Confessions of a Cohort Coder

December 2nd, 2019

Joe Baranski

In this blog, Cohort XIV grad Joe Baranski is taking over and giving a candid look into the full-time code bootcamp, post-graduation, and the job search. If you want to learn more about his experience in the program and tips on landing a job after graduating, keep reading.

1

A Look into the Day-to-Day Life of a Code School Student

There’s such a strong sense of community present at SDG that it felt like it was impossible to fail. My experience during the cohort was awesome. I loved getting to go to school every day and learning something new and exciting with people that were super friendly. There always seemed to be student-planned activities and cake for birthdays. Plus, the staff was always present.

We would meet in the morning for stand-ups and talk about some of the issues we faced with our homework, or sometimes the stand-up would focus on general life topics. By the end of the school day, I would be fairly exhausted mentally, but often there'd be really cool Meetups happening at SDG talking about some brand new technology that could be incorporated into our final capstone project at the end of the program. I’d try to go to those if I was feeling up to it.

Other times, I'd explore St. Pete with my friend Phil (our favorite haunt was Dog Bar – y’all, they have DOGS and it’s a bar!), or we’d walk around downtown. Downtown St. Pete is always hosting a unique event – I remember a taco truck festival by the Dali Museum one Friday – and the well-attended Pride Parade, of course. The school is great, but the location is even better.

As the program wound down, I really didn’t want it to end. I felt a range of emotions. On one hand, I was super excited to break into the tech world and land my first dev job. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel this was too good to be true. My job couldn’t be this fun, could it? I was used to doing boring, mundane tasks at my other part-time jobs where I can just zone out and be on autopilot. But with programming, you can’t do that. You constantly are required to think about what you are doing and the code you're creating.

2

Tips on the Job Search and Life Post-Graduation

After the program ended, I was thrust into the job market, and let me tell you, job searching can be rough. It’s basically online dating but with more rejection and less feedback (if you can believe that). You’ll get recruiters telling you to tweak your resume just a bit this way, and then a separate recruiter will tell you to tweak it just a bit the other way. Then, you end up with a resume kind of in the middle of the two ways that neither recruiter likes.

Fortunately, the cohort covers soft skills and career support every Friday, so you're not all on your own when it comes to the job search. Through the program, I was able to meet with a few recruiters and visit local companies to do mock interviews which was really great practice.

I would advise you to not solely rely on recruiters because they are just one part of a well-rounded strategy that you must adopt if you are serious about finding a tech job ASAP.

After graduating, I was unemployed for about a month and a half when I got offered a short-term temp role doing data entry. I was grateful for the revenue stream, but I was so eager to get into dev work to show off my new skills, so I kept my options open.

I want to talk briefly about post-graduation fatigue. I hit the pavement hard drafting all these ideas for new coding projects I would work on; version two of my capstone project to implement and a 30-day coding challenge for C#. But it was difficult to stay motivated to do all these tasks, especially when I was facing a lot of rejection from faceless companies and I was never sure why they didn’t want me. My advice is to always follow up when you get told no. Ask them for feedback so you can improve or know what skills to brush up on. My second piece of advice is to __continue coding and pushing to GitHub often to show companies that you’re active and coding daily. __

Let's talk interviews – phone and in-person – because they’re quite nerve-wracking. Sometimes, it felt as though I was “winging it” when talking about different technologies that I wasn’t too familiar with. I was just hopeful that I’d say the right thing that gets them nodding their heads. The boot camp prepped me to be successful as a junior dev, but interview questions could be challenging since every company’s tech stack is a little bit different than the last. My advice is to make sure you are comfortable talking about things you created (be proud!) and the technologies you used to make them.

I also took advantage of job fairs as part of my job search strategy. Make sure they are TECH fairs though. I made the mistake of going to non-tech events a couple of times (but hey, I enjoyed the free food!). I got my job by going to a speed interview event in Tampa. I can attest that getting a job is largely about networking; my current boss was connected with SDG and I got my temp job through one of my friends in the cohort.

I definitely caught the tech bug. I go to Meetups and am active on the SDG Slack channel. It’s so exciting to see people who are passionate about code. Dev work doesn’t have to be more than a job if you don’t want it to be, but it can absolutely be much more.

Conclusion

At my current job, I get to use the skills that I learned through SDG’s bootcamp. I’ve been fascinated with computers ever since I was a kid and spent my free time learning Python and Javascript before going through the program. To say the least, I was eager to get out in the workforce and launch my new career as a software programmer.

The job search wasn’t easy, but I now work as a software programmer for NetSVS. It’s a small start-up culture; we still do stand-ups every day. I’m doing front-end work mostly with React and Material-UI. I’m excited to be starting this new chapter and can’t wait to see where my dev career takes me next. I owe much of my success to my time at Suncoast Developers Guild.

Interested in learning how to get your web development career started and work a career that excites you? Get more details here.


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