Columbus Coding Bootcamp Grad Goes from Stay at Home Mom to Senior UX Designer
Meaghan was burnt out on NYC and her job, so she moved to Columbus, OH to be closer to her family. With a graphic design background, she was always interested in software development but was often discouraged on how to begin. After attending an Admissions Open House and finding out she qualified for a grant, she decided to take the plunge and dive deep into learning to code at We Can Code IT. Find out about Meaghan’s journey through coding bootcamp, how she proved that a stay at home mom can learn to code in only a few months, and her new Senior UX Designer position at Assurex Health!
What was your education and career background before attending We Can Code IT?
I graduated from Buffalo State College in Buffalo, NY in 2009 with a B.S. in Apparel Design. During my education in college, I learned to use Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator and fell in love with graphic design. After graduating, I moved in NYC to pursue a career in the Fashion Industry, but after a terrible experience as an intern, I decided to focus on graphic design and almost immediately landed a job in the design field – designing packaging and prints for a small trimmings company. After about 10 years and many jobs in the graphic design field, learning a lot of techniques of the trade and gaining insightful knowledge as a freelancer, I wanted more.
I moved to Columbus, OH to live closer to family, with no job. Knowing I wanted to continue down the creative path and not knowing what I wanted to do, I started looking into software development. I had always been fascinated with software development but didn’t know where to start – the industry is so vast, I would get discouraged and not know where to begin.
What made you decide on We Can Code IT?
One day my boyfriend told me about We Can Code IT – he heard the ad on NPR and the open house was the next day, so I went to it. I also checked out two other local coding bootcamps but We Can Code IT stuck out. The Instructors at the open house made me feel at ease. Their passion for software development and obvious knowledge of it convinced me that I could learn it too. Plus – the fact that We Can Code IT caters to underrepresented people in the software development industry, and is owned by, and was started by a woman – that speaks volumes! We Can Code IT stresses that you don’t have to have a background in development to learn the skill and become employable after graduating. You only have to have the drive and passion for it.
I had many apprehensions about going to coding bootcamp: Would I have enough time? (I was a stay-at-home-mom to a 9-month old who wasn’t sleeping through the night) Would I be smart enough to follow along? Could I really learn how to code in a few months? Would I be able to find a job afterward? I had to throw caution to the wind and jump in with both feet. I needed a change. I longed for a new career path – one that I was truly passionate about.
When I applied, I found out that there were grants available. That really sealed the deal for me. I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that a stay at home mom could learn to code. At that point, I knew I would get a job after graduation. I was determined.
What do you like about We Can Code IT?
My cohort at We Can Code IT was the most tight-knit bunch around. We spent at least 5 days a week together, for 8 hours a day. We struggled together, cried out frustrations together, helped one another, texted, slacked, emailed, ate lunch together, and learned so much about one another’s lives and the different struggles each of us faced every day of the bootcamp.
Daily stand-ups (at the beginning and end of each class) really helped to shed light on our progress – individually and as a whole. If more than half the class said we still didn’t understand something, the instructors would review it again.
On the first day of class, we were given a “roadmap” of emotions that we would feel along the way. It was broken down by weeks, telling us the topics we’d cover that week, and the way we might feel about learning this new topic. This put our minds at ease when sometimes we would feel confused and frustrated for an entire week. When someone was feeling pretty low, we’d say “check the roadmap”, and it was always spot on. We thought that was pretty funny.
What was your job search like?
Job searching is probably one of the loneliest things you can do. Of course, there is always career services at We Can Code IT, and that was a huge help in getting my resume ready and preparing for interviews – but ultimately, the weight of getting the job was on my shoulders.
I spent most days during my job search at We Can Code IT. I’d go to the campus, set up my little desk area, apply for jobs, and tinker with my resume. I kept track of every place I applied to, which version of my resume I used, the date I applied, and how well my resume matched with the job description, all in a Google Document template provided by career services.
About halfway through my job search, I came across a blog of front-end exercises and thought “I can do that!” So I made a website through GitHub, and that was my first project. For the next 2 months, I had a focus every day. I would go to school and create another animation or tinker with the one I worked on the day before. My whole mood changed. Instead of focusing on getting a job, I was focusing on creating – having something to show someone during an interview, another link to add to my resume, another online portfolio to show my work. I was still applying for jobs, but I was pickier about which jobs I applied to.
What was the process like in terms of actually getting the role?
In total, I interviewed at 4 companies. One company scheduled an hour-long phone interview, where for more than half the time, we talked about the company history and what they do. That interview went really well. And I got a call back that day to schedule an in-person interview. The in-person interview was scheduled to take 4-hours and meeting with 7 people. I was pretty nervous about that, but the interviews went really well.
As it turns out, they emailed me the next day saying they had another position available if I was interested and we scheduled another phone interview for the next day. This phone interview was different – it was very relaxed. The position was for a User Experience Designer – this combined my love of graphic design with creating intuitive interactions for the masses!
I didn’t hear from them again for a while, so I reached out via email and asked if there was anything I could do to expedite the process. I got an unexpected response: was I available to talk on the phone right then? They said the paperwork was almost pushed through and if I could get it filled out and sent back within a matter of hours, I’d be able to start on December 1. Within 20 minutes, I had 4 emails from the company including an offer letter. And 3 days later, I started.
I’m not kidding when I say the boot camp and job searching has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do mentally. It’s extremely stressful. And it was all worth it!
Tell us about your new career!
My title is User Experience Designer and aside from my boss, I’m the only UX Designer at the company and that’s something I’m very proud of! I sit with the Product Development team, so I hear them talking coding jargon all the time and I actually understand it because of We Can Code IT.
I’m working at my dream job. I never knew it existed, since it’s a relatively new position in the industry. It combines my love affair with graphic design with my passion for technicality and building something people interact with. The takeway:
We Can Code IT helped me scratch that itch of learning to code. It helped me expand my knowledge of coding and software development. And it led me down a path I only dreamed of but didn’t know how to get to.
My advice to anyone interested in a coding bootcamp is to do your research. Find the bootcamp that fits your needs, personality, and lifestyle. Set the bar high for yourself. And tell everyone in your life to leave you alone for a few months while you focus on your new skillset.