Thom Strub worked in a jewelry store, at a local art school, and as a bartender before he enrolled in General Assembly’s Software Engineering Immersive. Find out how expectations met reality for Thom, his advice on knowing when you’re ready to enroll at a bootcamp, and how he landed his first job as a Salesforce Developer at Slalom.
And watch the full alumni panel here for advice from 4 other graduates:
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Where did you expect your career to go when you enrolled in General Assembly?
I didn't have any career expectations at all! I didn't do a bootcamp because I wanted to make more money or because I wanted to work in the tech industry. To be fairly honest, I'm still not completely sure that I like working in the tech industry or that it's the thing that I wanna do. What drew me to the bootcamp was building things. I've always liked building things, and the more I started to go down that path of understanding how software worked, the more I got sucked in. The bootcamp seemed like the fastest way to learn the most I could about software.
Was it easier or harder to get accepted to General Assembly than you expected?
In my experience, there are different levels to the process. Deciding to go to a bootcamp, contacting the recruiters, deciding if it’s the right option for you, and preparing for attendance. I would have been much less prepared than I was had I just jumped in without weighing out the decision.
Looking back on your bootcamp experience, do you wish you had prepared more or less before that first day of the boot camp?
I'm glad that I was prepared at exactly the level that I was. I've seen other friends join bootcamps but constantly push back the start time, thinking they’ll be ready to do a bootcamp when... You can do that forever! The point of a bootcamp is to jump in and learn how to learn. Sitting around waiting won’t get it done. Yet, you should also be realistic about what you’re doing and prepare yourself a little bit, at least.
How did the bootcamp compare to other educational experiences like college?
I think that the expectations are higher in a bootcamp than in college, because the bootcamp is banking on you getting a job out of it, and they expect a lot out of you. I've been around other folks who have been computer science majors, and thought they may be ahead of me because of the four-year degree, but it definitely was not the case after attending a bootcamp.
What’s one thing that surprised you positively about General Assembly?
I was surprised at how good my instructors were! I didn’t appreciate it at the time because I was so focused on the course, but now that I’m a year out of it, I’m continually surprised by something I encounter in my job that I have already been exposed to thanks to my amazing teachers and TAs. Everybody that I dealt with at my bootcamp was really good at their job. I actually learned how to learn things, which was the goal.
What would you warn a future bootcamper about?
When I attended General Assembly they were hyper-focused on getting you a job and would promote doing certain methods constantly that ended up not being the way that I found a job. I think even the instructor knew that it wasn’t an effective approach and that there were better ways to approach the job searching process.
I never really got too far with just applying for jobs via a website / application portal. I would consider that a complete waste of time. There was this idea that if you apply for enough jobs that way, something will get through. I talked about this with my Outcomes instructor at GA (their job search staff) and I started focusing more on reaching out to people on LinkedIn for informational interviews. That was a much more successful strategy. I also took advantage of GA's internal job board and also some local Seattle networking meetup group job boards. I adjusted my LinkedIn profile to show up on recruiter's searches better (adding more keywords in more places, etc). It took a few months to see any results from that, but I am still getting regular emails from recruiters with what I would consider promising leads.
How did you actually get your first job in tech?
I got my first contract job through a General Assembly job board post. I applied through my Outcomes instructor at GA and pretty quickly started working on what became a 6 month project. Pretty soon after that I got a full-time job after getting a referral from a friend who had also been through the General Assembly bootcamp. I was hired by a team at Slalom specifically for people who are transitioning to a new career. The team specifically works with the Salesforce platform, but I get a ton of exposure to many different paths in tech and the culture is very positive and supportive. It feels like I found the one of the best first full time tech jobs for where I was when I was hired.
Is this the career that you wanted, that you expected, and would you do it all over again?
I currently work for an awesome company, Slalom, that takes care of their people. I don’t think I expected anything from the bootcamp, but what came back was really good. I know I said I'm not sure this is the right industry for me, but I definitely think that there are ways to make it work for me personally.
I learned a lot of ways that different people with different goals could make this work. Some people are more career-minded and less focused on development, in which case there are an array of bootcamps to explore that you can explore that can help you reach those goals!
Attending a bootcamp has definitely been a totally positive experience.
Find out more and read General Assembly reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with General Assembly. And Signup for a free live info-session to learn about General Assembly courses, instructors, outcomes and get your questions answered!
Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students researching coding bootcamps. Her research has been cited in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and more. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube!
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