For today’s Student Spotlight we sat down with Evan Rice, a current Coding Dojo student and military veteran. We cover everything from how he got into coding, why he chose Coding Dojo, and the process of using the GI Bill® towards the bootcamp. See below to read the full story!
What branch of the military did you serve?
I was in the Coast guard for nine years, four of which was in the academy, the other five was active duty. I was stationed in two different units, the first was the Polar Star out of Seattle. It was an Icebreaker that went up towards the North Pole and down to Antarctica. Afterwards, I was stationed down in Louisiana, where I worked on regulatory compliance for offshore supply vessels in the oil industry.
How did you get into programming?
I really like engineering as a field in general and I felt that the tool I was really missing from my belt was the ability to program. I really wanted to expand on that, so I was teaching myself lots of Python during the last six months I was active. I used Code Academy, CodeFights, and other free resources to teach myself. I reached a point where I kept running into problems trying to finish projects or making complex issues work the way I wanted. Once I reached that point, I focused on how to transition my learning into an actual career.
How did you find coding bootcamps?
I used lots of searching on Google to find out which camps were out there. I got to Coding Dojo through a few friends who work in the software development community. I asked recruiters in their companies, “Which boot camps do you like to hire from?” The names that came up consistently were Coding Dojo and Hack Reactor. I looked at each boot camp for pros and cons. At the end of the day Coding Dojo was a better choice for me, so here I am!
How did Coding Dojo’s 3 full stacks resonate with you?
I really enjoyed the fact that it seems like Coding Dojo had a good process that put learning these languages into a skill set. Skills that make you immediately valuable to an employer, which made me believe that it’s not snake oil!
How’s the process of getting the GI Bill for our program?
It was fairly straightforward. Once you have a COE (certificate of eligibility), it’s relatively easy. As an active member you can apply for your COE before you are out. Go to the eBenefits website, there is a tutorial if you google eBenefits on post 911 GI bill. It will take 3-6 months to process, so do it before you finish your 36 months if you plan to head immediately into a boot camp after you get out.
Allow 3-4 weeks before your class starts to make sure your GI benefits are approved. Pass along the paperwork to the Admissions team at Coding Dojo after you have been accepted and you should be good to go!
Coding Dojo is billed differently in terms of eligibility than other programs. Because it’s a non-college degree program, it’s billed as a percentage of the cap. So I’m spending 6 1/2-months of my 36-month eligibility for a 4 1/2-month program.
NOTE: GI Bill can only be accepted in the state of Washington.
How do you like the Bootcamp?
Its good, rigorous but there are cool people here and the resources are there for you to succeed. It’s a matter of pushing yourself to get the most. During the week, I usually spend 11-14 hours working. On the weekends I usually put in a total of 8 hours. I also try to make sure to have a bit of fun on the weekends to keep myself from burning out.
How does Coding Dojo’s bootcamp match up to Military boot camp?
It’s just as rigorous but much less unpleasant. The experience is a much more positive one. Coding Dojo is not about breaking you down and building you back up. It’s more of “hey, here are some skills you need” and it’s about building up. There is lots of help from staff as well as other students, and if you are in the Seattle campus, you have Ray Clark’s boundless enthusiasm to wake you up in the morning.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Getting into Java and statically typed languages was something that messed with me, because type errors are “interesting.” There are some holes in the documentation, I’ve found, which have made it more difficult for me to learn. Python is very well run as a stack. As a language, it’s very easy to understand documentation and more forgiving when you are dealing with various data types. Java doesn’t like it when you don’t give it exactly what it wants.
What are your thoughts about Military vets coming to programming bootcamps?
I think there are lots of great candidates in the military veteran pool. I’ve noticed there are a few types of people in the community. People who like to learn one job and want to do it well for a long time are not the people who I would recommend to this program.
People that want to do something different every day, respond well to crazy new ideas to be thrown at them, and build cool things are going to be great candidates for this program. I’ve met a lot of those people so I know they exist in the military, and they would really benefit from coming to a program like this.
Would you recommend people who do not have a technical background to join?
If you are interested in coding, I would recommend that you spend a lot of time going through whatever free tools you can find and get an idea if this is something you enjoy. It’s even better if you can start to study before getting out. I think that if you are doing it for money, it’s not a great idea to spend your money or time on. Programming should be something you ACTUALLY love to do or at least enjoy doing.
Do you have any words of advice for people looking into coding bootcamps?
Make sure you are going to a place that is legit. I found lots of places during my research who I wouldn’t trust with my money or my time. It didn’t seem like those camps were going into a huge amount of depth about how to code.
Also, make sure you have used free resources and have reached a point where you have hit a wall in your learning. Reaching that point will teach you if you truly want to code or are just in it for the big paycheck. Some background is better than none!