Coding Dojo

Coding Dojo Blog logo

From Videographer to Veteran Tech Professional | How Justin Christian Charted His New Career Path

  • Worked as a one-man video production company, as well as in sales & marketing 
  • Had a baby on the way and knew he needed a better career to provide for his family
  • Had minimal coding experience with HTML & CSS
After Dojo:
  • Joined Homebase as a Lead Frontend Developer and has since progressed to work as the Director of Product Management where he oversees development of all of the products, feature strategy and roadmap prioritization for the company
  • Wants to continue working on innovative ideas cultivated from diverse perspectives and experimentation to build the future of living.
Program: Three Full Stack, Full-Time Bootcamp

3 months of hard work changed my life, and if you put the work in, it can change yours as well.

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

I am 30 years old and am a Coding Dojo Alum from the spring class of 2016. I have a decade of experience in the startup world and am passionate about personal growth, tech, real estate and family.

I have a journalism education. Coming out of college, I started a one man video production studio for just under 3 years. After 3 years of trying to make ends meet, I had a short stint in sales which led to me wanting to make a career shift to software development.

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

Prior to Coding Dojo at the age of 23, my fiancé, now wife and I found out we were going to have a baby. This was an unexpected surprise that forced us to make some big decisions for our life. I could have gotten an entry level marketing job, but we would have just gotten by. I didn’t want that for my family and that was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I knew I could do better.

In college, I worked in marketing for a startup, which is where my interest in code was sparked. It would just take me 4 more years to actually pursue it. While at the startup, I had the realization that innovation for most organizations actually comes from the development team. Sure, creatives can come up with ideas, but the developers are the people that execute that vision and bring true innovation to life. That is why I wanted to learn how to code. 

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

The biggest challenge for me was living in Kansas City. Back in 2016, Kansas City did not have any coding bootcamps worth betting my family’s future on. With a baby on the way and for me to have the best chance to get what I needed from a bootcamp,

I needed to get into one of the top ranked programs in the country. Coding Dojo fit what I needed. Coding Dojo had just opened their Tulsa branch, but I didn’t want to attend a new campus, which was why I chose to travel to Coding Dojo HQ in Seattle.
I would be away for my fiancé’s entire second trimester. It was an extremely difficult decision, but looking back today where it took me, it was 100% the right decision. 

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

Time was of the essence. We had a baby coming in six months and Coding Dojo is known to be one of the most intense bootcamps in the world. The reason for this is because you learn three stacks in three and a half months. I could have attended a six month bootcamp in Denver or Chicago and been closer to home, but my son would have been born by the time I graduated. I needed a bootcamp that could help me reach my goals fast. I didn’t care that I would have to work twice as hard. I had something bigger than myself I was working for.

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

I came into Coding Dojo with minimal experience working with HTML and CSS for email campaigns and other marketing functions. That helped, but HTML/CSS is only the tip of the iceberg. I studied Python through YouTube and other online platforms, because it was the first stack I was taking. During the first month, you have to learn all of the fundamentals and learn a new coding language at the same time. That’s what makes it so hard. It’s really important you try to get as much knowledge as possible prior to the program, because the first month is significantly harder than the rest at Coding Dojo.

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

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. The first few weeks of bootcamp are REALLY hard. The curriculum helps you build up skills incrementally, so what you learned the day before helps build upon what you do the next day. The greatest strength about Coding Dojo is how they force students to collaborate with their peers. If you get stuck, you are asked to work with students sitting next to you. If you can’t figure out your problem, that usually indicates a good spot for the instructor to do a short lesson on the topic. This process accelerates learning tremendously.

Coding Dojo has a world class learning platform. Many people are discouraged by this aspect when choosing a bootcamp and lean toward instructor only bootcamps. To be completely honest, I was discouraged as well when choosing a bootcamp myself, but having gone through Coding Dojo, I don’t think I would have been as successful today if it were not for their learning platform. The reason for this is it forces you to seek out resources online and figure out a problem yourself. In the real world you won’t have your hand held, you’re expected to perform on your own skillset. Half of a developer’s job is knowing what questions to ask and how to find those answers. You can’t always depend on a senior developer or instructor to always give you the answers.

The only challenge with the stepped learning format is there are points where the difficulty spikes. These points are usually where key software development fundamentals are introduced for the first time. It can be really hard to wrap your head around some of these concepts, which can delay you a day or two in the curriculum. Some people catch on quickly, and some struggle. I remember spending a lot of 16 hour days trying to figure out problems, but I promise you, anyone can do this as long as you don’t give up.

How did you overcome the obstacles or struggles you faced? 

Coding Dojo encourages students to help each other figure out their problems. I made numerous friends while in the program and came out of it with a cohort that felt like a family. This was amazing, especially since I came all the way from Kansas City and had no friends or family in Seattle.

