Full-Time Coding Bootcamp Graduate Sees the Big Picture in “How Things Work”
Stella Law entered We Can Code IT from an unusual trajectory. With her master’s degree in Art Policy and Administration from The Ohio State University, she had been working in nonprofit fundraising for 12 years. Stella was certified at the professional level in Raiser’s Edge fundraising software and always interested in understanding it on a deeper level. Losing her job due to COVID-19 cutbacks, she took the leap and enrolled in the Full-Time Java course with We Can Code IT — and was hired at JPMorgan Chase & Co. upon graduating from the program.
“A lot of places talk about wanting to attract more women into tech and increasing diversity. It was really nice to see a program explicitly doing that.”
What was your education and career background before attending We Can Code IT?
I had first worked for Columbus College of Art & Design after graduate school doing database management in fundraising. As I progressed in my career, I was curious to learn more about the “behind the scenes” functions of the software I was using – so I considered getting into computer programming, thinking I would just learn SQL. While I was working for another nonprofit as Director of Development Services and Analytics, COVID hit and my position was eliminated. That’s when I started researching bootcamps more seriously.
What made you decide on We Can Code IT?
Coming from the nonprofit field, the mission of We Can Code IT really resonated with me. A lot of places talk about wanting to attract more women into tech and increasing diversity. It was really nice to see a program explicitly doing that – and it was great to be in a cohort where maybe a third were women, minorities, or just people from different backgrounds. That was important to me.
“We Can Code IT did a really good job bridging the gap with people from different industries like hospitality and service, with no direct experience in computer work.”
How Did We Can Code IT make your learning experience easier?
I had some technical background in software but all of us in my cohort were on the same playing field when it came to learning a new computer language. We Can Code IT did a really good job bridging the gap with people from different industries like hospitality and service, with no direct experience in computer work. It was a steep learning curve for all of us. They taught me how to learn, and learn quickly – and how to understand my learning style. It’s a condensed 14-week program so you really do need to learn quickly. It’s the same thing in my current job now. So that has helped.
“They’re very invested in the people they’re coaching and training.”
Did they do anything specific that helped you absorb new information?
We Can Code IT instruction videos are all online so we can revisit them anytime. That’s comforting. And the instructors really make themselves available if you have questions. They’re very invested in the people they’re coaching and training.
What was it like learning in a fully remote setting during COVID?
We Can Code IT pulled it off with a lot of grace! The entire world shut down. We were maybe their second cohort to be fully remote. It was challenging to be on Zoom calls for five or six hours a day, but they got the tools down and how to teach programming remotely to a group. We still formed relationships in the cohort because we were all going through a stressful experience together! We’d jump on Zoom calls after class to discuss homework and group projects – and even now a few of us work on projects together and have remained friends. We still talk every week and catch up on how our new jobs are going.
What was the job search process like for you?
I knew that most people get jobs through networking, so I was making those contacts all along. We Can Code IT also has Career Services and they encouraged us to do three informational interviews, and reach out to network in the field. In our cohort, we all motivated each other during the job search. I worked with one classmate in particular to prep for interviews since we were essentially going through the same process – even with the same companies! We Can Code IT had us do mock technical interviews, which was terrifying but prepares you for the line of interviewing, where they want to know how you think or have you solve a problem with them or explain a concept.
I interviewed with three or four companies and they recognized that people from coding bootcamps often come in with experience outside the tech industry. They consider our perspective is often more mature, more diverse and we can learn a lot of information quickly. So that’s attractive to employers. We Can Code IT also teaches the development tools that are actually used in the field so besides learning the language you learn the tools you need to walk into software development.
Tell us about your new career.
It’s really unbelievable. I was hired as a software engineer with JPMorgan Chase in Columbus. I’m really excited to be part of a cross-functional team, learning a lot of new technologies and how things all work together. That’s what I wanted. Right now, I’m onboarding remotely so that’s difficult – but after doing my entire software development course remotely, I understand how to communicate with people via Zoom. That made the transition a little bit more seamless.
Everything is super new right now. I’m learning software development tools and we’re writing code, but early into it. With the bootcamp style learning at We Can Code IT, I know how to learn quickly, and that I learn by understanding the big picture of how things work.
“We Can Code IT focuses on what you really need to learn, and they can tailor the practical knowledge you need to walk into a software development job.”
Any advice for others?
I’m a very thorough, data-driven person but I got to a point where I just had to take a chance. I took a leap of faith and ended up really liking it. If people are curious about software development, they can take free online coding courses instead, but you almost get too much information. You can easily get lost because you don’t know what you don’t know. We Can Code IT focuses on what you really need to learn, and they can tailor the practical knowledge you need to walk into a software development job