Cleveland Coding Bootcamp Graduate Happy to Break into Tech Field 

Rhonda Smith had previous education in web and digital media skills but had never received the support she needed to launch a new career. Instead, she continued with her job in the insurance industry but knew she wanted more. Attracted to the We Can Code IT focus on welcoming and encouraging women and people of color in the tech field, she signed on for the 16-week full-stack Java development course. Even before finishing, she was hired by one of Cleveland’s leading software development companies. 

 

I liked the diversity at We Can Code IT. That’s what drew me there…

 

Best Coding Bootcamp Part-Time Remote Graduate Success Story

What was your education and career background before attending We Can Code IT?

I had an associate degree in web design and interactive media from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2012. But when I graduated, I didn’t know how to put together a portfolio or resume so I was out trying to look for a job and didn’t really have any guidance or work experience to show.  So I got a lot of “no’s” when I applied for jobs. I continued to work at an insurance company and worked my way up to being an application administrator, adding users and uploading files. I was able to teach myself and get some more advanced skills. 

 

At We Can Code IT, it made a huge difference to me having people in the class who look like me!

 

What made you decide on We Can Code IT? 

I wanted to learn more coding so I could get back into the web and IT field – and I wanted better skills and to build a portfolio. I liked the diversity at We Can Code IT. That’s what drew me there because this field is typically white guys in a hoodie! Women can get into the tech field but it’s still a struggle. At We Can Code IT, it made a huge difference to me having people in the class who look like me! Then it becomes not important whether you’re a man or woman or your skin color – everyone’s in one room trying to learn the same thing.

 

I really liked the step-by-step instructional videos they put together. You can even go back to them after you graduate, and I still use them to this day.

 

How Did We Can Code IT make your learning experience easier?

You can do one-on-one meetings with an instructor if you’re not getting something, and that was a big help. I was always able to reach out if I was struggling with something. They’d guide you through it and help you think through the process. I really liked the step-by-step instructional videos they put together. You can even go back to them after you graduate, and I still use them to this day.

 

We Can Code IT helped me put together a better resume to show my skills…I ended up getting hired two weeks before I even graduated from the course – and during the pandemic even!

 

What was the job search process like for you?

I knew I wasn’t an expert in the field yet, but I was already gaining confidence from the course at We Can Code IT – so when I saw an entry-level job opening at Hyland Software, I went for it. We Can Code IT helped me put together a better resume to show my skills and we practiced how to interview properly. I ended up getting hired two weeks before I even graduated from the course – and during the pandemic even! Hyland was impressed with my training at We Can Code IT. I was thinking I would just get “no’s” again, but now I had the right skills from the course and from my two years of experience at the previous job. 

 

Tell us about your new career.

At first, I was scared, because there are a lot of guys! There are some ladies too, but it was intimidating. I’m the only female in my group, but there are women on the other tech support teams. Everybody was welcoming. The system is huge and they respect that. They guide you and understand that it takes a while to learn. You take baby steps. I am doing tech support and learning some coding as well. I do look at config files but will end up learning some SQL programming language. They tell me I can always reach out to the experts there if I don’t know something. It will come with time. Right now, I’m learning how to talk to customers on a different level than I did in the past. 

For people of color and women especially, we can feel intimidated trying to break into the tech field. But at We Can Code IT, they don’t make you  like you are “less than.” They make you feel like a champion, and that you can do this.

 

Any advice for others?

Go for it. I’m glad I went to We Can Code IT because now I can even do projects on the side for people who want websites. I can do things on my own and get better. For people of color and women especially, we can feel intimidated trying to break into the tech field. But at We Can Code IT, they don’t make you feel stupid or like you are “less than.” They make you feel like a champion, and that you can do this. They don’t want you to fail. They want you to learn. I feel really proud of myself. I’ve always wanted to help people of color and women going into the tech field to believe “we can do this.” We can lean on each other. 

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