Fresh out of college with a music and French degree, Angie’s penchant for languages led her to teach English in France. She soon realized that teaching wasn’t for her, so she looked to figure out what her next steps would be. A friend pointed out the similarities of learning code and learning a language, so she decided to give it a shot and enrolled at The Iron Yard in Indianapolis. Read more about Angie’s experience at The Iron Yard coding bootcamp and how she found her new job as a junior developer at RocketBuild.
What was your educational background, and career trajectory before you got to The Iron Yard?
I went to DePauw University and got a degree in music and French; not exactly coding related! I majored in subjects I really loved studying growing up and throughout college. Yet, the most practical route you can take with that background, if you don't want to perform as a musician, is to teach. So I tried teaching and spent a year in France teaching English to see if it was something I wanted to choose as a career. I had studied abroad in France before, so I wanted any opportunity to go back. In that year, I discovered that teaching was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was fine, but I couldn't see myself doing it forever. So while I was in France, I started exploring other options.
How did you decide that you wanted to learn code and attend a coding bootcamp?
A friend suggested I try coding because he knew I had a penchant for languages. I had always done well in French, and I took German for a little bit and it came easily. He suggested coding as a parallel skill saying, "Coding might be good. It's got sort of the same vocab/syntax thing going on that might be something you're interested in. I know you spend all your time on a computer anyway so it could be worth looking into!"
I started doing some tutorials and exercises online to see if it would pique my interest and it definitely did. I did as many tutorials as I could and tried to learn as much as I could on my own. I wanted to see if this was something I wanted to pursue. I wanted to keep learning, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try and learn all on my own, or if I wanted to do a bootcamp. I also thought about going back to college to get a certificate or degree. When it came down to it, I decided I wanted to do a bootcamp because I'm not a super patient person! I knew self-teaching was going to take too long; the same goes for going back to school. I also thought that would be way more expensive. So that's how I settled on going the bootcamp route.
What stood out about The Iron Yard compared with other coding bootcamps?
I honestly didn't know a ton about the other bootcamps in Indianapolis. I know there's one other primary one, Eleven Fifty Academy, but I had heard their program wasn't as in-depth or as intensive as I wanted. I really wanted an immersive experience. With learning languages, studying in France and living there, I knew throwing myself into a total immersion experience was the best way to learn something. I wanted a full-time challenge and immersion experience, and I think The Iron Yard is unique in Indianapolis in offering that.
What were the main factors you were looking for when deciding that The Iron Yard was the best option?
Location was a big one because when I was researching other bootcamps it seemed like a lot of them were concentrated in New York or San Francisco, and that wasn't realistic for me financially or practically. I liked that The Iron Yard had other locations, and I was fortunate that they started their campus in Indianapolis at the time that I was looking into doing it. The timing worked out well, but location was key.
The price was comparable to other bootcamps in other cities. In my conversations with Emily and Chris, The Iron Yard staff, I could tell they were going to be really supportive, and be there to help in any way they could. The Iron Yard seemed like a really good environment.
You mentioned that The Iron Yard was the most feasible for you financially. Did you end up using any outside financing options?
I financed it personally. I did look into getting outside loans but I ended up not having to go that route. Emily at The Iron Yard was really helpful with information about financing the bootcamp and how other people usually went about it. In terms of cost, it is definitely an investment, but the way I convinced myself on that point was that it's an investment that will pay off sooner rather than later.
Walk us through the application and interview process with The Iron Yard.
I don't know if my experience was standard, but I got in touch with Emily, the Campus Director, first to talk to her about the program. That was kind of my first interview. I met up with her at a coffee shop where she asked me about my background, and why I wanted to learn code. She was very upfront about challenges involved and wanted to make sure I thought about that. She wanted to see if it was a good fit for me, because it’s not a great fit for everybody. The Iron Yard was really straightforward and honest and I appreciated that.
I then submitted an application to The Iron Yard online. It was a pretty short application; nothing compared to my college application. Next, I had a second interview with Chris, the instructor, where we got a little more technical by going over the subject matter he would cover. Since I was applying for the Back-End Engineering course with Ruby on Rails, we went over how that would compare to a Front-End course because I was interested in doing that as well. He wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into. After the second interview, they came back to me and said I had a spot if I wanted it.
What was the learning experience like in terms of teaching style and curriculum?
It was intense. We had lectures Monday through Thursday all morning for about three hours. We would take a break in the middle because it's a lot of information being thrown at you at once. The Iron Yard was good about letting us take a break, breathe, and then refocus for the second half of the lecture. We had Lab time in the afternoon where we could actually sit down and apply what we learned in the morning, which really helped solidify all those concepts. During that Lab time, we could help each other as classmates, and get help from our instructor, which was great.
He was really good about emphasizing that a lot of it is figuring out stuff ourselves, which sometimes was a little bit frustrating. But that's what coding is, it's problem solving and figuring out solutions. I feel like that helped even though it was frustrating. In my job now, I I'm a lot more capable of figuring out something out if I don't know everything about it.
Were there any major learning challenges that you tackled while at The Iron Yard?
Tell us about a favorite project you built while enrolled at The Iron Yard.
One of our earlier projects, we made a simplified clone of Reddit. It was our first big Rails project, and that was fun. I don't know if it ever really got to the perfect place that I wanted, but once things started to fall together I had a really big sense of accomplishment. It showed me how much I learned in such short amount of time.
