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Student Spotlight: Alex Wong of The Tech Academy

Lauren Stewart

Written By Lauren Stewart

Last updated on March 16, 2018

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    Table of Contents

  • Q&A


After multiple degrees in geology, Alex Wong set out to become a petroleum geologist. But a crash in the oil market coincided with a change in Alex’s interests, and he started his journey into tech. Alex chose to learn programming in Seattle at The Tech Academy, and because The Tech Academy is self-paced, he’s on track to graduate soon. We check in to find out about his learning experience, what he’s already learned about JavaScript, C#, and SQL so far, and his plans for the future!


What were you up to before The Tech Academy?  

Earth sciences have always been a passion of mine, so it was a natural choice to study geology during undergrad at the University of Michigan. I wanted to work in the petroleum geology field so I pursued a master’s degree at the University of Alberta in Petroleum Geology. During my time there, the oil market crashed, so when I graduated, jobs as a petroleum geologist were very hard to come by. I took a geotechnical geology job, but it wasn't exactly what I wanted to do.

I was working in geology for about a year before I decided to pursue other options. I've always been interested in the tech industry: the work culture, the types of projects that you can work on – what you can achieve with a coding background is limitless. I wasn't happy with my job, so I decided to make the switch. I used Codecademy to get a ground-level understanding of some of the coding basics.

Why did you choose to attend a coding bootcamp?

Actually, a friend of mine went to a coding bootcamp a year before I started at The Tech Academy. I asked his advice because his story was similar to mine: he was unhappy with his career as a civil engineer, so he went to a coding bootcamp. Now he's working full-time in the tech industry and he's a lot happier with his career. He went to a bootcamp in San Francisco, but I couldn't afford to live there at the time. I was considering Seattle, Portland, and Chicago, but I ended up choosing a Seattle coding bootcamp because I was able to stay with friends there during the course. Also, the area is beautiful – that helped!

What stood out to you about The Tech Academy?

I was looking at different coding schools that I felt fit my requirements; price and length were both important to me. I was open to learning different programming languages in the curriculum, but I also did research into what kinds of languages companies were looking for – languages such as C#, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and SQL to name a few. I went on Indeed and perused software development jobs to see what companies were mostly looking for in their potential hires.  

I ended up choosing The Tech Academy because of the high ratings from student reviews.

What was The Tech Academy application process like for you?

I had to take an IQ test, which is about 100 logic-based multiple choice questions. After that, I had a phone interview where The Tech Academy team tried to gauge my previous experiences and why I wanted to make the switch into tech. The process was reasonable; it wasn't anything that would cause you not to sleep at night.

I was nervous when I first started Tech Academy, but during the interview process, I was pretty comfortable with describing why I wanted a new career path.

Is The Tech Academy self-paced? How do you know when you’ll graduate?

I started on January 8th, and I expect that the whole course will take me about four months. I'm fortunate enough to let The Tech Academy be my sole focus right now. The structure of the course depends on your pace and how much you're able to absorb. You can go faster than your projected model by putting in more hours than required, or you can go at the pace that The Tech Academy suggests, and take your time.

I aim to work on the course from 9am to 5pm. I'm in the classroom for at least eight hours a day and then I'll do some extra work at home on top of that.

Since everyone learns at their own pace, do you learn with a “cohort?” Is it diverse in terms of gender, race and career backgrounds?

There are about seven students that come into the classroom. The majority of students work from home, and there are 25 total students in the Seattle area.  In terms of gender, I can only speak for the students that come into the classroom, but there are two women and five men.

Everybody comes from a very different background, which is really interesting to me. One of my classmates was an English major, one studied biology, another person was in hotel management. People here come from many backgrounds.

Who is teaching you at The Tech Academy? Do you learn from pre-recorded videos or are there instructors working with you each day? Since everyone learns at their own pace, are there ever lectures?

We learn from pre-recorded videos, but we have two instructors with us in the classroom who can help answer any questions on projects when needed. The instructors are there with us everyday and are very approachable and knowledgeable in the languages that we are learning. We have weekly whiteboarding sessions that the instructors lead, and it gives us a chance to practice our coding skills in front of the class, which will come in handy during the interviewing process.

Tell us about your favorite project so far at The Tech Academy!

We've covered HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL databases, Git, Github, and C# so far.

One of my favorite projects was when we had to create a library database. We selected 20 books and authors for the SQL database where we had to create and query account members by their address, and where their library is located. In the database you can search by the types of author or the book title. You can also see which user checked out a book and their contact information, etc.

That project was really interesting. It was an all-encompassing SQL project that pulled together all the techniques that we had learned. You can view my work on my Github account.

Tell us about the Seattle campus. Are you close to the Seattle tech scene?

The Tech Academy classroom is in Renton, a 20-minute drive south of downtown Seattle, and a 20-minute drive south of Bellevue, which is where a lot of tech companies are headquartered. Being in this general area is really helpful because it's easy to get to meetups. Seattle has meetups pretty much every day of the week, so you can just pick and choose which ones you want to go to – I plan on doing that.

The classroom itself is really nicely laid out. Everybody has their own individual desk and dual monitors set up. The Tech Academy has computers here in the classroom that you can use, so you don't have to lug your laptop around. The classroom is very comfortable.

Has The Tech Academy started preparing you for the job search yet?

Yeah, definitely. The Tech Academy encourages you to go to as many meetups as you can. They also have a LinkedIn module of the course where they help you with the general information you should put on your profile and what tech companies look for.

There's also a job placement section of The Tech Academy where you work with one of the teachers on interview questions. We also do weekly whiteboarding sessions, so it's been really helpful to get comfortable with the job interview process.

Do you have any tips for a bootcamper who's going through the job search?

I’m just starting with the job search, but my advice is to put yourself out there. You're going to get told “no.” Don't get discouraged by that and just keep applying to as many interesting jobs as you can find. The more you practice, the more you'll get comfortable with technical interviews.

Since you're nearing the end of The Tech Academy, have you thought about what jobs and companies you want to start applying to?

There are so many companies out there and tons of different startups. In terms of my own interests, working in the languages that I’ve been able to practice during the bootcamp like C# or Ruby would be really awesome, but I am eager and plan on learning new languages to improve my skill set.

I will be happy working anywhere that will help me progress my coding skills and grow as a developer. Working for a company that would set me up with a mentor would be a really good place to start as someone who doesn’t have a background in the tech field. Having a mentor to help guide your coding efforts would invaluable.   

What's been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learning how to code?

Every day I'm learning something new, and it's a totally new concept since I’m coming from a different field. It’s a great challenge to retain the information that I learned yesterday, and then also apply that to a new concept that I'm learning today.  

You have to always be on top of your game and review things that you did yesterday in order to make sure that it sticks with you. There’s always new information to learn, but that's also part of the reason I really enjoy coding, because there's so much to learn.

What advice do you have for people thinking about going to a bootcamp?

Make sure coding is something that you can see yourself doing in the future as a career. You can see yourself working with a team, constantly learning and challenging yourself. You have to be willing to challenge yourself – that's the biggest aspect of coding.

If you're on the fence, I would do some of the coding resources online, like Codecademy, to get a taste for coding. See if you enjoy that kind of learning process and line of thought. This coding bootcamp has been a really good experience so far and I've really enjoyed my time here, so I would encourage others to do it.

Read more The Tech Academy reviews on Course Report. Check out The Tech Academy website.

About The Author

Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart

Lauren is a communications and operations strategist who loves to help others find their idea of success. She is passionate about techonology education, career development, startups, and the arts.

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