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Take the Leap: 4 Inspiring Stories of Making the Switch to Coding Careers

By: The Fullstack Academy Team
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This post originally appeared on Fullstack Academy's blog.

Today’s job market is different from any we have seen before. You don’t have to stay in a job that you hate or that leaves you unfulfilled. You don’t even have to stay in the same sector or on the same career path. Changing careers is easier than ever.

Online courses and immersive experiences like coding bootcamps provide the structure and support needed to effectively learn new skills and change jobs quickly. Anything is possible if you are willing to fully commit to it—as the four career-changing developers below can attest.

Zach Caceres on Taking an Alternative Approach to Education

Zach Caceres’ education and work experience have been anything but traditional. He left school in the 9th grade because he was “bored and miserable.” He substituted class time for taking online courses and researching topics in his local library. This helped to quench his intellectual thirst, and it also met his parents’ two simple rules: “You must work. And you must show progress that you’re learning something new.”

Caceres then attended music school in his late teens, an experience he paid for by offering music tutoring and repairing electronics he found in dumpsters. He eventually enrolled in NYU. During that same period, he took on a full-time job in IT.

After graduating, Caceres continued to flex his entrepreneurial muscles by first founding a magazine that covered other entrepreneurs who were solving social and economic problems across the world, then trying to develop and launch a video game. It was during this phase of his journey that Caceres realized he needed to learn to code. As he put it, “I realized that web development was the most useful technical skillset that someone like me could have today.”

Armed with this new insight, Caceres devoted all his time and energy to learning to program. After learning Python, he enrolled in Fullstack Academy’s Software Engineering Immersive program in New York. For Caceres, coding bootcamps struck a happy medium between college and self-learning: The curriculum was structured, but he was able to build things he was interested in.

Today, Caceres is a full-stack software engineer and runs his own software consultancy, Bold Conjectures.

Other Fullstack Academy alums have shared Caceres’ aversion to traditional education and found that bootcamp works for them in ways other education models did not. Dolibeth Estevez left a computer science degree program a few semesters in because, as she put it, “I felt as though I was learning tons of theory, but I couldn’t connect those theories to any useful projects and that was discouraging for me.” For Estevez, a bootcamp was a much better fit. It focused on practical skills, and she graduated with a portfolio of projects to showcase her skills.

Hand writing on paper representing a person making the switch into coding careers

Jasmine Munoz on Taking the Time to Properly Prepare

Jasmine Munoz took a practical approach to her college education and subsequent first career. She didn’t really know what she wanted to do in college—only that she wanted a secure, well-paying job that justified the tuition spent. Having excelled in math and science, Munoz prepared for a career in chemical engineering and graduated into Illinois Tool Works’ (ITW) Emerging Leaders Development Program.

Though she appreciated her role at ITW, Munoz felt unfulfilled. For months, Munoz questioned what she loved most in life, what potential career paths would align with her skills, and what career would be financially feasible to switch to. It was during this period that she started coding for the first time. At first, Munoz was coding for a couple of hours each day. This turned into five to six hours each day after work and 10 hours every weekend. One thing became clear: Munoz loved to code. With this revelation, she decided to enroll in a bootcamp.

Ultimately, Munoz chose Fullstack Academy’s Grace Hopper Track in Chicago, a deferred tuition option available to female-identifying and non-binary applicants that requires graduates to repay their tuition fees only after they have secured a full-time programming role. This financial model was perfect for Munoz because it made switching careers feasible.

Munoz spent significant time on the application form. She wrote, proofed, and edited her replies in a separate Word document before finally submitting. She also spent hours honing her skills on sites like Codewars, and she completed Fullstack’s free Bootcamp Prep program and repeatedly reviewed the practice assessment to make herself as familiar with the test as possible.

Munoz was accepted to the Grace Hopper Track and after graduating in 2018, she accepted a position as a software development engineer at Expedia.

Putting in the hours on sites like Codewars is something that many successful bootcamp applicants do before applying to school. Fullstack alum Jeremy Grubard also spent a lot of time on Codewars and took the Bootcamp Prep course. So did Diana Lease, who used Fullstack’s JavaScript prep class and Bootcamp Prep, as well as other online courses, to become more confident in her abilities before applying.

