When I was 17 years old an Army recruiter came along and convinced me that the military was a good choice and could afford me many great opportunities in life. At the time I was living a carefree life with a close friend. I hadn’t considered what the next year of my life would look like, let alone the next decade. I didn’t really see myself as a soldier, but I was strongly encouraged to enlist and so I did.
To be honest, the next four years were pretty miserable for me. I hated getting up at six every morning to be on time for Physical Training. I resisted the formal structure of everything, from marching in formation to folding my socks a certain way.
The abrupt change to the way I had existed before the military resulted in what felt like a state of shock that lasted for four years. Finally, the time came and I was discharged. I was free to do whatever I wanted to do, and for the first time in life I realized that I had choices to make that would shape my future.
The military would pay for me to attend college as well as my living expenses. The only problem was that I didn’t know what I wanted to do and it took me years to figure it out.
I spent the next few years between college courses, working overseas as a contractor, frequently switching my degree plan to follow my latest interests whether that was graphic design or culinary school.
A decade later I found myself making just enough money to pay bills. It felt like what I imagined a rat race must feel like – stuck and going nowhere fast.
It was during this time that I began playing around with building websites. I was far from good at it, but I enjoyed it, a lot.
In April of 2018 I found out about coding bootcamps. I had never considered that I could make a living as a web developer. I didn’t even know what a web developer did. But it turns out that developers do the things that I enjoyed so much that I stayed up all night doing them.
At the time I was managing a small cafe, making $11 an hour. I was also a part-time uber driver to help make ends meet. It sucked, big time.
It was at this time that I made the best decision I’ve ever made. I quit that job and decided to focus on teaching myself how to code while I researched coding bootcamps that would allow me to use the remaining months I had left of my GI-Bill.
It was important to me that the school be reputable, care about their students and have a solid track record of getting students a job.
Codeup met all those requirements.
Before attending Codeup, I decided that if I was going to risk the time and money it would require to improve my life and take a chance on something I knew I truly enjoyed I’d have to do some things differently. I was going to have to give it 110% because if I failed at this I didn’t want there to be any possibility that it was because I held anything back.
I like to think that my military training kicked into overdrive.
While at bootcamp, I arrived hours early, sometimes turning on the lights myself. Many evenings I stayed late to study and work on projects. I took pride in everything I did, making each and every project better than the last and paying attention to the details. I stayed positive, took care of myself and made coding my life. I hardly watched any television at all, one of my favorite pastimes. I also developed some amazing friendships. I continuously modified my time and intentions at Codeup to shape the best outcome possible.
Needless to say, this time around I was ready for it and bootcamp was one of the best experiences of my life.
Currently I work for Cognizant. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. It feels just like Codeup where I was constantly learning and loving every second of it. I work with all the friends I made at Codeup and the salary is… well, like everything else, a dream come true.
There’s absolutely nothing I would change about my experiences -Army bootcamp or coding bootcamp. I know without a doubt that because I attended both, I’m living my best life!
Dorian Wallace is a software engineer at Cognizant in Dallas, TX.
In four months, a lot can change. Four months: A San Antonio winter, a long distance relationship, a college semester.
During my four months at Codeup, I pursued what felt like an unattainable goal and actually reached it. When I tell people that I’ve been coding less than a year and am now working as a software developer, people are usually impressed. But to be frank, I could never have done that without attending a coding boot camp like Codeup. It was a short four-month process that was like stumbling from a dusty, old wardrobe into Narnia: on one side, a clumsy and unenlightened beginner and thereafter being transformed by a completely new and fantastical world. Attending Codeup armed me with the experience and knowledge that allowed me to survive the harsh winter landscape that starting out from scratch as a software developer can be.
Now as I am working at my first real job, I’m grateful to Codeup for teaching me several things that allowed me to be better prepared for my career.
From beginning to end, Codeup placed a huge emphasis on group exercises. The beginning of the course was characterized by paired programming, a process in which one person is the navigator and one is the driver. As the names suggest, the navigator communicates with the person at the keyboard and directs them to type certain bits of code or navigate to specific elements on the page. Often, we would flip-flop between these roles so both students could get a crack at practicing one of two things: Firstly, we practiced how to communicate clearly and efficiently. Secondly, we learned how to take direction and ask clarifying questions.
At the time, I wasn’t sure what the big deal was with paired programming and why the instructors at Codeup had made it such an integral part of the curriculum. However, as I go about my everyday duties at work, I realized how often I engage in informal bouts of paired programming. Although we have a Wikipedia-style knowledge base at my work where we document our processes, a lot of knowledge is still transferred orally (not ideal, but we’re working on it!). What this means is that paired programming happens on a daily basis. If a developer is having a complex problem, it is usually easier for a coworker who has solved this problem before to sit down and walk them through it rather than try to explain things via chat or email.