Tell us about your new job!
I am a junior developer at a company called RocketBuild-- we collaborate with creative agencies, marketing firms, and software companies to build and launch mobile apps, websites, and connected services. RocketBuild does a bit of everything, so that sounded like an awesome learning opportunity. I definitely wanted that in a job – the ability to continue learning and making improvements, while also being exposed to doing new things.
How did you find your new job?
I met my director of development and one of the other developers at The Iron Yard half way celebration for my cohort. We chatted a little bit and I wanted to know more about the company. I saw the director again at our Demo Day, along with an Iron Yard grad who works there. I talked with him again and reached out after Demo Day to ask if he wanted to meet up and chat. I liked everything I'd heard about RocketBuild. It sounded really interesting and challenging.
I met up with the director of development a week or two after The Iron Yard Demo Day. We had a really good conversation that I believe was my interview, but I didn't really realize at the time. It was good because I didn't really have a chance to get nervous, as it was a really casual conversation. I could tell we got along. We talked about what I was looking for in a job, and a little bit more about what they do. I met the president of the company and he answered some of my questions. Then, I had a second, again pretty casual, lunch meeting with everyone to see if I fit in with the team. Apparently I did because they offered me a job! I was so excited because I really wanted it. I really liked everything they stood for and everything they did.
How long have you been at RocketBuild and how are you liking your experience?
It’s been a little over five months now and I’m feeling really good. It hasn’t always been easy and I’ve definitely had some challenges – that just comes with the range of stuff that we do. There are often things that I don't know, which means I'm always learning new concepts and frameworks. It's been great.
Are you using the skills you learned at The Iron Yard in your current role?
It's funny because we haven't done anything in Rails which is what I learned at The Iron Yard. So that’s a little bit crazy because I haven't really touched it since graduating. But at the same time, I truly appreciate the foundation that The Iron Yard gave me, even though I'm not using the exact same languages and frameworks all the time. Teaching me how to learn definitely carried over because now I have to find the fundamental concepts in other languages and frameworks and carry that over.
What languages and frameworks are you using now?
Tell us about your first few weeks on the job. How have you acclimated to the team?
On my first day, we all went out to lunch together, and they let me pick where; so that was a nice welcome that I appreciated! I was stuck to my director's side for the first week so he could help me set up everything. He acclimated me to their development/agile process on how they manage projects and helped me out with some minor tasks on ongoing projects.
It was a gradual ramp up period in terms of how much I was responsible for. It started out pretty small and as I got more comfortable they would give me bigger things to do. Every week or two it would ramp up a little more, but not insanely. They had a really good understanding of my background and wanted to make sure I was at ease.
What is the Indianapolis tech scene like and how did you find your experience as a woman in the tech industry?
I’ve had a good experience so far. I’ve only been working in the tech community for five months, so I feel like I don't have a fully fleshed out idea of it yet. I have met a lot of people at The Iron Yard events. I’ve also been to a Girl Develop It meetup once or twice.
Everybody seems really friendly and welcoming. Everybody is usually interested in why I got into this field. As a woman, I’ve never really run into the blatant sexism that I know is out there. For sure, it's still male dominated in this community. When the topic comes up with other people in the tech community, it's all been very supportive and positive about getting more women into tech and supporting them there. While we’re still outnumbered, I think we have a good environment to better position women in tech in Indy. There's a lot of support.
How did The Iron Yard prepare you for the job search?
Honestly, I can't imagine going through the job hunt as smoothly as I did without their help. They were awesome. From day one they were encouraging us to go to meetups, make connections, and network with people. Networking was not always something I was super comfortable with, so getting that extra push truly helped. Even with setting up halfway celebrations and making sure they invited as many people as they could for Demo Day showed their commitment to our job search. It was awesome to be in a room with the people who might hire us.
The Iron Yard was really great about helping us figure out what to put in our portfolios so we could share those with potential employers. They encouraged us to get our portfolios online, and helped us with resumes and cover letters. They also went over interview questions; general ones and also tech- and coding-specific questions that would help us. We did rounds of whiteboard and coding challenges in preparation for interviews. We also participated in mock interviews with a local company in Indy. It was good prep because it's pretty nerve-racking! I had to do a whiteboarding challenge in a real interview and it went well because I'd had that practice. The Iron Yard was amazingly helpful with the job search.
Do you have any advice for people who are going through the job search now?
In terms of advice, I wish I would’ve gone back and revisited the basics of the course for whiteboard challenge and code challenge questions. In a few of my interviews they asked me about things I hadn't really thought about since week one or two of The Iron Yard. I would try to go back and hit the basics just to stay sharp. Putting together the online portfolio was helpful too because that gathered all my projects together so that employers could go back and actually look at what I had done, instead of just asking me questions about it.
Do you have any advice for people thinking about making that career change to attend a coding bootcamp?
At the risk of sounding cliché, my advice would be to go for it. I can't imagine what I would’ve done if I had put off going to coding bootcamp any longer. I was working at Starbucks while I was trying to figure all the stuff out. I would still be there, and that's fine, but that's not what I wanted to do. It’s easy to get stuck somewhere, and before you know it, it could be years later and you missed an opportunity. If you can make it work, then you should definitely take the plunge because it will pay off.