Lillian Ng had a background in electrical engineering, but wanted to work in computer programming, so she enrolled in the Code Fellows Ruby on Rails Development Accelerator in January 2014. Two months later, she had a new set of skills and a job with Simply Measured as a Junior Software Engineer. We talk to Lillian about a typical day in the classroom and how Code Fellows prepared her for a job in the real world.
Before Code Fellows, did you have any experience in tech? Had you taught yourself to code at all before you applied?
I actually have have a degree in electrical engineering. A lot of times, people think electrical engineering and computer science are similar and they are in some ways. I did know the very basics- scripts and concepts like that. But there’s so much more to being a developer than that.
I had taken two very basic computer sciences courses in my undergrad; CS 101 and 102, at Virginia Tech.
Did you apply to other boot camps or did you just apply to Code Fellows?
I only applied to Code Fellows.
Why Code Fellows? What stood out to you?
It was very convenient to where I was, actually. It’s just down the street from me.
How was the application?
I know that a lot of people have different experiences with the application than I did. I actually applied very, very last minute. I think I might have been the last person that came in—a week before the course started.
I know other people who applied three or four months before and they had a really drawn out process, but I applied and then each step of the way there was a very basic application trying to understand your experience and then Code Fellows brings you in for an interview.
Did you feel like the interview that you had was technical, and that you needed prior coding knowledge to complete?
Yeah; we had questions that were technical in nature. We talked about my experience with different types of databases and how I would structure the class. It was pretty technical, actually.
Tell us about the instructors for your class; how many there were and what was the teaching style?
At the time, there was only one primary instructor. I know that this is something that is always changing because I talked to people from previous courses and there were two instructors. But when I was taking the class, there was one instructor and a lot of TAs—previous grads that were in the process of looking for jobs.
In terms of instruction, the first hour of every class was spent reviewing the topics that we did the previous day and then we’d get about an hour or so of the new topics that we’d be working on.
In the morning, we had about three hours of instruction and we also had talks about whatever topic we were going to dig into at the time. It was an environment where you would have a conversation with the instructor but everybody else would also be watching and learning.
In the afternoon, we didn’t really get much instruction. At that point it was more like mimicking what you would do day to day as a developer. We would work with classmates, complete tests.
Did you think that the teaching style matched with your learning style?
I think it worked pretty well for me. It kind of depends on your expectations going into it. If you think that someone is going to spoon-feed you, that isn’t going to happen. You have to know that as a developer, you’re going to spend all your time working on these problems and you’re not going to know how to solve them all. You’re going to look things up and experiment.
Basically the environment that they provided was something that was very similar to how you’d actually have to perform on the job.
How did Code Fellows work projects into the class?
Since the course at the time was divided into two halves, each half had a capstone, so the fourth week had a project and the eighth week had a project. But we also had things that we would build overnight.
What was your big capstone project? Did you build anything that you’re really proud of while you were there?
Yeah. I worked with a great developer who was a UX person. It’s really cool because you find people with complementary skills and that’s what I found in a partner on these projects. We actually built a note-sharing app for our first Week 4 project. Then we actually worked on it for the 8th week as well.
Did you feel like there was diversity in the class—in age, race, gender?
I would say there was a fair amount of diversity compared to other things that I’ve done—having been an engineer, I mean. I kind of expected there to be a very lopsided ratio in men to women, which is standard and typical.
When we started out class we had 19 people and I think 5 of them were women so that was not unusual.
Were there assessments? Did you take tests throughout the course?
No, we didn’t really take tests.
Would you suggest if somebody doesn’t have a strong CS background, that they should take one of the Foundations classes?
The Foundations course or something similar to that, because it definitely makes a difference. There were plenty of people in my class with web development backgrounds, like HTML and CSS.
How did Code Fellows approach job placement with your class?
During the second half of the course, we started to work on the job search. We had events like Demo Days and we had employers that would come in and tell us about the job search process, but at that point, I don’t think they had that part built up as much.
What are you doing now? What’s your role and what company are you working for?
I’m a Junior Software Engineer at Simply Measured. We do social media analytics for marketers.
How big is your team that you work with now?
My immediate team has about 10 people.
Did Code Fellows prepare you for your job at Simply Measured? Was it an easy transition?
Yes and no. Yes in that I learned a lot about web development in general. That was really the piece why I wanted get a job like that, so that’s what I learned from Code Fellows. But there are a million things to know. Working as a dev you’re learning all the time anyway. It definitely prepared me for that interview so that when I got there, I was ready.
How did you get the interview?
Networking. I saw these people were going to certain meet-ups; I went to those meet-ups and would talk to them.
And then of course, when you’re looking for jobs, I think you have to make a connection with a person who can connect you with a company.