From I.T Consultant to the Halls of Harvard | How Nina Gervaise Tompkin Gained Newfound Confidence in Coding Bootcamp

  • Worked in I.T. and fashion
  • Wanted to communicate her ideas in new ways
  • Wanted to “demystify” the software development process
After Dojo:
  • Continuing her studies at Johns Hopkins University for Educational Technology and with the Harvard Graduate School of Education in its Technology, Innovation and Education program
  • Has a a newfound confidence tackling new and seemingly-intimidating technical concepts
  • Pursuing her dream of becoming a Product Manager dedicated to designing programs and tools that empower adults to pursue fulfilling, valuable and productive work
Program: Online Full-Time Bootcamp

Coding Dojo taught me how to read documentation closely, experiment fearlessly, organize my thought processes, and think about solving problems (Algos) in completely novel ways.

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

I’m 30, was born in San Francisco, and have been living in Los Angeles for the past 6 years. I originally studied Asian studies with a focus on Japanese, then went on to work in Tokyo and Manhattan with a Japanese fashion company. Since returning to the U.S., I’ve worked in software sales (selling SQL Server plug ins) and then moved into I.T. Change Management consulting (helping large organizations adopt G Suite).

I’m currently a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University for Educational Technology, and will be continuing my studies with the Harvard Graduate School of Education in its Technology, Innovation and Education program in September 2020. My goal is to become a Product Manager dedicated to designing programs and tools that empower adults to pursue fulfilling, valuable and productive work.

Before the bootcamp, I worked for three years as an Enterprise Change Management Consultant for one of Google’s top IT Consulting partners. I coached large organizations including Colgate, LucasFilm, Conde Nast, etc. on how to successfully coach their users to adopt Google tools in projects that range from 3-12 months. I was also responsible for training end users new Google skills, creating a range of customized training resources and measuring the success of our efforts. Over my tenure, I helped over 15 companies transition from MSFT to Google tooling and have trained more than 10,000 users.

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

My job as an I.T. consultant equipped me with a number of technical skills – however, as I became more of a specialist, I wanted to communicate my ideas in new ways.  I found myself wanting to learn how to code so that I could further what I could design or customize for clients. However, I never went into the coding bootcamp with the hope of becoming a software engineer or programmer – I merely wanted the bootcamp to help me “demystify” the software development process so that I could later work in positions adjacent to development and still understand what was going on. Going forward, if I want to be a Product Manager, it’s important to me that I understand the process of coding (even if I eventually forget the specifics) so that I can appropriately collaborate with engineers.

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

I didn’t have many doubts – I positioned the bootcamp strategically between quitting my job in February of 2019 and starting my masters’ program with Johns Hopkins in September 2019, so the timing worked out perfectly. If anything, I was most intimidated by the number of hours students were recommended to spend on assignments weekly – 70 to 90 hours seemed inhumane. I ultimately addressed this fear by switching my enrollment from the onsite Dojo in Burbank to the online bootcamp, which saved me an extra few hours in commute time each week. In retrospect, this was a hugely helpful decision!

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

Because I applied to coding bootcamps with a very specific time frame in mind, my coding bootcamp decision was narrowed down to only those that offered full-time sessions starting in late February/early March. This brought the count down to 4 bootcamps, all equally reputable. Coding Dojo ultimately won out over the others for three primary reasons:  

  1. The Dojo closest to me was a reasonable drive away (20 mins compared to the next closest Bootcamp, which was 45 mins away)
  2. It offered a fully remote bootcamp option (in case I changed my mind about commuting, which I did)
  3. Its course load and student expectations appeared to be much more demanding than its competitors’, despite the fact that all of the coding bootcamps were around the same cost.

The last point was particularly convincing – if I was going to pay around $12,000 for 3 months of work, did I want to join a bootcamp that didn’t push me to my limits? I chose Coding Dojo because I knew I would be getting the most value out of every minute.

What was it like getting ready for the bootcamp? How did you prepare?

I was very nervous before starting the bootcamp, mostly because I had just quit my previous job and was experiencing severe burnout, and therefore worried that I would not have the mental capacity to handle another intense experience so soon. In the end, I prepared for the course by postponing my start date to the next cohort, which gave me ample time to really go deeply into the pre-work and the AlgoApp. 

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

I spent my first week onsite in Burbank before switching to the fully online cohort, which was great because I could see how the two experiences compared. Initially, I struggled with the fact that Coding Dojo did not put much emphasis at getting to know our classmates and our reasons for joining the bootcamp and switching tracks. It felt quite impersonal and transactional, in that way. However, I did really appreciate the way the Coding Cojo platform was written, and the way the instructors (both online and onsite) led lectures. Their goal was never to intimidate or to “wow” us with their superior knowledge – but rather to really, deeply explain the foundations.  

How did you overcome the obstacles or struggles you faced?

Regarding my criticism about CD’s lack of attention to fostering a sense of community amongst students , that concern faded over time. When I transitioned to the online section, I found that CD had developed an online system that did a surprisingly good job at fostering student connections. 

Relying on Mattermost for a majority of impromptu conversations made me feel more comfortable expressing my insecurities and questions because I could hide behind memes, txt speak and emojis – but still convey that I was struggling and needed help. Others did the same, and Mattermost became a really fun hot spot for all students to chat with one another and solve issues. The fact that students in the online cohort also had access to “Hangout rooms” in Zoom was also a really nice touch – we often would meet each other in the rooms and work together as it suited us.

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

When I first joined the coding bootcamp, I never imagined that I would become such close peers with such diverse characters. My closest coding companions were a 60-year old Texan grandfather and a 45-year old Nigerian father living in Kentucky. The other primary group in our cohort were post-military Amazon trainees, many of whom had recently returned from serving abroad. The ability to share a common language with such a motley crew, was, I think, highly amusing to us all. 

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

Completing the coding bootcamp definitely gave me a newfound confidence when it comes to tackling new and seemingly-intimidating technical concepts. Coding Dojo taught me how to read documentation closely, experiment fearlessly, organize my thought processes, and think about solving problems (Algos) in completely novel ways. 

As a woman in the I.T. and Tech sectors, prior to the bootcamp I was often afraid that my ignorance in certain technical matters would make me seem dumb or unqualified. But after the bootcamp, I became more comfortable admitting when I didn’t know something, because I had a much better sense as to how I could look into it. This has made me feel more confident and capable overall. 

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

As I said earlier, I believe my time at Coding Dojo really helped with my application to Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Technology, Innovation and Education program, a program dedicated to studying how digital and online experiences can revolutionize education and learning. While the program does not require students to have a technical background or know how to code, completing a coding bootcamp demonstrates an exceptional commitment to understanding processes related to digital product development. 

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

Make sure you have a clear goal in mind before starting a coding bootcamp – it’s a lot of time, effort and money to spend on an experience if you graduate and don’t know what you want to do next. Also, a remote coding bootcamp experience should not at all deter you! If anything, it’s saving you the pain of a commute and giving you more time to dive deep into the content.

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

To become a Program- or Product-Manager for an EdTech platform, focused on equipping mid-career adults with the expertise they need to thrive in an economy disrupted by automation and AI.

If you are interested in learning how to code so you can make your dreams a reality, Coding Dojo 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.

Whether you’re unsatisfied with your career, or just 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.

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