Roger wasn’t looking for a career change, but after ending up in technical product roles, he realized he needed coding skills to advance his career. With a full-time job and family commitments, Roger chose to learn to code via an online bootcamp through The University of Georgia’s School of Continuing Education, which is powered by The Software Guild. Roger tells us why it was important for him to take a coding bootcamp through his alma mater, how he balanced his job with his studies, and how his new skills are already helping him add more value in his job!
Tell us about your career and educational background. How did you come to enroll in the Web Developer Coding Bootcamp certificate program?
I have degrees in business and environmental science. When I was younger I was really interested in audio engineering and I learned software systems like ProTools. I always had a mind for technology; I understood its benefits, and potentially great outcomes.
Around the time my first child was born, I took a sales position with a local software company here in Athens, GA. The software we were providing was mapping a GIS-based software, which I was familiar with from studying environmental science, and I immediately gravitated towards the technical side of the business. I moved into technical support, then became a product owner, and learned by seeing the inner and outer workings of a software company.
I became more interested in pursuing a technical career and took an Intro to Java course through UGA’s Center for Continuing Education, which gave me an overview of programming. I kept hearing about the concept of a coding bootcamp, but because I had come from a university background, I didn’t know what a bootcamp was. But when I looked into it, I discovered it was a viable source of education. I couldn’t go back to college for a third degree, so when I heard about The Software Guild through the UGA website and saw the curriculum was exactly what I wanted to study, I decided to go for it. I chose Java because of my previous experience, and even read The Software Guild reviews on Course Report before I sent a check.
Were you considering any other coding bootcamp options?
After learning about The Software Guild, I immediately researched different kinds of bootcamps, like Hack Reactor, and other big names. I was strongly considering them but, in the end, it came down to curriculum, cost, and time, plus the availability of an online option. I have a family so I couldn’t quit my job and go to a campus for 3 months. I did my research, found The Software Guild’s self-paced online program offered the proper full stack curriculum, and went for it. I continued to work as a Product Owner throughout my studies.
What was the benefit of doing the University of Georgia’s Continuing Education program powered by The Software Guild?
I knew that I could go straight to The Software Guild, but I’m a UGA alum and the fact that they had a collaboration was important to me. I wanted to know whether I’d get a certificate from UGA with The Software Guild listed – I thought it would be good to have a certificate from the same place where I got one of my degrees.
There was also a student discount available through UGA, but that wasn’t something that contributed to my decision – it was just icing on the cake. For other alumni, this is an example where it would be an incentive to consider going through the university.
Editor’s Note: Many of The Software Guild’s university partners offer discount incentives to alumni interested in affiliated bootcamps.
What was the application and interview process like?
There was a brief phone interview asking about my background and why I was interested in the program. Then, I had to complete some introductory material before taking a logic-based aptitude test. Once I passed the test, I was qualified to move into the program and I entered with the next cohort.
What was your cohort of students like?
The Guild itself was extremely diverse, there was every type of person from every walk of life. Groups of new students start monthly, and initially it was just myself and one woman so we connected and helped each other out throughout most of the program. I also had access to all other students who had started before and after me for help and questions.
What was the online learning experience like? What was a typical day?
The bootcamp was presented through a learning management system called Canvas and I could move through the curriculum at my own pace. The Java Bootcamp curriculum is split into two parts – the first is the Basics of Object-Oriented Programming, which is essential to understanding the methodology and developing in a specific language. The second is Database Driven Web Applications. Each part was broken down into five different sections of material ranging from beginner to advanced with different projects and lessons. There are also lots of videos to supplement the text, so there’s more than just reading all the time.
Because I was working full time, I got up at the crack of dawn to knock out a few hours before work and then I would use Sundays to do a full day of working. I could work online at my own pace – it was as structured as you wanted and you can make it fit with your schedule. Also, not having set class times was beneficial for me because if there had been live lectures, I would have had some conflicts with my other work or family responsibilities.
How did you balance your bootcamp while working full time?
The online offering gives you enough time to accomplish your assignments. It’s not open ended and there are some deadlines for assignments, but you need to be responsible and manage your time. There were several times when I was a few days away from a deadline and I’d have to crunch to get it done. Even in the online course, I was responsible for committing my code by a deadline, just like I’d face in a work setting. I just focused all my free time and energy on the program and didn’t do other things. It was an opportunity cost but it was a beneficial cost in the end.
How did you interact with your online bootcamp instructors?
The Software Guild uses Slack – which I had used before and absolutely loved. You could message instructors or other students individually through direct messaging at any time or you could message specific channels and hit multiple people at once. Access to instructors was never a problem and we had regular meetings and code reviews, so even if you didn’t have a specific reason to reach out, you were connecting with them every few weeks, if not more often.
