Alumni Spotlight: Mike Adamski of Launch Academy on How to Switch to a Coding CareerBy: The SwitchUp Team
In a follow up to last month's feature, we sit down with Mike Adamski, recent Launch Academy graduate and author of the blog Next Door Developer. A Launcher from the 16th Boston cohort, Mike went from warehouse worker to junior developer. In this Q&A, Mike gives us the rundown about his background, what led him to Launch Academy, his time in the program, and what he's been up to since he graduated last month.
Tell us a bit about your background in programming and how you decided you want to become a professional web developer.
When I was a kid I taught myself how to play the bass, then guitar, drums, and keys. I love creating things, so when I discovered code I decided to make a go of it.
I don't have any 'real' formal education outside of an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts from a local community college. When I was going to school, my dream was to go to Berklee College of Music and become a recording engineer—but things didn't pan out that way. I spent the next seven years working in a warehouse trying to figure out my game plan and then my brother encouraged me to look into coding. I fell in love with it really quick and soon found myself spending all of my free time learning as much as possible. I knew I had found something that I could really make a career out of, so I took the plunge and decided to apply to a coding bootcamp to accelerate the career change.
What inspired you to attend a Coding Bootcamp, and what made you decide to attend Launch Academy?
The end game from the beginning has been, and continues to be, a new and promising career as a developer. I was enjoying coding so much that I wanted to speed up the transition as best as possible. Self study was my original intention, but the time constraints of holding down a full-time job while trying to have a social life limits your ability to learn as much as you like. A coding bootcamp is a happy medium that gets you the knowledge you want in a short amount of time.
As to why I chose Launch Academy, it started off with a referral from a friend of a friend who attended and really enjoyed the experience. Then, on closer examination, it was clear that it was the better choice [compared] to other bootcamps in the area based on reviews and curriculum. It's also worth mentioning that Launch Academy was around from the beginning, so fly-by-night concerns aren't really an issue here.
What was your cohort like? What were the backgrounds of some of your fellow students?
It was a pretty diverse group of people, lots of different ways of thinking and walks of life. Coming from a fairly blue-collar background, I wasn't expecting there to be anyone like me. I thought it would be ex-bankers and mathletes. Turns out a lot of the people there were totally normal and that helped me better acclimate.
Can you tell us a bit about the instructors and culture at Launch Academy?
Instructors were all pretty cool. The whole experience in the beginning is so overwhelming that you hear them talk and it sounds like they've been doing this for years and then you find out they graduated from the same program six months ago. It puts things in perspective about the amount a person can learn in such a short amount of time. As for culture, I really liked how they did this concept of "showing the ugly", which basically means if they mess up they admit it, which was nice to see.
What was an average day in the program like?
Everyone had a different routine, but mine went something like this:
Arrive by 7:30 and go over the previous night's homework with classmates. 9:38—Mentor Groups, where we covered the homework and got to ask all sorts of questions. 10:45—Lecture, these were always really good and necessary. Then lunch, where I (and others) ate entirely too many burgers from Five Guys. Resume by 1 usually, sometimes earlier, and go over the afternoon assignment in small groups, usually three to four [people]. Leave by 5 or 6 and grab a bite to eat, then spend time from 7 to 10 working on the homework, and then I would give myself about an hour to just cool down and relax. Bed by 11 or 11:30 and then up by 6:30 to do it all over again.
Was there one thing you really loved about the course?
The collaboration. I learned a lot from the readings and lectures especially, but I always felt like my greatest strides were made when working with others. I was able to see people think about problems in ways I would have never thought of and this really expanded my understanding of many different technologies.
Tell us a little bit about what you've been doing since you graduated last month. How has the job search been going for you?
The job search is kind of grueling, to be honest. It is very repetitious, just always looking for new jobs online. I moved back home to western Massachusetts, where the job market isn't as good as in Boston, so to compensate I've been going to every meetup I can find to network with local devs. I have had some success with this, more so than with submitting resumes, but none of those leads have resulted in job offers yet.
Besides that, I have been coding a bunch and trying to learn some new stuff, PHP and Drupal among others, given the demand in my area for them. To keep busy and make some money—boy do I miss paychecks—I started doing freelance web development for small businesses in my area, and online of course.
I have an affinity for all thing front end and UX, and really hope to land a position where I can refine my skillset and work on some cool projects.
What are the career services like at Launch Academy, and did you feel the bootcamp prepared you for the job search?
This one is kinda tough to answer. I don't want to sound salty, but when it comes to going on interviews and the process of the job search in general, no they didn't prepare us enough. To their credit, they held two mock interviews with us to acclimate us to the interview process. The issue, of course, is that we are trying to learn how to code, and then to stretch us thinner to learn how to get a job makes it difficult to really cover both topics in sufficient depth. In both of my mock interviews, I had little feedback and didn't really feel like I got much out of it. That being said, it's such a nuanced topic that you really need to feel things out for yourself and determine which strategy will work best for you.
My advice is that if you are a very outgoing person, focus on in-person contact, do not rely on your resume to get you anywhere. Charm will take you pretty far in this field from what I have seen so far.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
Weigh the cost. It's an investment just like any other. I got into this because I truly love coding. I love building things from scratch and being able to show them off. Even still, I wouldn't have done it if there wasn't significant upside in terms of salary. I have met some devs who graduated from bootcamps two to three years ago and they all talk about how easy it was landing a job, how you had several offers to choose from within a month of graduating. Now, the job market is more saturated with junior devs, so there is more hustle involved in landing a position. Be prepared to work hard after you graduate and do your best to separate yourself from the pack. Be unique. Be memorable. Be worth their time.
Out of 5 stars - how many stars would you rate your bootcamp and why?
4.5/5—They have a strong commitment to using iteration to constantly improve the curriculum; this is important because it demonstrates an investment on their part to always improve their product. They bumped up the price another $2000 since I graduated, which I don't really agree with, but they offer an amazing program that will teach you about 10x more than you actually think you will end up learning. So, if you think it's worth the plunge, the sooner the better—Go for it!
And finally, Is there anything else you'd like to share with anyone considering Launch Academy?
Don't bother doing this if you aren't truly committed. Enrolling in Launch Academy isn't something you just do to try it out. The people who attend and the staff who help us get to our goals take this program very seriously. Putting in 16-hour days every day for 10 weeks isn't something you will be able to pull off unless you truly enjoy learning and working with code. That being said, if you are truly committed, I honestly can't think of a better alternative.