Interview with a Coding Bootcamp Graduate: Paige Gorry
| Staff Writers Updated on May 11, 2022
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How did you get into CS?Before CS, I was a community engagement coordinator for a nonprofit. While I enjoyed the work that the organization was doing, there was no room for growth, and I wasn’t learning anything new. Back in undergrad, I had taken a basics in CS class and started tutorials online in my spare time after work. Seeing that there were accessible options for people to break into tech without an undergrad CS degree was encouraging, so I made the switch.
Why did you decide to enroll in a bootcamp?It was the most accessible option for me. I already had a bachelor’s degree, so going back to college and racking up more student loans wasn’t feasible. A bootcamp seemed like the best way to kick-start a new career in a short amount of time, while also introducing you to the local tech scene with meetups and networking events tied in.
What bootcamp did you select, and what was the deciding factor in selecting that specific program?I chose Alchemy Code Lab because of the depth of their curriculum. It seemed like other bootcamps in the area were teaching the basics on many different languages, frameworks, and libraries, where Alchemy took a more fundamental and foundational approach to their teaching, making it easier to pick up new tech on the fly. I also was drawn in by the fun atmosphere in their classroom when I toured their space. Everyone was approachable, friendly, and excited to learn.
What was the bootcamp experience like?It was definitely challenging. I was commuting from a town an hour away by train every day, so I spent the commuting time continuing on coursework and the eight-hour day in class. Some days with delayed trains turned out to be 12 hours of coding a day, but I know others who managed to balance bootcamp, commuting, and raising a family -- it's possible to do it all, I guess! We had a mix of solo and pair programming at Alchemy. Most of the week we would code solo, but we would normally finish out the week with a project in a pair or small group. It was super rewarding to collaborate with others from various backgrounds in my cohort. We had former artists, teachers, nurses, etc. Everyone came to the keyboard with different perspectives, problem-solving approaches, and ideas, which made every day interesting. We also had project weeks where we were put in a group of 3-5 developers, and we had only four days to come up with a project that we would then present to the class, and later the community. This was high-stress, but also super fun, because we got to build what we wanted to. Lots of room for creativity.
How did your bootcamp prepare you for your current career?Besides the technical curriculum being so in-depth and foundational, making it easy to pick up something new on the fly, I think there were a few fundamental lessons we learned as well. First was being comfortable with not knowing something or being comfortable with being uncomfortable. That is just something you will experience multiple times in a day on the job, especially when you are starting out. Next was asking the right questions to figure out what you do know and use it to learn about what you don't. Also, I would say the pair programming was helpful in encouraging us to get comfortable in explaining our thought processes and discuss solutions. Lastly, presentations at the end of project weeks helped me build confidence in speaking to my work and answering technical questions on the fly -- super helpful in the interview process and general day to day.
How did your bootcamp experience help in either your job hunt or advancement efforts?Well, in the curriculum, we spent quite a bit of time practicing common algorithmic whiteboard questions. Standing in front of a whiteboard and talking through your thought process is not natural for most, so getting practice with that was awesome. Also, Alchemy hosted a lot of networking events at their space, so it was super easy to stay late and meet folks in the community from the beginning. What I think makes Alchemy so unique is the passion and determination from Shannon in career services. Both as a student in the program and as a grad, Shannon has answered questions on salary negotiations and contracts, has provided contacts, and is so dedicated to building connections across the tech scene. I landed my current job by just messaging Shannon and telling her I was looking for a new position (as a grad over a year out of the program). She connected me with another grad who was looking for someone new to join their team, and it worked. She takes the time to get to know each student's interests and craft our elevator pitch, helping build confidence both pre- and post-graduation. I am forever grateful.
What is the most challenging part of your job?The most challenging part of my job is that I started during the COVID-19 pandemic, and so I haven't had a lot of the face-to-face contacts I would meet in an on-site situation at such a large company. While Zoom meetings are great, there is something different about building relationships and networking in person. So that has been difficult, but luckily my onboarding was seamless. My current team was super welcoming, and I don't feel that it has impacted our development process or communication. Can't wait to meet them in person, though. I would also say I am the most junior on my team, but again, I am lucky to have a team that is so collaborative and jumps at the chance to help whenever I send a message in Slack or mention a problem in our meetings.
Do you work on a team or independently?I work on a team.
What is your typical day like?We have stand-up at 9:15, but I'm normally online an hour or so beforehand just catching up on Slack messages or reviewing PRs that came in. Next is normally just coding most of the day, except if we have ceremonies. We are a scrum team, so we have refinement, demo, planning, retro, etc. We also have an engineering meeting, where we can connect as a dev team and discuss any tickets that are coming up that need more conversation. We also use that time to learn from each other (currently reviewing the new additions to ES2020), or we can each have the floor to discuss the current ticket we are working on to seek advice or troubleshoot.
What is a project that you are working/have worked on that excites you?We are currently going through User Acceptance Testing (UAT). At my previous job, I was working on an application that wasn’t in production, and so this is such a great experience to see the QA process at work. (I also like bug tickets, so it’s also just fun work ahead.) So far, we are getting great feedback. We are in the home stretch. It’s very exciting.
How do you stay up to date on innovations and development in your field?I mentioned it a bit already, but our engineering meeting is a great place where our tech lead or other devs bring up some new developments in the field. I guess I would also say Twitter, conferences, meetups, and Slack channels. Alchemy’s Slack channel has a resources and alumni channel, where folks drop some knowledge.
What has surprised you most about learning and working in CS?There are a lot of people with “nontraditional” backgrounds in tech -- you don’t need a CS degree.
What advice would you give to students who want to follow in your footsteps?Your skills from your previous career are totally relevant to tech. Lean into those skills, and don’t forget about what you learned there. Also, if you love what you do and you are able to make the transition to tech, go for it. You will never look back, trust me.
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