Joe Lott’s goal was simple: land a role that combined the career growth he desired with the creativity he craved. He would soon find his calling in the realm of software engineering and, after a year of studying, become a junior full-stack engineer at Salesloft. He shared how Practicum—and some really clever planning—helped him make his next move his best one.
Joe’s transition to software engineering was long planned. After graduating with a degree in information technology, he intended to become a system administrator. However, due to the lack of sysadmin roles available, he ended up with a job in customer service and later, tech support. But those jobs still didn’t feel like his true calling.
“Those jobs are mentally taxing, thankless, and [the pay isn’t great]. It’s not [the best] combination. I felt I needed to get out of [that] career path. I needed a career that had progression, paid well, and so on.”
Luckily, the solution to Joe’s career woes was right under his nose: his software engineering brother. While Joe had never considered software engineering as a potential career, his decision to search for another line of work prompted him to give it a closer look. Joe quickly realized that the profession combined problem solving, which he had already mastered, and creativity.
“As someone in tech support, I use problem solving every day, but I don’t get to be creative about it because the ways to solve different issues are pretty standardized. But I’m a creative person—I like to write in my free time—so I wanted something that let me express myself. Programming is definitely that.”
Building a strategy
Having chosen a direction, Joe started exploring software engineering with free online resources. He made progress, but at some point, he found himself struggling with too many choices. “I easily fell into the trap of ‘analysis paralysis.’ Like, there’s Resource A, B, and C. Resource A covers this, what if I need this? But Resource B covers this other thing, what if I need this instead? It was too much, and I was like, ‘Okay, I need more structure.’’’ Joe needed to know the skills that would get him hired versus those that were simply “nice-to-haves.”
Soon, he encountered another problem: his demanding job and independent learning didn’t mix. “My job [at the time] was stressful and I was programming when I could find time, which often came in spurts,” he recalls. But each break made him forget what he’d previously learned, so he found himself having to constantly revisit materials. To break the loop, Joe moved to a support role at Salesloft, a company that builds software to help salespeople be more efficient. His new working hours were a lot more predictable, and the company was open to him pursuing a software developer role in the future. “I thought, ‘Okay, if I get the skills I need, I can very reasonably move from support to engineering here.’ That was my goal,” Joe explains.
Once settled, Joe began looking for bootcamps. He needed something that offered structure, allowed him to learn at his own pace, and emphasized text-based resources rather than pre-recorded videos. After spotting an ad for the Practicum Software Engineering Bootcamp, Joe decided to give it a shot.
Discovering his passion
“It went really well. I really liked the sprint workflow,” he recalls. At Practicum, all programs are split into a number of two to three-week-long sprints. Each sprint includes theory, coding practice, and a practical assignment where students have to apply the skills they’ve learned. While Joe could read and practice at his own pace, assignments had to be submitted by deadline to unlock the next sprints.
This kind of learning structure was exactly what he needed. Oftentimes, tech newbies feel the need to read or watch all available materials before they deem themselves ready to get their feet wet. Practicum, instead, made Joe apply what he learned immediately.
Every assignment Joe submitted was checked by professional code reviewers. They verified his code to make sure it worked properly and conformed to industry best practices. Aside from refining his skills, it also prepared him to work in a real development environment in which code review is an essential part of the workflow. “It’s the invaluable thing that Practicum does, and it was something I was able to talk about during my interviews, like, ‘Hey, I received 15-17 code reviews and I am familiar with that process.’ I’ve developed a thicker skin [because of it].”
Additionally, Joe’s clever planning helped him with the program’s time commitments. His typical schedule had him working on theory for a few days, and then on assignments for one hour on weekday evenings and most weekends. “I got the project done in the first week [of each sprint] and then did revisions the next week. It was not terribly difficult to do that, except when things got unusually busy at work… It just required lots of discipline and making sure I scheduled blocks of time.”
Joe discovered that he enjoyed software engineering way more than expected, which made assignments feel like “less of a task.” Sometimes, he got so deep into a project that he lost track of time, which reassured him that he had chosen the right career path.
It’s no surprise that Joe planned out his job search as well. Instead of applying to hundreds of roles, Joe figured he could simply explore opportunities at his current company. When interviewing for his support role before enrolling at Practicum, he inquired about eventually moving into their engineering department. “I made my intentions known ahead,” he recalls.
Originally, he aimed for a junior front-end developer role, but when he graduated from Practicum, the only available junior role at his company was for a full-stack engineer. Nevertheless, Joe applied and got the job!
It was a “fairly painless process that went really smoothly,” he says. “[The hiring managers] wanted me to review a project, so I chose the final project from Practicum. I showed the back-end and front-end code, and walked them through what the project was, what it was for, and the technical choices that I had made.” The company’s product was built using Ruby and Ruby on Rails, both languages Joe wasn’t proficient in (But he eventually picked them up on the job!). However, when he was asked to review a sample code, he drew from his Practicum experience with other languages to understand what it meant, and did really well.
Luckily, his company “doesn’t particularly care that you don’t know the language if you’ve got talent,” he says, so he will be learning it on the job in a few months. “[My company] really values career progression, so I’m very lucky.”
Joe currently works on a team that covers an integral part of the company’s software platform, and within a couple years, he would like to grow into a general mid-level software engineer. “I’ll see where things go from there… It’s almost scary how smoothly it all went. I expected more road bumps along the way,” he laughs.
We like when things go according to plan. Congrats, Joe! If you’re interested in starting your software engineering journey, check out our top-rated program today.