The only thing to watch out for is, you can’t get in the habit of letting the nicest or smartest person in the group help you every time you get stuck. If you do that, you won’t progress, because you won’t grasp the most important concepts. You may get through the lesson that day, but you’re only hurting yourself.

At the end of the day, you’re there to be the best you can be. You need to work to build the muscle to excel at coding and it’s not an easy process. The only constant as a developer is change, and Coding Dojo helps you learn how to learn and do it quickly. This is the primary hurdle in software development.

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

The camaraderie you build with your fellow classmates is special.

I remember having dinner with one of my classmates and her family at their home. I met her husband and daughter and she always treated me like family. That meant so much to me with how far away I was from home.

Another time, my car was parked in the garage across the street. They closed the garage at a certain time each day and my car ended up getting locked inside because I was working till midnight at the Dojo. Luckily another classmate was still there working with me and drove me home that night.

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

I was pretty nervous. I had spent months away from my family and friends. My fiancé and I bet everything on this working, but I knew I had done everything I could to prepare. There was a lot I didn’t know, and at the time, I wasn’t even aware of how much I still had to learn, but in those 3 and a half months, Coding Dojo prepared me to step into a new career and completely change my life for the better.

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

The number one thing that truly set me apart from the rest of my classmates, and I recommend everyone do this, was that I reached out to people in my network and places I would like to work after Coding Dojo prior to starting the bootcamp. I asked them to at least talk to me when I graduated. I learned what stacks they used and what I’d need to know to get hired after graduation. By doing this legwork prior to the program, I had numerous people following my progress at the bootcamp and was able to line up 5 job interviews within the first week of returning home from Coding Dojo. This resulted in 3 job offers. 
Doing this legwork ahead of time allowed me to tailor my learning at Coding Dojo to study up on stacks people had deemed important, which helped me land a job extremely quickly upon graduation.

I could have gone to a dev shop or worked for a corporate company, which would have been a stable start. Instead, I decided to take the chance with Homebase, which at the time, was only a month old startup with their founder and 2 employees. I joined as the lead frontend developer on a 3 month trial contract and the rest is history. I’ve been with Homebase for 6 years this month. We’ve grown from 4 employees to 65 and were just ranked #1 fastest growing tech startup in Kansas City by the KC Business Journal. We are set to double/triple that in the next 18 months.

Choosing Homebase allowed me to single handedly build the frontend for the first two versions of our web platform early on in my career. This was pivotal to my learning and constantly challenged me to always be learning. I then managed a team of developers to build out the version we have today. 

Today, I work as the Director of Product Management where I oversee development of all of the products, feature strategy and roadmap prioritization for the company. My job is to think up, plan and execute features that can change people’s lives and disrupt entire industries and I love every minute of it.

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

3 months… In 3 months, with the right direction and a lot of hard work, you can accomplish something that completely shifts your life trajectory. This mindset has stayed with me all these years. It’s been invaluable for me as I’ve helped build the startup I’m at over the past 6 years. 

A year ago, I shifted from leading our web front end team into product management. I had little to no experience in it, but I knew my company’s product better than anyone. Instead of laterally transitioning me to product manager, I was promoted multiple levels to oversee and build out the product management department and get us ready for scale. This 3 month mindset allowed me to quickly grow into the role. 

This mindset is a super power you’ll take with you for the rest of your life once you graduate Coding Dojo.

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

Coming from a coding bootcamp does not limit your career trajectory. Anyone can learn to code. Take it from the guy with a Journalism degree. You’ll hear this a lot, “The hardest thing to do coming out of a bootcamp is to land your first job. Once you do that, you won’t ever have a problem finding a job.” This is 100% true, but just because that is true, do not undervalue yourself when searching for a job.

I took this to the extreme when I started looking for a job and asked for a salary far under market rate just so I could get past that first hurdle. Fortunately, Homebase treated me fairly and made me an offer far above what I asked for. In the end this more than doubled my salary prior to Coding Dojo. 3 months of hard work changed my life, and if you put the work in, it can change yours as well.

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

Learning how to code allows you to disrupt industries and make peoples’ lives better. As developers, we are building the future with every keystroke.

As I grow in my career, I want to continue working on innovative ideas cultivated from diverse perspectives and experimentation to build the future of living. That is what we have set out to do at Homebase.

When you’re building out a product, there are “good” ideas and there are “GREAT” ideas. A good idea, if implemented correctly, can make a lot of money and make a big difference, but it stops there. A GREAT idea not only is profitable and has impact, it has the potential to upend entire industries and change how we live and operate as a society.

Every day I come to work at Homebase, we are either working on or working toward cultivating these great ideas. Bringing these ideas to life is why I have stayed with Homebase for so long. I truly believe we make a difference and will play a major part in shaping the way people live for years to come.

I want to continue bringing great ideas into the world. This is not what I want to do for the next 5-10 years. It’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.

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.