Getting out of your comfort zone is no easy thing. It is only after a lot of hesitation and around 50 pros & cons lists that I decided it was time for a career change.
Am I Happy?
I’m 25 and until earlier this year, my path was pretty straightforward: average student in high school on the scientific path (“science leads to everything,” as most people still believe in France). I chose to study communication and all my high school teachers agreed with that choice: ”you’re always talking in class, so communication seems like a good fit."
After an undergraduate degree, a masters degree, internships and my first few jobs, here I am speeding through life in the events industry. Unofficial definition: 5% glamour, 95% burn-out.
After 3 years, I started to have some doubts. Do I like this job? Are there more cons than pros? Am I even happy?
One thing’s for sure: work is 80% of your week. If you go to work complaining and come back exhausted and insecure, thinking you never want to go to back, then it’s time to leave. And that's exactly what I did.
At this point in my life, I really didn’t know what I was going to do. All I knew is I needed something else. So I left everything behind.
Learning to code is something I had in the back of my head for a few years. Yet for various reasons, I thought I could never achieve that: I’m a girl and don’t have the “computer science profile” (a common belief which is actually a common mistake), I like tech and innovation but I’m not a geek (a.k.a. I know how to use social media), I suck at math… Anyway, I really didn’t see coding as something I could be successful in.
Then I discovered inspiring and powerful communities of women I admire: Girls In Tech, Girls Who Code, Kode with Kloss. I learned that children were being taught how to code because it’s the future and everyone should actually be learning web development.
So I thought: "why not me?"
I was now convinced I should learn how to code, but wasn’t ready to go back to studying for 5 years at an engineering or computer science school. I had heard about bootcamps: training courses which are intense and short and turn people into web developers. So I went to gather more information.
A lot of questions came up: why is it so expensive? What if I don’t like it? What if I suck? What if I don’t get a job afterwards?
Regarding the price, it’s actually quite simple: web developers are well-paid. So if you want talented web developers to teach you, you need to pay them a hefty amount. For all the other questions I was asking myself, I couldn't answer them until I actually tried it out.
I participated in a workshop organized by Ironhack where they introduced us to HTML and CSS and I knew I loved it immediately! I found it amazing that in 6 hours I was now able to write words and symbols that were incomprehensible by the average person (me 6 hours earlier) and that, once in a browser, these words and symbols became a website.
I wanted to learn more. I needed to learn to code.
Amongst the relatively high number of bootcamps in the Parisian tech ecosystem, my natural choice was to go to Ironhack because they were the ones to taught me to write my first lines of code.
Ironhack bootcamps are located 9 cities in Europe and across the globe. The Parisian campus has an amazing and welcoming team, good online reviews (that’s also important), a great space in the center of Paris, a nice vibe and, more importantly, they teach languages and technologies that are up to date with the job market.
The importance of choosing the right tech was something I knew nothing about before starting the bootcamp, so it was an amazing surprise for me to see that my post-bootcamp skills matched with 85% of job offers for junior developers.
The 9-week bootcamp goes by really, really fast. Classes are in English (Editor’s note: Ironhack now also offers classes in French, but it depends on cohorts) and the teacher was a patient, pedagogical, and resourceful web developer from Miami, the kind of person you meet and you want to listen to for hours. You also get help and support from teaching assistants (TAs) that are often former students of Ironhack (it’s quite nice and reassuring to see that alumni can be good enough to teach what they learned).
I was completely lost on my first day. Boom. Maximal difficulty, huge doubts, self-questioning. What am I doing here ? I’ll never make it ! Luckily, I was not alone in that class and peer-support was quickly formed between the Ironhackers, which allowed me to power through these first difficult steps. With perseverance and motivation (my own and my friends’ and family’s), I was able to understand the concepts and get my head above water.
Speaking of perseverance, I quickly discovered that 90% of coding is spent solving problems. Boom. Huge Doubts, edition #2: I hate problems. When it’s too hard, I quit; I have been this way since I was a kid. As far back as I can remember, I never spent too much time trying to solve a math problem or finish a complicated coloring book.
That’s where Ironhack and coding taught me many things. I learned to persevere, something I thought I was incapable of until now. I stopped seeing coding as a problem and rather as a game that I am leveling through, bit by bit.
At the end of the 9 weeks, 5 of which were spent on concrete projects, no mountain was too high for me to climb. I got out unharmed and grown. Now is the time to leave the not-so-comfortable nest of our classroom and dive into the job market.
15 Companies in 20 Days
15 is the number of companies I met with in the first 20 days after the bootcamp, on the phone, or in their offices.
15 companies, mostly startups, were attracted to my profile and wanted to know more. This was super positive feedback for my first job hunt as a web developer.
My search was made easier with platforms like TALENT.IO or YBORDER that connect developers and companies on the job search. Basically, potential employers see your profile on a platform and decide they want to meet with you, which is a simple and easy process. Especially when, like me, you come from an environment with few job offers (aside internships and under-paid, short-term contracts).
Web development is not subject to financial and job crises. There are more job offers than there are developers, so you are in a position where you can actually refuse a position which you find isn’t tailored to your needs. Out of these 15 contacts, 7 were followed by a technical test (a must-do step to test your skills) and 3 made me an offer!
For certain technical tests, I was asked to learn new technologies, which was completely doable because the bootcamp taught me how to learn. Being a developer is having a curious mind and using available resources and communities (Google, Stack Overflow, Git, etc.) to keep learning in the long run.
The most difficult and systematic question during these interviews was the one where I had to convince the recruiter that yes, after a 9-week bootcamp, I was skilled enough to be hired as a developer.
I now feel motivated, thirsty for learning. I want to LIVE code; it’s not “just” a career move anymore, it’s the RIGHT choice, the one that makes me happy and pushes me to improve every day. Exactly 1 month after finishing the bootcamp, I signed my first long-term contract as a Node.js developer, starting in a week. A company is giving me an opportunity and I am motivated and excited like never before.
If you choose to remember only one thing from my story, it should be this: you need to believe in yourself and dare to make life-changing decisions. Life is too short to be bored!
If you are still doubting that bootcamps and coding are meant for you, I'm the living proof that coding is accessible to anyone and that a short yet intense training is enough if you’re motivated!
This blog post was originally posted on Elise’s Medium page. It was translated from French to English by the Ironhack team. If Elise has convinced you that bootcamps could be right for you, feel free to visit our website for more info about the training we offer.