On the Hunt for a New Career

A close-up shows a man wearing a suit and tie.

For Stepan Nelasov, participating in a bootcamp represented new opportunities. It gave him the opportunity to rebuild his career, rekindle his passion, and—perhaps most importantly—rediscover his resolve. 

Prior to starting his bootcamp, Stepan had been working as a restaurant manager for three years. He felt like he’d hit a ceiling.

“I could not see where I was going to be in the next five years,” Stepan said. “I started thinking of a career change, and programming came across my mind as a potential path.”

Stepan had no programming experience, but he had something else that was just as important—a fierce commitment to self-improvement. He took a chance and signed up for the Rutgers Coding Bootcamp.

Rediscovering old passions

Stepan’s interest in computers started at a young age. When he was 12, he started building virtual video game servers for him and his friends to play on. The static IP address he used to host the servers was a birthday gift from his mom.

When Stepan began looking for a career change, he thought back to this early fascination. Even without programming experience, he knew he had the ambition he needed to succeed.

“When I started, I didn’t really know what I was going to be learning,” Stepan said. “I didn’t know what languages or technologies were going to be there. But I’ve always been good with computers, so I went in with an optimistic attitude.”

Stepan knew the bootcamp would be a challenge, but he wasn’t willing to let that discourage him. He even continued to work his restaurant job throughout the program, but the bootcamp remained his number one priority.

Chasing career prospects

Although attending the weekly career meetings hosted by the career services team wasn’t mandatory, Stepan found them extremely useful.

“I paid a lot of attention to career services,” he said. “I went by the book, focused on all the career milestones—sometimes even going ahead of them. If you get ahead, you get to spend a lot more time figuring it out yourself.”

Stepan’s student success manager, Christie Nadratowski, and his career services coach, Gwenn Hodge, motivated him and helped him navigate the job application process. With their guidance, Stepan applied to 10 new jobs every week.

With that many applications, interviews soon started rolling in. This gave Stepan an opportunity to build his interview skills even as he continued to hone his programming prowess. He learned how to sell himself and highlight his talents—essential skills in the job market.

Finding job success

As the final weeks of his bootcamp loomed ever closer, Stepan continued to send out job applications, to email HR reps, and to attend interviews.

On more than one occasion, he would be invited for a second or even third round interview—but would not hear back after that. Still, Stepan persisted. 

During one of his final weeks at the bootcamp, Stepan found himself in yet another interview, sitting across from the CEO of Vinyl Media, a digital content agency.

Stepan was confident that he was nailing the interview questions, but unlike the other candidates, his resume lacked previous development experience. He worried that once he left the interview, his resume would not stand out. This was his chance to make a memorable impression.

Stepan pulled his laptop from his bag and loaded up some demos of projects he’d worked on in his bootcamp—and his interviewer was blown away. It wasn’t just the projects that were impressive, but Stepan’s confidence in his work and ability to be a self-advocate.

“When I walked out the door I had a great feeling about this interview,” Stepan said. “It just felt like a complete success.”

Sure enough, Stepan got an email a week later, offering him the job. He now works at Vinyl Media full-time as a web developer.

Reflecting on the path

The role that hard work played in Stepan’s career path—from restaurant manager to bootcamp student to full-time web developer—is not lost on him. While a bootcamp can do a lot for someone who is inexperienced with coding, it can’t do everything. Determination and perseverance are critical to personal achievement.

“Bootcamps create all the conditions for your success,” Stepan said. “All you need to do is go and grab it.”

This article was originally published on bootcamp.rutgers.edu.

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