Towards the end of the semester, we coalesced into group projects in which the primary focus was teamwork. This was where we got a taste of working independently but in a team effort. It was during the group projects that I discovered the importance of learning how to use a versioning control system, such as GitHub, that allowed multiple developers to participate on the same project without stepping on any toes. When I started my job at Armor, I realized how much more complex versioning control can get when you have potentially 50+ people contributing to the same repository at any given time. I had to relearn the fundamentals and be extra careful not to overwrite someone else’s work. Most mistakes are reversible, but the headache of figuring out what went wrong and how to fix it is usually a source of distraction from a developer’s daily duties and sprint goals.
2. Learning how to ask for help
Like Real Life
When I initially started at Codeup, I found myself wanting to ask the instructors questions as soon as I got stuck on something. However, I quickly realized that their resources were limited since there were only 2 of them (plus 1-2 fellows) in a class of 30. Although this wasn’t ideal, it actually did simulate a real-life scenario that parallels a professional working environment. At my work, there are probably only 2 or 3 lead developers. However, they are constantly inundated with requests by QE and other junior developers, code review, and demands from management. If you need to make a request, best make it quick and efficient.
Asking Questions the Right Way
I then remembered what instructors had mentioned during Codeup. They taught us that if you have a question, make sure you present it in a format such as:
Describe your question/problem in detail.
What have you already done to try and solve it?
Why don’t you think your solution worked?
This made it so that students would actually try to figure out a solution before shooting their hand up every time they had a problem, only to find that they could have easily solved it with a little more digging. In my experience, most experienced developers are usually happy to help. However, it’s good practice to make sure to demonstrate you tried your best and that you’re not wasting their precious time.
3. Pushing through the doubt
“I’m not cut out for this”
Throughout the boot camp, it came to be a running joke that everyone would have an emotional breakdown at least once during their time at Codeup. You would see someone walk off and come back with teary, red eyes. Or for some, they would vocalize their despair: “I don’t think I’m cut out for this.”, “This is too hard.”, “I’m so frustrated!”, “Maybe I should just give up.” I myself broke down emotionally several times during Codeup and reiterated several mental self-doubts to myself: “Maybe I should have stuck to the arts. I’m too emotional to do well in computer science. I’ll never be good enough”. On some days, you would feel accomplished and confident in your abilities. On other days, the doubts would flood in unexpectedly and endanger everything I had worked so hard for. However, through the support of other students in the class, the instructors, and the encouragement of the staff, I was able to succeed throughout the course and completed my Demo Day project.
It Always Gets Better
All this is to say, Codeup taught me to have emotional fortitude and a confidence to believe in myself. Because to be honest, the first several months at my job also felt like an emotional roller coaster. I was thrown into an environment where I had to learn and adapt very quickly. I was constantly afraid and timid because I was the only female developer and also the most junior developer. I expected a lot out of myself, and when I was given criticism I would internally berate myself until my negative self-talk had multiplied the original piece of criticism in my mind ten-fold of what it actually was.
However, my experience at Codeup had taught me to push through in those moments of self-doubt. It gave me a thicker skin in order to ask for help, to learn quickly amidst a ton of ambiguity, and most importantly, a realization that it will always get better as long as I don’t give up
4. Learning how to learn
As you might have noticed, none of the points above are actually related to the technical knowledge I received by attending Codeup and how it affected my career. It goes without saying that Codeup provided me with the coding skills I needed to be succeed in my career. However, another point that our instructors emphasized was that Codeup was not a comprehensive coding academy or computer science degree. In some ways, it was like a tour bus that allowed you a brief overview of all the major stops in the area.
It allowed us to have the impetus and catalytic energy to start off a software development career. It also gave us the tools to quickly be able to pick up any technologies our companies were using.
“We’re teaching you how to learn,” they would say throughout the course. After starting my first job, I came to realize how true this statement was. I imagined myself trying to pick up the technologies at my job without having Codeup as a primer and it seemed near impossible.
Needless to say, Codeup was an essential experience I needed on the way to becoming a full-time software developer. I learned critical skills that have proved invaluable in my day-to-day and have allowed me to be where I am today.
Joyce is a full time software developer at Armor, a cloud security company in Richardson, TX. In her free time, she sings in a women’s chorus, plays electric guitar, rock climbs, and is starting a freelance writing business. Check out some of her work at thelusciousword.com.
A New Trend: People Relocating to San Antonio for Codeup
Starting early in 2014, we started seeing an interesting trend: the number of applicants from outside of San Antonio began growing. While our first class was 95% San Antonio residents, we’re now seeing over 50% of applicants from outside our fair city.
This recent article from Silicon Hills News is pretty representative of this trend. Laura Lorek, the founder and publisher, profiled a number of the folks who’ve come from places like Indiana, Missouri or Austin to do our program: