By the end of her first day at Starter School in Chicago, Erinn Barr had covered everything she'd already known about coding. That set the pace for the education she was about to embark on, having quit her job as an online marketer to learn how to design and code a web application from scratch over a period of nine months. "I wanted to change what my career options would be in the future," she said of her decision.
Since then, Erinn has gone on to launch MakeHerSmile.co, a service designed to help men give great gifts to their loved ones. A person interested in finding a gift signs up on the site and answers questions about the person they want to buy for, before receiving a gift recommendation from Erinn herself. Upon confirmation from the customer, Erinn coordinates the gift purchase, wrapping, and shipping.
We caught up with Erinn to learn more about her experience at Starter School.
Erinn, why did you decide to attend Starter School?
I knew a bootcamp would provide me with more opportunities in the future and also let me take control of my future career. Starter School was a good mix of coding, design and entrepreneurship. I didn't think I would end up a backend developer but wanted to know how to do it myself.
What challenges did you overcome to get to where you are?
There were daily challenges with keeping up on the work, overcoming frustrations, and avoiding distractions. Getting through the bootcamp requires you to continue working through issues even though you may be stuck on a problem or frustrated. The people who give up and quit will have a harder time later on.
What plans/dreams do you have for the next 5 years?
I'm going to move forward with MakeHerSmile.co and building more of it. Right now I'm working at the co-working space provided by the school, but eventually I'm going to want my own space and hope to have that within a few years.
Any advice for students looking to join a bootcamp?
Be ready to give up on other things for the bootcamp but realize that the time you spend there is special. You'll make new friends, put yourself in uncomfortable situations and learn a lot about yourself.
What motivates you in your career?
I want to do something I enjoy and can be proud of something I call my own. Too much time is spent at work to not be happy with what you are doing.
Do you see learning programs like Starter School replacing college for parts of the population?
Yes. At Starter School we had three young guys who had tried going to college and realized it wasn't for them. Some are recognizing that college may not be the answer for every single person and that's okay. Someone who is young and is considering a bootcamp rather than college has to make that decision for herself/himself. They may miss out on having the "college experience" but they are going to be ahead of the curve when it comes to work experience.
What were the people and culture like at Starter School?
The people were all very different, unique and diverse. Still, it would have been nice to see more women partake.
The culture was different from normal schools. We all helped each other out. Asked each other questions. Sought out help when we needed it from each other. It was a collaborative environment and something that took time getting used to. We also all worked hard and learned how to ask questions and be involved during class.
Any advice for recent program alums looking for a job?
I'd say to be themselves and show their personalities through the hiring process. We spend a lot of time with the people we work with so make sure you are comfortable there.
Know what you are looking for. Are you looking for someone to help mentor you? Are you wanting a company to help mold your skills and spend a lot of time working with you? These things are important if you will want to have someone to turn to for help. After going through a bootcamp you should be used to receiving feedback but if you aren't, start asking for more. If a company turns you down or wants you to submit another code sample, ask them for feedback and move on from there.