From the Marine Corps to Coding Bootcamp, Meet Bellevue Graduate Tom Hollingshead

Because as you become better at everything, as the innate skills actually manifest in reality, the bar rises for the next jump. The core demand for evolution is relentless, and respect, happiness, love and joy are irrevocably tied to it.
― Darrell Calkins

At only 24 years old, Tom Hollingshead has had quite an early career. He served in the US Marine Corps from 2013 to 2017 as an Avionics Technician, then took a Quality Assurance Representative contract role with the global aerospace and defense company General Dynamics. 

Even with this illustrious start to his career, Tom knew he wanted to expand his horizons in the tech industry. He realized his GI Bill benefits cover education and retraining, so he decided to focus on technical training that would give him a leg up in the avionics industry. 

I received so many different kinds of technical training that I knew that if I was going to do a program, I wanted to do something that would open up my scope a little bit. 

So, Tom did what most people do during exploratory research: Google it. He researched a variety of technical training programs and came across the 14-week Coding Dojo bootcamp program. 

Tom attended an Open House and met with instructors and Shiraz Sultan, the local Program Success Manager. He was immediately blown-away by the sense of community, the depth of the curriculum, and the job placement rate for recent alumni. So Tom took the leap and decided to enroll. 

What set apart the Coding Dojo from other boot camps for me was the sense of community in terms of after you graduate, you’re not just gone, you’re an alumni, you know? There are so many resources after the fact that it was like career services and all these other things.

Luckily for Tom, enrolling with his GI Bill benefits was a breeze — he just showed his Certificate of Eligibility via his eBenefits portal and voila, he was all set. 

In preparation for the bootcamp, Tom did some initial research on computer programming terms, techniques, and other info. He was determined to give the bootcamp his best shot, and both his excitement and anxiety grew as his first day approached.  One thing he didn’t do was the pre-course work — a mistake that Tom regrets and one that he suggests future bootcamp students do not replicate.

As he began the bootcamp, Tom experienced what many people do in stressful new situations: the dreaded Imposter Syndrome. While he expected to handle the coding bootcamp with ease due to his experience with Marine Corps bootcamp, as Tom began tackling the curriculum he felt like he wasn’t good enough. 

But soon, the program took Tom to a “different kind of [mental] optimization.” He quickly learned how to keep pushing forward, especially when he was behind, and the curriculum started to click. With the help of his instructors, Tom’s scope of understanding began to expand.

It was pretty intense. I’m not going to lie, but I had a really great cohort that they were just so supportive. The instructors are insane, insane good. They just sit you down and explain everything, they know how to, and then they start taking things from… And so that alleviated a lot of my concerns. 

Tom started finishing his algorithms and effectively utilizing databases. He also began forming close bonds with his cohort mates who helped him through particularly tough spots of the curriculum. His excitement was reignited as his feelings of accomplishment grew and his feelings of Imposter Syndrome faded. 

No one person is the biggest genius in coding. It’s the biggest thing that a lot of people don’t understand is that no one person is the biggest genius. Everybody had their piece of the puzzle that they were kind of throwing in because it’s scary, man. I’m not going to lie. It was tough. That was a hard thing to do and we accomplished it together from the beginning to the end. It was a pretty great experience.

As Tom continued to progress through the bootcamp and graduation day approached, he kept “attacking algorithms,” which further increased his confidence and sense of accomplishment. He felt as if a personal revolution was occurring once he was able to write clean and effective code, and talk to other developers peer-to-peer. Tom summarizes this as becoming “tech literate” and equates it to learning how to read.

One day, you just know how to read. it’s like learning how to read and then someone’s like, “Hey, we got all these books. We need to know what’s in the book.” I’m like, “Yeah, I can read books.” It’s kind of like that.

Graduation day came and Tom’s job hunt began. Unlike many of his cohort mates, Tom wasn’t interested in pursuing a developer job. Instead, he wanted to use his newfound coding skills to advance his skills within the avionics industry. Tom knew his tech literacy would broaden the scope of the roles he could apply for. Sure enough, a few months after graduation Tom landed a job with a local and flourishing aerospace manufacturer. 

As he settled in, he realized his tech literacy helped in a variety of aspects in his new role. His level of communication and amount of problems he could solve were on a completely different level than he could’ve achieved before bootcamp.

Reflecting on his bootcamp experience, Tom has the following advice for future and current bootcamp students:

If you could apply what you learned to your current trade or to side projects or to things that you can do with other people, do it, have fun with it. Now you have this thing and you can just create whenever you want. Just build. That’s beautiful. Don’t ever lose that tenacity, don’t ever lose that wonder, don’t ever lose that curiosity, because that’s what this is all about.

If you’re interested in learning how we can help you become tech literate, or if you’re a veteran who is interested in using your GI Bill benefits for coding bootcamp, get in touch with a Coding Dojo representative today! If you’d like to watch the full video interview with Tom, you can do so below:

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