Indira Samuels attended We Can Code IT’s part-time coding bootcamp, allowing her to rapidly gain skills in software engineering in just months. After graduating, Indira landed her dream job as a software engineer with TMW, and more than quadrupled her pre-bootcamp earnings! In this interview, we’ll ask Indira about her coding journey and how attending We Can Code IT changed her life.
Indira, can you tell me a bit about your past? What were you doing prior to your new career as a software engineer?
Directly before I started We Can Code IT I was a teacher, so I got accepted into Teach for America a little bit before I graduated from college. I found out I was going to be a math and science teacher, so when I found that out I started looking for a lot of different ways I could teach math and science. A lot of what I found was about code. I also had a friend who works for a place that teaches kids code, and she told me it was a big thing to teach coding in education. I thought maybe I should learn this too so I could integrate it with math and science.
What made you choose We Can Code IT’s coding bootcamp?
I felt like it was good to go part-time because I was working full-time when I started. I also have a 6-year-old. I didn’t want to spend too much of my time at the bootcamp. I didn’t think it would be good for me to go full-time. I would have had to quit my job. I would have had to figure out childcare. I liked the way the classes were set up and I also liked the way it fit around my schedule.
What are the benefits of attending We Can Code IT Coding Bootcamp?
One, the instructors are really cool. It was easy for me to slack and email them during the week. In college it was hard to reach professors outside of class or outside of their office hours. The teachers at We Can Code IT are really accessible and easy to talk to. I could even talk to them about problems I was having outside of the coding bootcamp. It was a very supportive place, a very safe place to talk to people, and that made it easier to learn to code because I was happy to do it. I also felt like it was paced really well. They let us progress into things without big leaps.
Can you take me through your typical day at We Can Code IT Coding Bootcamp?
My day started around 8:00 AM. I would take the bus, get there, do our opening circle where we would talk about how our weeks had gone, and talk about our goals for that day. The goals we had for the day which were usually what we wanted to learn that day. After that, we would get into what the instructors were teaching that day. At the beginning of the bootcamp, we learned C# so we had a good foundation and object-oriented which I thought was really helpful. Sometimes we would review PowerPoints, then code. Sometimes we would watch videos. Sometimes we would do activities. Then we’d break for lunch, then continue in the afternoon. Later in the program, we would work on passion projects in the afternoon.
What were the instructors like for your cohort?
I really liked all of the instructors we had. I appreciated that the people who were instructing us didn’t necessarily have degrees in what they were teaching, but they had learned to program since then. Mel has an anthropology degree before going on to pursue a Master’s in Computer Science, and Lauren was a sociology major like me. It was good to see they weren’t doing what they first went to school for, like the rest of us. It made me hopeful that I could be a coder even though that wasn’t what I did in college. They were also all really nice and all very approachable. They made it really fun to be there.
Tell me about your favorite project that you built during the bootcamp.
My favorite project is one I’m still working on now. For my passion project, I made a web application for people to report instances of street harassment. So basically I had to make SQL tables that had latitude and longitudes points on it. Right now the map displays all of the bus stops in Cleveland. It also displays all of the crimes that have happened in a certain amount of time. I’ve been working on that with Open Cleveland, which is a brigade of Hope for America. I’ve been tweaking that and making something people can use in the near future. You can see which crimes have happened around a certain bus stop, and you can also report a crime that has happened around a bus stop. I find it useful because I ride the bus every day, but the bus isn’t the safest way to get around. I thought other people would agree with that because a lot of people in Cleveland have to ride the bus. That was my favorite because it can help a lot of people, and building it taught me a lot of things to help me get my current position. I had to use a lot of SQL to build it, and this position requires me to use SQL every day. My new employer was impressed with how much SQL I had learned in such a short period of time. Open Cleveland helped me a lot, and because of them, I learned how to put all of these different points on the map.
Tell me about classroom diversity at We Can Code IT.
Our bootcamp was pretty diverse. Most of us were people of color. There were Hispanic people, black people, white people, a lot of us were moms, so that’s not a very common thing in the coding world. Almost everyone in my bootcamp was a woman. A lot of us in there were mothers. I just think that’s an uncommon thing for moms to go back to school for technical reasons. A lot of people try to push things like STNA programs and lower-level skill programs which aren’t bad, but I feel like they should try to encourage people to do things that they can go to school for and make a lot of money for their families since they have children of their own. The ages were also very diverse. We were all different ages with different experiences. Some of us went to college, some of us didn’t. I would say we were just a very different group of people. A lot of us also had similarities, which was fun. It made it easy for us to get along during bootcamp since we were in there for a long time.
