Kristina Brown was working for an online coffee subscription company, where she got some experience working with engineers and decided to make a career change. So she moved her family (Kristina has a two-year old daughter!) to Denver, and started a 7-month journey to becoming a developer at Turing School. We talk to Kristina about the research she did when deciding on a bootcamp, her first few weeks at Turing, and the advice she has for other moms considering a career change.
What you were up to before you started at Turing?
I have a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Seattle Pacific University and I was working in the specialty coffee industry for 7 years after graduating. My latest position was in online customer service for a coffee subscription company in Portland. That’s how I started learning about the digital side of things and working with engineers.
Did you have any technical background when you applied to Turing? Had you done Codecademy or an online platform?
I had done lessons on Codecademy and have read a few books to teach myself a little bit. But I wouldn’t say I had any experience- I was a total beginner.
What was your goal in doing a bootcamp? Did you want to change careers or did you have an idea for your own company?
The goal was to make the transition from customer service at my company to developer. I wanted to stay at my company but get a job as a developer.
Why did you choose Turing? Tell us about your research process.
What stood out about Turing was the opinion from people I knew in the Ruby community. In their eyes, Turing was the only credible school. Not to talk down on other schools, but that was the number one factor in me choosing and looking into Turing- it is so highly thought of in the community.
I definitely looked at code schools in Portland because it would have been much easier to not move to Denver- I have a husband and a daughter. I talked to people who went through some of the schools in Portland and Seattle, but I heard a lot about their struggles with finishing school and not really succeeding in the industry.
The length of the Turing curriculum (7 months) and the fact that Jeff Casimir is involved also had a lot to do with it. I showed the curriculum and syllabus from other schools to the engineers who worked at my company, and they said it just didn’t compare to Turing’s.
What was the application process like for you? As a beginner, did you have to do a technical interview, a culture interview?
There was a written part of the application where you had to write about something you were expert in, and a logic portion. There’s also a video portion, where you make a two-minute video of yourself talking about your goals .Then there’s an interview process and there’s another logic session in the interview process.
Did you feel like you needed to have specific technical skills to get through that application?
Not at all.
So you ended up applying to Turing and you’re in the class now. How far are you through the class?
I’m three weeks into the first module.
How many people are in your cohort?
Do you find it to be a diverse cohort in terms of age, gender, race?
It’s definitely diverse. The age range is hard to tell- I guess we’re all early-to-late twenties. I know that I’m 29 and it seems like a lot of people are younger than me but there are also other people with families.
There’s a good ratio of men/women, which is really nice. It’s close to 50-50, I would say.
The class is racially diverse, and everyone has diverse backgrounds. There are people who have done front-end programming who are coming here to learn to learn back-end and we have an ex professional basketball player; it is a wide range of people.
Do you feel particularly supported at Turing as a woman or has that come up?
I think the fact that it isn’t a part of my thought process means that it’s not an issue here. I definitely don’t think that we’re treated at all differently as women. There are women in the other cohorts too so I don’t feel like a minority by any means.
We have guest speakers every week; last week, one of the women in my cohort asked a speaker’s advice on being a woman in the field and she just said, “brace yourself.” It was kind of a sad moment across the room, because at Turing, no one is experiencing that yet.
Did you feel like everyone in your class started on a similar technical level?
I’ve been told that it levels out eventually. I think that those of us at the very bottom who have zero background are spending a lot more time doing homework right now, spending a lot more time studying and asking more questions but I think that by the end we’ll be on the same level.
Who is the instructor for this first module?
Jeff does a lot of the lectures and so does Horace.
What is the teaching style like? What does a typical day look like?
The first 30 minutes in the morning are a warm-up called Posse Time. I’m in a posse with three other people- one from my cohort.
With every lecture there seems to be a lab component. That’s usually how it works Monday through Wednesday. There’s an hour and a half lecture, and then we apply it in some way in a lab and then we move on to the next one. That seems to be the pattern.
How many cohorts are in the space right now?
Four; there’s always four at a time. When we start the next module, the new cohort will be coming in.
Is there an exam or an assessment at the end of this first module?
There’s an assessment. I’m not stressing about it yet but I think we’ll have a practice one next week. I don’t know exactly what the structure will be like but I think we’ll have 30 – 45 minutes to sit down with the instructors and they’ll watch us solve a problem and see if we understand the concepts.
I know you’re only three weeks through but what technologies have you all learned so far?
Right now we’re learning Ruby basics. A lot of it is computer science topics, how things interact together, the basics of what a programming language is and how it works. We’ve done a lot of small projects and are talking a lot about design, like designing a frame properly and testing in.
It is definitely theory but from the first day we have been writing code. We code every day and we’re always doing homework.
How many hours a week would you say you’ve been devoting to Turing in total?
Class is 9:00am to 4:00pm. I usually come in an hour early and stay an hour late. I’ve been doing probably 30 -35 hours a week of extra work.
I feel like I’m learning a lot, so I definitely don’t feel burned out; it’s moving so super quick. It’s a lot of work but I don’t feel like it’s too much to handle. It’s definitely hard to balance; my daughter is two years old so that adds some constraints but I can still come early and stay late.
It must be difficult to be away from your daughter- are she and your husband still in Portland?
No; we all moved! My husband and I work for the same company, based in Oakland, and we both worked remotely in Portland. We moved to Denver and now he works remotely from here. It would be not unlike us to stay here and it would also be not unlike us to move to Oakland to be near our company.
It sounds like Turing was a good fit for you. Are there things that you wouldn’t expect or that you would change or have given feedback about at all?
Not yet. I talked to a lot of people who went to gSchool early on with Jeff and so I knew that it was going to be very intense and a lot of work. I actually hyped myself up a lot about it because of my daughter; I knew it would be a lot more difficult, so I was prepared for the worst and it was in the back of my mind, what if I just can’t logistically make this happen?
If I could change one thing, it’s the way I was thinking about it beforehand. I will definitely encourage any mother who’s thinking of doing the program and is nervous about it.
Do you have specific advice for moms who are thinking about making a career change and doing a bootcamp?
My advice is just to go for it. You can make anything work and be better on the other end. It’s hard but it’s going to be better.
You’re only three weeks in, but has Turing started to incorporate job prep into the class at all?
Turing is definitely addressing that. For example, this week we were taught about things that throw people off at interviews, like “Do this problem in 15 minutes.” It’s a different scenario than we’re all used to- it’s not a two-week project; it’s solving a simple problem in 15 minutes. So we’re going to regularly solve quick problems and have practice doing that because it’s a different skill.
I know that the people who are getting ready to graduate are strongly encouraged to go to meetups and have a lot more job prep in their curriculum.