We had a great conversation with Tajaa Long, a graduate of The Iron Yard, during which we talked about her life before, during and after attending the coding bootcamp. We learned a lot about her passion for children and how her career path led her back to teaching.
Check out the stand-out quotes from our chat and learn more about Tajaa’s awesome journey from teacher to … well… teacher.
Before attending The Iron Yard, grad Tajaa Long taught as a Math Specialist in an elementary school in St. Louis. She decided to become a developer herself after teaching her students the fundamentals of programming.
“I noticed that programming helped them learn mathematical concepts better. I realized that I wanted to learn a skill that I could pass on to the "future workforce of America". I enjoy programming because I get to challenge myself by figuring out how to solve problems in a number of ways,“ she said.
Tajaa choose The Iron Yard because she felt they were invested in her success. Before she joined the program, she talked to the Campus Director and had an hour long conversation with her future instructor.
On attending The Iron Yard, she says, “Once I was in the program, I was surprised that half the battle in learning how to program was a mental struggle. My instructor emphasized that making mistakes in programming is normal and (humble) confidence is key. There's going to be so many things you don't know as a Junior Developer, so being able to look for answers and ask for help is paramount.”
We asked Tajaa what advice she’d give to prospective bootcamp students. Here’s what she said:
“The best three pieces of advice I can give to a potential bootcamp student is to not go into programming for the money. It's a nice perk, but you still want to make sure you enjoy the day-to-day of the job. Otherwise, you'll burn out quickly.”
“Second, figure out what your strengths are and incorporate it into programming. I love working with kids and found a way to blend my two passions. As a programmer, there are various environments you can work in. You don't have to limit yourself to coding in a cubicle for eight hours per day.”
“Third, a portfolio and networking at meet ups will get you further than a resume itself.”
Tajaa’s outlook on her experience is nothing short of amazing. It’s hard to see the good in the rough times, but that’s exactly what she did. Take, for example, the app she created for Demo Day. “Leading up to Demo Day, I completely bombed the first design of my app. It was terrible design that made it hard to understand the purpose of the app. From that, I learned UX design and was able to use those skills at my first job,” she said, adding that if she had to do everything all over again, she wouldn’t change a thing.
Thanks to the coaching at The Iron Yard, Tajaa wasn’t left in the dark when it came to looking for a job after completing coding bootcamp.
“At The Iron Yard, we received feedback and support for our resumes. Throughout the program, we were introduced to various hiring managers at tech companies. We were also encouraged to go to a bunch of meetups to meet people. They also walked us through what hiring managers and companies look for in a potential candidate,” she said, “So when I had interviews and didn't get hired, I had a clear sense of why I didn't get hired and what to improve upon.”
She landed her first job at a small startup, and while she liked the team, she knew exactly what was missing: The kids. So she transitioned out of that company and now she teaches middle school aged children how to code.
“Teaching programming and ‘connecting those dots’ for groups who didn't think they could become programmers is what inspires me. I'm currently working on my own version of a children's coding bootcamp and developing programming curricula for kids, tweens and teens. In five years, I'd want the curricula to be implemented in a middle school or high school,” she said.