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Practicum graduate Desiree Bradish once drew cartoons for a living. And while, to many, that would sound like a childhood dream, her reality wasn’t filled with the magic and wanderlust that often followed our favorite animated characters. Once the pandemic began, Desiree felt it was her chance to take a step back and reflect on the kind of life she actually wanted. After remembering that she enjoyed game design in college, she tried her hand at coding and swiftly landed a software development internship at Flexion. Here’s how Practicum transformed her career.

Refocusing her life

An animator by trade, Desiree spent her entire career working in the industry. However, her job wasn’t always as bright as the cartoons she created. “Animation is kind of an industry that might take advantage of its workers. It's exceptionally hard to get in there, and you work long hours for bad pay.” Due to familial circumstances, she had to switch to part-time and spent years going through many dead-end jobs. When the pandemic hit and Desiree was furloughed, she realized it was time to take a fresh look at her career. 

“I was really just kind of reevaluating my life and deciding that I needed to refocus. I figured that by doing that, it’d set a good example for my nephews, and I just really wanted our family and myself to do better as a whole,” she says. Desiree remembered she built a popular computer game back in her college days as a pet project. Developing it was not only “the best time she’s ever had learning” and “exceptionally fun,” she recalls, but it also brought together a community of about 50,000 users, which helped her pay the rent back then. 

“[I enjoyed it]. Not even the game stuff necessarily, but just learning how code-changing made other things change, and then getting user feedback. And it was just such a really exciting and involved process.” That memory helped Desiree realize that software development was something that spoke to her and her desire to explore and create. 

Picking a direction

With a goal in mind, Desiree immersed herself in free coding resources. However, soon she realized she couldn’t track her progress or check that she’d learned enough to start working. “That's why I started looking into bootcamps, because I [wanted] just a bit more direction and reliable advice.” Choosing a bootcamp, though, was no easy feat, and Desiree quickly discovered there were just too many options.

“There's a lot of Java bootcamps; there's Ruby bootcamps, Python bootcamps; there's everything,” she explains. “I started looking through job ads, I tried to nail down the languages that were the most popular,” she recalls. She noticed that the majority of job descriptions required proficiency in JavaScript, the main programming language of the Internet. Since that’s what Practicum’s curriculum focused on, she felt it was the right place for her education. “The whole stack that Practicum offered is all in the JavaScript ecosphere, and it all fits together really well. It was highly sought after in a lot of jobs. I decided that I definitely wanted to go in that direction.” So, she enrolled in the Practicum Software Engineer Bootcamp.

Building new habits

The first thing Desiree noticed was how detailed the bootcamp curriculum was, and that the learning was based on projects, each of which gradually introduced her to new technologies. “It's really well structured and organized, which is something that appealed to me. The first couple projects are HTML and CSS [based]... But as you start to develop into JavaScript and learn to plug in these new technologies, they kind of kept a very similar project, and just sort of expanded it to show you how you can grow the project with different [skillsets].” 

At Practicum, the curriculum consists of a number of these projects, each of which lasts two to three weeks. Every project involves theory, coding practice, and a practical assignment that has to be submitted on time in order to unlock the next project. So, Desiree had to learn to manage her time and grasp unfamiliar material simultaneously. She was heavily involved in her community, so it was challenging for her to prioritize studying. 

“It was very hard for me to say, ‘No, I can't do that anymore.’ But setting up boundaries was essential. At the beginning, I made time blocks [and said that] I'm just not available during these times, no matter what. Originally, it was hard to stick to them… But as I got further in the course, I got better at saying no, and people started to realize [my priorities].”

Finding her voice proved important for becoming a good developer as well. At Practicum, every assignment is checked by professional code reviewers who verify the code and help students to improve it. Every student can access a dedicated support team that assists every step of the way. But since Desiree was an introvert, using this resource was easier said than done.

“It was exceptionally difficult for me to ask for help, even though that's the reason why I wanted to be in a bootcamp, right, so that I could get feedback. So, I could have somebody to ask, ‘Can you look at this?’, ‘Is this how I should be doing it?’, 'Is there a better way I can structure it?’ Like, that's why I was there. But I felt I was wasting their time, like I'd message them, and [say], ‘This is a dumb question.’ I'd re-review it, rewrite the question’s accents, and then delete it... But that was kind of a barrier that I had to push through. So, towards the end of the bootcamp, I was much better about asking for help and had much more understanding of how coding worked.”

A new chapter

Once her learning was over, Desiree took advantage of Practicum’s Career Acceleration track – a bootcamp in which graduates can access career mentorship and resources. This helped Desiree put together an attractive resume and structure her knowledge of the job market. 

Her efforts paid off quickly. Just four weeks after she began applying for positions, she secured a job offer! “I got really lucky. I got hired for almost the very first job I interviewed for. I wasn't in it as long as I thought I would be,” she says. The process consisted of a cultural interview and a tech take-home assignment, which seemed “extraordinarily easy” to Desiree. “Primarily, [their decision to hire me] was based on the skills that were presented in that take-home project… But I just really nailed it down and made the structure nice, which I think Practicum really emphasized. I felt prepared for all of the questions, and it was largely because I was able to talk to people in [Practicum] Career Services.”

“I was like, ‘I feel like this is a setup. It can't go this well, because, you know, everybody does hundreds of interviews’,” she laughs.

Now, Desiree is doing an internship at Flexion, a software development company that upgrades governmental online infrastructure. She’s working on two projects as a full stack developer in training, but once her internship is over, she hopes to be hired full-time. “So far, everybody who's ever been in their internship program has been hired full-time,” she says. 

Her plans for the future? “I'm very excited, because they actually do have a lot of clearly denoted ways that you can [work your way up] to leadership positions. So, I think I'll probably stay at this company for at least a few years, just because they’re so education-focused. Once you’re an actual developer, they're happy to let you move around teams.”

Great work, Desiree! If software engineering sounds like the right career for you, check out our top-rated bootcamp here.

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