Hey guys! Here it is: our amazing and awesome, blog (i.e. we may, or may not, feature ‘outfit of the day’ or ‘#OOTD’ posts of our team members-YESSS.) Kidding, kinda’. Anyhow, what can you expect from our blog you ask? Well, the topics are pretty much endless. We’ll be dishin’ about ourselves, our students, our team members, and of course, everything and anything about what we do here at the school! Think of our blog as our ‘inspiration board’ of our thoughts and people we’re diggin’. We’re pretty stoked about it, so feel free to engage with comments, questions, or any general awesomeness you may feel fit.
We get a lot of questions about what it’s like to go to school here, what you can expect, and what life looks like once you’re a graduate of TTS. So we came up with a ‘Graduate Spotlight’ to give you guys some insight ‘behind the scenes.’
We caught up with one of our favorite students, Sarah, who went to our first, ever, semester in Atlanta. She’s a pretty rockin’ chick these days, so we got our ‘pad and pencils’ ready, and started a good ole’ fashioned email interview (just go with it, one day email will totally be old-fashioned.) Here it is, a story of falling in love with code and pursuing her passion (aww) :
Q: Okay for starters, two questions: Life before TSS (career, schooling, life in general- whatever you feel is interesting, etc.)? And, what sparked the idea to go to TTS?
A: You know, it’s interesting because my background is actually in design. When I first went to college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do so I just chose Interior Design to major in. Not that long later, the economy crashed and our teacher told us we weren’t going to get a job as interior designers, so we should think about changing courses. I took her advice and decided to go into web design, and majored in Web Technologies. After graduating, I decided to either do web design or network administration, and ended up at a web design company, where I was put in online marketing because of my creative writing skills.
After that, I switched careers to become a graphic designer for a product development company, and did a lot of really cool things (including being a part of a team that put together a product in 3 weeks for under $1,500 for our presentation at the DNC - that was super cool). Once we merged with another company, I had a chance to further my design skills and work on their magazine but I started to realize I wasn’t keen on leaning towards print design, and I really wanted to be more exclusive to web design and development. Not to mention the career opportunities for graphic designers weren’t nearly as extensive or exciting! My schooling hadn’t prepared me very well for programming or web development in general, so I started taking the open courses on MIT for Python and going through books on PHP and jQuery. I found I really loved it more than anything! And I realized that was what I wanted to do, but the resources I had access to didn’t give me the full picture, just bits and pieces. I realized I could learn on my own but it would take a really long time and I wouldn’t know everything to look for, so I would miss things.
At the time, I had had talks with Betsy (one of the founders!) about possibly going back to school and majoring in computer science, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to leave the workforce or take on that sort of financial commitment, especially not knowing if the courses would prepare me any better than the ones I’d taken before. After these conversations, I realized it wouldn’t really prepare me the way I needed it to, so I decided to do the bootcamp and learn from working developers who could get me the training I needed in a much more manageable time frame. I was ready to get on with my life!
Q: Did you have a goal in-mind when wanting to learn how to code?
A: To be honest, I really just wanted to learn how to code! I knew it would help me gain a better quality of life overall, both at work and outside of work. I wanted to find fulfillment and learn to build something bigger, to leave a greater impact on the world. I didn’t really consider myself an “idea person” as much as an executor. However, as I went through the program I began to see that I did have innovation, I just hadn’t known how to reach (or ‘build’) it yet. It really made me more excited about the potential of what learning to code can do as far as career options. That was really what I had hoped for.
I suppose, if I had to choose an overall ‘goal’ it was to be able to get a job where I could earn more money and have more control over where I could work, and who I worked with. I knew that was kind of the ‘gold over the rainbow’ for me.
Q: After you decided to make a change, were you a little nervous- and if so, what made you overcome it?
A: The only things I was nervous about were moving for two months and whether or not I could find a job where I lived! I’d struggled to get interviews beforehand, but I knew I needed to do this and to learn how to code. I was at that point in my life where it didn’t matter how it felt now, just that I’d be able to hone the skills I needed for later on down the road. I’d never lived outside of Charlotte before, and though I’d been to Atlanta a few times- it was still a little nerve-wracking for me. The good news was I had friends who lived down there so I got to stay with them, and it took the pressure off. They’ll always be obstacles, I suppose it’s just about learning to overcome them really.
