Walter Latimer dropped out of college but was hungry for more education- when he found Wyncode in his hometown of Miami, he jumped at the opportunity to learn Ruby on Rails. We talk about the main instructor and TAs at Wyncode, how he landed a dream job at CareCloud, a practice management software company for doctors, and how Walter is keeping up with his classmates through WynAlum.
What were you doing before you started at Wyncode?
I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then jumped around universities for a while before dropping out of school, partly for financial reasons and partly because I was frustrated with the higher education system. While I was in school, I found myself making portfolio sites for myself and my friends. I had already done some HTML and CSS on my own as a kid.
After leaving school, I turned to Treehouse and Code School and was self-teaching for a while. I did some of freelancing, doing some front-end projects for artist friends and galleries. I wasn’t supporting myself doing it, though.
There’s only so much you can do on your own before you need that mentorship or instruction, but I knew I didn’t want to go back to college. I’d been looking into some bootcamps in San Francisco because I hadn’t heard about Wyncode at the time. By chance I happened to learn about Wyncode about 2 weeks before they started and I jumped on the opportunity.
So you did take a couple of computer science classes going to college.
I went into Wyncode knowing the basics, yes.
Did you feel like that helped you?
Did you end up applying to any of the bootcamps in San Francisco?
I did; I applied to App Academy. I was accepted. I may still end up going, because Wyncode was such a positive experience and I’d love another opportunity to focus exclusively on learning.
So you got accepted to App Academy, and App Academy is free until you get placed in a job. What made you choose Wyncode over App Academy?
For me, the biggest consideration was Wyncode’s hiring partners. The Miami tech scene is considerably smaller than San Francisco’s, but there is a huge community push to grow it. Miami having a coding bootcamp is a big step for the city, so nearly every large tech company down here has expressed support and interest in hiring graduates.
Wyncode is located in the LAB, a coworking space home to lots of cool startups and freelancers, so we were constantly able to immerse ourselves in Miami’s startup scene.
Another important factor was cost. While App Academy is “free”, there were relocation costs to San Francisco that I would have incurred had I gone. Wyncode was biking distance from my house, in the fabulous Wynwood arts district, so it was a no-brainer for me, especially when unable to work during that time.
What was the application like?
I was in the first cohort, so the process for me was simple. I filled out a form with contact information, and interviewed with the founders a few days later. Paid my deposit a few days after that. Now that the third cohort is beginning and traction has picked up, I know they’ve gotten more selective. Nothing too intense, though.
Was the interview technical or did you feel like it was more of a culture fit?
It was both. They were definitely trying to get a feel for why I was taking the course; whether I wanted to be a junior developer or if I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship because they do have a big focus on entrepreneurship there. Most importantly they wanted to get a feel for how committed we were to learning to code.
Did you want to go down the Junior Dev path or down the Entrepreneurship path?
I was one of the youngest there. I was 21 when I started the program. I eventually would like to pursue entrepreneurship in education technology and the arts but I also recognize the benefit in letting my new skills marinate. So I was looking for a job as a junior developer.
What was your cohort like? Did you find a lot of diversity in age, race, gender?
I was pleasantly surprised. Like I said, I was one of the youngest, and we had people into their forties there, too. Being queer, diversity is important to me. What I found was a group of students who were representative of Miami’s demographics, and not a lopsided straight-white-male to everyone else ratio. One of the cofounders is female, and she is always pushing for diversity in the program.
Did you feel like everyone was on a similar level and able to learn together or did you feel there were people in different stages of learning?
The first cohort is especially tricky because it was a first time for all of us. A few students realized early on that they either weren’t cut out for this or they weren’t willing to commit as much time as Wyncode was demanding of us. That did slow us down a bit at the beginning, but it was one of the risks of being part of their first run.
Overall, we moved at a pretty quick pace and on top of that, they had plenty of breakout sessions. They did a really good job of pivoting for the people moving at a faster pace.
Who were your instructors?
Ed Toro was our main instructor. He was phenomenal; he was born to teach. I still go to him when I need life advice. Then we had a rotating TA team. TAs would come and go depending on their jobs at the moment. We had nearly 10 TAs over the course of the program, and I would say 3 of them were there nearly every day. Once every week or two, one of the TAs would lead a special topics lecture. The rotating TAs was great because we’d have more perspectives from people currently employed in the field we were studying.
What did a typical day look like?
We;’d start with standups in the morning, have a lecture, break for lunch, and then review the homework from two days ago. Every so often we’d do a code review when someone wrote some code exceptionally well, and then we’d either have a breakout session or work on our current assignments with TA time.
The first few weeks were fundamentals, and we got into projects later in the program. We built a few games in Ruby, a portfolio website once we got into front-end territory, and a smaller app in groups once we had gotten into Rails before we got into our final projects.
Were the final projects as a group or were they in teams or individually?
It was optional, and I chose to work in a group. I came in with an ambitious project already in mind, so I knew a team would be the smartest option.
What was it?
I wanted to build a learning management system for Wyncode to be able to use for future cohorts. Sure enough, they used it for their second cohort!
Did you ever experience burnout during the class?
No, if anything I wanted to keep going. There was a steady supply of free beer and energy drinks, so I was always just cracked out enough to function.
What are you up to today? Where are you working? What does your job entail?
I got hired at CareCloud two weeks after our final pitch day. CareCloud is one of the largest practice management systems in the country for doctors. I spend my days doing exactly what I was doing at Wyncode, but at a higher level and with a bit more pressure.
What’s your position?
I’m an Engineering Intern, making more than in any other job I’ve had.
How did you get the job?
CareCloud was one of the hiring partners with Wyncode. My current manager was on the judging panel of our final pitch day so I got approached by them after our final pitches. I felt like Hilary Duff in that movie where she gets scouted and she’s famous all of a sudden.
Did you feel like Wyncode prepared you to start that job in the real world?
Yeah; I mean there’s only so much you can expect anybody to learn in 9 weeks. I’m not going to leave expecting to be a seasoned veteran or anything. But Wyncode did a great job of not only teaching us technical fundamentals, but some best business practices like Agile and Scrum, which I use at CareCloud daily. When I started my job, I didn’t have to adjust to the culture because I was already used to it. All I had to adjust to was the learning curve for the advanced things they’re throwing at me.
What languages do you use on a day to day? Is it Ruby on Rails?
What has the alumni network been like for you?
Incredible! I’ve made some wonderful friends through Wyncode. We’re in the process of writing bylaws to WynAlum, our alumni association. As our graduate count rises, it’s important for us to keep a solid network to tap into. You never know when one of our grads is going to hire another of our grads. Programs like Wyncode are new forms of disruptive education, and they attract creative, ambitious, and inspiring people, so why wouldn’t I want to stay close with them?