March 12, 2017
Some in the tech industry may call me an “alternative candidate.” I don’t have a computer science degree, and I’ve never had an internship at a tech company. Even worse, a year and a half ago, I wasn’t even working in a field involving computers. Instead, I was doing biology research at a major university.
I was only two years into my laboratory career when I realized that I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, and that the prospect of spending the next 40 years there was disheartening at best. During this time, I was working in Seattle’s tech-centric South Lake Union neighborhood, and had a front seat to the rise of the programming bootcamp industry. Hearing the bootcamp’s bold claims to make a programmer out of anyone, I thought back to the single Java class I took years ago in college, and how I had unexpectedly both enjoyed and done well in it. Buoyed by those thoughts and lacking any better plan, I quit my job, moved to San Francisco, and jumped into the deep end.
There are a lot of articles and accounts about bootcamps, often singing their praises of how they open up the tech elite to the rest of us. None of them, however, prepare you for the sheer amount of work it takes to be successful. Seven-day, eighty-hour work weeks were the norm, and there was an ever-present anxiety creeping along the periphery that maybe this was all a giant mistake and the desolation that would bring if it was. In order to get a job, I was going to have to know computer science concepts that traditional candidates had years to learn. It was very different from my traditional college experience.
An Immersive Program
I decided to join the Galvanize Web Development Immersive Program in the heart of San Francisco. I was drawn to Galvanize by the length of their program (six months) and the community they have created. I liked how the focus was on learning practical skills needed to hit the ground running. Through all of this, I also had my steadfast friendships with classmates, several of whom I’ve remained close friends with.
During my time at Galvanize it wasn’t just a bootcamp, but a tech hub with workspace for companies and event rooms where they regularly host talks from industry leaders. When I finished, I was a newly minted web developer with a biology degree, no practical experience, and six months of project work focused on technologies that Redfin didn’t use.
Hiring Bootcamp Grads
A lot of companies are wary of hiring bootcamp grads because they’re unproven. Many job descriptions required CS or related degrees and/or experience in the field, neither of which I had. However, Redfin was more interested in a candidate that was motivated and self-driven with the capacity to learn and become a successful developer – a job description that was more inclusive of non-traditional backgrounds.
Redfin has been the realization of all my hard work at Galvanize. Every day I’m here as a developer, I feel like I’m making an impact, and that’s really why I entered the industry in the first place.
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