Alumni Spotlight

Working Full-Time While Making a Career Change with Lighthouse Labs

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Last updated on May 30, 2023

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Vanessa Power has worked in digital communications alongside developers for nearly a decade, which sparked her interest in learning more technical skills. She didn’t want to quit her job, so Vanessa was happy to find the adaptable, online Web Development Flex program at Lighthouse Labs that fit around her work schedule. Vanessa tells us about being a recent graduate on the job hunt, and gets real about how she balanced her work-life with learning web development. 

Lighthouse Labs now offers the Flex format for all of their programs – Web DevelopmentData Science, and Cyber Security – to open up the bootcamp experience to more people. Flex curriculum and outcomes are the same as full-time bootcamps, but time commitment and pace vary for Flex programs. 

What inspired you to move into a tech career in 2023?

I’ve always been interested in tech, but when I was younger, I had a natural aptitude for writing and literature, so I funneled my energy into that. I have been working in digital communications in the central Research and Innovation Office for the University of British Columbia since I graduated from college in 2015, and I found that I liked the digital aspect of my role. I do a lot of work with clients to build a presence online and also with developers to build features. I was working as a bridge between developers and I love getting my hands on a website, so when I saw the Web Development Flex program at Lighthouse Labs, I jumped at it.

Since you currently work at a university, did you consider going into a CS degree program instead of a coding bootcamp?

I definitely did consider a CS degree, but my interest is really in front-end development. Front end development is like a merger between art and technology! So that’s why a coding bootcamp felt right for me. 

Why did you choose Lighthouse Labs?

I’ve known of Lighthouse Labs almost since their inception. I’ve also known acquaintances who have gone through the program and I see them doing well in their careers. My sister even went into the program and it was great seeing her success. For me, Lighthouse Labs was the gold standard and its history was the proof I needed. It was a no-brainer.

What was the application process like for Lighthouse Labs?

There was no coding requirement, so I felt comfortable applying. There was an initial logic test and if you passed, there was a short technical assessment. 

Was there any prep work before you started the Web Development Flex program?

We had to complete a 40-hour prep course which consisted of JavaScript fundamentals and fundamentals of web development. I tried hard to focus on those fundamentals so I could hit the ground running.

What is your advice for making the most out of the Flex experience at Lighthouse Labs?

My advice is to get familiar with the prep work. I tried to have an understanding of JavaScript fundamentals so I could hit the ground running when I entered the program. Take the time to learn before you get in, especially if you’re working full-time like I was. It might be helpful to do some JavaScript challenges before entering because once you start, it’s like drinking from a firehose. 

It’s also important to ask questions and talk to the mentors. They’re incredibly friendly and helpful! They just want to encourage students to succeed. Don’t be afraid to get in contact with them if you’re not understanding a concept.

Did you receive any scholarships through Lighthouse Labs?

I received a Flex scholarship! To be eligible for the Flex scholarship, there was a separate application, but it wasn’t too time-consuming to complete. 

Why did you choose the Flex program instead of the full-time Web Development program?

I do still really enjoy my current role, and I also love my team at work. I wanted to see if I could navigate working my day job because quitting and attending a full-time bootcamp was a little nerve-wracking to me!

Once you enrolled in the Web Development Flex program, what was a typical week like?

We typically met two days a week for two-hour lectures. A lot of my time was spent working through the coursework on weekdays and most of Saturday. It was pretty intensive, especially since I was working full-time. Once I fell into a routine, though, it got easier — it felt like it was happening quickly because there was so much to learn! 

Was it actually do-able to juggle working full-time while completing the Flex program?

I’m lucky because my team at work is very supportive. Sometimes when you have a lot going on, you can drop the ball and you have to be transparent about what’s going on. It’s important to be grateful for the people in your life that are supportive. It was a lot of work, but it felt like the right path for me, so it was easy to put my head down and grind.

What did you learn in the Web Development Flex program?

The main skills were JavaScript and Node.js with some frameworks like React. We also learned about databases and data modeling along with SQL and Postgres. I liked how it wasn’t focused only on the coding — it was also focused on software architecture and other fundamentals.

Did the teaching style of the Flex program match how you learn? 

For sure. It was helpful to have the live one-on-one interaction as well as the interaction with my peers. It was a nice motivator and it was easier to hold each other accountable.

We were all connected on Discord and our cohort would talk regularly. The community is there if you reach out — I felt supported. 

What kinds of projects did you work on in the Flex program?

We worked on a mix of working on individual and team projects. We were assigned teams for the midterm and we chose teams for the final, so it was a nice mix. It definitely prepared us for working with teams and collaborative programming in our future tech roles.

For my final project, we built an app called Wayfarer. It was a travel log app where you could list any trips you take. You could input all of the important information about your trip and view your accommodation and all of your trip activities on a map. You could also get recommendations for activities and places to visit based on where you were staying. 

Since you were in the Flex program, did you get to participate in a Demo Day?

We had a demo day with our cohort and we got to see everyone else’s projects. It was interesting to see how diverse the projects were and to see what people can create in such a short amount of time! 

Are you using any of your new skills in your communications role?

Yes, being able to speak with our developers at a technical level is nice. Having that trust and understanding of what’s happening behind the scenes is a good thing.

How did Lighthouse Labs prepare you for the tech job hunt as a Flex student?

I think it’s similar to the full-time bootcamp. We had interviewing workshops, resume workshops, and meetings with career services advisors after graduation. I’m working with my advisor Leana now and it’s nice to have a touchpoint post-bootcamp. It holds me accountable and makes me feel supported.

Career services are with you every step of the way after you aren’t a student anymore. They help until you feel comfortable or land the job you want — it’s up to us to decide how much support we want from them.

Which tech roles do you feel qualified to apply for since completing the Flex program?

I’m open to what’s out there! I’m looking at junior developer roles, front end developer roles, or even getting a developer internship. Full stack development is nice because you get a holistic view. My heart lies in the front end, but I would love to be exposed to full stack work as much as possible. There are a lot of opportunities, which is scary but also exciting!

How are you structuring your current tech job hunt?

I’m taking a break right now from my job hunt to keep myself from getting burnt out. I’m using this time to brush up on my skills to make sure I'm comfortable — my plan is to keep learning and building my portfolio before diving in. I’m also staying in constant touch with my career advisor.

At this point in your tech skills journey, was the Flex program at Lighthouse Labs worth it for you? 

For sure! I think it would be tricky to have the motivation to learn everything on my own and work a full-time job. The structure of the Flex program held me accountable and gave me access to instructors as well as the rest of my cohort. It was motivating.

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

About The Author

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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