General Assembly Spotlight Graduate: Maia Hariton

By: The SwitchUp Team
Last Updated: May 5, 2015


Hi, Maia! What did you do before attending General Assembly?

I graduated two years ago with a Political Science degree. My goal was, and still is, to make a positive impact on the world. Before I started General Assembly, I was volunteering for the French-American Chamber of Commerce.

Why did you make the switch into programming?

Frankly, I was bored at work. I had the same tasks every single day - most of them not mentally stimulating.

I had been practicing HTML, CSS and Javascript on CodeCademy and CodeSchool for about a year. The most important thing was that my husband (who ended up attending General Assembly right after my cohort) and I were challenging each other every other day to see who could do it best.

We moved to San Francisco in March and the class that would become my cohort was starting in June. I decided it was time to make a move and applied.

What's your favorite part about programming?

It keeps you on your toes. You never know what might happen. It challenges you in every aspect of your workday. I am around developers that have been coding for more than 10 years and they still think about problems for a good amount of time before they are sure of their solution.

The more I learn, the more I feel I don't know. And now, I know that is how my life as a developer is going to be. There are always new technologies to discover and apply and new people coming up with new ways to do things. That is the biggest difference from my life before I attended General Assembly.

My work was very predictable, I would do the same things over and over. Now, every day offers new possibilities for me to challenge myself and stay on top of things. You are pretty much talking to a computer, and as long as your language makes sense, you end up being able to do amazing things! There are no limits to what you can build.


How did you choose and decide on attending your bootcamp specifically?

I applied to five different bootcamps in San Francisco. I ended up choosing General Assembly for how friendly they were and their brand presence around the world.

During my interview with them, they made me feel that learning how to code was possible, as long as I applied myself and committed three months to it. Which was a big difference from other bootcamps, some of them required for you to already have experience as a developer.

Lastly, I was invited to look at current students who were showing the projects they had built in a week. That was the deciding moment for me, most of these students had started at the same level as me and had somehow been able to accomplish so much within a week.

How did you prepare to start learning at a bootcamp?

I spent about two months working on the pre-work General Assembly provided me once I was accepted. I really wanted to be ready. The pre-work consisted in a beginner's understanding of HTML, CSS, Javascript and Ruby on Rails. It was definitely challenging but it also showed me what to expect from the bootcamp itself. These two months also let me prepare the rest of my life for these intense three months.

I had to make my family and close friends understand that I would not be as available as usual, my husband had to take over a lot of tasks for me. Finally, it would be three months without me making any money, so we had to plan for that as well.

I came in the first day as prepared and with as much knowledge as I could.

What surprised you about your learning experience?

How challenging and fun it was. People tell you that it is hard, but you are never fully prepared for it. I think that the first three weeks were the hardest for me. My pride took a big hit, and I had to admit that there were things that would take me a while to understand.


What's the best advice you can give to a potential student?

Be ready to admit to yourself that you don't know something, it will save you a lot of time. Ask questions, even if you think they are stupid. No one expects you to understand everything right away. If you think that everyone around you understood something better than you, it is just that they pretend well :)

Get a lot of sleep before the program, you might end up doing your homework until pretty late. Tell your friends and family about it, the program will take every minute you have for three months. Don't worry about getting a job until the end of the program, focus on learning as much as you can, you will never get as much support as you will get from the teachers again. Take advantage of the teachers and teacher assistants around you, don't wait to ask questions. If you are stuck for more than an hour, it is time to ask questions. It is ok to feel stupid. When you're stuck, sometimes, all it takes is to take a break and take a walk.

If you could start over the experience, what would you do differently?

I would ask more questions, or feel less shy about it at least. I would also sleep more, I would push myself to work on homework until very late in the day. After a couple of weeks, if I didn't finish the homework, I would wait until the next day, and spend more time reviewing what we had worked on.

Share a failure and success story about your experience.

One of my failures was to not voice my opinions louder during one of the team projects and not standing up for myself. One of my success stories is who I am now, I work at a company along with experienced developers and am learning more than ever.

What was your favorite project that you worked on?

My favorite project was my very first project. I spent a very hard week building it. It was a lot of pressure to put on one project. I had to put together three weeks of knowledge and apply it. I don't think I realized what I had learned and accomplished until I presented it in front of my classmates. I had built a fully functional website by myself within a week!


What kind of job support did you receive?

General Assembly put a Meet & Greet together at the end of our program where companies were invited to look at our projects. Our career coaches were amazing at preparing us for what was coming. They helped us write our resumes and were extremely supportive during our interview process. We had a couple of mock interviews, which showed us what to expect once we started applying for jobs. It was terrifying since most of us were completely switching careers.

What are you doing now?

I work as a Software Developer for Autodesk.

What inspires you?

Everyone I am working with now inspires me to push myself and to learn as much as I can.

What do you want to do five years from now?

I would love to be a Technical Product Manager. To still be coding on my own projects but to also manage teams would be really exciting.

Maia Hariton is a Software Developer for Autodesk caught between continents and culture. She is an avid world traveler and a food enthusiast, passionate about startups and technology, web design, travelling, and supporting women in the tech industry. An ambitious woman, she decided to attend General Assembly after graduating with a Political Science Bachelor's degree to become a web developer. Connect with her on Twitter!

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