MEET THE GRADUATE
Hi Matthew, what did you do before attending Coding Dojo?
In terms of work experience, I had 3 years of software experience working as a software engineer first as an intern on the IBM Websphere Install team, and then later as a full-timer contractor on the IBM XML technologies team. I also had a brief internship as a database administrator working on MySQL databases. I developed mainly in Java and until Coding Dojo had very little exposure to other, full-stack web technologies.
In terms of formal education, I have a degree in Computer Engineering from the University of British Columbia, which is a degree focused on mainly the theories of computer hardware and software. However, due to the lack of practical application, I found it difficult to compete in the job market against most Computer Science grads, which led me to do an internship at IBM. IBM exposed me to the world of Java, but that was not enough to stay competitive in the software industry. After my IBM contract, I ran my own start up for a year, where I worked on many software projects with two other friends in the software industry. It was after this startup experience that I wanted to learn more technologies in a short time, such as in a concentrated course like the Coding Dojo programming bootcamp.
Even though you studied Computer Engineering in college, why did you want to learn more?
I originally focused on back end development, working on code that runs locally. I was already proficient in programming, but wanted to learn web technologies and start developing full-stack (front end and back end) applications. In addition to joining the bootcamp, I also wanted to build on my computer science fundamentals and to become more proficient at algorithms and other computer science concepts. The bootcamp provided me all the opportunities to practice and make myself more competitive in the software industry.
How did you choose and decide on a Coding Dojo?
I wanted to choose a bootcamp that offers the best curriculum and many chances to practice new skills. I looked for a bootcamp that focuses on teaching a large quantity of the hottest technologies in software development. After comparing various bootcamps, Coding Dojo stood out. They offered the most extensive program and were relatively cheap compared to their competitors. They also offered free snacks, which was a nice plus! Furthermore, I was also looking for a bootcamp that supports you before, during and after the program. Coding Dojo provided most of the support I needed, as well as an invitation to use their space any time after my program ended. As someone not originally from Seattle, using their space was highly important for me.
How did you prepare for the bootcamp?
I did not have to prepare much for the bootcamp, since I was already technical. The bootcamp preparation materials were designed for beginners and I easily completed them. Though, they can be a bit challenging for someone with no prior software experience.
Since I am a Canadian citizen, I needed to look into housing, the commute, insurance and other necessities to live in the Seattle area. Other factors included how I would fund my living during this learning period with no income. The free snacks provided at Coding Dojo also helped cut down my expenses.
What did you expect from a bootcamp and what surprised you?
At first, I was a bit skeptical. I found it hard to believe that I can master all the technologies advertised by Coding Dojo. The alumni reviews all sounded too positive and I found it hard to believe any of them. However, after my bootcamp experience, I can honestly say I have gotten very proficient at most of the technologies taught at the bootcamp. At first, I only expected to get a good picture of how to work in all the new technologies. But little did I know that I would become very proficient at most of the technologies taught at the bootcamp. I took a chance with Coding Dojo because their website looked good and promised a lot. The reviews were mostly positive and I had a great experience talking to the Coding Dojo staff. Now, a few months after my bootcamp completion, I am very satisfied with the results.
SURVIVING THE CODING DOJO EXPERIENCE
What’s the best advice you can give to a potential student?
You get what you put into the experience. Students who show most promise put in at least 60-70 hours a week. Anything less and you may not be competitive enough to find a job in the software industry. I recommend putting in more hours if you are completely new to software development.
If you could start over the experience, what would you do differently?
During my bootcamp experience, I copied and pasted quite a bit. Rather than copying and pasting redundant code, I should have typed it out more. This way, I would have gotten more practice and solidified the learning a bit more. As our Coding Dojo instructors’ would say: repetition is the best way to ingrain knowledge. The bootcamp was a good time for repetition, unlike in the software industry where you have project deadlines. Currently, I’m highly proficient in many of the technologies taught at the bootcamp, but some I could have practiced a bit more.
Share a failure and success story about your experience.
At first, it was very hard to secure interviews after the bootcamp. That’s because I was spending time talking to the wrong types of recruiters in the industry. On top of that, I was a Canadian looking for jobs in a foreign country… the preference remains for companies to hire local residents. So in the interim, I continued to practice at the Coding Dojo campus and successfully improved my programming proficiency. This way I became a highly competitive candidate and companies would overlook my Canadian citizenship and focus more on the value I bring to the table.
What was your favorite project that you worked on?
I worked on many projects before the bootcamp. Though, the project I enjoyed working on most during the bootcamp was a real-time online sketching app. This was built with NodeJS, Express.io, AngularJS, MongoDB, HTML, CSS, and Bootstrap. The drawing mechanism was done with SVG. On top of that, I worked in a pair programming effort with another student in the bootcamp. Completing a project using Pair Programming (an Agile technique) was highly effective and I really enjoyed the experience. Completing a fully functional project in 4 days was also impressive in itself. I have never completed projects this fast in the past before.
The link to the project is here.
GETTING THE JOB
How was the interviewing process? Any advice?
My main pieces of advice are to practice your algorithms and white–boarding skills, know which recruiters to talk to (so you don’t waste your time) and keep applying to jobs where you have at least 60% of the skills. Focus on how you can bring the skills necessary to benefit the company.
What are you doing now?
I am a contract-to-hire Software Engineer for Wave Broadband. The company is very interesting and I am highly interested in the work they have assigned to me so far.
What do you want to do five years from now?
I’m looking forward to applying my newfound web development skills to any role and assignments necessary. I’m enjoying my role at Wave Broadband so far and I am hoping to have a long career with them.