Kate Dameron is unforgettable. Already a dynamic student while in Alchemy's software development training program, she has gone above and beyond by staying active in our community: helping new students by answering questions, participating in grad panels, and mentoring students during their training.
Kate stands out for her passion and curiosity for learning and collaboration. She’s always excited to jump into a new challenge and excited to meet new people in the industry.
Kate was diligent in her job search. She dedicated considerable time and focus to each job application: about three hours per role to customize her resume and cover letter for the company and position.
It led to a significant return on investment. In her first search, she completed 13 applications and got a 60% response rate. In her second search, she completed 11 applications and got a 90% response rate. Kate's tracking demonstrates how being methodical about your job search instead of a shotgun approach is both beneficial and effective.
While Kate was a teaching assistant at Alchemy, she was actively interviewing for positions and working to find a team that was going to help her thrive in her new career. We were excited to see her land a great role with incredible people… until that team of engineers was dissolved. But due to the community she established by networking authentically, she was quickly able to land a new role and has already been promoted to Software Engineer II.
What was your career before making the transition to tech?
Before Alchemy I was a burned out artist and art teacher working as a Nanny to pay the bills.
[School Director] Megan Nelson was the deciding factor. Her warmth and obvious empathy plus learning that Marty originally went to school for Art History just solidified that these people could be my people.
About a month before the day when I had my first conversation with Megan, I was chatting with a filmmaker friend of mine. We were discussing how disillusioned we were feeling with jobs and practices that we used to enjoy. He made a bold declaration about getting a fresh start… in Hollywood. I bemoaned the fact that I felt like I needed something entirely new, but what?! That’s the first time someone suggested that I learn to code. He just threw it out there and somehow it latched on and got the wheels turning. Then I found Alchemy.
Had you considered other coding schools? What made you choose Alchemy?
I considered other coding schools only as a technicality. I was pretty dead set on Alchemy from the beginning, but I was required to research other schools as part of my application process for the Reboot financial aid program (which has since closed).
What was your experience going from graduation to job?
I graduated in April 2019 and landed my first job offer on June 28, so in total, the job search lasted about 12 weeks. I was working as a teaching assistant at Alchemy after graduation so I wasn’t devoting 100% of my time to the search.
I managed to apply for a handful of jobs each week. When it came to the applications themselves, I spent a few hours on each one and was very particular about which jobs I applied for while trying to keep an open mind for every opening that came along. This was kind of draining on top of a full-time job but I found that I had a pretty good response rate for the number of applications I put in.
My second job search, however, was very different. Almost my entire team was laid off and I was devastated because I really loved the job and my team. I decided to send out a tweet about being available for a new position. I thought maybe I could get a couple leads. Well, the tech community on twitter is pretty great and they amplified my message until it had been retweeted over 3500 times!! Wow! That’s how I heard about the company I’m with now and was able to land my second job offer 3 weeks after I lost my first job.
What is your position and how long have you been there?
My job title is Software Engineer. This is my second job and I’ve been with this company for 8 months. My previous position was Front-end Developer and I was there for 4.5 months before the company restructured and laid off my team.
Have you received any promotions since starting?
Yes! I was hired as a Software Engineer I in January and was just promoted to Software Engineer II at the beginning of September!
Which types of technologies and languages do you use in your role, and how did Alchemy prepare you to use them?
I use Ruby on Rails, react-native, postgres, redux, graphql, TypeScript, and nestJS. I feel like Alchemy absolutely prepared me to use these technologies. I learned and am still learning many of these on the job but studying React and NodeJS at Alchemy prepared me to expand on that knowledge in a skilled way. Being able to jump in and know how to learn is one of the things that was called out in my recent promotion request by my manager.
How has your new career impacted your life?
I love my work SO MUCH. Yes, there are difficult days as with any job but the fulfilling, satisfying, almost-can’t-walk-away-from-my-computer days are the vast majority. Some of this is because I simply enjoy solving problems and building cool stuff but some of this is also attributed to the fact that I have managed to have 2 incredible teams so far. I didn’t think I could love a job more than my first software job but the one I have now is incredible in different ways and I am grateful everyday to work with an eclectic array of devs, designers and product managers with both traditional and non-traditional backgrounds.
Was working as a TA helpful for you?
Yeah, it was mostly helpful because I needed to pay bills right away after graduation so having that steady paycheck was very important. But besides that it was great to stay really connected with the community. I think it helped my mental health to maintain that connection while staying immersed in talking about and writing code every day.
What do you miss most about being at Alchemy every day?
I have always loved academic settings so sometimes I miss just being in the classroom where my only goal for the day was to drink copious amounts of tea and learn about/do the next big thing. I miss the camaraderie of working on projects and making big discoveries. Wait, I do all of these things for my job!!
Actually, what I think I miss the most about Alchemy is the specific people that I got to make those discoveries with including the staff and instructors. I’ve kept in touch with a handful of my cohort but there’s always that inevitable disbursement that happens after a period of time. Yeah, I just miss the people. Especially right now since we can’t have events and visit like we used to.
If there’s anything you would tell someone considering an education to be a software developer, what would it be?
Do it. Try out some of the free resources online first. If you spend a few hours here and there working on khan academy tutorials and if you’re having fun, then you’re probably on the right track!
Also, don’t give up, because it’s going to get really really hard, but then it’s going to get really really good.
So, don’t give up!
Lean on your community.
Get a twitter account!
Were your instructors helpful to you and why?
My instructors were definitely pivotal in my success. I wanted to attend a school that would guarantee me access to professionals in the industry. I wanted to know what the best practices are and how to interact with a development team. Basically, I wanted to know more than how to write syntax, I wanted to know the ins and outs of working in tech and that’s what I was able to gain from them. I still remember little bits and nuggets of advice they gave me when I’m working on problems at my job. When I write certain lines of code I can still hear Ryan speaking the syntax like when he was typing it during lecture.
Beyond all of that though, was the incredible sense that I knew they wanted me to succeed and that they were going to do everything they could to help me get there. Having said that, part of what makes them so helpful is that they won’t hold your hand or just give you the answers. Mostly because there usually isn’t only one right answer but also because their job is to teach students how to learn and how to think like a programmer which turned out to be very important in my career so far.
Were Alchemy’s career services helpful for you?
Career services are incredibly helpful. People think career week is going to be easy because there’s no coding and there are a lot of speakers. But it’s actually one of the more difficult weeks, simply because Shannon gives her whole authentic self and asks everyone else to do the same. It’s a week of discovery and self-reflection and it provided me with some key pieces that really helped polish up my interview skills.
Beyond that week, Shannon never stops being a champion for Alchemy students and grads. She challenged me to really consider what I wanted and how I wanted to get there. She never accepted less than the best I could offer and I’m grateful for her coaching before, during and after the job search.