Uninspired by the slower pace and lack of support in college, Michael left his Computer Science degree program at the university. When Michael’s lifelong interest in computers led him to pursue a career in coding, he enrolled at Eleven Fifty Academy. Michael tells us how Eleven Fifty’s Software Development bootcamp gave him the structure and hands-on learning he needed to make a career change in 12 weeks, and how his bootcamp experience continues to pay off three years later.
What inspired you to get into tech?
I took an HTML course in high school and I was in college for computer science, but I only made it a semester before dropping out. My CS courses in college felt like a lot of memorizing and there was no real hands-on learning. The pace of college is slow, and I didn’t like that it was going to take four years for me to get to a place where I wanted to be in my career. After I dropped out of college, I started working as a data manager where I input information into spreadsheets. I was still looking for something creative in the tech space, and I began researching Swift iOS programming which led me to Eleven Fifty Academy.
Why stood out to you about Eleven Fifty Academy?
I was drawn to Eleven Fifty Academy because of the speed of the program. At Eleven Fifty, I could learn how to code in 12 weeks instead of four years like a traditional college. I was also impressed that Eleven Fifty Academy offered scholarships and funding options for students and that they are a non-profit. Eleven Fifty Academy was also located very close to where I lived, so it felt like the perfect opportunity.
What was the Eleven Fifty Academy application and interview process like for you?
The Eleven Fifty Academy application was initially daunting to me, but they set reachable expectations from the beginning. Eleven Fifty made it clear that while you don’t have to know how to code before you apply, you should be computer savvy enough to keep up with the pace. I’ve always been tech savvy so I felt confident going into the bootcamp.
How did you pay for the tuition at Eleven Fifty Academy?
Eleven Fifty offers a variety of funding and scholarship options for students. Many times this lowers the cost of the tuition considerably, and sometimes covers the tuition entirely. Additionally, they offer no-interest loans for those people who don't qualify for scholarships.
What was a typical day like in Eleven Fifty Academy’s Software Development bootcamp?
There were only 25 people in my cohort and the lessons were very interactive and immersive. We would start the day by reviewing a topic that we had already worked on. We would try to code from scratch without using an integrated development environment (IDE), and then go into the lesson which would consist of live coding in front of the class.
We would take pieces from the lesson and repeat them as challenges by applying it to something else or changing it for a different outcome. At Eleven Fifty, I never felt like I was just sitting and watching someone code. It was always entertaining and a good time. It could be stressful with deadlines and the amount of work to complete, but my cohort got close as a group and built trust.
Did you feel like your cohort was diverse?
There was a good mix of people from different backgrounds, gender expressions, races, ethnicities, and ages. I sat next to someone in their 50’s and it was inspiring to see that they were engaged and interested in coding. Since it was such a small class and we were there for 12 weeks, we got to know everyone.
Did you continue to work while completing the bootcamp?
While completing the bootcamp, I worked remotely 20-30 hours a week. It was definitely difficult to juggle both, since the bootcamp is a 40+ hour fully immersive bootcamp. I would go to Eleven Fifty Academy from 9am-5pm, work on homework over the one-hour lunch period, return home to work from 5pm-9pm, then work on homework, study, and repeat until midnight. It was a grueling schedule, but I thrive under a structured schedule and was able to prioritize what needed to happen at each hour.
How did Eleven Fifty Academy’s teaching style compare to the Computer Science classes you took in college?
I wouldn't be where I’m at in my career if I'd just gone to college for a CS degree. Eleven Fifty’s teaching is interactive and personal. There was an instructor and two learning assistants, so you’re not interrupting the whole class if you need help. The pace was better learning at a bootcamp than how learning is structured in college classes. At Eleven Fifty Academy, they take an absolute beginner to a proficient coder in 12 weeks.
What did you actually learn in the Software Development bootcamp curriculum?*
*Check out Eleven Fifty Academy for details about their latest course offerings!
What kinds of projects did you build in the bootcamp?
To show comprehension of the React framework, we had the opportunity to work on an independent project. I built an Instagram clone that I spent a lot of time on and am really proud of.
There was a group project for the section on Angular. Four of us built a fitness tracker together. It was a great example of how to collaborate and work with multiple people, and what we could expect when working as developers in the real world.
How did Eleven Fifty Academy prepare you for the job hunt?
Eleven Fifty Academy has an excellent Career Services team. I was able to work with them on updating my resume, and they supported me throughout my job hunt. Looking for employment is a hard landscape to navigate, and the Career Services team at Eleven Fifty were invaluable to me.
Since graduating, you’ve worked at two different companies as a software engineer. How did you get your most recent job at Greenlight Guru?
My first job after bootcamp was with 120Water, where I met another software engineer who’d also graduated from Eleven Fifty Academy. Someone else on the team moved on to work at Greenlight Guru, and six months later he contacted me to apply for a job on their team. It was an indirect connection to Eleven Fifty Academy, but my graduating from the bootcamp definitely made an impact on my getting hired at Greenlight Guru.
Indianapolis is a small city and so the people who work in tech here make up a tight-knit community. Many engineers know each other from companies that they’ve worked at together. There are Slack channels where people chat about tech and share what they're working on.
What kinds of projects are you working on at Greenlight Guru?
Greenlight Guru is a Quality Management Software solution that allows users to track federal regulations and compliance in one integrated system. My team has been working on our newly launched product called Halo of Change. It allows us to predict related documents within our system that a user potentially needs using AI. This in turn helps users mitigate the risk of missing important documents.
Are you still using what you learned at Eleven Fifty Academy on the job?
I use what I learned at Eleven Fifty every day, and I’m also constantly picking up new things and trying to learn new languages and technologies. If you don't stay up to date in this field, it's easy to get behind. I’m regularly reading Medium articles and documentation to continue my education.
You were also a Learning Assistant at Eleven Fifty Academy after you graduated! How did teaching help you become a better software engineer?
It’s informative to look at code you didn’t write, especially when coding is a new skill for you. By looking at other people's code without the ability to jump in and change it, it gave me perspective on how people write code and how they think.
Working as a Learning Assistant at Eleven Fifty Academy also enhanced my debugging skills. Taking a piece of code that I may not have context on and quickly identifying a bug causing a problem was enlightening and empowering as a new software engineer.
How have you grown as a Software Engineer since graduating from Eleven Fifty 3 years ago?
I've grown a lot and I’m still learning. For me, it’s interesting to work beside someone who's been a software engineer for 10 or 20 years because it gets me thinking about all of the knowledge that they have that I've yet to acquire. I am constantly reading articles, watching videos and TED talks, anything I can do to update my skills.
As an Eleven Fifty TA and bootcamp grad, what is your advice for making the most out of the bootcamp experience?
The main practice that supported my Eleven Fifty educational experience was repetition. At home, I would take something we learned in class and repeat it five more times at night, rebuilding what we did from scratch until it was ingrained in my brain. The bootcamp is fast-paced, so even after I graduated, I took some time to re-learn some of the things we covered. If you don’t make yourself repeat what you’ve learned, it's easy to lose track of what you've learned.
Take the time to understand every single part of what you're doing and replicate it until you are able to explain why it works. Think about how you might apply that technique in the future. Remember that learning at Eleven Fifty is not checking the boxes — it's about integrating the information so you can do the job when you're employed.
Looking back on this experience, was Eleven Fifty Academy worth it for you?
I’m a decent self-learner, but learning on my own to make this career change would have been hard. I absolutely needed those fundamentals of languages and functions in order to start my career as a software engineer, and learning from Eleven Fifty Academy was absolutely worth it.
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