Sergio’s international business background led him to start a marketing company and work at various travel startups. He transitioned to product management and realized his constant interactions with developers made him want to learn code. So he decided to attend Fullstack Academy's Bootcamp Prep in NYC and then their full-time bootcamp in Chicago. Learn why he chose to do the bootcamp prep first, and how he’s enjoying the first Fullstack Academy Chicago campus cohort.
What is your pre-bootcamp story? What were you doing before you attended Fullstack Academy?
I majored in international business and started my own marketing company focused on website design and social media after finishing college. That eventually led me to work for travel industry startups making single solutions for travel services like accommodations, flight tickets, and car rentals. Those roles were more marketing and branding than actually developing applications or new solutions for our clients, so I transitioned to product management within the company.
I really didn't have any formal coding education or a computer science degree before coming to Fullstack Academy. I tried to learn some programming on my own, and given the nature of my previous work, I was in close contact with developers. That past career led me to discover this passion that I now have for developing.
Why did you decide that a coding bootcamp was the best option for you?
My first choice was to get a formal graduate degree, but I looked into several different Master's Degrees, and none of them were really the right fit. An MBA was the natural choice given my previous degree in international business, but looking through the curriculum, I wasn’t interested in high-level financial reporting courses. I really wanted a hands-on program that would provide the set of skills I felt would compliment my background.
That's when I realized that maybe I was not looking for a graduate degree, but I was actually looking for a career change. I found out about this new generation of coding bootcamps, and it was like a whole new world for me.
There are so many different options out there, and it was really surprising. Through that struggle- this might sound a little bit cheesy- but Course Report helped me a lot throughout the research and decision-making process.
Did you try to learn coding online before you decided to apply to bootcamps?
What other bootcamps were you considering besides Fullstack Academy? How did you narrow it down?
Why did you start with the Bootcamp Prep at Fullstack Academy?
Since I was not a developer or a formal computer science graduate, I knew I needed some extra experience, and I used Bootcamp Prep to help me confirm that I wanted to be a web developer as a full-time job.
Choosing a bootcamp is a huge commitment. You have to make a huge effort to put aside certain aspects of your life while at bootcamp. During Bootcamp Prep, I had a chance to experience what it was like to be at a coding bootcamp and it really helped me prepare for the bootcamp mindset.
How prepared did you feel after the Bootcamp Prep?
I felt really confident after going through the bootcamp prep. It's more about giving you the skills and that confidence boost that you need right before applying to bootcamps. No matter how many times you go through online courses, sometimes you need a real taste of how the coding life would be, and I think that Bootcamp Prep helps you achieve that.
Did you apply to more than one bootcamp?
When I was halfway through Bootcamp Prep at Fullstack, I had started the process for applying to other bootcamps. I decided not to pursue any other options because I was really convinced that Fullstack Academy was the right bootcamp for me after learning in their prep course.
I decided to do the full-time program in Chicago as opposed to New York, but even if I had decided against Fullstack Academy, I would’ve still been really motivated and confident to apply to any other elite bootcamp in the country.
Why did you decide on Fullstack Academy’s Chicago campus (instead of the NYC campus)?
I was living in Miami, Florida before moving to Chicago to start the full-time bootcamp, since I was already looking for another city to move to, I wanted to be part of a bootcamp that is well established and in a city that is really involved with the technology scene. And I think both, New York and Chicago, meet that criteria. It was more of a personal decision, as my family had plans to move to Chicago.
It was really nice to decide between two cities, because once you apply to Fullstack Academy, and you’re admitted, you’re able to choose which city you want to do the full-time bootcamp.
Were you able to put your Bootcamp Prep tuition towards the full-time bootcamp?
Yes. That was something that I also found really appealing about going through this program. Since Fullstack Academy was my first choice, it was a very natural decision to go through the bootcamp prep, have a real taste of what the bootcamp was going to be, and then pass the credit of the prep tuition onto the full-time program.
Tell me more about the application and interview process for Fullstack Academy. How was that experience? Did you get top priority since you did Bootcamp Prep?
I didn't feel that I got special priority for having participated in the bootcamp prep. I was treated the same way as if I was applying for the first time, and I think that's a good point to consider.
For the application process, you have to fill out the application form and send your profile with your previous work and coding experience, if any. After sending the application, you first get a coding assessment online. You are given a certain time frame to answer the coding assessment, and it's a pretty basic assessment to determine your level of coding knowledge. That assessment is really good because it's broken into different parts and each of those parts has a different level of difficulty. After that assessment, there’s a Skype interview.
The interview was really personal and I didn't feel like I was being judged about the results of the assessment. It was more a conversation about the assessment experience, and discussing where they saw opportunities to grow. After that, Fullstack makes a decision and finally, they let you know if you’ve been accepted or not.
Do you have any tips for our readers in terms of how to ace the Fullstack Academy interview?
Were there important factors that you were specifically looking for like location, price, or instruction when looking at bootcamps?
