We hear this question all the time: “Sure. People can get jobs after bootcamp, but do they get second jobs, third jobs? Can they have fulfilling careers in web development?” Which is why we were so excited to talk with Walter and Julie, who both graduated from Wyncode over a year ago and are building successful careers at MD Live and Udacity. We chat with Julie and Walter about everyone from their experiences at Wyncode to what they include on their LinkedIns to their growing careers as developers.
Julie and Walter, what you were up to before you attended Wyncode?
Walter: I was an art school dropout.
Julie: I was an advertising and creative writing major. I worked in marketing for four years after college then I decided to attend Wyncode.
Did either of you have any coding experience? Had you tried to teach yourself at all?
Walter: When I was in art school, I played around with HTML and CSS to make portfolio sites for my friends.
What was your goal in doing a bootcamp? Did you both go into it thinking, “I’m going to do this 9-week program, and get a job as a junior developer afterwards”?
Julie: When I worked in marketing, we had a developer on the team, so I thought I would end up working for an advertising agency as a developer. I didn’t think about doing back-end work, which is what I’m doing now. I went further than I thought I would.
Julie, when you were at Wyncode, did you decide that you were more into back-end than front-end or did you figure that out in your first job?
Julie: I’m not that great at design. After you try something a few times and you realize that you’re not great at it, you look for something else to work on.
Walter, with an art school background did you find yourself drawn more to the front-end?
Walter: Initially, I thought that I was going to go the frontend route because I was already familiar with it. But I focused on the backend part of the program, and that’s all I’ve done since.
How did you each find your first jobs after Wyncode?
Julie: While we were at Wyncode the founders and instructors helped us network, sent us to job openings, exposed us to what’s out there. We sent out about 10 applications to get used to the process of applying. After three phone interviews and two in-person interviews, I was offered a job working with Java, which is something that we didn’t learn at Wyncode. I was so eager to get technical experience, I thought, “I learned Ruby in two weeks, I can learn Java, it’ll be fun.” It’s a company called Outform. They do commercial displays in stores.
Walter, what was your first job?
Walter: An internship for CareCloud. They do electronic health records for doctors and hospitals. I interned there for three months and I loved it. I still keep in touch with everybody there. I left because it wasn’t the best fit for what I ultimately want to do, but it’s a great place.
Walter, how did you find the opportunity at CareCloud?
Walter: Joe, my manager at CareCloud, was one of the panelists at our final pitch day. I did send out dozens of resumes and had a lot of unsuccessful interviews prior to that one. Like any interview process, it was a trying experience.
How did those interviews go?
Walter: Some companies are more receptive to hiring people from non- traditional backgrounds than others. Some companies that I interviewed with were not exposed to bootcamps. Those were very difficult and at times, demoralizing experiences. But I learned things that I could apply to future interviews.
The interviews through Wyncode hiring partners, companies that were open to hiring from non-traditional backgrounds, those were great experiences, even when I didn’t get the job I learned a lot from them and those interviews prepared me for the job that I ultimately did land.
Julie, did you have a similar experience with interviews?
Julie: Yes. Some companies want to know why you’re in this position, why you don’t have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, where you came from. But I think you gain confidence after each one. You have no idea what they’re going to ask you, so you can’t prepare for it.
You don’t know whether you’re going to be asked personal questions like “What do you like to do for fun?” or if you’re going to have to whiteboard Ruby problems, which is a scary thing for someone that’s new.
Did you ever have to whiteboard in those interviews?
Julie: Yes, I did. It went fine, but you never know what they’re going to ask you and you don’t have that much experience, so it was scary. But all you can do is tell them what you know and let them decide.
Walter: One thing that was tricky to navigate is that the hiring process is different. When you’re applying for these types of jobs, you work with recruiters through multiple rounds of interviews and you have to get accustomed to the whole process. For example, it’s actually okay to email the recruiter. That’s something I didn’t know; I thought it would bother them. Those are things you pick up along the way.
Julie: I think it’s best not to be afraid. Reach out, send follow-ups. The chance of getting a job is not as good as someone with a bachelor’s degree in CS, so it’s better to be aggressive.
Walter, you said that you met CareCloud at the demo day. Were they impressed with your final project— is that how that opportunity came about?