Q: How were your first couple days in class? Dish:
A: Well, I had taken a programming course in Python in college and let me tell you - TTS went through a whole semester’s worth in three days. It was absolutely amazing! Even better was that it wasn’t like it was so over-saturated that it went in one ear and out the other; it stuck with me and it continued to stick with me throughout the program. I still find myself remembering things that were mentioned maybe once or twice, but it stuck with me because we practiced a lot and it was easier to understand when we were using real world examples and actually building a full application instead of just bits and pieces, like you tend to learn in university. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that, in addition to people with 0 coding experience, there were also people like me with computer science backgrounds who didn’t know how to piece it all together because college hadn’t prepared them.
Q: When you began learning the possibilities coding could give you, what were some of the ‘musts’ on your list for finding a new career? Any?
A: Oh, I went into the thing with a game-plan! I never do anything without having a million reasons for doing it and what happens next (sometimes I go in a little TOO prepared). :) I’d been planning for months and nailed down exact dates when I was going to do certain things, even what time during the program I’d start looking for new jobs. When I first left my old job, I really just switched to remote part-time so I could have a bit of income, practice, and no resume gaps (honestly, it wasn’t going to hurt me since I was doing something, but I felt it was best for me to do this). I also had decided to attend meet-ups down there, which I did, and try to build my connections. I had already decided that I would be open to moving to another state so I went ahead and explored opportunities in Atlanta and even California (and even Amsterdam!), but I did most of my looking back here in NC. About a month into the program, I started re-building by portfolio website, got up just enough to be presentable, and then started sending out my resume. I made it a rule that I had to apply to at least two jobs a day within the last two weeks. I applied to a lot of places, got lots of replies, had four interviews (two in Atlanta and two in Charlotte) and weighed my options.
I was a lot pickier this time. I only applied to places that seemed to have a good company culture, and mainly applied to start-ups. I wanted to work for a start-up and to be able to have a greater influence on the company, help build the company, to be more than just a developer. I did apply to some bigger places too, but again - it had to do with ones where someone could vouch for me and ones where the corporate culture was laid back, flexible, and they cared for their employees. Another big thing I looked for was places where the people were go-getters; I just can’t sit still, so to speak, and I had to be around people as ambitious and ready to get stuff done as I was! And finally I was looking for a place where I could learn a lot and work under a mentor, so to speak. I needed a senior developer (I had some places saying they wanted me to be the senior developer, but I didn’t want that at this point). I just feel like gaining experience from a seasoned developer would be what was best for my career, and learning more tips and tricks and techniques.
Q: After finishing, did you feel prepared for finding that perfect position?
A: Definitely! I felt a lot more confident in my abilities overall and felt like I didn’t have to “settle” just because ‘I needed a job.’ I was determined to take my time if I had to, in order to find the right place for me. It was more important to me to find someplace I could fit in and feel I could truly contribute to. The good news is that TTS really prepared me not just on a skills-level, but on a confidence level, too. They helped me in feeling comfortable finding ways to connect with my community and reach out to people. TTS also hooked us up with potential employers and contacts who could help us out.
I ended up finding my perfect job within four days after returning from Atlanta, in which, I’d learned about through my connections through TTS.
Q: Were there any positions that you felt were unreachable, but became reachable after you finished at TTS?
A: Yes! When I first started applying to jobs (before TTS), I couldn’t get anyone to reply to the web developer or even the web designer positions! I felt like I was throwing my resume into a black hole, honestly. So, I knew I had to do something if I wanted to change careers - or advance at all for that matter. It felt like being stuck in a rut and my experience at TTS changed my entire life. It may sound corny, but it’s true. :) I always say that it was the best decision I ever made, and everyone I know agrees.
Q: And of course we would love to know, (the best part) what’s life like now, after TSS?
A: Great! I’m so much happier than I was - and not just in the job situation. It really boosted my confidence overall and I loved working with everyone at TTS, both the students and the instructor. I had a lot of fun and a lot of good opportunities and experiences come through it, ones that I really do treasure. And now I love my job - I’m working at a really cool start-up in Charlotte called CheckAppointments, doing Software as a Service. Right now I’m doing a lot of front-end development using AngularJS, and will eventually be working with Java for the back-end. Even though I’m not using ROR I’m using everything I learned in principle and technique, and it was just a matter of learning the syntax of the language. I still plan to use ROR for other projects of mine that I’ve been thinking up, and a friend and I are about to start working on a mobile app. Right now we’re kinda leaning towards keeping it exclusive to Android and eventually moving it to iOS because we’d rather wrangle Java than Objective C since we have more exposure to Java (the whole “go native or go home” debate, versus using something like Titanium which would translate into both but would cause greater code bloat). I have a couple of apps I’d love to build, and above all my goal is to just keep learning!