Advice for Thinkful

Kris and Cassie both broke into tech with Thinkful, but their paths were different and they each learned lessons along the way. Kris attended Thinkful’s Engineering Immersion full-time, while Cassie attended Thinkful’s Data Analytics Flex Program so that she could keep working as a nanny while she moved through the curriculum. But both of their hard work paid off – Kris is now a Software Engineer at Documate and Cassie is a Data Analyst at Viasat. Here’s what they wish they had known before they went to an online bootcamp.

1. Understand your learning style before choosing a bootcamp

Kris’s experience: “I actually started at a different bootcamp, commuting 3 hours a day, and getting around 4 hours of sleep. My brain couldn’t keep up. After failing the Week 4 test (but barely passing the retake), I left that bootcamp and tried to find something like it, but with a bit slower of a pace and a shorter commute.

Look inward to find what brings out the best in yourself. Then find the bootcamp that fits, and try to make it work.”

2. Take the free course first

Cassie’s advice: “Try out Thinkful's 2-week free trial. That is what solidified the decision for me. I liked the pacing of the program and the curriculum, I just wasn't sure about how disciplined I'd be about doing an online-only program. Turned out I loved the online aspect of it because it let me go at my own pace - I went really fast through some sections and was able to take my time on others. You'll know pretty quickly whether or not you like the feel of the program during the trial period.”

3. An online bootcamp isn’t all online

How Kris used meetups: “As soon as Thinkful began, I started applying to jobs and going to meetups. It helped a lot because it made me more hungry to land a job, which would then make me work harder at Thinkful. I would go to a meetup and learn about others’ strategies and struggles.”

Networking is even important online: “While in the bootcamp, take advantage of pair programming. Find a way to make sure your partner is engaged. If necessary, avoid partners that may want to end the day early, take way too many breaks, or have clearly not read the material.”

How Cassie networked her way to a job: “While the networking events and conferences I attended didn't directly help me find a job, I do believe they gave me the confidence and positive energy of joining this new world that ultimately convinced my manager to hire me. I was aiming for 1-2 events per week towards the end of my program and each event got me more excited to enter the world of data and I know that energy was infectious during my phone and in-person interviews during that time. Looking for a job is not easy but if you can stay excited enough to keep looking, that will make it so much more enjoyable. Plus, you'll meet other people who want to help you find a job too so it can only help the process!”

4. Organization is key to an online bootcamp

Cassie’s Strategy: “I time-blocked my entire calendar every week. While doing Thinkful, I was nannying some pretty crazy hours so my schedule was all over the place. Because of that, I made sure to hold myself accountable for the hours I blocked off to work on the program. I would make myself a cup of coffee, sit down at my desk and not let myself get up until I'd either finished a module or an hour or two had passed.

My other big tip is, when you have been banging your head against the wall for 20 minutes because you can't figure something out or can't get the code to work, get up and just leave your computer for 10-15 minutes. Go on a walk, make another cup of coffee, take a mental break. I found that when I did that, I would clear my head enough to either come up with the answer or at least think of some new ideas to try.”

5. You’ll have to pause (or slow) any other commitments

Kris’s Advice: “It might be a tough pill to swallow, but nearly everything has to be put on hold. Depending on what type of results you want, you may be spending up to 12 hours a day immersed in learning.

Treat your body well by getting exercise, eating the right foods, and getting a full night’s rest as much as you can. The first week or two is the toughest to build these habits if you don’t have them already. But once you do, things will be easier.

Lastly, sprinkle in the fun stuff to stay sane. Whatever it is that brings you joy, please don’t stop that, but you may need to indulge in moderation to keep up with Thinkful.”

6. Apply to jobs you may not feel qualified for!

Cassie’s Strategy for the Job Hunt: “I took the advice of my career coach and applied to most job opportunities I found, even if I wasn't totally interested in the job or didn't feel like I was qualified. That's how I ended up in a telecommunications job after having worked in marketing for four years! 

Don't forget about your past experience! Yes, Thinkful is teaching you important tools and prepping you for a new career path, but you've been moving on a path already. What I learned in my previous eight years in the working world was just as important in landing me this job as Thinkful was. Your worth and the value you bring to a future employer is a sum of ALL the experience you've had - so sell that too!”

Kris landed the job he had been rejected from: “I would apply to a job and take their technical screen, and fail. These were all experiences that helped me become a better student, created more engagement, and more motivation to ultimately land that job and complete the career transition.

In 2015, I applied to a company called Hello Labs. I made it to their final round but lost the position to a bootcamper. In 2017, I attended Thinkful, and a week after I had finished, I was offered a job at Hello Labs. 

Also, you will be a highly desirable candidate if you’re able to demonstrate proficient soft skills.”

7. The job search won’t be easy...but you’ll get a job!

Cassie changed her mindset: “The entire process from applying to getting my job took about 4-6 weeks, so it's not always fast. The #1 thing that I think shifted my job search was, instead of saying "I'm about to graduate the program, I have to find a job," I started to say, "I'm about to graduate, I get to find a job!" When I started approaching the job search that way, I suddenly felt more in control of the job search process. 

Looking back, the job search process took exactly as long as I wanted it to take (it took me about two months of sending in applications and going to networking events, spending about 6 hours a day on both). However, during that time, there were moments where I would get depressed and wonder if I'd ever find a job (two months feels like a long time to look for a job while finishing the program, going to networking events and working on side projects!). But, like always, if you work hard enough, the hard work will eventually pay off.” 

Kris’s Promise: “Always try to stay positive and know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone in my cohort got jobs within 6 months!”

8. Studying isn’t over just because you graduate

After Thinkful for Kris: “I strongly recommend to have a mindset to keep pushing forward, even after you land that first job. Either a blessing or a curse, my first job wasn’t using the tech that I studied at Thinkful. I had to learn Ember and Rails.”

Cassie’s Job after Thinkful: “I've been learning Alteryx as the main software used on this job. It uses a lot of the same logic behind Python and SQL so it hasn't been too big of a jump but I definitely have a ways to go! I think Thinkful gives you a good base in the Data Analytics program to start solving problems logically and analyze data in different ways and that is how it's helping me tackle this job at first. I still have a lot to learn but now it's up to my employer to teach those things to me. Thinkful definitely helped get me where I am today, now it's up to me to get even farther.”

Find out more and read Thinkful reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Thinkful.

About The Author

Liz pic

Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students considering a coding bootcamp. 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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