I hated my job. I had studied finance, but hated it so much that I graduated last of my class. I couldn’t find a job and lost any hope of working on Wall Street.
But I loved coding. Every night, I would learn how to code online. I soon realized I wanted to code for a living. But after 4 years of college, I didn’t have the time or money for another degree.
Then I read about DevBootcamp on Techcrunch. I applied, and after a quick Skype interview, got in. I quit my job, found $10,000 and told my parents I was moving to SF.
Bootcamps aren’t a scam
Because most bootcamps are roughly 3 months, people think it’s either a scam, or a magical shortcut. It’s neither. There are upsides and downsides.
The opportunity to come to San Francisco and being immersed into a startup-like environment, surrounded by extremely smart and motivated people was unique. Coming from far away, it was not only about learning how to code, but also about discovering a new world, a new culture and new people.
But it was hard. I wanted to be successful, and find a job, so I worked 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 12 weeks. Wake up, go to the office, get back home, sleep, repeat. Some days I loved it, some days I wanted to quit. But every night, as I went back home, it felt like a month had passed. I had learned so much in only 1 day. It was an incredible feeling.
Making the right career choices
After DevBootcamp, I received many 6 figures offers. Unbelievable. A few months earlier I was struggling at a job I hated, making no money. Now people wanted to pay me more money than I ever made–to write code!
But from all the companies who offered to hire me, only one was was exciting: Exec. It was run by people I respected, and the engineers were awesome. But, they paid only half of what other companies did. I wanted to prove people that I was right to go to a bootcamp, so getting a six figures job was tempting. But I chose Exec.
They offered me great mentorship, a great network, lifelong friends, and taught me what being a software engineer means. If you invest in your career as an engineer, you’ll end up making more money earlier than you expect. That first job shaped and guided the rest of my career - and eventually allowed me to get the job at Uber later on. Chances are I wouldn’t have gotten a job at Uber if I had accepted any other of my offers. But I did get a job at Uber.
I was able to get the job at Uber thanks to great mentoring. When I made a mistake or had a question, people took the time to teach me. I would show up in the morning with a question, and a 1 hour session about algorithms and data structure would follow.
The bootcamp is just the beginning. Technology keeps changing, becomes obsolete and new tools appear. You need to keep learning and reinventing yourself.
4 years later, where am I?
When I started at Exec, I knew NOTHING. I couldn’t explain the difference between Ruby and Rails. I didn’t know algorithms or big-O notations. I knew nothing about the basics of computer science. In college, you spend 4 years digging into how computers and softwares work. That gives students a strong ability to pick up new concepts. I didn’t have this.
It was the right decision to get a job at a small startup right after DevBootcamp. A smaller company meant an simpler stack, which meant being more productive, work on more projects and expand the breadth of my engineering knowledge.
At Uber today, the dev environment is like this:
- service oriented architecture with thousands of micro services
- complex communications between services
- development is done on remote boxes
- our data is persisted in a mix of relational and schemaless databases
Fresh out of DevBootcamp, I had never heard of these things. I couldn’t have worked productively on them. Most new CS grads have heard of those concepts, and understand enough to adapt. That sets them up more for success in bigger companies.
I’m now a Senior Software Engineer. I work daily with other Senior Engineers. Most of them have a CS degree, others are self-taught or from a bootcamp. You can’t differentiate them. Everyone ends up knowing more or less about different subjects, and I find myself being explained something as much as explaining something.
Getting to senior level at Uber is challenging and 4 years to get there is definitely on the faster side. I am respected by my peers - the self-taught ones and the college educated ones. I’m happy with the pace of my career and my personal growth, and I think this is all that matters. If you don’t have a CS degree, that’s not an issue.
If someone had told me 4 years ago that I would move to San Francisco and become a software engineer at Uber, I wouldn’t have believed them. But I made the choice to pursue something that I liked enough to do on my spare time, and I’m glad I did it, because it paid off. Always follow your passion and invest in the long haul- if you work on something you really like, it will pay off eventually.