 questions on HTML and CSS. There were also multiple choice questions on algebra, logic, and concepts. We could use technology to complete the challenge, which meant I could Google the information. I had never even heard of CSS before the test, so it is not an impossible challenge to pass without knowing code.  

Did you have to complete any pre-work before the boot camp started?

Yes, I was ecstatic to do the pre-work! The pre-work was an intro to HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, and it included the basics, like learning how to type and how to install the software we would need. We also had to make our own Scratch game. Learning something new, reading, and researching was like homework and I loved it. I tried to read more than what was given to me because I wanted to understand the why and how. I spent hours watching YouTube videos and doing lessons on freecodecamp.org because I found it so fascinating. 

How did you pay the tuition for the program?

At Penn Boot Camps, there were three options: I could pay in full (which wasn't possible for me), apply for a loan, or make monthly payments. I chose to put it on our credit card and then make payments. As an alum, I also received $500 off the total tuition. 

What was a typical day like at Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp? 

I was enrolled in the part-time program, so the in-person classes happened on Monday and Wednesday evenings for three hours and on Saturday, there was a four-hour class. Class would begin with a lecture discussing a specific concept, and then we would have activities that went along with that concept. We would work on the same concept for an hour, but every 20 minutes we would pause so we could add another layer. Over the course of the boot camp, we learned HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Firebase, SQL, MongoDB, Express, React, and more.

Did the teaching style match your learning style?

As a teacher, I know how I learn. I knew I needed a hands-on learning experience to grasp the concepts. I spent a minimum of 10 extra hours per week going through all of the material in advance before the instructor reviewed it, in addition to completing the weekly homework assignments, reading articles, and practicing. I was that hungry and motivated to learn. I also enjoyed every minute of it.

What kinds of projects did you work on while at Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp? 

There were two group projects and one final project. Our first project focused on front end, using HTML, CSS, and Javascript and a few APIs. I absolutely loved this project! I named my project "Lost in Textlation,” and it was a website that analyzed the tone of a user inputted message. The user would enter a sentence or phrase, and my website would give you the sentiment analysis. It would also highlight certain words and give you suggestions. If you click on the suggestion, it will give you the new sentiment analysis for the new words that you picked. 

Why did you ultimately decide to pivot from your teaching career into a tech career? How did Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp support you in that career change and the job hunt?

When I enrolled at Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp, I thought I would learn to code, work part-time, and then continue teaching in the fall, but my boot camp instructor saw potential in me and convinced me to begin a career in tech. At the boot camp, we had career milestones for resumes, portfolios, GitHub, and LinkedIn. When I realized mid-boot camp that I wanted to make the career change into tech, the support I received from Penn Boot Camps was amazing! I had a learner profile coach who read all of my work and quickly gave me detailed feedback. There were many virtual career service sessions on things like whiteboarding, mock interviews, and coding challenges that I could attend. For every tech interview that I had, Penn Boot Camp’s career director answered all of my questions, helped me formulate questions to ask, responses to common questions, how to negotiate my salary, and how to write thank you notes after interviews. I am very grateful to Penn Boot Camps’ supportive and helpful careers team. 

What has been your biggest challenge in this journey to becoming a developer?

My biggest challenge has been my own resistance to change. All human beings are curious and want to learn more, but where that leads you is your choice. You have to take the next step to determine if you want to go somewhere with it. You take your past experiences and knowledge with you and use it to inform your future decisions. It's difficult to move forward without knowing the results, but taking risks is crucial because it can be for the best!

Do you have any advice for women of color or working mothers who are now considering a tech career?

Women have every reason to pursue careers in the tech industry. Women have an inherent ability to lead and are very detail-oriented. These days, every field uses tech, so having these skills will only benefit you. As a working mother, it’s invaluable to have your kids see you work hard, put that effort in, and get something out of it. It sets a wonderful example. You are teaching them that you have to work hard to succeed. 

How did you land your first web developer job at Vanguard?

When I knew I wanted to switch into tech, I applied to as many companies as possible and the investment company Vanguard was one of them. After submitting my resume, I didn't hear anything back for a couple of weeks, and then I received a phone interview, an assessment, and an onsite interview. Vanguard was impressed by my passion for learning and willingness to continue learning. I was hired by Vanguard even though I still had six weeks left of the boot camp! The day that I completed the boot camp, I had already been working at my new job for over a week.  

What types of projects are you working on at Vanguard? Are you using what you learned at Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp?

I learned full stack web development at the boot camp, but on my current team at Vanguard, I am doing zero web development! I'm on an infrastructure team which is a technical support team that deals with servers, upgrades, vulnerabilities, disaster recovery, and production support. I am using vendor products, nothing that we have developed on our own. Even though my current team at Vanguard is focused on IT work, Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp taught me how to learn, communicate my learning, and continue my education. The best thing about Vanguard is that after 18 months, I'm able to change teams. I plan to eventually move to a web development team. 

Since you learned to code at Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp in-person, did you feel prepared to work remotely?

Yes! Fortunately, my team was able to work from home two days a week before the pandemic, and I really appreciated that. I loved being in the office and seeing my colleagues, but now that we are WFH full-time for the foreseeable future, I do think that it's easy to adapt to working from home. While there are times when I miss running into friends in the hallway, going out for lunch, or even face-to-face meetings, I am grateful for Vanguard’s commitment to keeping their employees safe and cared for.

How has your former teaching career informed your new tech career?

Communication, collaboration, reflection, and leadership. As a teacher, you have to know how to communicate well to express ideas to your students. You are in charge of a room of students and that can easily overlap with leading a team of developers. I feel like on my present team, even though I do not have a leadership role yet, I am explaining things to other people and offering direction. They may have more coding experience, but I have that confidence in what I'm speaking about. Even if I do not have those specific skills, I know how to word it to help others understand. Teachers are also very reflective. We always want to improve on our methods and look into how we can teach better. We are continuing to learn in order to give the best instruction we can. In web development, we must constantly learn to adapt to our job and keep up with new technologies.

Would you recommend that other teachers who are considering a career change right now make the jump into tech?

Yes. As a teacher, every evening I was inundated with the amount of work that I still had to do. It never felt like I was done. With my current job, once I'm finished at 5 p.m., that's it. I have most weekends and nights to myself, aside from the occasional weekend upgrade, which makes losing summers worth it. It feels so much better not feeling overloaded. It's a far better routine and lifestyle for me and my family. I want to tell teachers that we already use so much IT in classrooms, and this is a field for everyone to pursue. No matter what interests you (sports, cooking, photography), we all have to use technology at some point or another. 

Was Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp worth it for you? Are you happy that you went down this route?

I've never been happier! It feels like this was meant to happen for me. There are opportunities for everyone and you just have to be mindful when one comes your way. My instructor kept telling me to switch my career, I was receptive, and went for it. Change is hard, but I am grateful that I listened to him, and the timing worked out perfectly. This is a wonderful field to be in now. 

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

About The Author

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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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