What was your favorite project during the bootcamp?
Each project provided benefits in different ways but the final project was my favorite. They gave it a fun theme – it was a “superhero sightings” web application where a user logs in through an authenticated portal, and they can get information from different entities and organizations that a superhero belonged to and report any new sightings. That was the most fun for me because I got to apply everything in the full stack and I suddenly understood how these modular pieces and various dependencies come together to build one seamless application.
How long did it take you to complete the program?
The recommended time is 10 months, plus an additional 4 months of extensions are available, for a maximum total of 14 months to do the program. I travel a lot for work, so I took full advantage of the 14-month timeframe. The Guild was conscious of my timing and reached out to me to see how I was progressing, especially as I got closer to the end of the program. They definitely wanted me to succeed and checked in regularly to ensure I was going to complete within the timeframe.
What types of career preparation and guidance was provided?
After I completed the program, I worked with an Employment Network Manager (ENM), who works with both graduates and employers to network and connect them based on needs. The ENMs are a combination of a recruiter and a job coach, but are essentially there to create a bridge between the grads and companies. My manager was extremely helpful, not only in my job hunt, but also in his focus and concern for my next steps. He provided some extra content, helped me fix and rework my resume, and looked over my LinkedIn which gave me the confidence to start applying to jobs. He has sent me job listings, talked directly to people, and even sent my resume to a couple of companies. He is going above and beyond to help place me with legitimate companies of any size – from large enterprises to smaller companies and startups. Since The Software Guild doesn’t have a physical location in Georgia, the Employment Network Managers work directly with students to identify local jobs. There are opportunities for anyone regardless of taking the course online or on-site.
What sort of interaction did you have with UGA while you were studying?
I was the first person to go through the UGA Web Developer Coding Bootcamp certificate program and receive the certificate. The university went above and beyond – we had a ceremony with a photo session, I got the certificate, and did a video interview. They also sent a digital badge for my LinkedIn and provided everything I needed to prove to prospective employers that I have completed the bootcamp.
What have you been up to since you completed from the program?
I’m still at my current position as a Technical Sales Engineer but the idea was to use the bootcamp as a platform to jump somewhere else, either within the company or somewhere new. I’ve been offered some development opportunities within my company, and received several callbacks with other companies. I definitely have some options and obviously, without UGA Web Developer Coding Bootcamp, those options wouldn’t have been on the table.
How have you been able to apply your skills from the program to your current role?
I can now go into a room full of developers and they know that I know what I’m talking about. I can be a valuable part of the conversation and provide input and suggestions for a new module we are building for our existing platform. My training through the program has given me the understanding to apply technology and talk the talk with existing development teams. If I choose to move to from my current position into a more specific developer role, then I have both the entry level skills and proper frame of mind to grow as a developer. That fact also stands for coding side projects and opportunities outside of any primary work role.
What is your ideal future role?
I’m open to anything. I didn’t go to this program needing a career change, I wanted to gain the knowledge to push my career forward. As a result, I’m not looking solely at software development positions, I’m also looking at roles like product manager and solutions architect. I wouldn’t be coding per se, but I would still be applying the knowledge from the program towards a product within an organization.
I’m interested in the object-oriented programming aspect of things – the concept and theory that applies to a lot of modern programming languages. There are plenty of areas I could focus on within a development team, whether it’s front end aspects, web services and RESTful APIs, server-side systems, or any subset pertaining to security, design, or UX/UI, each of which brings individual technologies to implement. I’ll focus on wherever I can be beneficial, but I understand that I need to continue learning new modern frameworks to really stay up on the technology.
I’m interested in getting into an industry or organization that’s growing, that pushes their employees to be continually learning, and provides an educational path within the organization. Most of them are in the SaaS model with a focus on high tech, cloud-hosted solutions, and have different customer bases and business needs.
What advice do you have for people who are considering making a career change with an online coding bootcamp like the UGA Web Developer Coding Bootcamp certificate program?
First and foremost, don’t question yourself whether it’s a viable path for learning and education – it certainly is. Although a full CS degree provides invaluable knowledge, I’d say the bootcamp is a great choice if you already have a prior degree or if you don’t have the option to attend a university. The content provided by a bootcamp is valuable, applicable and a great jumpstart into becoming a software developer.
For an online bootcamp, you definitely have to be dedicated, you have to manage your time correctly, and above all, you have to want to do it. You can’t go into it with a grudge, or if you don’t like the work or learning style. It’s like playing an instrument – you go in for lessons once a week and you still need to be applying what you’re learning in your off time. You have to be able to put your mind to it until it’s complete and then continue moving on. You only get as far as you push yourself.
Read The Software Guild reviews on Course Report. Check out The Software Guild website, and the University of Georgia Web Developer Coding Bootcamp page.