From Paralegal to Programmer: How I changed my career and life in one yearFeatured

Before I start this, I cannot forget to thank all my friends, family and teachers who helped me throughout this journey. I truly could not have achieved my goal without their support.After college, I began my career in law as a paralegal in white collar crime. After two years in the industry, I knew I was not passionate enough about law to attend law school and there was no career trajectory in law as a paralegal. So I began to think about new career paths. I knew I wanted something more creative with a shorter feedback loop. One day, while bored at work, I stumbled across a tutorial on Codecademy. And thus, my love for coding began. As I worked through tutorials, I started to visualize myself coding as a career. I quickly figured out that in order to change my career, I needed to go back to school. The most time and financially effective solution was to attend a coding bootcamp. I applied to the Flatiron School in May 2019 and spent my summer saving money and preparing myself for the whirlwind that is a coding bootcamp. I began bootcamp and a part time job in August 2019 and didn’t look back. Bootcamp was one of the most challenging, rewarding, and fun experiences of my life (and I was a D1 collegiate athlete).One of the biggest fears that plagues bootcamp students is whether or not you will get a job after bootcamp. This was especially true for me. I had a part time job and six months worth of rent money to my name. I had a tight timeline to complete bootcamp and find a job. I quickly started to make lists of companies that I wanted to work for and which skills I would have to develop in order to get offers from those companies. During my final section of bootcamp, I was asked to interview for a role as a Software Engineering Coach (essentially a TA) at my bootcamp. I enthusiastically interviewed. My TA’s were one of the best parts of my bootcamp experience and I wanted the chance to give back to the school that gave me so much. I took the role of Software Engineering Coach at Flatiron School’s Brooklyn campus that was aimed at lower income students. For me, this meant everything. It offered me the opportunity to not only give back to the coding community, but change the demographic makeup of the community as a whole. Because this campus was geared toward lower income students, there was much more diversity beyond the very white and very male tech world. I had the privilege of teaching single moms, ESL students, and immigrants - all of whom were changing their careers in order to change their lives and the lives of their families. These students inspired me and kept me on the path of perpetual learning. After six months in my role as a Software Engineering Coach, I was given an opportunity to apply for a role at Simulmedia Inc. I was so nervous. This was my first real interview as a programmer. I had four days to prepare and I was frantic. But I pulled it off. One week later I was offered a Software Engineering role. Exactly one year after I decided to change my career, I had received and accepted my first full-time programming job offer. There are still so many more things for me to learn and I can’t wait to see what I do in my next year in the tech world, but it just goes to show you that the traditional path of education is not always the right path. If you work hard and apply yourself, you can achieve your career dreams.Bio: I am a full stack software engineer looking to leave the tech world better and more inclusive than I found it.
quinneyeQ's profile thumbnail
“I had the privilege of teaching single moms, ESL students, and immigrants - all of whom were changing their careers in order to change their lives and the lives of their families.” — Being paid to learn AND impact other people’s lives is probably one of the rarest and amazing opportunities out there. Thank you so much for sharing your story, and good luck in your new position. 💗
whitneycaneel's profile thumbnail
Thanks so much for sharing your story!What was your experience with Codeacademy like?
mschlaefer's profile thumbnail
Codeacademy was great for the basics. I code move at my own pace and it was very informative. The only problem was that it was just basics. I knew I needed a bootcamp to really push and help me learn the more complex topics.
amazzocchi's profile thumbnail
Hi Mariel! I'd love to hear more about why you picked Flatiron? Your story is so great and really proves that bootcamps can propel careers.
mschlaefer's profile thumbnail
So, I did A LOT of research when deciding which coding school to attend. Luckily, living in NYC provided me with several options for bootcamps. My initial data points were languages and price. Flatiron teaches two languages and two frameworks for those languages. The other schools I looked at only taught one language, but with several frameworks. Through my research, it struck me that I could be more successful learning two different languages rather than just one. That conclusion served me well in my job search. Price was a big factor for me, and at the time Flatiron was more cost effective than my other options. The overall tuition was less than the other bootcamps, and I also received a couple scholarships that applied for both through the school and through third parties. The part of pricing was the payment schedule. Flatiron's payback schedule made the most sense to me because I could pay the initial fee (I think it was around $3000) and then take out a loan for the rest of the cost and pay it off at a set interest rate regardless of my future salary. I found this far more appealing than the salary-sharing plans that several bootcamps (including Flatiron) now have. If I had chosen that payment strategy and had to pay a portion of my current salary as deferred tuition, I would've paid far more for my education than through a standard loan. So, that is a BIG thing to consider. It just depends on your personal financial situation.The last two data points I looked at were the school's reputation and culture. At the time, Flatiron was the only bootcamp that had an audited and confirmed jobs report. They were rated as one of the top bootcamps in the nation, and they had name recognition. These factors were very important because it proved they had an established history of success with their students and in the industry. Flatiron also prides itself on the culture they create for their students, and it showed in the interview and throughout my time there. I was promised a safe, fun and supportive/collaborative environment for learning and that is what I got. I am a year out of my bootcamp, and I am still close friends with my classmates. I hope this answered your question!
amazzocchi's profile thumbnail
Thanks so much for responding with such a thoughtful answer, with so many bootcamps it's hard to navigate which can make the most sense. I agree the % of paycheck can end up being quite a bit and it's great that you were able to avoid that.
nayabcontractor's profile thumbnail
This is so inspiring! Thanks for sharing your story. I'm teaching myself how to code as well.
mschlaefer's profile thumbnail
You'll never stop "teaching yourself how to code" lol. Coding is a never ending process of learning new things. Good luck!
nayabcontractor's profile thumbnail
Thank you!