Jill Oakes worked in TV for 16 years before transitioning to a tech career. She chose the Full Stack Software Engineering track at TrueCoders to boost her C# skills because of the job-relevant curriculum and affordable price. Jill walks us through WordleAssistant, an app she built for her capstone project at the bootcamp. Jill shares how TrueCoders gave her a slew of projects like WordleAssistant to add to her Github, and how that helped Jill land her first software developer role at online seed retailer, Beck's Hybrids! Plus, Jill shares her tried-and-true advice for incoming bootcampers on how to get the most out of their bootcamp experience.
What inspired you to make a career change from TV production to software engineering?
After 16 years working in TV, I was ready to make a change. About four years ago, I signed up for an online Python class. It was fun learning new things, but I didn't stick with it and didn't keep my skills up. This year, I pulled a book off the bookshelf, “HTML and CSS” by Jon Duckett — It's a beautifully designed book that’s great for beginners! That's what really got the ball rolling. By the time I finished that book, I was looking for my old Python class notes, going to the library to check out more coding books, and seriously considering quitting my job and enrolling in a bootcamp.
There are so many coding bootcamps out there now — What set TrueCoders apart?
What set TrueCoders apart from the other bootcamps that I researched on Course Report was the price. I decided on the upfront tuition payment of $4500, which I figured was right for me in my situation. Essentially, it breaks down to $100/day for 45 days, and I feel like I definitely got my money's worth.
Another thing that set TrueCoders apart was the curriculum, which is posted right on their website. Other bootcamps aren't as forthcoming about what they'll be teaching every week, and you have to call and get them to explain the curriculum to you. I knew I wanted to learn C# and that was covered at TrueCoders.
So what did you learn at TrueCoders?
Since this was an online bootcamp, did you feel connected to your cohort and instructors?
I was worried about that at the beginning, but we use Discord, so I can talk with not just my own class, but with career services and other graduates. TrueCoders has a really strong Discord community!
I felt most connected with my classmates towards the end of the bootcamp. We've been working on a project post-graduation, and being able to sit down and talk with them about their job searches has put me at ease in my own job search process.
Did you build a lot of projects while in the bootcamp?
We were doing projects every day! Every lesson has a project attached to the end of it, so you can demonstrate that you have competency in that lesson. By the end of the nine-week course, you have a GitHub account full of projects.
Now that we've graduated from the class, it's up to us to go back and make our projects better, either to flesh them out and make them bigger or to work on the front end presentation. It’s your responsibility to add a general polish to them and keep your skills up while you're on the job hunt.
What did you build for your capstone project at TrueCoders?
I built WordleAssistant, which helps you cheat at Wordle! Wordle is a word-guessing game where you get six chances to guess a single five-letter word. Wordle gives you hints based on your guesses, and with WordleAssistant, you will get every possible Wordle answer. Within WordleAssistant, there’s a GameTracker feature to keep track of all your Wordle games, and within it, you can create, read, update, and delete words from the database.
How much time were you given to build this capstone project?
This project took two weeks to build (and it's only a nine-week bootcamp!), so I was doing 10-12 hour days to get this done before the end of the program.
What technologies and programming languages did you use to build this project?
This program is built mostly on C# and HTML. To get started building it, I used the ASP.NET core MVC template that's built into Visual Studio Community.
Did you use everything you learned at TrueCoders or did you have to learn any new technologies to build it?
It was a little bit of both. The logic for sorting the words from that giant word list into something more manageable came straight from the SQL lessons that I learned at TrueCoders.
One of the things that I had to learn on my own was the client-side validation for the GameTracker. You can't put any answer in WordleAssistant; you have to input a valid Wordle word. The way I learned to do client-side validation was to Google it. There's a lot of good coding blogs out there, and of course there's Stack Overflow.
When you ran into an issue as you were building your project, did the TrueCoders instructors help you at all?
The great thing about working with everyone at TrueCoders is they want to help you succeed. When you're in class, you can jump into a Zoom breakout room with your instructor or with the TA. After class, you can schedule short Zoom 1:1 sessions with your instructor or TA to get your questions answered there. Even at night, when you're working on your project after supper and you get stuck, you can hop on Discord and maybe a different instructor will respond or sometimes even a former graduate will hop in and give you an idea of where to look and where to Google. There really is a whole community at TrueCoders to help you out.
Did you showcase this project in a Demo Day at TrueCoders?
We all presented on Graduation Day. Getting to that point where you have to show your project in front of everyone is really nerve-racking, but it was a great experience. There were so many good projects that day! There were several other students who had really polished websites that looked like a million bucks.
You’re on the job hunt now! Will you talk about this final project during your job interviews?
I hope so. I love talking about Wordle and I love talking about this project, even the points that we're really frustrating and hard to do. I learned a lot building it, and I learned I can do hard things! When I get stuck, I know how to go ask the right question and try to find the right answer on my own.
How has TrueCoders prepared you for the job hunt?
Every week, we met with Denise Shines, the Career Services Director at TrueCoders. She walked us through the things we needed to find our next job. When I started at TrueCoders, I wasn't using my LinkedIn. With Denise's advice, I was able to build it up and market myself as a software developer. I used Denise's advice to revamp my resume from something that said I was "competent at television production," to now something that says, "I have a lot of finished coding projects under my belt and I would be a great asset to your company.” At the end of the course, Denise met with us individually and did mock interviews with us so that we would be more prepared for the interviewing process.
Since graduating from TrueCoders, what kinds of jobs do you feel prepared to apply for?
I feel prepared for the Junior Software Development roles. I think that I would be a good candidate for coding adjacent roles, like analyst, or anything that's a low code or no code. Now that I have a coding background, I will be able to participate in those jobs much better. First, though, I am going to stick with applying to software development roles and see how that goes.
You had taught yourself how to code a bit before enrolling at TrueCoders — what are the pros of doing an immersive bootcamp instead of just self-teaching?
When I was self-teaching, I was holding down a full-time job and the learning came in fits and starts — I just did it when I had the free time. Enrolling in TrueCoders had a real finality to it because I was making a conscious decision to quit my job and re-skill in software development, which demands a new level of accountability. Accountability to myself that I'm doing this for my future job prospects, and accountability to my family that I'm going through the growing pains today so that in a year from now, we'll be in a better financial situation.
Do you have any advice for future TrueCoders students?
If I had to give incoming students any advice, I'd say: do the self-teaching and pre-work. TrueCoders recommends incoming students check out sololearn.com and w3schools.com to prepare for the bootcamp. Learn the basics of C# and SQL, HTML and CSS. By doing that, you are going to be on such a better footing when you start the class. You'll be able to ask better questions because you've done that pre-work.
Anything you wish you had known before you started at TrueCoders?
This may sound trivial, but if you have any way to get a multi-monitor setup with two or three monitors, it's going to make a world of difference in how well you're able to retain and learn information. I was able to have my instructor teaching the course on one screen and taking notes in code on a side screen, and I didn't have to switch back and forth and fiddle with windows because it was all up on the same screen space at the same time.
So far, was TrueCoders worth it for you?
TrueCoders has definitely been worth it and I'm really glad that I enrolled. My long-term earnings potential now is in a whole new realm than it was before I re-skilled. Software development is a growing field and I can grow with it. TrueCoders was the right price and the right length of time from my personal situation, and now I've got a community of people who have similar goals as me, so I'm really glad I made the leap!
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