Syk Houdeib on What Self-Paced Learners Needs to Succeed in Coding Careers

Unlike a lot of the coding career changers we’ve featured, Syk Houdeib was not unhappy with his first career—he actually loved his job as a teacher. Still, he recognized that fulfillment through teaching was only going to be part of his story. He needed to push himself in a new direction.

“At that point I had been working with kids for 8 years,” Houdeib writes. “This is not going to be the typical part where one talks about a dead-end job that they didn’t like. Because I loved my teaching job, enjoyed working with kids, and I was comfortable in my workplace. It was gratifying and enjoyable. But sometimes, even when you love something, you know in your heart that it is time to move on.”

It was when his partner started to learn to code that Houdeib realized coding was exactly the challenge he needed. That’s when he quit his teaching job and began to chart a new course for himself. But if he was going to pursue a career change, it would need to be done quickly. Houdeib had no source of income while learning to code, so he set a hard deadline: He needed to be working in web development within roughly a year.

If Houdeib was going to meet his goal, he needed to dedicate his life to coding and take advantage of every resource available to him. There were two big resources that Houdeib believes helped him succeed:

  • GitHub. Of all the tools and resources he leaned on, Github was the cornerstone of Houdeib’s toolset. Houdeib used the platform to store all of his code and host his projects, to collaborate with others, and to keep track of his learning.
  • Communities of other learners. Having a network of people around—particularly people who were learning to code at the same time—was also an important resource that helped to teach and encourage Houdeib.
Three woman at a laptop representing people succeeding in coding careers

Beth Qiang on Bootcamps vs. Self-Paced Learning

When Beth Qiang was first introduced to computer science, she hated it. She took an intro CS course her freshman year and disliked her professor, wasn’t fond of the TAs, and never connected with anyone else in the class. The class did little more than reaffirm Qiang’s desire to study medicine.

Partly through her college education, however, Qiang realized medicine wasn’t what she wanted to do with her life, after all. Because she liked statistical modeling and graphical programming, Qiang took a job as a data analytics consultant after graduating.

Over the next year, Qiang learned R, SQL, SAS, and Python. She started to realize that coding was what she really loved and that her career didn’t let her do enough of it. Qiang took matters into her own hands and started to learn on her own time, starting with Coursera before moving onto FreeCodeCamp. Before long, she was devoting all of her spare time to learning to code, staying up until 3 a.m. and even finding ways to squeeze an hour of coding into her lunch break.

When Qiang realized that programming was absolutely what she wanted to do with her life, she had a difficult decision to make: stick with her exhausting schedule to learn to code for free or pay to attend an immersive bootcamp.

While she was confident she could teach herself to program, Qiang didn’t “want the distraction of ‘real life’ getting in the way.” Instead, she wanted the structure and extra motivation that bootcamps can provide. She also wanted to be in a community of other like-minded career changers.

Qiang realized that a bootcamp would force her to work harder than ever, but she knew it was the right choice for her. And just a few months after graduating from Fullstack Academy’s Remote Immersive program, Qiang was happily employed as a software developer.

Plenty of developers start out with DIY instruction and then make the jump to coding bootcamp. Charlie Jeppsson, for one, initially never considered attending a bootcamp. In fact, he moved to Central America with the intent to travel somewhere warm while he taught himself to code. But his plans changed after a conversation with a friend who had graduated from a coding bootcamp and just landed her first job within four months. Her timeline from acceptance to employment was shorter than the eight months Jeppsson had planned to spend on studying. Suddenly, a nine-week bootcamp looked a lot more enticing. He completed bootcamp in 2017 and has been working as a developer ever since.

What’s holding you back from changing careers? Do you need your self-confidence bolstered or a bit more guidance? Fullstack Academy provides the structure, knowledge, and community that have helped countless grads change their lives. Apply today.

Images by: Sean Kong, Green Chameleon, Mimi Thian
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