I was living in Miami, Florida before moving to Chicago to start the full-time bootcamp, since I was already looking for another city to move to, I wanted to be part of a bootcamp that is well established and in a city that is really involved with the technology scene. And I think both, New York and Chicago, meet that criteria.
Describe your Fullstack Academy cohorts in both the New York Bootcamp Prep and the Chicago Full-Time Immersive. Are those cohorts diverse?
Bootcamp Prep in New York was a cohort of about 35 students, and there was a wide variety of people. There was about 60% men and 40% women, which I was really surprised by because you would think this industry was still dominated by men. The truth is that this type of coding bootcamp, especially Fullstack and their sister school, Grace Hopper, makes a really good effort to nurture gender equality. In terms of background, some students were right out of high school, some learned to program 30 years ago, some were coming from the restaurant and accounting industries and others just wanted to update existing skills.
In Chicago, there are 15 students in my cohort. I have come to really appreciate that the attention is even more personalized. We have four women in the cohort right now. The backgrounds of this cohort are comparable to New York in that there are people from very different backgrounds. Some are looking for a career change, and others are looking to enhance skills.
Do you like the learning experience in the Immersive? What’s a typical day like at Fullstack Academy?
I have come to appreciate all the effort that Fullstack Academy brings when creating this 13-week program and making sure that the overall learning experience is very well balanced. Fullstack has figured out a way to make you feel really involved with every new subject they teach. They also have these special moments to reflect on your achievements and provide feedback. I can tell that they try to improve that program in each cohort because some of the workshops are updated quite frequently. Fullstack Academy not only cares about giving you information, they make sure that you actually process that information, which is great.
A typical day starts early at 8am with practicing some code on your own. Many students used Code Wars as I think it's quite popular between the coding community. Next you have a set of lectures that are usually followed by a workshop. Most workshops are done through pair programming, which I think it's really a good method of learning. For those who are not familiar with what pair programming is, essentially you are paired with another student, and both of you have to work on a single computer. One is reading the general objective at a high level, and the other is more focused on typing and syntax. You have to work really closely because at any point you may want to switch positions. Since the pairs are being rotated quite often, you get to work with almost all of your colleagues, and that makes the cohort and the general ambiance of the program really enjoyable.
What's been the biggest challenge or roadblock for you on your Fullstack Academy journey?
It has been challenging, definitely. I think the first thing you have to keep in mind when joining a bootcamp is that it'll be a high demand of all your attention. Make sure that you see this as a full-time commitment and not just the typical six to eight hours per day. You need to give your full attention for these 13 weeks because the program is demanding; but in a good way.
Even if you are familiar with the industry or with programming, there are so many new things that you're going to learn that it will require your full attention and a lot of motivation. Fullstack has really paid attention to the details of the program so they also care about your well being. They take the time to ask you, either in a one-on-one or in a group feedback sessions, how you are feeling, if you are resting well, if you’re in good health, etc.
What technologies are you currently using at Fullstack Academy? Do you have a favorite project?
My favorite project so far is not finished. Are you familiar with a game called Guitar Hero? I am a huge music lover and I know how to play guitar, piano, and the drums. So I decided to use VR technology like Google Cardboard (it’s the Samsung VR headset), which have special glasses for a visual reality experience. I am working on building a VR Guitar Hero that is connected to the Spotify API so that you can pick any song if you have a premium account from Spotify. And through an algorithm, I am able to identify the beats of the song and the user is essentially able to play Guitar Hero through the keyboard instead of a game controller. We have about a week to finish it.
You’re in the first cohort of the Chicago campus. What does the space look like, and how's the tech scene in Chicago?
I’m having the time of my life here in Chicago. The campus is in 1871 (that name comes from the Chicago great fire). Initially, they were using that name to represent the rebirth or reconstruction of the technological spirit of Chicago. This is one of the biggest technology hubs in the city, and it's a great place to learn and work.
There are some tech startups here on campus, and there are a ton of different events like tech talks and meetups with technology companies. I think Fullstack made a great choice on deciding to open their new campus in Chicago.
Do you have an idea about the types of positions you're going to be looking for once you graduate?
I would really like to work in an engineering position to practice everything I’ve learned at Fullstack Academy. In the longer term, I would like to start a business of my own. Fullstack recently started a new coaching program to help alumni who start companies. You can read more about Fullstack Fund, but I know the program has helped at least two Fullstack alumni. So that's something to really look forward to after graduation.
What advice do you have for people thinking about making a career change and attending a coding bootcamp?
The best advice I could give is to take the time to experience what the tech industry is about. Go to meetups or participate in tech events. Go to a hackathon even if you don't know how to code. This is such an interesting and awesome community- the best way to learn is to discover it for yourself.
Also, don't worry about not being able to solve that problem online. If you're struggling on how to go through that online course, just go out, meet some people and you'll see that maybe they’re struggling too and you may be able to help each other.