What advice would you give someone who’s on the fence about attending a coding bootcamp?
I would tell them to really evaluate how much they want to change careers. I thought I was going to stay in my same job and use these skills in my current position, but then when I got into the bootcamp I learned about everything I could do with code and I learned about all of the opportunities, especially in Cleveland that has so many tech jobs. You really need to be able to get outside of your comfort zone and look into a new job. Even if you really like where you are, if you’re a person who wants to be a part of the bootcamp you’ll get exposed to so many different things that you’re probably not going to have the same job you started with. I really wasn’t expecting to have enough confidence in myself to find a new job, and now I’m really excited about being able to start a new one.
What advice do you have for others who are making a career change into tech?
I feel like if you really want to make a career change to tech you need to be very dedicated to learning. I feel like if you’re not very dedicated to the program and you’re not learning as much as you can learn, it’s going to be very hard for you to get a job after graduation. At Career Day the employers are really looking for which skills you can use, what you’ve learned, and how you apply them. If you haven’t done a lot of that to show people it’s going to be very difficult to justify why they should hire you.
Why do you suggest a new student choose We Can Code IT over other coding bootcamps?
When I looked at other bootcamps I realized a lot of them were not teaching skills like C#. Not only do a lot of employers want employees to know C#, but a lot of people also want us to know object-oriented languages. And when you know C# it opens you up to other object-oriented languages like Java. You’re teaching us skills that are more applicable to more jobs in the area. I would also say that I haven’t heard any of the other bootcamps talk about post-bootcamp opportunities. We Can Code IT allows us to volunteer and to be a part of after-school programs and come back and help current bootcamp cohorts. We end up with tech experience that we can show employers.
In general I just feel like there’s no way people can have as much fun as we’ve had in the bootcamp. I just can’t imagine having a group of people enjoy coding as much my classmates and I had.
You are a Case Western Reserve University graduate. Like many of our students you already had a college education. How did We Can Code IT Coding Bootcamp add to your education?
I feel like it adds to my education because I learned skills I didn’t have. I graduated with a degree in sociology and childhood studies. I didn’t take any computer science classes in college. It’s more welcoming and diverse than Case. This is the first time I was in a very diverse environment. I felt like that made a difference because I’ve had a lot of classes where I was the only woman in the room. That can be intimidating. I felt extra pressure to answer a lot of questions or not answer too many. I didn’t feel that anxiety with the coding bootcamp because we’re all different people with different experiences and it felt more welcoming. I felt more welcome at We Can Code IT than I ever found at college. There was also a lot more help finding employment after graduation.
What were your earnings prior to our Coding Bootcamp and how do your post-bootcamp earnings compare?
I used to make $15,000 a year. At the job I’m about to start I make a base salary of $60,000. And I’m eligible for bonuses every quarter for $4K (a total of up to $72k my first year). My jaw dropped when they called me. I wasn’t expecting that. It was overwhelming at first. It’s weird seeing over three times as much as what I was making before.
How did the job search feel?
I really loved Career Day because I got a chance to actually talk to people. They got to see me face-to-face and see how excited I was about coding and the things I had learned. I feel like that’s how I got this job at TMW. The recruiter really liked my project. I got to talk to someone face-to-face and show them what I had been working on without actually having to just send links to someone, it’s what ultimately got me the job.
Tell me about your new job!
My title is Mobile Communications Data Integrations Software Engineer. I’m going to be working on different applications that can be used by truck drivers like UPS or drivers that drive freight for places like Walmart or Target. Essentially I’ll be adding to an application that already exists. Most of my job will be in SQL but I’ll also use C# to maintain the programs.
Any other thoughts, comments, or advice for future coding bootcamp students?
It’s okay to not get things right away. Even though I was a teacher and I would tell kids it’s okay if you don’t get it, it doesn’t feel the same way when it’s you. So it’s easy to think, oh, I shouldn’t have signed up for this bootcamp because I’m too dumb to understand something. You really have to believe in yourself that you got into the program for a reason and that it can do something for you even if it seems really difficult. I was just learning, so I shouldn’t have been so hard on myself.
Take time to be by yourself so you can really allocate how much time you have for each thing that you’re doing. How much time do you need for work? How much time do you need for the bootcamp? How much time do you need to spend with your family? I wouldn’t say I’m the best person at being time oriented, but I felt like I got better at it with the bootcamp. Take time to adjust your schedule. Take time to be with yourself and with friends and family. Those are the big things.