March 20, 2020

What was Joshua Ablan's experience at General Assembly?

After completing an Associate's degree in Biology and an early career in customer service, Joshua decided to pursue a personal interest in coding. With little experience prior to enrolling at General Assembly, Joshua discovered his natural problem solving abilities, and gained technical skills that have led him to a new career as a software engineer.

We sat down with Joshua to learn more about what he loved about General Assembly, and what's next for his growing career.

1. Tell me about your background. What was your educational experience before joining General Assembly?

I graduate with my Associate's degree in Biology in college, and this is where I had my first exposure to coding. I didn't actually take any courses in college, but one of my professors got my really interested in it. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to pursue it during that time. I had no prior programming experience before going to General Assembly. A few weeks before actually looking into the program I tried to go the self-taught route, but I realized if I wanted to go all in for a career change, a bootcamp was the way to go.

2. What made you decide to pursue a career as a software engineer?

Being in the customer service industry for 7 year brought me into a client-facing environment every day. I found that I was a problem solver and gained the nickname "troubleshooter" at my previous job. While I love making connections and building relationships with people, I realized that I had a technical skill set that was being wasted. I wanted to be in a career where I could constantly be learning and developing my technical skills. Learning about programming in college I knew that was the direction I should go. My brother-in-law suggested I take a look at boot camps and that led me to General Assembly!

3. Why did you decide to attend General Assembly? What were your goals for the program?

I did research on several other bootcamps and it came down to what each boot camp could offer in the program. General Assembly had everything I was looking for as far as web development and even the added bonus of computer science topics. General Assembly offered me the most, and was the most convenient, so it was a no brainer for me. The program aligned perfectly with my life at the time, so it felt like it was meant to be.

My goal for the program was to come out prepared and ready to get my first job in the tech industry. I wanted to make connections with people and build relationships that could last a lifetime. Thankfully, I did exactly that. I came into the course hungry and excited to learn. I wanted to learn as much as a can to prepare myself for my future career.

4. There are an increasing number of available bootcamps. Why did you decide to choose this program over others?

General Assembly had all of what the other boot camps had, and more! They teach information on computer science, and many of the topics served as great preparation for those hard technical interviews. Additionally, the timing for the boot camp aligned perfectly with my schedule. Lastly, General Assembly offers a "Software Engineering Immersive", and no other boot camp I found at the time was offering that.

5. For you, what were the pros and cons of attending a bootcamp?

Pros: You learn everything you need to know to get your first entry-level job as a developer in 3 months.

Con: You learn everything you need to know to get your first entry-level job as a developer in 3 months.

I wrote that as a joke of course, as there's pros and cons to this statement.

In all seriousness, General Assembly is perfect if you are looking for a career change and wanting to dive fully into software engineering. Personally, that's exactly what I wanted. I did not want to spend money and waste time going back to college. I wanted to learn fast and hit the ground running straight to my first job in a developer role. I highly recommend attending class in person as that was where I benefited from the program the most. I loved having people to discuss my ideas, failures, and accomplishments with. If you put your 100% into the program you will leave with 100% learned. I left feeling that I learned exactly what I needed to know in order to be successful, and I also know where I can get information on my future studies.

With the above being said, during the program, your life will be consumed with CODING CODING CODING! Don't go into this experience thinking that you can merely attend class, and leave feeling like you fully understand everything you just learned - that won't happen. You need to commit to studying through the entire week and even during your free time in order for the lessons to actually stick. Basically what I'm saying here is, you definitely need to commit to the learning process. If you can't dedicate the necessary time for the bootcamp I would not suggest enrolling until you can. I had to fine tune my time management skills really quick, and it almost led to my failure. So my biggest tip for future boot campers would be to prioritize your learning, and focus on time management!

Overall, it's hard to differentiate between pros and cons because each pro and con can be looked at from multiple angles. Personally, I loved diving into the program head first, but actually trying to have a life outside of the bootcamp was hard to juggle.

6. Tell me a little bit about the course structure. What did you like best about the environment and teaching style?

The environment was amazing. Students are buckled in with a group of individuals who are all aiming for the same goal. That environment sparks creativity and a drive to succeed together. During my bootcamp I was fortunate to have local instructors who were amazing! I felt very supported by them, and their teaching style was right up my alley. We also had a global instructor who taught the main lessons and he opened his communication channel to all students. Both of my instructors had a way of answering my questions with questions to help work through the problem I was on. They never gave me the answer right away (unless I was totally stumped of course), instead they worked through the problems with me so I was able to understand the concept.

7. How did this program prepare you for a career as a software engineer?

Not only did this program give me the skills needed for my new career, but it taught me how I can continually broaden my skills as a developer. This program gave me direction. Before I had no idea how to go about finding information I needed about developing, what was relevant to the current market, or even what field I wanted to go into. I left my bootcamp feeling confident about my skills and knowing where I wanted to go in my career.

8. What challenges did you overcome to get where you are?

Without telling my whole life story, I'll note some of the personal challenges that impacted me during the bootcamp. My scheduled bootcamp was to start on 3/18/2019, and my second daughter was born on 2/28/2019. Taking this leap to change careers was definitely a tough decision, especially knowing that I would not have an income for 3 months. My wife and I previously saved up enough money for me to make this investment in my education, so we were determined to go all-in. Here's when I say, "if I can do it, then anyone else with enough grit can do it too". I had a new born child plus a two year old to take care of, in addition to learning all the content of the program. One of my biggest challenges and successes was learning to prioritize and manage my time. I lost a lot of sleep, but in the end it was all worth it. I had to have my eyes on the prize and keep myself motivated to succeed and learn all that was coming to me.

9. Tell us about what's next. How do you plan to use your newfound skills as you build your career?

I am continually learning and building small applications to add to my portfolio. I am looking to go into the gaming industry as gaming has been a big part of my life. I've had so many positive experiences from gaming and I would love to continue to create those experiences for others. Specializing in web development, I would love to enhance, create, and develop web pages for the biggest gaming industries out there! I'm also looking for opportunities in a junior developer role!

10. What advice do you have for people who are interested in attending a bootcamp?

If you come into a bootcamp and you are ready to be committed, ready to learn, and ready to fail - then you will succeed. You need to have grit. This isn't a spoon feeding type of thing, it is a huge, hands-on learning experience. Come in every day humble but confident, eager to learn and ready to fail, and above all else, come in focussed. If you are looking for a career change, then you are saying "I am willing to pay this money in order for me to learn and develop my skills to prepare for my future career". And you have to think about it, if you go to class every day not ready to learn, not paying attention and just going to class to socialize, then that it exactly what you are paying to get. While the lessons are taught great and the information is extremely helpful and accessible - you get what you put in.

Before you commit, do the pre-work, do some self-studying, create a small project, and actually figure out if this is what you want to do for the rest of your life. If it is, then good luck on your bootcamp and be ready! Have your eyes on the prize and get ready for the grind! And in the end, 5 years from now you will say to yourself, "It was all worth it." Good luck!

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