Walter: Their team came in as guest speakers earlier in the course, but we didn’t interact or talk about our technical ability. At our pitch day, I approached him and thanked him for coming then we started talking about code. A few weeks later, I was asked to come in for an interview.
You two worked on your final project together, right?
Julie: Yes. We built a learning platform for our coding school.
Walter: Our final project is still being used today and they’re building on it now.
Julie, when you got your first job in Java, tell us what the first month was like. A lot of bootcamp students worry about not having enough mentorship at their first job. How did you ramp up learning a new language at a new company?
Julie: When you start at a new company, the first month you learn how the company works, try to figure out where you fit in, learn the production cycle, the kind of projects they are working on.
I worked under one of the more experienced developers on small tasks. It wasn’t that trying in the beginning because he knew I didn’t know Java that well so it was more of a learning experience. I made small changes where I could, but nothing too intense.
Did you work with a large team of developers?
Julie: No, it was actually one senior developer and an offshore team in China. We had a 24-hour development cycle. We made changes and sent them to the team in China, they made changes and sent them back. Their company made small adjustments for clients that were using the product, so it didn’t involve developing new features.
Julie, how long were you at your first job?
Julie: I only worked there for a month and a half. A company that I interviewed with before reached out to me and said, “We want you, there’s mentorship here, it’ll be a great learning experience and career opportunity.” The job involved coding in Ruby, which is what I learned at Wyncode. I had a stressful two weeks trying to decide what I wanted to do, but I ended up going to work for my current company because they did promise mentorship. I knew Ruby and liked it more than Java. I felt it was a better fit for me.
I feel like that’s something a lot of people experience, starting at one company and realizing that there’s a better fit for them somewhere else. That’s an interesting process to go through.
Julie: It’s a terrible feeling. You feel like the worst person ever. But, life goes on and you do what’s best for you, so I would recommend doing what’s best for you to anyone in that situation.
What’s your role at this new company?
Julie: I work at a company called MD Live. We do tele-medicine; consultations with doctors over Skype or by phone. Having the opportunity to work in the healthcare industry and technical industry simultaneously is such a great opportunity.
Were you the first hire at MD Live from Wyncode?
Julie: Actually, Brian was the first hire and I came in a month later.
Did you have a part in hiring other Wyncoders once you started working at MD Live?
Julie: Yes. I used to scout new talent from Wyncode. Walter and I taught a class for Codecademy together so we paid attention to who was doing well in that course.
Walter, you were at your internship and you did like it but at the end of those three months, you decided that it wasn’t quite for you. What was the decision like for you?
Walter: I was interested in education technology. I knew that I first needed to get some experience under my belt, so that first job – and I think a lot of people at bootcamps share that experience – your first job is whatever you can get. After you get that first job, you develop some experience, you have a sense of what working in the world is like.
I knew I wanted to teach. I knew I liked teaching code so I joined Wyncode, first as a teaching assistant and then I started writing curriculum up until about three months ago.
What was it like to design the curriculum at a bootcamp?
Walter: It was an exciting place to be. I had the perspective of learning Ruby as a first language. A lot of people that learn Ruby and other production languages come from a background in C or Java, so they have a great theoretical foundation. Switching to Ruby is a lot easier for them.
Teaching ruby as a first language to people without coding experience is a little trickier because there’s a lot of “magic” that goes on behind the scenes. You have to find a way to teach that emphasizes that it isn’t magic; the implicit stuff happens behind the scenes.
It was a fun challenge. I learned Ruby as a first language, so I understood the hurdles that people go through. I loved every second of it. I’m still in touch with Wyncode all the time.
What was the process like going back to work at Wyncode? Did you interview or because they know you was it an easy transition into the teaching and curriculum role?
Walter: I was a part-time teaching assistant while I was doing my internship at CareCould. That’s common with a lot of Wyncode grads— they TA part-time while working at their first job— because you get attached; you want to give back.
I knew I wanted to work there full-time, so I left my internship and said, “I left my internship. Can I work full-time now?”
While you were working at Wyncode, were you also applying to other jobs? I know a lot of people at bootcamps coach or TA at their bootcamp while they’re still applying.
Walter: No because that’s where I wanted to be. I enjoyed the teaching environment.
