Close to 30 hopefuls across the country competed for a coveted spot in Microsoft’s LEAP (Engineering Acceleration Program) software engineering apprenticeship program. Luckily, six talented Coding Dojo alumni made the cut (featured above: Ben Mier, Kabir Kahn, Anya Clawson, Porsha Robinson, Mark Donahue and Lucas Hudson).
This week kicked off the 16 week program where LEAP participants will be contributing to product teams across Microsoft, including Xbox and Microsoft CRM.
One Coding Dojo alum, Ben Mier, shares more on the LEAP program and how Coding Dojo helped pave the pathway to his dream company!
Q&A with Benjamin Mier, LEAP Software Engineering Apprentice at Microsoft and Coding Dojo Alum
What were you up to before attending Coding Dojo?
Before attending the bootcamp I had a B.S in Applied Physics and M.S. in Electrical Engineering, with a few college programming courses in various languages. I had worked as a telecom engineer for a small company and an electrical design & analysis engineer for Boeing.
Could you share what the other Coding Dojo alumni, and now apprentices, were doing before they decided to pursue a career in programming?
They each come from very different walks of life! Anya is a Russian translator with a PhD in linguistics; Kabir is a recent high school grad; Lucas is a recent college grad from North Carolina who studied economics and philosophy; Porsha has has a degree in computer networking and information systems security, and worked in IT for 10 years before reinventing her career after contributing to an open source web project called She’s Coding; and Mark is a University of Washington history grad and was a German translator and content manager in Germany.
Why did you decide to attend a coding bootcamp?
I needed to leave Boeing because they didn’t have opportunities for me to use my skills or grow my knowledge. I considered a bootcamp in the past, and decided it would be the best way to gain programming experience and complement my hardware background. The goal was to find a job in the tech industry that used my skills in a meaningful way.
What is Microsoft’s LEAP apprenticeship and how long is it?
The LEAP program is a 16 week immersive diversity program that combines traditional classroom learning with hands-on projects in a real-world development experience. It is through a contracting company sponsored by Microsoft. Each intern is considered a Microsoft contractor and is paid hourly. Our cohort began June 27th and goes through October 14th.
Why did you decide to apply to LEAP? What excites you about the program?
I applied to the LEAP program because I always dreamed about working at Microsoft. Because of my non-software background, I knew I didn’t have what Microsoft traditionally looked for. When I heard of LEAP via Coding Dojo, I thought it would be the perfect way to show how my diverse background is something that Microsoft could benefit from. I’m excited for the chance to show Microsoft what I can do for them!
What was the application process for LEAP? Is it pretty competitive?
The application involved describing basic personal information, where you learned software dev skills, why you’re interested in programming, what you’ve done to expose yourself to programming so far, and a resume written in Markdown. I believe it is fairly competitive. They accepted about 30 applicants from all over the country.
What will you be doing within Microsoft LEAP?
The first 8 weeks comprise of bootcamp-style classroom learning taught by Microsoft senior developers, followed by 8 weeks of apprenticeship working on a project in a Microsoft group. At the end of the 16 weeks there are presentations by each intern showcasing their accomplishments.
How did your training at Coding Dojo help prepare you for what you’ll be doing within LEAP
Coding Dojo did a fantastic job at preparing me for this job in multiple ways. First of all, I wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to apply if not for the Dojo. I was trained in multiple languages in a short period of time which impressed my interviewer. The daily algorithm practice on whiteboards at the Dojo made the interview process so much better. I felt completely confident when answering the interview questions because they were easier than our daily work at the Dojo.
What do you hope to do after LEAP?
I hope to gain valuable experience and a stronger resume from the LEAP program. Ideally, thanks to Coding Dojo, I’d be able to pick up the technologies quickly and excel in the program, possibly landing a permanent position at Microsoft. That would be a dream come true for me. If not, I hope to use the skills/reputation I gain to find a developer job at a medium-sized company working on something I love.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I encourage everyone to apply regardless of background, because the even took one Dojo graduate who was straight out of high school! Explain in the application and interview how your passion and skills can be of benefit to Microsoft. Talk about side projects if you don’t have much industry experience. Everything helps. This program goes to show how people who would never get into Microsoft through the front door still have a chance at proving themselves. It’s well worth the effort, because this is the HIGHEST compensated internship I’ve ever even heard of!