Daniel completed his studies at BrainStation Miami (Formerly Wyncode Academy).
Where are you currently working and what is it that you do there?
I currently work at Microsoft. I'm on the security and compliance team, where I work as a Software Engineer. Our team provides a suite of different products within Microsoft to make sure that all of our teams remain legally compliant and secure, which in the last few months, has taken on more importance.
As a Software Engineer, what does a typical day look like for you?
I typically get to my computer around 8:00AM so I can check on where I left all my pending tasks from the previous day and try to update the board before our 9:30AM stand up. Then as a team, we go over where all the features are, whether they're already in production, if they're not, what stage are they at, our Managers will usually have a strong opinion about something said in that meeting, and then after that, it'll be working to complete whatever tasks we have.
Recently however, the day is also taken up with a lot of sync meetings. Our team has been under a lot of pressure, especially in the last two months, as we are tasked with some very important products that need to be rolled out to the entire company. So on top of the morning sync, we have a lot of mini syncs to make sure that everything stays on track because there are crucial deadlines that can't be missed.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your education and career background?
I studied English literature in college, and after I graduated, I moved to South Korea to teach. I stayed there for nine years, and when I came back, I did not want to continue on that same path. I began the slow process of converting myself from an English Teacher to where I am now. The first thing I did was take on a job as a Math Teacher in a private high school in South Florida. That school didn't have any coding curriculum, so I started to study computer science basics on my own just so that I could provide the students with some introductory lessons on the topic. I found that I was really interested in it, so I continued to take some online courses on computer science. As my interest in that field grew, I decided that maybe I should attend a bootcamp.
I decided to go to Wyncode because it seemed to be tied into the tech community in Miami and I just enjoyed the energy that I got from visiting the campus. In 2017, about two years after I came back from South Korea, I enrolled in Wyncode’s Web Development Bootcamp.
What would you say was the highlight of your learning experience at Wyncode?
One of the difficulties that I had when I was studying web development on my own was that even though I could grasp the material and understand the concepts in an abstract format, I didn’t always understand how it could be applied in real life. Getting the opportunity to learn from someone like Ed, who was the Head Instructor for my course, and seeing him coding live, was really eye-opening for me. It was a completely different thing to go from reading about how to construct a condition, and then seeing it being put together in person for a web application in 15 minutes. Once I witnessed that, I knew that these were the kinds of professionals that I wanted to work with.
One of the difficulties that I had when I was studying web development on my own was that even though I could grasp the material and understand the concepts in an abstract format, I didn’t always understand how it could be applied in real life. Getting the opportunity to learn from someone like Ed, who was the Head Instructor for my course, and seeing him coding live, was really eye-opening for me.
What was the most challenging part of the learning experience?
I would say that all of it is challenging when you enroll into an intensive bootcamp program. The entire time you're filled with doubt, and I think that's normal for everyone to feel. The material is difficult, the situation you're in is difficult -- you're trying to embark on a completely new career in a short amount of time. If I had to point to something specifically though, it's learning how to work with other people. It's one thing to code on your own, and it's a completely different thing to work on a team. Your code has to work and compile with other people’s code, and you also have to resolve conflicts in the code and interpersonally. Learning how to navigate that is a whole other beast. That’s the most valuable thing I think I took away. Now, working at Microsoft, it's the same thing. Your ability to work with others is an essential skill that you have to have. I would say it's more important than your raw technical abilities.
What impact would you say the actual work in your class had on your professional development?
The thing that I find myself constantly going back to is that feeling of being lost and having to think quickly on your feet. This is something that you get in a bootcamp environment, and you still come across that feeling in a professional setting. In fact, I would say even more so. In the real world, you're often given an assignment with very big requirements and you're not totally sure how it's supposed to work and when it's supposed to be completed.
Learning how to successfully navigate that, and knowing that you'll be OK in the end, is something I've learned to rely on frequently here at Microsoft.
What was your job search experience like after the Web Development Bootcamp?
After I finished Wyncode I applied to a few jobs, but I specifically wanted to work in EdTech and that was something I was very clear about. My hope was to combine what I had been doing for almost a decade, which is teaching, alongside this new skill set. I didn't really find anything that I really loved.
About two months after I graduated, I was going to Wyncode for the job sessions they held on a weekly basis. It was during one of these sessions that I was approached by Wyncode about working for them. This opportunity made the most sense to me because that's exactly what I was looking for. I was hired on as a Product Developer at Wyncode, which meant I was primarily working on the courses and improving the curriculum. I did that from 2017 until the end of 2018.
I eventually heard about the Microsoft Leap program, which is a program that brings people from non-traditional backgrounds into Microsoft. There were other Teachers in my cohort, mothers who had taken a break from their careers returning to work, and all sorts of people from different walks of life. I applied at the end of 2018 and I was accepted into the program in February 2019, and I’ve been there ever since.
Given that you've been on both sides of the Wyncode Bootcamp experience, as a student and on the content curriculum creation side, what would you say to other students to help them make the most out of their bootcamp experience?
What I saw in my cohort, with the students who were most successful, is that no matter how many walls you hit in your learnings, the most successful students I saw were able to navigate that frustration. They were the ones who took copious notes and asked a lot of questions. Now I’m seeing those same traits in members here on my team. Senior Developers who have been in the field for decades are the ones that ask the most questions; junior members tend to be the quietest ones.
My recommendation would be to take lots of notes and ask a lot of questions, even if you feel like it's going to make you look stupid. One thing that they talk about a lot here, and it's a bit of a cliche, is having a growth mindset. I've come to understand that you have to have that mentality, because if you're always afraid to look stupid, then you're never going to get your work done. You have to be willing to put yourself out there in order to clarify things when they're unclear to you. That's still something I'm struggling with. I see this being modelled by the Senior Developers on my team, they're the ones who have embraced the growth mindset the most. It's not just some phrase that gets thrown around, it's something you have to understand how to do.
What advice would you give to professionals that are considering taking a Wyncode or BrainStation course or bootcamp?
A lot of people reach out to me because of my background and how I got here. I always recommend that you first take a few courses online to gauge your interest. You can often do these for free and this allows you to see if it’s something that you feel you have an aptitude for. You can also read a few books on the subject because that's something that you'll have to continue doing once you’re working in the field, you have to constantly be learning.
If you feel comfortable at that point, having studied it on your own for a few months, then I think you would be ready to make the jump. I would definitely caution against doing it right away. I’ve seen people who jumped in without doing the proper research first and that usually didn't end well because they didn't know what they were getting into. Definitely do your homework before you make a decision like this.
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