That’s a misconception I hear from people that don’t understand jobs after bootcamps. They say, “Schools just hire their bootcamp grads and call that a job.” But there are so many different reasons for somebody to work at a bootcamp after they graduate. Most people I talk to do it because they enjoyed their experience so much they say, “I have to work here!”
Walter: We have some TAs who don’t have jobs, but most of the TAs do have jobs and they’re doing this because they love the program.
You both stayed involved in Wyncode after you graduated. How else did you get involved in the tech community after you graduated?
Julie: I volunteered for a nonprofit called Code Now, which goes into lower income high schools and teaches kids basic Ruby, how to use a terminal and other fundamentals of programming. It was so cool and fulfilling to see these kids who didn’t know what coding is light up and become interested.
There’s another group called Rails Girls. They have meetups in different locations. They’ve only had one here so far. They teach an introductory course on how to build your first Rails application.
How important is staying involved in building your network and getting a job?
Walter: I don’t think anyone should go to events with the mentality “I’m going to these events to get a job,” but there is definitely a positive side that comes from attending events. You do grow your network. It’s important to get to know people on a human level because you never know when you’ll need to tap on somebody’s shoulder or somebody’s going to tap on yours.
Julie and I did the Codecademy lab together and that’s how I ended up getting my current job.
Let’s talk about that. Fill in the missing steps for us between the Codecademy Labs and your current job at Udacity!
Walter: For the last 2 ½ months, I’ve been working at Udacity in San Francisco as a content developer, so I’m building content for millions of people across the world through the web. They reached out to me actually; I didn’t apply for this job. They found me on LinkedIn because I listed that I was working on Codecademy labs.
What do you think a bootcamp grad should share on LinkedIn? Do you list every place where you have volunteered or taught? Do you put Wyncode on your LinkedIn?
Julie: Absolutely; list everything you can think of– as long as it’s true.
Did you put links to your projects or Github?
Walter: You don’t feel great about putting everything on there at first, but when you’re trying to get that first job you do have to hustle. I’ve now taken a few things off, but at first I put everything on there.
Julie: Put everything on there and if it’s password protected, provide a sample user name and password so it won’t redirect to a blank screen.
So Walter, Udacity reached out to you because you had Codecademy listed on your LinkedIn profile?
Walter: Honestly, Udacity is somewhere I would’ve loved to work. For them to reach out to me, that was a moment when I said, “Wow, this is cool.”
One of the things that happens with bootcamp students is imposter syndrome. It’s this idea of feeling like everyone’s better than you. Jumping from Miami, which is a small, but growing tech scene to the Bay area at a company that has a billion dollar valuation—I was intimidated at first. After about a month on the job, I realized how much the bootcamp experience prepared me for this.
The experience of hustling for your first job is painful, and I never want to go through that again, but it built up so much stamina. You get this attitude, “All right, I can do anything.” You take what's presented to you and make the most of it.
That’s what every bootcamp student shares; they’ve been given an alternative situation and they make the most of it. That has stuck with me. That has been my guiding principle since I started at Udacity and I couldn’t feel more part of the team here.
Being a Content Developer, are you doing anything technical? Do you have to stay on top of all the languages?
Walter: It’s a great job. I get paid to learn a language and teach the language. I started on the senior web development team. My first course launched earlier this month. It’s about writing good documentation.
Day-to-day are you coding or are you writing?
Walter: Both. We’ve got quizzes and we have to code in all of the quizzes and exercises. I can’t justify teaching something if I haven’t done it myself. I think that's another misconception about going into teaching roles, you’re not going to be coding much. I’m still coding every day.
Since graduating has your career trajectory been upwards in terms of salary, job title, and responsibilities?
Julie: I left the advertising and marketing industry because I was bored and felt like I could be challenged more. Second, I feel like the salary trajectory is so much less because you’re not building anything, you’re not bringing in that much revenue. The creatives just don’t make that much money. Since I’ve switched to this career, after a year of work experience, I’ve doubled my salary.
Has your salary gone up since you started working at MD Live? Have you gotten a promotion or salary change since you’ve been there?
Julie: I haven’t gotten a promotion. I was hired as a Ruby developer and I’m still a Ruby developer, but I got a pretty significant raise. I think most people will if they start at a company where they work as a junior developer. They just want to make sure that you’re actually producing and doing what they need you to do in order to pay you what you’re worth.
