After 10 years as a chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy, Barbara Wright decided to take her career in a more tech-driven direction. Working as an engineering technician for Samsung, she created programs for machines that produced the semiconductor wafers used to make chips for cell phones. But even this tech work wasn’t enough; she wanted to be more deeply immersed.
“After working for Samsung, I received my bachelor’s degree in computer science,” Barbara said. “I enjoyed the web development classes the most and decided that was the direction I wanted to go in.”
Barbara enrolled in The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin. There, she learned three important lessons that she believes are integral to thriving in the tech industry. Here’s what she discovered.
1. Lean on your peers and ask for help when you need it
Even with a degree in computer science, Barbara soon found herself playing catch-up at boot camp.
“The first week was just a practice of subjects that I had already studied in college,” she said. “But after the first week, everything was new to me. The pace was really fast—by the time we properly discussed a topic, we would already be moving onto the next one.”
To stay on top of the work, Barbara took advantage of the additional support the boot camp offered. If she didn’t fully understand a subject, she would go to class an hour early, as TAs would also arrive early to help students go over topics. She would frequently study with her classmates, too, going through everything they had learned that day.
Barbara also worked with these classmates to create various projects, putting the skills they’d learned into practice. The first was a restaurant app called Fork Off, which helps friends decide where to eat.
Another of her team’s projects, Keychain, is an online business card that allows users to easily share links to their Facebook, LinkedIn, and other accounts. Barbara is proud of the work her team created and knows it was possible only because they supported one another.
2. In an ever-changing industry, you’re never done learning
The most challenging aspect of learning tech skills is that they’re impossible to master, as technology is constantly evolving. Barbara discovered this firsthand while studying for her bachelor’s degree.
“I noticed it was very hard for schools to keep up with the latest technology,” she said. “To stay on top of changes in technology, colleges would have to constantly change their syllabus throughout the semester!!”
When it came to keeping her skill set up to date with what employers were looking for, Barbara’s choice to enroll in boot camp played to her advantage. She proved that she had the skills that employers needed and that she was eager to keep learning.
“All the interviewers for the jobs I applied to were keen to know exactly what I’d learned at the boot camp,” she said. “I really recommend studying and doing the homework when you’re there so that you’ll be able to confidently show potential employers the skills you’ve learned.”
3. Perseverance is key when starting a new career
After graduation, Barbara hit the ground running and started applying for jobs in software development. Between her computer science background and her experience at the coding boot camp, she had an impressive resume—but her new career didn’t materialize overnight.
“I applied for a lot of jobs,” Barbara said. “It’s challenging, because the industry often has a lot of entry-level developers. It’s hard to break into the market in this area.”
Knowing the right role was out there, Barbara kept applying. Her perseverance paid off, when she secured a programming job with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.
“I was originally hired to be a database software developer, but the company has a big program in store to create its latest project,” said Barbara. “I’m pretty excited to be a part of the outcome!”
Happy with her career, Barbara is grateful that her boot camp experience has helped her with the new project she’s working on. She’s so glad she stuck with the program, even when it was tough. After many radical career moves, she’s finally found a role she doesn’t want to leave.
This article was originally published by techbootcamps.utexas.edu.