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One could argue that software engineering truly struck a chord with Practicum grad Tristan Boyd. The former music teacher felt he had reached a crescendo in his field, and yearned for growth and new opportunities. He took on one unsuitable job after another, hoping for a successful career shift. Cue software engineering: an opportunity that combined creativity with the potential for self-development he sought. After enrolling in the Practicum Software Engineering Bootcamp, Tristan landed a role on the sustainability engineering team at an EdTech company. Here’s how Practicum helped him along the way.

An inspiring discovery

Tristan’s journey into software engineering started from afar: the music industry. Having worked as a music teacher for over a decade, he was starting to feel like he’d hit a glass ceiling. On top of that, he'd just welcomed two babies into his family. Driven, Tristan knew he had to reconsider his career prospects.

“I like music. I didn’t want to drop it entirely, but I was kind of tired of teaching. You can only progress so much in that field pay-wise before you hit a dead end. Besides, my wife and I recently had twins, so I thought I should probably make a little bit more money doing something that I’ll enjoy. It was a combination of me wanting to shift from my personal interests, and in the process of shifting, find something more lucrative,” he says.

He sifted through many possibilities, but nothing felt right. That is, until a friend suggested he try an online software engineering course. “I took this course, purely like, ‘I’m gonna try this stuff and if I like it, great, but if I don’t, I’ll explore something else.’ And I liked it a lot more than I thought I would, so I just kind of continued down that track.” What’s more, Tristan knew of several other music teachers who had successfully transitioned into the industry. With those examples in mind, he was ready to pursue his new passion.

Going for it

Tristan dove into a whirlpool of free online coding resources. However, he noticed he wasn’t progressing as quickly on his own. Tristan knew his learning style well, so he sensed that group learning would do him some good. Additionally, he recognized that job hunting would be a task on its own, so help and support from a school or community would definitely come in handy. 

“Personally, I work better when there’s accountability. I knew I needed that, and I also needed the support of the program on the back end, when [I was] looking for jobs,” he explains.

Tristan started looking for a program that would offer him all of that, plus enough flexibility for his other commitments. He still wanted to work, and he had to take care of his newborns, so sitting in a class full-time wasn’t an option. “I looked into a lot of different bootcamps. Like, what are the reviews? What do the alumni say? Practicum showed up pretty early on in some list.  Everybody was saying the curriculum [at Practicum] was pretty strong, so I thought, ‘Okay, that’s a good one.’ The fact that it was part-time was pretty big too. I needed some more flexibility.” Soon, he enrolled in the Practicum Software Engineering Bootcamp. 

Passion practiced with discipline

At Practicum, programs are divided into a number of two- to three-week-long sprints. Each sprint covers a certain topic and includes theory, coding practice, and project assignments that have to be submitted on time in order to unlock the following sprints. Tristan could read and practice at his own pace, but projects required discipline and great time management, especially since he was continuing to work part-time. So, he split his days into blocks and did his best to stick to a schedule. He spent a few hours each day watching his kids, teaching, and working on Practicum tasks. “Every day was like that, and I had to just section things out,” he recalls. He often studied late into the night. However, in his words, “it really wasn’t that bad, but no day was unplanned. Every day had to be mapped out.”

Moreover, he already had some knowledge to lean on. Remember those free resources he tried earlier? Well, they made the beginning of the program much easier. “There were some early chapters on standard programming concepts that I had seen before, and a lot of my studies from beforehand were extremely helpful.” Even so, he still found himself at a dead end sometimes. That’s when Practicum’s community came to his aid. He could post his questions or talk about his difficulties with program tutors and fellow students, who helped him find solutions. “My classmates were extremely helpful… I wasn’t doing as much helping as they were helping me,” he laughs. “[They] were essential to me finishing [the program].”

“I had stalls, but everything was manageable. If I were working full-time, it would have been much harder,” he recalls. 

What’s more, Tristan learned how a real programming environment functions and what everyday tech jobs were like. “There are some things that you just can’t do until you’re doing it full-time, but [Practicum] bridged the gap pretty well. It did a pretty good job of ‘this is what you can expect in this environment.’”

Finding the light

The job search, on the other hand, was “pretty brutal,” Tristan admits. “If you have no technical experience, your resume is going to get overlooked. I had some freelance experience towards the end of the program.”

“I think referrals are massive. That’s your key. People told me that, but I was like, ‘Okay, sure.’ And then, all my best opportunities came from referrals,” he recalls. He had spent months sending out applications, when he spotted a job ad in Practicum’s student Slack channel. A Practicum alumna was recruiting a software engineer for her team, so he reached out to her. “I talked to her, we sent messages back and forth, then I applied, and it boosted the process a little bit.” But even with the initial help, the interviews were pretty challenging. “The portfolio was really helpful initially to get me through the door, but most companies, including this one, want to know how you solve the problems on the spot,” Tristan says. Nevertheless, he succeeded and landed the role!

Now, Tristan is on the sustaining engineering team at Remind, an EdTech company that creates systems for schools to keep track of all their student information, and facilitate teacher-student interactions. Tristan’s responsible for handling and fixing issues with internal tools, like customer support modules. 

His piece of interview-related wisdom for tech newbies? “These people will be working with you, so you need to be having conversations with them… If it’s a back and forth interview where they’re just asking questions, engage them in small talk. If they’re willing to keep the conversation going, they’re interested. I tried to make every interviewer laugh… You surely need to know what you’re doing, but you also need to seem fun to work with, because they will be working with you all the time.”

We’re proud of you, Tristan! Thinking about getting into software engineering? Check out our top-rated program today. 

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