A Supportive and Welcoming Environment
Some students come from a traditional career setting. They understand the trajectory of the modern world and the role technology has to play in it. Popularly known as career switchers, these people do not want to be bystanders but active participants. Cierra McDonald is one of them.
Cierra has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with an emphasis in pre-medicine and a minor in pre-law, which she acquired in 2019. She has worked as both a legal assistant and a kindergarten teacher. Earlier this year, she decided to switch careers into tech. Having already tried the traditional path, Cierra this time tried the bootcamp route.
Cierra said, “I had made a large spreadsheet comparing several different coding bootcamps, and the six-month duration of time was the sweet spot. I did not think it was realistic to learn a new skill in three months, and part-time programs that lasted a year or longer did not appeal to me either. I decided I was going to give my all to this program for six months and see what happens from there.”
Program length wasn’t just the only deciding factor for Cierra. “When I initially reached out to Alchemy, I was not greeted with automated messages but genuine humans,” she said. “Megan and Marty Nelson took time out of their days to meet with me on multiple occasions whenever I had questions about the program and while enrolling into the January 2021 cohort.”
“The amount of time they invested in my on-boarding was a testament to how invested they were in their student’s success and bootcamp. I felt Alchemy was the right fit knowing that every step was personable.”
Realistic and Hands-on Training
Do you want to learn how to get something done? Don’t just be an observer, get your hands dirty. This effective approach solidified Cierra’s faith in Alchemy to guide her in her tech career journey.
Cierra said, “Every four to five weeks, we all had the opportunity to showcase our new skills with a large project. The projects were completed in weekly sprints in remote teams of around four [student] developers each. At the end of the week, each team got to present their project and give a ‘tech talk.’”
It’s satisfying to know that one’s small contribution can make a difference. Cierra and her coworkers came to understand the value of collaboration.
She shared, “Something I will always remember is the third big project that three other women and I created. This was my fondest moment at bootcamp because the four of us collaborated on a project that we were all so passionate about, which ended up leading to amazing opportunities outside of bootcamp. It showed me endless opportunities that come along with being able to code and using it to better the current world that we live in.”
An Immersive Software Development Program and Effective Learning Network
Another Alchemy alumni, Dannie Schumaker, whose career was built around creativity and the desire to serve, is one more captivating story of Alchemy’s students.
Dannie explained, “I had been working for a wonderful nonprofit organization. Despite feeling fulfilled in most ways, I saw no trajectory that would satisfy my thirst to create, and I found that my role drained me of the energy I’d need for creative side projects.”
She said, “The act of creating (regardless of the medium) was always where I found my personal ‘flow’ state. I had dabbled in coding during my 20s—completing some free guided lessons through Codecademy, building a WordPress site and customizing it with a little CSS, and so on—but I had never actually considered pursuing a career in the field until my early 30s.”
The need to explore ways to make her employer’s website better rekindled that fire and the endless possibilities of tech in Dannie’s mind. “The deeper I dove, the more entranced I became by the act of building software and the problem solving that was inherent in it.”
A few months later, she enrolled in Alchemy Code Lab. However, she didn’t just decide on the fly. It took proper research, eliminating the X’s and Y’s, and reducing her choice to the most appealing coding bootcamp. She knew the journey she was about to take and only wanted the proper guide to lead her there.
She said, “My need for an immersive, hands-on learning experience with readily available support narrowed my bootcamp search significantly. I am driven and eager to learn, but I also tend to fizzle out and find a new passion when my attention starts to wane.”
One thing that sets a coding bootcamp apart from others is the practical and job-oriented approach to real-world problems and the valuable skills attained from class projects and group tasks.
Dannie remembered, “Looking back, these experiences had tremendous value in launching me into my current role—I cannot imagine having been effective so quickly as a professional software engineer without them.”
“The instructors spent significant time reviewing the work and suggesting improvements and even made time to discuss live at my request. I have found (at Alchemy and in my current role) that this sort of feedback is particularly helpful for my learning.”
Comprehensive Job Search Support
One thing that might seem dreadful to graduating students is the thought of job hunting after graduation. When a student is strongly backed by sound career services in addition to their determination to succeed, this fear is likely to naturally disappear.
“My job search was fairly typical, I think,” said Cameron. “Lots of tailored applications, reaching out on LinkedIn, and so on. What kept me afloat were referrals, networking, and the like. Thankfully, Alchemy has an incredibly robust network alongside wonderful career staff. They are for sure the reason I landed my current position!”
Cameron graduated from Alchemy in June of 2021, and his life has taken a turn for the best.
He said, “My career has been off to a great start. Three months after graduation, I accepted a role as a Front End Software Engineer at Allocations, an amazing Fintech startup innovating venture capital. We’re making the VC space more inclusive, streamlined, and approachable for everyone.”
As for Cierra, she knew the journey ahead, so she prepared early.
She said, “My job search was quite swift. I graduated at the end of June, and I was hired by the middle of July. I started applying to jobs a month and a half before graduation, which was very helpful. I had a few interviews while still in bootcamp that gave me good practice before landing my first role.”
“Before finding my first role, career services helped me iterate on my resume to make it better, and I felt very comfortable answering technical and soft skill questions for all of my interviews.” That preparation through mock interviews and time dedicated to practicing interview question responses is included for all of Alchemy’s students.
Cierra mentioned, “I graduated from Alchemy in June 2021, and my career trajectory has since grown exponentially. I am now a software engineer.”
Dannie likewise benefitted from Alchemy Code Lab’s career services.
She shared, “After graduation, I immediately launched into a couple of personal projects: the portfolio site I’d been dreaming of building and a hackathon to build a mobile app prototype for a local nonprofit. Both had a significant positive impact on how I was able to present myself to prospective employers.”
“During these early weeks, the Career Services Team was hugely valuable in helping me present a consistent, honest version of myself as a software engineer to the world.”
Dannie said, “The actual ‘hunt’ was short-lived. I applied to and interviewed with two organizations and was actively interviewing with a third when I received [and accepted] my job offer. Of the three roles I pursued, two were connected to me directly by Alchemy’s career services.”
She mentioned, “I landed a mid-level software engineering role at a Fortune 500 company that was spinning up an e-commerce app. I love my job, which I still find creatively stimulating more than a year in, as well as the freedom that my lifestyle now affords me. The technical interview was a breeze—it felt just like the projects I’d completed every day while at Alchemy.”
Like most graduates from her Alchemy alumni community, Dannie is now rocking her boat in the stream of her tech career dreams. She is a great example that the best time to learn something new is always now.
She said, “I graduated from Alchemy in June of 2020 and was hired as a software engineer at my current company, Driveway (part of Lithia Motors), shortly after that.”
Having a good career system in place can be a haven for students fighting eagerly to prove themselves and find their place in tech. All three alumni had both the backing of Alchemy’s career services and the will to strive and wax stronger.