Student Spotlight: A 30K Salary Boost From Learning How to Learn

Alex Walz is a graduate of the University of Utah Professional Education Coding Boot Camp. During the program, Alex not only put in countless hours into coding, he also focused on building his soft skills in behavioral interviewing, negotiating, and professional communication. All of Alex’s hard work paid off and Medical Review Institute of America offered to bring him on as a mid-level software engineer where he will be using a programming language he has yet to learn. Not only do his new employers have confidence in Alex’s ability to code, they know he knows how to learn. Alex shared his experience in the boot camp and finding a new job with us.

What were you doing before you enrolled in the boot camp?

I was working at Instructure as a project manager. I ran a team of 5-20 people migrating all of their data from one learning management software to another.

How did you get interested in coding?

Honestly, it happened when I was working for a small company named Lovesac. They had poor processes for tracking customer data and shipping information. I went through and built out a tracking system using excel, which was my first introduction to “coding”. I knew from that point that I needed to figure out how to do this for real.

How did you find out about the program?

Facebook advertisements (haha). I had been looking into other programs around the valley, but this one stuck out to me because of the extended timeline and the curriculum.

What was the most difficult part of the boot camp and how did you get through it?

The most difficult part was not giving in to the “I’ll figure this out tomorrow” mindset. I always wanted to make sure that I knew a topic really well before we moved on to new ones. It’s fast passed, everyone knows’s that. Getting a firm foundation for each topic before moving on to new ones is crucial.

Career readiness is another part of the program–interview coaching, building an online profile, getting access to employers at different types of events. How did the career services help set you up to be more successful after graduation?

The biggest thing is allowing us to have a big GitHub presence. Employers do take a look at your GitHub, so having multiple projects in there was really helpful. The academic team is also really great about forcing you to get out and connect with other devs in the community. Networking is huge.

Learning how to learn is one of the most important skills we teach. How has the program impacted your thinking and behaviors around learning?

This is the single most important thing to understand about these courses. This isn’t a degree. This will NOT teach you everything you need to know. This entire program is designed to teach you how to teach yourself, but most importantly knowing what and how to search for answers to your problems.

Can you tell me about the job you got after the boot camp and how the Boot Camp helped you get there?

I got offered a backend position for a medical company making 30k more than what I make now. The craziest part about this is that its programming in a language that I know nothing about. What helped me with getting this job is the ability to show that I can learn a new language and learn it quickly. We are put through the ringer and really need to learn topics fast, which really appealed to my company. The other part about it is your personality and if you are a good fit for your potential employers’ culture. Don’t underestimate that part. In some cases, it’s more important than the first.

What are some cool projects you’re working on right now?

I’m actually continuing to build upon some of the projects that we did in the boot camp. My team and I built a social media platform that had some great potential and even had some random users around the United States before our final presentation. The other project I’m working on is a web app designed for a popular game called “Destiny”. It’s a team finder as well as a competitive stat checker that utilizes the developers open API.

What was the best part of the Boot Camp for you?

For me, it was by far the people that I got to meet. Our cohort was amazing and in many cases was a little family. We worked together for hours upon hours and had a lot of fun over the six months. Most of us didn’t want the class to end.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who was considering enrolling in the Boot Camp?

Have a complete understanding of what I mentioned above. This is not a degree. People will not offer you jobs just because you complete a boot camp. You need to really apply yourself and your knowledge to real-world situations. That is what appeals to future employers. Find a problem in the world and see if you can solve it through your code. Good Luck!

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