Paige came to our program with a desire to find work that continuously challenged and stretched her. She always had an interest in tech, but for many reasons didn’t think she was suited for such a career. Now, she’s a successful Front-End Developer at Kroger, and we know she chose the right career because her face lights up immediately when we ask her if she loves to code. She enjoys it so much that you can often see her creating her own projects on the side even after coding at work all week.
We loved having Paige in the program, and she was a great teaching assistant for us when she finished. She also never hesitates to inspire someone that they can have a rewarding career in tech regardless of their background. We miss her lots, but she visits often for happy hours, grad panels, or to talk to an incoming student. Read more about her journey below in her own words.
1. What were you doing for work before attending Alchemy?
I was a community engagement coordinator for a nonprofit. I coordinated volunteers, managed their social media presence, and helped with miscellaneous community outreach efforts. While it was rewarding work, I wasn’t learning anything new and there were no growth opportunities for me within my team. I felt pretty stuck and was looking for change.
I knew I wanted a career where I would never stop learning and luckily, I found out I liked to code. The first time I played with code was back in MySpace days, editing profile layouts. I then took a basics in HTML and CSS class in college my senior year and loved it. I am sort of disappointed I didn’t take it earlier because I think I would have majored in Computer Science. Before deciding on the career change, I took a free two-week free Thinkful course to see if I still liked to code in my spare time – if it could be a job for me. Turns out I did and so I looked for in-person bootcamps to try out and Alchemy was on the list.
3. Had you considered other coding schools? What made you choose Alchemy over the others if so?
Well I knew I wanted to go to a full-time in-person program because I learn better onsite than online. I just missed the cut off for one bootcamp and knew I didn’t want to wait another three months for the next course, so it was between Alchemy and one other one. What really sold me was going to Alchemy and meeting Megan.
I had a meeting scheduled for 15 minutes and I ended up spending 45 minutes there. I explained that I was new to searching for bootcamps and Megan took the time to diplomatically (seriously, she didn’t talk down any competing bootcamp) on what to look for and how to prioritize what was important to me. I was living in Salem at the time, so I asked about the commute and she introduced me to two other brave souls who were commuting on the train to get to school every day. I felt cared about and cared for before I even applied.
I also got to see the collaboration as I visited during lab time. There was a lot of great energy in the room and a lot of friendly faces. The post-grad opportunities with App Lab and becoming a Teaching Assistant were also appealing to me. Overall it was just a great first impression and I was sort of sold from the get-go.
4. When did you graduate, and can you expand upon your job search a bit? How long did you actually work on landing a job?
I will say after graduating from college in 2015, I had a harder time getting a job then versus now. Any way you look at it, the job search is hard. I graduated in April 2019 and became a teaching assistant right after that. The first few weeks I was just sort of applying for anything I found on LinkedIn or Slack groups without really utilizing my network because I was overwhelmed and exhausted from the program (I had a weekend break before starting up again as a TA). It took me about a month to hear back from companies (even if those were rejections) and then the next few months I had pretty consistent interviews. Every week or so I had some sort of interview, mostly phone calls and tech screens. I got offered my job at the end of July, so it took me almost four months to find something. July had been packed with coding interviews, so I sort of felt like something was going to give.
As a total side note: I learned a lot from all of the interviews I went on, so while it was definitely emotionally draining as most job searches are, it was rewarding. One of my TAs told me to look at interviews as time to learn from a senior developer. Even if it goes poorly, you can at least learn something from someone with years in the industry. That helped take the pressure off.
TL/DR: ~4 months
5. What is your new position?
I am a Front-End Developer at Kroger working on associate-facing applications. I describe it for friends and family like this: You know when you order groceries online? I work on the applications that the associates use to make your order happen.
6. Can you tell me about the types of technologies and languages you are using in your new role and did Alchemy prepare you well to learn/use them?
7. Why are you excited about it, and how is it going to impact your life?
As for what I am doing and how that excites me: I continue to help people. I am still working with people and for people, which I feared I would lose if I left the nonprofit world. I was also able to move from Salem up to Portland, which I have been wanting to do for years. My family is all on the east coast, so it was important to me to live closer to my friends in the Portland metro area. Health insurance is always nice to have, too. In all seriousness, I nearly tripled my salary that I was making back at my last job. Money does not buy you happiness, but I feel like I can finally pay off my student loans and help the rest of my family get out of student loan debt, and that is pretty cool.
8. How did being a teacher's assistant help you on your journey to employment?
I am so grateful to have been a teaching assistant after graduating! I was a TA for Career Track for those three months and it was essential to solidifying my understanding of what I learned. Seeing the same errors for three months made me so fast at debugging my own code for personal projects. I also feel like teaching is the best way to solidify what you do know versus what you don’t. A lot of times a student would ask me the “why” behind something and sometimes I would have the answer and other times I wouldn’t. I was excited to still be learning and pushing myself to understand more than I was able to grasp in six months. It’s also nice to review the material with the instructor again. One of my whiteboard questions for an interview I had just helped bootcampers on, so I felt super confident going in there and crushing it.
9. What will you miss most about being at Alchemy every day?
The community!! I still see a lot of my cohort from time to time. I’m even working on a personal project with someone from my cohort now. I said this to most of the staff when I left, but I have never been a part of such a supportive community before. Even if many of us were competing for the same job, no one hesitated to celebrate success. If I got moved to the next round and my friend did not, I still felt supported. The staff care about your success and happiness during the program and post-grad, which even after going to a small, four-year university, was not the case.
10. If there’s anything you would tell someone considering an education to be a software developer, what would it be?
You have to love it. I recommend taking tutorials and doing your research before signing up for a bootcamp. There are a ton of free resources out there for you. A program like Alchemy can make you into a kick ass developer, but you have to absolutely love it and put the effort in. If you love what you are doing every day and put in the work, you will have an awesome life ahead of you.
11. Was career services helpful for you after graduation?
YES! Shannon is great. Not only being a great resource for resume and cover letter help, but she has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to connections. She is constantly seeking out opportunities for folks and trying to make networking happen.
I would also like to shout out the instructors, who also help with interviews. A lot of positions you apply for are ones with a completely new tech stack, so while doing my own research it was nice to talk with someone who knew more about serverless technology or whatever else I was researching.
After not doing my best on an interview, I felt like I could come to other TAs, Shannon, or instructors and talk it through to learn from my mistakes and how to do better. It’s no wonder so many Alchemy alums are so willing to help get new grads break into the tech scene. Everyone is so supportive!
If you’d like to learn more about our program and enroll in an upcoming cohort, reach out to our School Director, Megan Nelson, or drop into our space any Thursday at 12:30PM for an Open House.
There’s some space left in our Winter program, and the Spring is filling up too. Contact us today!