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Coding Dojo Alumni Success | David Kavanaugh

From Customer Service to Cloud Operations at Microsoft | How Bellevue Alumni David Kavanaugh Transformed His Career

  • Worked in healthcare customer service, finance, and various odd jobs from flipping burgers to selling knives
  • Coded as a hobby for many years before realizing he could make a career out of it
  • Was laid off due to COVID and used that time to transform his career
After Dojo:
  • Works as a Software Engineer at Microsoft in the Cloud Operations and Innovation Engineering division
  • Is confident in his foundational experience and ability to excel in the tech industry
  • Dreams of working his way up to Senior Engineer in the coming years
Program: Three Full-Stack Bootcamp in Bellevue, WA

I gained a lot of confidence at Coding Dojo, and I realized how much I enjoyed solving algorithms with others. When I graduated from Coding Dojo, I was confident I had the foundational experience I needed to excel in the industry.

Tell us a little about yourself. Age, hobbies, passions, and what you were doing (professionally) before the bootcamp?

I grew up in a rural area, about a billion miles away from any software company. Programming and coding always sounded fun, but also inaccessible. I was never gonna go to Stanford or MIT, so I figured I had no business learning to code.
My childhood friends and I had a garage band, and we thought we needed a website to be legitimate. So one night we stayed up late and learned enough html to build a basic page—we had to do this late at night so that we weren’t hogging phone lines during the day. We spent the next few weekends refactoring our code, adding some CSS, and perhaps one too many gifs. Over the years, we continually improved the site, and by the time we graduated high school our website looked pretty darn good for something started in the late nineties.
Coding then became a hobby. I was the go-to person to help others fix up their Myspace profile. By the time I got to college I was writing JavaScript for art students’ portfolios. But I still thought that to be a professional software engineer I’d have to go back in time, go to some famous college they mention in movies, and I’d obviously need to buy an Alienware computer or a Mac. I couldn’t believe that software engineering is something anyone with the internet can learn. There had to be some esoteric knowledge gained at an expensive, illustrious school that separated myself from whom I thought were geniuses and prodigies.
I maintained this belief until my wife and I moved west. Once we arrived in the Seattle area I started meeting my wife’s childhood friends. Many of them were software engineers at Microsoft. But these folks were all so… normal; their stories sounded a lot like mine. These weren’t highly-pedigreed math geniuses. In fact, many of them had no college background, yet they’d been professional engineers for several years.
“Sure,” I thought. “But what type of stuff are they doing, and is it too late for me?” Turns out these Microsoft engineers were writing a lot of JavaScript and HTML. That’s when the lightbulb went off.
I finally realized that what I did for fun was an actual profession that people get paid for. I decided to make this my career, but I had so much work to do. I could barely get through a for loop, I couldn’t tell you what the heck the DOM was, and the concepts of backend and APIs were “unknown unknowns” as Donald Rumsfeld would say.
I began teaching myself more systematically. I couldn’t quit my job and join a bootcamp just yet, but I was determined to learn and produce what I needed to make the career change.
Prior to bootcamp, I spent eight years working in healthcare customer service and finance. Previous to that, I was slinging lattes, selling Cutco knives, flipping burgers, and picking potatoes.

Beyond the desire of learning to code, why did you decide to enroll in a coding bootcamp? 

Once I realized my coding hobby could lead to a great coding job, I began spending my evenings fighting fatigue and working through tutorials and algorithms. Three years later…I was still spending my evenings fighting fatigue and working through tutorials and algorithms. I’d get there, but it was going to take years.
Then the plague came, and the rest is a tale as old as time. Once COVID took my day job, I was finally able to enroll in a bootcamp—I had everything I needed: time, passion, and an unemployment check larger than my income ever was. So I was laid off in October of 2020, and I enrolled that same month. 

What fears or doubts were “holding you back” from enrolling? How did you get over them?

The two things holding me back so long were time and money, but I was determined to be successful once enrolled. 

What sealed the deal on Coding Dojo? Why did you choose us over other programs?

I chose Coding Dojo because they teach three stacks in three months. I also wanted a bootcamp that taught .NET and C#. 

What was it like getting ready for the bootcamp? Were you nervous, excited, etc.? How did you prepare?

I was very excited. I worked through practice algorithms and built that ninja Pacman game. I had a great time getting ready. 

Walk us through your first few weeks in the program. What were the parts you liked? Parts you struggled with? 

I really liked learning about the DOM (Document Object Model) and the HTTP Request lifecycle. That seemed to unlock a lot for me in terms of web development. I also really enjoyed the first project. I built a JavaScript game using OOP (Object Oriented Programming) in a few days! 

How did you overcome the obstacles or struggles you faced? 

The great thing about Coding Dojo is that help is abundant. I never had a problem getting help with a tough problem. Usually, within thirty minutes. The hardest part of all was the first two weeks of C#. I felt like I woke up in a different world! But I was determined, and I always knew that I could ask for help. 

Do you have any fun anecdotes to share about your time in the bootcamp? Make good friends? Fond memories? 

I loved it when someone fell asleep and was snoring in the middle of the zoom lecture! Bahahaha!

When your graduation date was approaching, how did you feel about your skills and job prospects?

When I graduated from Coding Dojo, I was confident I had the foundational experience I needed to excel in the industry.  

How did the job hunt go? Where did you land a job?

The job hunt was a grind, but I hit it hard and I landed a contract at Microsoft Cloud Operations and Innovation Engineering, where I’m building the tools that enable the growth of the Azure Cloud.

Beyond the coding expertise, did the bootcamp give you anything else? 

I gained a lot of confidence at Coding Dojo, and I realized how much I enjoyed solving algorithms with others.  

What advice do you have for others who are interested in coding bootcamps or who are just starting one?

I would say it’s never too early to start learning. I taught myself for a few years before finally attending a bootcamp, and I think it really paid off. 

What are your goals/dreams for the future, say 5 or 10 years from now?

I love working at Microsoft, and I hope to one day be a Senior Engineer.

If you are interested in learning how to code and upgrading your career, Coding Dojo bootcamp offers accelerated learning programs that can transform your life. We offer both part-time and full-time online courses, as well as onsite (post COVID-19) programs. We also offer financing options, scholarships, and other tuition assistance programs to help you with financial barriers. 
If you want to invest in yourself and your future, there is no better time than the present! If you’re interested, use this link to schedule a 15-minute exploratory session with one of our Admissions representatives today.