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Sometimes, finding our true passion is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Even once it's found, we often lack the skills to turn it into a steady career or the time to learn them. This surely could have been the case for graduate Luke Schmidt, who discovered his love for programming and web development after leaving college and working various jobs. However, after coming across Practicum's 10-month Software Engineer program, he learned the industry's most in-demand skills at his own pace and, ultimately, landed his dream job. 

Finding his forte

Luke Schmidt’s path to a job he enjoys started with casting away things that he didn't. After completing most of his bachelor's degree, Luke decided that college wasn't the best fit for him and decided to leave. He tried his hand at a plethora of odd jobs, none of which felt like his forte. 

Thus arrived his attraction (or, rather, his gravitational pull) to tech. In his spare time, Luke deeply enjoyed tinkering with the Linux operating system. Soon, he began experimenting with Python and, eventually, produced a functioning script that controlled an LED light strip. "I hadn't really experienced that before: where I had done something from a work-related standpoint and had actually been excited about the process and the completion of it. And I think it was at that point where I said, 'Okay, I'm going to give this a try. Maybe this is for me.'"

His acquaintance with web development brought on even more excitement: "The things that you can build as a web developer can positively affect thousands or potentially even millions of people. There aren't many industries where you can do that."

Luke felt it was something he wanted to pursue, but this time, he knew he needed a more systematic approach. He wanted something that would immerse him in an environment of like-minded individuals, allow for flexible scheduling, and facilitate a deep exploration of the materials. "I think you need to give your brain time to really internalize [the programming] concepts, because they're not simple. You can't rush through them in a week or a month," explains Luke. He started compiling a spreadsheet of bootcamps that fit these requirements, and Practicum passed his rigorous selection every time. "I had a list of all of the coding bootcamps that were on any of the major review websites, which I think was like eighty. And then I excluded a few due to either extreme cost or bad reviews. As I narrowed down the list, Practicum was still in there. And the more I got rid of things, the more I was like, 'Oh, Practicum is looking really, really good here'... The curriculum fully covers a lot of relevant topics, which is a huge plus." So, Luke enrolled. 

The right environment

Luke’s enrollment in Practicum's Software Engineer program coincided with the onset of the pandemic. The company where Luke worked was forced to scale down and reduce his hours, "which was hugely fortuitous for me because I was able to really devote all of my time, energy, and focus into learning with Practicum," he mentions. As things slowly returned to normal, however, juggling school and work became quite the chore. "My work started ramping back up around two or three months after I started Practicum, so things became a bit more difficult to manage," he recalls. However, having a supportive environment helped immensely and Practicum was flexible enough for him to maintain a healthy work-life balance. The program consisted of several two- or three-week-long sprints which included theory, coding practice, and project assignments. Luke could read up on theory and practice his coding at his own pace, but assignments had to be submitted on time in order to unlock the next sprints. "It was between 15 and 30 hours per week, which is sustainable, I would say, as long as you decide that Practicum is a priority for you."

Another thing that helped him push forward was the support he felt from the Practicum team. "The tutors are attentive and the community managers are accountable. They follow up, message, and check-in with people, and are willing to be flexible with scheduling... Like there's just so many positive things about this setup that really made the experience more valuable."  What's more, the built-in events and frequent communication exposed him to tech professionals and advanced his soft skills. "I love talking to people and got much more proficient at that with this course. It exposed me to professionals," he says. "It was almost like a pseudo-internship, you could say, because I was watching other professionals just do things."

He had his ups and downs, though. Some concepts took him longer to get through, such as the fundamentals of JavaScript, the primary programming language of the internet. Luke shared a piece of advice to students who may be facing similar issues: "If something is really not clicking for some reason, which everyone is going to experience, it can be tough to dig yourself out of that hole. A suggestion I have for prospective students is to ask for help. Set up an interview with a tutor, request a one-on-one, or ask a senior student. Practicum is very social and community-tailored."

Getting the job

Luke still has a couple of Practicum projects to go, but he's already landed a tech job. How? "It was kind of crazy how it all worked out, actually," laughs Luke. He moved to California from his native Michigan, hoping to find a web dev role in one of Bay Area tech companies. "It was terrifying," he shares. Yet before Luke had the chance to start sending out his CV, he learned his friend had put in a referral for him at his company, and Luke got invited to an interview. "One thing led to another, and I showed them some of the work that I had done with Practicum. We had an interview with the CTO and another with my current boss, which were both great, super positive experiences. They hired me full-time." Luke's current company develops software for banking and fintech industries, and his responsibilities include both doing front-end development and quality assurance. "I'm a QA analyst and a developer-in-training with the intent of transitioning to full time dev in the next year… I'm just dipping my toes into the development side of things. My company pretty much starts everyone off as a quality assurance analyst, learns the basics of the project while you're doing that, and then transitions into development, typically four to eight months later." 

So, what next? "I've learned to not try to plan too much,” he admits, hinting at the pandemic. "I would say my plans for the future are to enjoy my life as much as possible, continue to allow myself the freedom to do the things that I want to do, and put 100% into my job and my work. Because it's been really rewarding to me."

Has Luke's story inspired you? Check out our top-rated Software Engineer program today.

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