How does your day-to-day differ from when you started?
Julie: When I first started, it was sort of the same thing as my other company, you learn how the business works, how the application works, you start out making small changes and then you ramp up.
Over the last year, I went from making small text changes to working on developing new features. Now I’m fully pairing for 5 ½ to 6 hours a day, doing test driven development, developing new features and it’s cool.
What should somebody be looking for in their first job after a bootcamp?
Julie: I think you should definitely look for mentorship. The more senior developers on a team, the better because then you have more people to mentor you. At the same time, it’s competitive, especially because there are so many bootcamps now. I’m a very practical person so when I found a job, I thought, “Great; let’s take this because who knows?” I had already done a few interviews and they hadn’t worked out. So have a safety net, take a job as long as you think you’ll get something out of it.
Looking back, are there things that you did not learn at a bootcamp that you could not have learned there?
Julie: The technology spectrum that you need to master to be a full stack developer is endless. You can never know everything about every language.
I think Wyncode does a great job of preparing you with the basics to get started. It would take you a year to read all of the Ruby on Rails documentation. There’s a lot that you don’t know until you start practicing and learning.
Walter: I’d say it’s a running start. For me, the biggest thing was interacting with all the other departments on a team. I guess the increased responsibility. I’d only worked at retail jobs before that; it’s different having people count on you for things.
We got a taste of that working on group dynamics in bootcamp and then you just work on that on a bigger scale. You can’t learn it all but it’ll prepare you – and they’re still there to support you while you’re going through those experiences.
With your second and third jobs did Wyncode stay a part of your life as an alum?
Walter: I run the alumni association at Wyncode, so I’m the one who’s nagging all of the alumni. They don’t pay me for that, but I still do it because I love it. In July of this year we had our first alumni barbecue and of the 150+ grads, half of them came back. So yes, there’s always involvement. We’re all on Slack too, and we talk to each other. We’ve become a very tight knit group of people, even as we’ve grown and moved to different locations.
Do you rely on the Wyncode network for work problems?
Walter: We have a help channel on our Slack and people post there. I’m planning to hire more people who know Ruby and I’m going to look at the alumni community there.
If we’re in a position where we need people who know Ruby or Ruby on Rails, the first place I’m going to go are the people in my network who know Ruby on Rails. Many of those people I met at the bootcamp or through people at the bootcamp.
Julie, you mentioned that you had a part in hiring other Wyncoders. What was that process like?
Julie: Because MD Live is so receptive to Wyncoders when each new group graduates, we get a flood of emails. The Wyncode founders give out our emails and say, “Reach out to these people, send them your portfolio.” We look through the portfolios and our seniors leave it up to us to decide whether or not to bring someone in.
We’ve hired five people from Wyncode, so we have a pretty good base. As the second junior, I’ve played a role in hiring the last three or four people. I actually hired someone out of the Codecademy class that Walter taught.
Walter, did you have an idea of what your life was going to be like after you did Wyncode and has it lived up to that?
Walter: This is not an understatement when I say that this has been the best year of my life. If you had told me 18 months ago that I would be working at this amazing company in Silicon Valley, I wouldn’t have believed you at all. I feel like not only am I doing it, but I’m doing a great job. I feel like I have a career trajectory. I don’t know if it’s always going to be in coding. I’m now touching other parts of the industry.There’s fun stuff in business development, project management— there are a lot of interesting fields out there that I didn’t consider.
Even if I don’t stay in coding, Wyncode is still the best decision I could’ve made because it put me on this path. Now I feel in control, whatever I want to do, I can make it happen.
Julie: I totally agree with all of that. I’m learning about project management and different positions that exist and the technology sphere is interesting.
Is there anything else that you want to make sure our readers and viewers know?
Julie: You have to be prepared for your life to change, not afterwards but during the bootcamp. Say goodbye to your social life, it’ll be there when you get back. You need to prioritize because you only have those three months to milk everything out of it that you can. If you don’t then you’re wasting your money.
Walter: My advice is to say yes to things because your life is going to go through a lot of changes and if you try to resist those changes because of previous experiences, you’ll miss out on some prime opportunities. You’ll get some important opportunities if you say yes and go with the changes.
Interested in learning more about Wyncode? Check out reviews on Course Report or the Wyncode website here!