Coding Dojo’s Online Program has brought the ability to learn to program from anywhere in the world. We had the chance to catch up with two of our recent Online Alumni for a quick interview, Heather Doucet (Test Engineer at Autobrain) and Jeff Morris (Software Developer at ARA). Heather was previously an Administrative Assistant who had a passion for the challenges a software developer solves on the day to day which led her to enter Coding Dojo and change her life. Jeff, meanwhile, was a concept artist and illustrator who kept getting stuck while learning on his own, Coding Dojo was the perfect push to help him succeed. While attending the program, Jeff received a job offer and started as a Software Developer the moment he graduated.
What were you doing before you enrolled in the boot camp?
Heather: I was working at the top of my game as an Administrative Assistant to senior-level executives, but had hit the ceiling in terms of growth. I wanted to find a career path that balanced my analytical and creative nature.
Jeff: I was a freelance concept artist and illustrator before the dojo. Since graduation, I’ve gone back to doing some art after work. My art website can be found at artofjekrimo.com.
How did you get interested in coding?
Heather: While working as an admin for a software startup in Boston, I was introduced firsthand to the world of programming and was attracted to the sets of challenges it represented. I was intrigued by the problems the developers were trying to solve but didn’t have the skillset to dive in.
Jeff: I’d always tried to learn it on my own and was never very successful. I have an uncle who is a senior developer in Missouri so I was able to ask him about his day to day and he always seemed super happy with life and work in general so that gave me a pretty big push.
Why did you choose Coding Dojo?
Heather: I had always thought you needed a CS degree to become a developer. Once I realized that this was not necessarily the case, I began to see this as a viable option for my future. I took some free tutorials online, got hooked, and began searching for the right bootcamp. I chose Coding Dojo because it seemed to be the most comprehensive full-stack online program available. I was working full-time when I started the program, so attending online was the only option. I also really appreciated Michael Choi’s message and overall philosophy of the program: It was real and humane. Programming is not easy, but it is possible. He never promised a quick fix, but pragmatically laid out the vision and tools to follow down the path successfully.
Jeff: Honestly, the Dojo was the first that popped up in searches, haha. I went and looked into many others but none of them had the same success rate. They also didn’t have the algorithm app and I absolutely fell in love with Coding Dojo after that.
How was the job hunt and what are you working on now Heather?
Heather: I was actually hired at my present job a few months after finishing the program. I had just finished my online portfolio and blog and took a chance applying for the job on LinkedIn. The VP contacted me that same day for a 45min telephone conversation. A few weeks later, I had a 3-day trial and was ultimately hired. The startup is a Ruby on Rails mobile app, and I had only taken the MEAN and Python stacks through the Dojo. Because of this, they chose to create a position for me as a Test Engineer. This has been a valuable entry-point to programming for me. I create and maintain the front-end automated test suite using Capybara with Selenium driver (browser-based), and Poltergeist/PhantomJS for headless testing with Jenkins and Circle CI. Building this test suite forced me to really understand what was going on with the entire application, which guided me into deeper development with Ruby on Rails.
Meanwhile, Jeff, you hadn’t even completed the program before you found a job, how’d that happen and what are you working on now?
Jeff: That is true. I couldn’t have done it without the support of the career services and awesome instructors I had. Sounds like a canned answer but it is true. I was lucky enough to work on the coursework full time but was running out of money fast and had to get a job quick and they gave me the tools to do so. Right now, I’m making software and web apps for a government contracting company that does work for law enforcement and the Navy.
How did your experience at Coding Dojo help prepare you for what you are doing today?
Jeff: The biggest would probably be the fundamentals that I got from Coding Dojo. These allowed me to problem solve new challenges and pick up new languages on the fly at work and has been really invaluable.
Heather: When I started with Autobrain, I had never been exposed to testing, or front-end automated test suites. I was told I would start with manual QA and have a mentor to guide me. Instead, I began writing code for the automated tests from day one with minimal supervision. If I was really stuck, I could ask questions, but I was strongly encouraged to figure it out on my own. Being my first tech job this was incredibly stressful and intimidating. However, I relied on my skills from the Dojo on how to work under pressure and research the solutions.
Because the Dojo taught me how to fish, instead of just giving me the answers, I had a level of confidence in my ability to research industry best practices and was quickly able to ramp up my level of learning.
– Heather Doucet
What was your favorite part of the program?
Heather: I really enjoyed the video lectures, and having the opportunity to communicate with the rest of the cohort. I liked how I could track my progress in the online platform, and refer back to resources whenever I needed. I also really appreciated how available the Instructors and TAs were to answer questions from the online cohort. The slack channel was incredibly invaluable and is a tool I use in my daily routine now.
Jeff: Algorithm app, haha. Getting to learn from so many awesome teachers who actually care about you and your success.
What advice do you have for those that are considering taking a bootcamp?
Jeff: Bust. Your. Butt. Seriously, put everything you have into learning the material and you will be a success story and achieve your goals.
Heather: I think it is important to find a bootcamp that keeps up with current trends while focusing on teaching solid fundamentals. Whether in person or online, finding an interactive bootcamp with good mentoring and resources is invaluable. Further, a bootcamp is just the beginning of the investment in yourself and your future. How you lay that foundation is crucial to adding the layers that will follow. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper. One of the biggest misnomers in the field is that there are “experts”. Actually, there are as many different levels of developers as there are ways to solve a problem. And, being new is an asset: You see things differently and can add a unique perspective to more seasoned developers. Likewise, learning how to listen to others and change your view to see a problem in a different light is a great asset. Understanding how to communicate with others is also really important. As well as having a sense of humor. But, perhaps most important of all echoes Michael Choi’s sentiment that we must be humble and persevere.
“For me, Coding Dojo…”
Heather: “… gave me the tools and resources to quickly transform my future!”
Jeff: “… gave me a new life.”
With the ability to learn the newest technologies from the best instructors, Coding Dojo’s Online Program can help you transform your life too!