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From Coffee to Coder | How Online Alumni Mark McDonald Future-Proofed His Career

  • Worked in higher education and as a barista
  • Was unhappy and tired of being shoehorned into low skill, low pay jobs
  • Desired a future-proof and recession-proof career
After Dojo:
  • Works as a Software Developer I 
  • Has newfound confidence in his ability to learn
  • Dreams of growing into a Lead Developer role in the coming years
Program: Online Part-Time Bootcamp

I chose Coding Dojo primarily because it came recommended from a family member. This person has been in the software development industry for decades, and knows exactly what is required in order to make it in this industry. He mentioned several friends who were in a similar position as me several years back who used Coding Dojo and now work at Microsoft and Amazon. I also valued the transparency of CD’s job placement data and extensive Career Services.

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

I am 27 years old. I love to cook, read, play video games, hang out with my dog, bake, and because I’m a masochist, I am an Atlanta sports fan. 
Before the bootcamp, I bounced around to a lot of different jobs — I actually went to school for Music Education, but after teaching for about six months I realized that teaching in a traditional classroom was not the career for me. I worked in higher education for about two years until I lost my job due to the pandemic, which led me to work as a barista for a couple months until I started pursuing programming full-time.

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

All of the above. I was unhappy and tired of being shoehorned into low paying, unskilled (for lack of a better term, no shade being thrown here) jobs that had poor benefits and crappy hours. I wanted a recession-proof career that I would be able to use to find a job anywhere, and I knew that if I could break into the world of programming I would be able to essentially write my own ticket. Plus, I’ve always been interested in computers and tech in general; I built my own computer several years back and even took a few online IT courses through Google.

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

Honestly, the main thing was the money. I was worried that I would be spending months and thousands of dollars on something that would not help land me a job. I just had to trust in the Lord that this was what I was supposed to do. I also extensively researched numerous different online programs, and made sure that the ones I was considering all had VERY transparent placement data available, as well as extensive career placement assistance. These factors all helped to ease my anxiety about committing to a bootcamp.

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

I chose Coding Dojo primarily because it came recommended from a family member. This person has been in the software development industry for decades, and knows exactly what is required in order to make it in this industry. He mentioned several friends who were in a similar position as me several years back who used Coding Dojo and now work at Microsoft and Amazon. I also valued the transparency of Coding Dojo’s job placement data and extensive Career Services.

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

I was pretty nervous, but also excited to be taking some formal steps forward in my coding education. I prepared by taking a few basic HTML and CSS courses through Codecademy, so I wouldn’t be completely lost upon starting Web Fundamentals. I also slowed my learning down a little bit compared to what I was doing before I registered for the bootcamp — knowing that I was about to start four months of 30+ hours/week of coding, I wanted to take a break while I could before things got crazy.

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

The first few weeks were pretty busy — I hadn’t had to attend lectures or do assignments for several years, so getting back into the rhythm of formal learning was something I needed to adjust to. I enjoyed being able to have live feedback on what I was coding. In the past, I would have to trawl through StackOverflow or Reddit hoping that my issue would be solved, so having a live instructor with extensive knowledge was extremely beneficial. 

How did you overcome the obstacles or struggles you faced? 

Thankfully, I had the full support of my amazing wife, which helped me to keep my nose to the grindstone and push forward. Knowing that I was completing this program just as much for her as for me helped keep me focused when I got discouraged or frustrated.

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

During my python course, I was in Will Calhoun’s cohort. If you don’t know Will, he likes to teach about variable names using a specific mythical creature — the Unicorn. To get across the concept that variable names can be anything (although they shouldn’t be just anything, of course), Will would name a variable and remind us, “Now remember, this name is arbitrary, it doesn’t matter, it could be Unicorn.” That led to us joking about naming all sorts of things after the Unicorn, and eventually we incorporated the coordinates of a Unicorn inflatable island in the Philippines into an event application we made. Once Will realized exactly where we had placed this event, we all had a good laugh. 

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

I definitely felt more confident than I had before the bootcamp, but the imposter syndrome is too real to ignore. There’s an idea that the more you learn, the more you realize you still have to learn…this is such a true concept. I knew that I had gained a lot of great skills through the bootcamp, but I also knew how much further I still had to go in the realm of Web Development. I knew I would get a job eventually, but honestly was not sure how long it would take to get someone to take a chance on me.

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

It went a million times better than I had anticipated. According to the placement data, most students find their first gig between 4-6 month after graduating. However, thanks to an old college friend, I was able to get my first interview at a company two days before I even officially graduated! After that, it was a whirlwind of interviews, prep, and coding challenges — and I was fortunate to be offered a job as a Software Developer I at Bandwidth in Raleigh, NC.

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

The main thing besides coding experience was confidence, that yes I can develop web applications and yes I can write code. Regarding soft skills, while Coding Dojo did a good job of impressing the importance of having strong soft skills upon us, I was fortunate to be able to develop my soft skills through my various other professional positions over the years.

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

If you haven’t started it yet, make sure you do your research. There are all sorts of different programs out there, and they are NOT created equal. Make sure you find one that is very transparent about what services they provide, how quickly/many of their graduates get placed IN-FIELD, etc. Also, don’t just assume that the bootcamp will spoon feed you every single thing you need to land a good job. You need to be tenacious, willing to take the initiative, and to put in the effort it takes to start a new career like this. You get out of the program what you put into it, so you might as well give it your very best. 

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

In five years, I hope to continue growing as a Software Developer, and after that maybe even a Lead Dev for a team someday.

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.