In traditional school, workshops or bootcamps, the classroom tends to be sealed off from the rest of existence. You’re taught by an experienced, hopefully patient leader, and you’re encouraged to ask questions about what you don’t understand. But adapting that classroom work to outside scenarios isn’t always a snap. It’s one thing to collect and memorize facts and procedures; it’s quite another to tailor that learning into professional practice. Can a classroom really prepare you for bringing your knowledge into the “real world”?
Gio Rodriguez was looking for a new career direction after working in sales for the healthcare and real estate industries. He was already very comfortable with new technology, and was looking to use his experience to pivot into programming.
I’ve always been really tech-savvy, but leaving college I decided that I wanted to go more into a sales route. After a few years of that, I just realized that that wasn’t right for me… Once I decided that [tech] was what I wanted to do, I went online and I started researching the best ways to make that transition. Bootcamps were obviously on my radar, because I’ve had other friends with great success stories from bootcamps.
Gio took some free, basic preparatory courses online to acclimate himself with the tech education experience. “I figured that would be a great entry point,” Gio told us. He got a good overview from a free online course offered by Harvard University, and wanted to dive deeper into the weeds of programming and get certified for his efforts.
I was really geared towards doing an in-person bootcamp because I feel I work best with other people… What really stood out to me was the Coding Dojo three stack bootcamp, because I’m a fast-paced learner and I wanted something that was going to be quick. I didn’t want to get bored… I really wanted to learn how to pick up the language and understand it and be able to process different languages on the fly in case an employer needed that.
Gio was a little anxious at the outset of his experience at Coding Dojo’s Burbank campus, fearing that it would start out at a break-neck pace. The first segment of bootcamp covered front-end programming, whereas Gio felt more comfortable with more logical, back-end programming, like the algorithm basics he’d learned on his own. But the first couple of weeks put Gio on solid ground with HTML and CSS. “I was able to pass through it pretty well just because the instructors were so good.”
Gio found that his advance preparation in algorithms gave him a leg up in the logic “challenges” from the first few weeks. And his pre-bootcamp studies didn’t just benefit himself: they allowed him to help other students who were plowing through the algorithms for the first time.
It kind of gave me a chance, when it first started, to stop, go back and kind of teach the pack. That gave me a way better core understanding of everything that was going on, because I was not only learning it, but teaching it at the same time… It made such an impact on my algorithm development because I was able to teach it to others.
Gio progressed from HTML and CSS to his first stack: Python and Django. Even though he’d already established himself as a helpful classroom partner with others, Gio says his first inclination was to learn the stacks in relative seclusion from the others because of his preference for fast learning. It didn’t take long for him to change his mind.
I kind of sat in a corner and started off kind of wanting to be a little bit by myself. I quickly learned that was a mistake. I was a little ahead of everyone, and I decided to slow myself down so I could be around everyone. I was learning way better with others than I was on my own. I was way more interested when I was working with other people than if I was on my own. I realized that I was taking a bigger interest. I was staying later and I was learning more when I had other people around me.
Just before graduation and the onset of his job search, Gio developed a slight case of a very common phenomenon: imposter syndrome. Simply put, it’s an intense feeling of self-doubt about one’s abilities and accomplishments, and excruciating anxiety of being exposed as an imposter in professional situations.
Despite having received an extensive amount of hands-on experience with multiple programming languages, Gio still wasn’t sure he had all the resources necessary for a 21st century job. “Even though I learned so much, I still felt like I wasn’t ready for the real world.”
But Gio came to realize that he was far more prepared than he gave himself credit for, and part of that fact was Coding Dojo teaching him more than just code: It was preparing him to be self-sufficient. He appreciated that he wasn’t being handheld through every question or problem that came up in the course of his work. Rather, he was encouraged to develop “strength through struggle,” which more closely mirrored the challenges he’d come across in the outside world. In solving those problems himself, Gio realized how much he actually was capable of.
You realize how much you did learn and know, and how quickly you are able to pick up concepts that you didn’t know before or might not know right away. That was a big thing that Coding Dojo really taught me. It’s almost like they don’t want to help, you in a sense, but it’s not really that. When you look back and you gain perspective, you realize that they were there at all times to help you, but they want you to struggle a little bit because that’s how you learn the best and that’s what it’s going to be like in the real world. You can’t ask every question. If it wasn’t for [Coding Dojo], then I would stay in that education mindset where every time I have a problem, anything that’s happening, I always have to ask questions.
With that new mindset, Gio obtained his Amazon Web Services (AWS) certification—sort of a “bar exam” for IT professionals. Coding Dojo’s employer network helped him score an interview with cloud security service CloudSploit, and that’s how Gio understood what he had gained through Coding Dojo:
I think that the reason why I got the job was that I was able to speak to what they were asking in the technical interview. Obviously I didn’t get 100%—I don’t think anyone ever gets 100% on a technical interview—but they liked was the fact that I was able to try new things. [The interviewer] gave me something I’d never seen before, and I was able to look through documentation, understand what the documentation was saying and apply it. Coding Dojo really helped with that.
With the CloudSploit position secured, Gio feels he’s prepared to pursue his ambition to “work in the forefront of the technology space race.” For current and future Coding Dojo students who may encounter struggles or issues in their coursework, Gio advises them to trust the system.
The best advice I can give is to take the dive into it. Really work with everyone in your cohort. If you feel like you’re falling behind, it’s because the course is designed that way. Part of the plan is to make you feel that way so that you work extra hard. If you start to feel complacent in what you’re doing, then you’re not going to work as hard as the person that feels like they’re falling behind a little. They really want you to struggle so that you gain those strengths and you really have a core understanding of everything that you learned.
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