Aspen Hollyer was part of DigitalCrafts Houston's Full Stack Immersive April 2017 Cohort and graduated in August 2017. Aspen left teaching to join DigitalCrafts in the hopes of developing her passion for creating and code into a career as a programmer. Aspen is now working for Timbergrove as a Junior Software Developer just a few steps away from the DigitalCrafts Houston classrooms. She was nice enough to take some time out of her day to speak with us about how she went about finding work and if she had any advice for others thinking or just starting out in a coding bootcamp program.
What were you doing before DigitalCrafts? Did any of those skills transfer over to your new job? Did you include that previous job on your resume?
I was a public school teacher. I taught English and ESL to 8th and 9th graders. A lot of my skills from teaching--curriculum planning (a.k.a. scoping a project), classroom management (a.k.a. project management), and designing instructional materials (a.k.a. user experience design)--transfer to software development. I also have a Master's in Curriculum & Instruction, and I found many interviewers were impressed by my advanced degree, even though it was not really in a relevant field.
At what point during your time as a student did you start applying for a job?
I began applying fairly late, about two weeks prior to the end of the course. I did not start applying and interviewing seriously until the day after graduation.
Were you looking for anything in particular while looking for a job?
Salary, benefits, and titles were not my number one priority. Primarily, I was looking for a position where I would have strong mentors and be able to grow as a developer. I looked for companies that valued continued learning and professional development and specifically set aside time and money to help their developers grow.
LinkedIn, Github, or your portfolio: did you place more importance on one source over another? Why? Why not?
Honestly, no, I did not emphasize one thing over all others. I spent more time on my portfolio, but I tried to keep a healthy balance between all of these things, as well as the paper resume. They are all important.
What approach did you take when looking for a job? Apply to a lot? More meticulous? What was your process?
My approach was to let jobs find me. I worked hard throughout the bootcamp to find tech meetups and volunteer opportunities. I spent many evenings and weekends going to these events to learn and meet mentors, even though sometimes I was *really* tired after class. I tried to only go to meetups I was genuinely interested in, and to grow my network and presence in the tech community organically. If you show people that you're passionate and humble and excited to learn, there are so many helpful professionals in this area. I received 3 interviews with great companies simply because someone referred me. I didn't have to deal with recruiters or sending out mass applications or writing a zillion cover letters.
Did you utilize our Student Services team (resume and portfolio review, mock interviews)?
Yes! I absolutely took advantage of these resources, and they were super helpful. That's a big part of why I paid for this course.
Did you ever get stuck in a technical interview? If so, how did you recover?
Of course. I was honest about what I didn't know, and tried to talk out my line of thought with the interviewer. "I'm sorry, I'm not sure how to resolve ...... I think a possible solution would be ........ but I don't know how to implement it. Can you give me some guidance on this part?" Honestly, I think whiteboarding challenges are a total crapshoot. Either you get lucky, and it's a problem you've seen before, and you solve it quickly and look really smart. Or, it's a problem you haven't seen and you come up with a poor solution or can't solve it at all. You can't let it get to you or shake your confidence.
In your opinion, what was your key to success in landing your job?
Networking and getting involved with local tech groups. Hands down. Additionally, I wrote cover letters for each job I specifically applied for, and after every interview, I sent thank-you e-mails to my interviewers within one day.
What advice would you give to bootcamp grads looking for a job?
Even if you're not a social butterfly (let's be real--most programmers aren't), consider networking to be part of your job. It's not optional. Get involved in the local tech community, ask questions, and try to contribute. Volunteer at hackathons or meetup groups. Just be honest about what you know and don't know, and let your genuine interest in programming and learning shine through. People will respond to that positivity, and you'll find great mentors who can help you, both with your technical skills and with the job hunt.
Interested in how you can jump-start your career as a new developer? Download our course packet for more information about our Full Stack programs!