From call center agent to programmer, all in a matter of a year. It seemed too good to be true, I had been working at a call center for two years and I had begun to spin my wheels. A friend of mine told me about a bootcamp a local school had, and he was interested in the in-person three-month intensive Java program. I knew I couldn’t take the plunge into the deep end that hard; I had to work full-time to pay the bills.
My friend then told me more about the Software Guild, and how they were starting their first online cohort in a couple of months. Twenty hours a week made it much more manageable to work full-time. It would be hard, but I had been learning some basic programming on my own and I was ready to learn more. I knew that this would be a career I loved.
Soon after came the feeling I would be fighting with my whole time in the program, and even after. The meaner, uglier, big brother of doubt: the imposter syndrome.
It’s doubting you belong where you are, because you don’t know something someone else does. And in that doubt, you feel like you have tricked everyone around you into thinking you are someone you are not. Ironically, it was what I hated about training at a new job all my life. Feeling like you are completely useless, because you are the “noob.” It feels as though you are playing a game of charades by flailing your arms wildly. At least, that is how I would picture it. In previous jobs, it felt much more normal to be “new.” Everyone went through it. Everyone had to learn how to make that iced venti at the cold bar in Starbucks. Everyone had to learn the POS system. But in programming? Everyone seemed smarter than me, not just more experienced. So, for the longest time in the program, I kept my mouth shut when I struggled.
It’s a funny thing what pride can do. A lot of us think pride will only puff your head up, but sometimes pride will tear you down and keep you from asking for the help you need. We don’t want to seem stupid, but we put ourselves down for not knowing. It didn’t take long for me to learn how unique the programming community is. So many intelligent people, and yet such willingness and patience to teach the “new” guy.
What first attracted me to the Software Guild was the online program and the flexibility with my current schedule. What soon became more important was the community. The teachers, students, and administration all had a passion to learn and to equip others to learn. Even alumni would chime in from time to time, providing helpful advice. Knowing I would have access to the Guild’s online resources and its community was more valuable than the price tag of entry.
This sense of community helped put me at ease, as I focused on finishing the course. Soon my wife was pregnant, and my daughter arrived a week early while I was in the middle of my final project. The people of the Software Guild worked hard to help me complete my project on time and graduate from the Guild. Looking back, I do wish I had the ability to do the in-person bootcamp. Being able to work on group projects would have helped prepare me for the work place. For instance, being able to have experience with branching and merging in git with a team project, would have helped prepare me for a development role in a team.
The transition from an online bootcamp to a junior developer role was smoother than expected. I wanted to find a place with a great team, who shared the same principles and passion the Software Guild had, and I found that in Composable Systems. I have been welcomed with open arms (and even a hand-written note on my first day)! Their attention to detail and understanding of what to expect of a developer who was fresh out of a bootcamp helps when things get challenging. I would tell anyone transitioning from a bootcamp to a job to continue to be a student. Learn, and in learning don’t be afraid to ask or let someone know you don’t understand. It is much more harmful to the team to have an employee who won’t ask for help, than one who does.