After being an Israeli army officer and training to be a pilot, Gal Granov woke up one morning with the need for a change. After a careful consideration, he ultimately decided to become a programmer. Even though it was intimidating to start a career from scratch, his passion for building things and his willingness to do something meaningful led him to Coding Bootcamp Praha. Almost a year after graduating from Winter Batch 2021, we met with Gal to discuss his progress, his job, and how a coding bootcamp helped him achieve his goals.
Can you tell us about your life before the bootcamp?
My name is Gal Granov. I'm 28 and I'm originally from Israel. I was in the Israeli army for almost six years, where I was an officer and had 140 soldiers under me, as a company commander. Then one day, I decided that I wasn't happy. So I came to the Czech Republic to study commercial aviation to be an airline pilot, then COVID happened. And I realised I should find a different profession. And I decided to study programming.
Why did you decide to become a web developer and to do a coding bootcamp?
I decided to become a web developer because I like to think about how things are built. When I was a kid, I loved playing with Lego, building things, and taking them apart. And I feel that today, the best way to do that is through programming. Today, most things that are built are digital, and even a car needs to be programmed. So in the end, programming is the Lego of today :-)
I went for a bootcamp because of three things: The first thing was the structure. As an ex-army person, I really thrive in structure. Waking up every morning, and as my bootcamp was online, logging in at nine, having all the lessons with the instructors and all the support that I need. The second thing was knowledge sharing, both between me and my fellow students at the bootcamp, and with the mentors as well. People around you can help you understand in a much better way than when you study by yourself. And the third reason is that when you try to learn online by yourself, you don't really know what's relevant or not. But when you do a bootcamp, they take all the really relevant things and just cram it into one block, which helps you weed out the millions of videos and courses that are available online.
How did you prepare for the bootcamp? Was it important?
Is there something you wish someone had told you before the bootcamp?
I think that, as a developer, the biggest thing you need to know is how to use Google and how to ask questions. So I wish I asked more questions in the bootcamp. I was embarrassed sometimes because sometimes you feel like “oh, I am the only one not getting this. How am I the only one that doesn't understand this?” So my advice to everyone is to ask questions before the bootcamp, during the bootcamp, and after the bootcamp, when you work.
It's never too late to learn something or to ask something, and people will be happy when you ask.
But remember, when you ask a question, write down the answer. Remember the answer, don't ask the same question twice, because that will differentiate between someone who understands and can evolve from someone who just asks questions to satisfy their current need.
Were you aware of the intensity of the program before joining it?
To be honest, I was not aware that it was going to be so intensive, because, spoiler alert, the studying doesn't stop at five! For me, bootcamp ended at five, I took a short break, went for a walk, and then continued studying. Because I didn't want to finish the bootcamp and be just content with what I learned. I wanted to actually understand. So it was pretty intense. I was learning on many weekends as well, even though I don't like to study on weekends :-)
How did you motivate yourself to study during the bootcamp?
I kept myself motivated by thinking about my end goal. And my end goal was to become a developer. I decided to be a frontend developer, even though I followed a full-stack course, because I feel more connected to it, I see how it affects people. Backend is more about data. I am not saying that it's not important, but with frontend, you actually can see the change, which made me decide, and that kept me motivated to learn more, so I can be able to get a job in something that will make me happy, that will satisfy my needs, both financially and personally. And given the fact that our bootcamp was online because of Covid-19 measures, it was more challenging because you talk to people but you don't really know them. Some people I met only after the bootcamp during the 5th-anniversary party of Coding Bootcamp Praha.
It’s your job to keep you motivated when you're stuck on a problem, you need to know how to self-motivate yourself.
What was the biggest challenge when you were studying here and how did you overcome it?
What have you enjoyed the most?
I think the hackathons, because it was really the summary of two weeks, and it makes you feel good. Even though what you made is not perfect or doesn't work exactly as intended. Sometimes it breaks during your demonstration, but you still have something in your hands and it feels good. I also liked the teamwork during the hackathons.
Can you tell me more about teamwork?
I'm lucky to have found a buddy in the course, his name is Oliver. And actually, we're flatmates now. So you can find some of your best friends there! Regarding teamwork, the best part of it is when you communicate freely. It can be frustrating if you don't communicate because you don't know what the other person is doing. And if you don't communicate, then your code might not work, or you will both work on the same thing. So communication is the basis for all teamwork. And I know maybe sometimes it can feel bad when one person is taking control or giving the tone. But in the end, it must be done. Because you can't have everyone running around like chickens without heads, you have to set some sort of order. And it's fine, it doesn't mean that one person is the boss. It’s just that one person might be better at delegating tasks and seeing the project structure more clearly.
What was your approach to the bootcamp?
I think that the bootcamp gives a really good structure for you to become the best version of yourself. They give you all the curriculum you need and the mentorship that you need. Also, we had support to find a job such as talks with Andrew from Techloop, for example, or Jan helping us with CV, or Jana and Jan, when they simulate for us a mock interview for a job. So you get all the support you need. But in the end, you need to put in the work. Because if you don't study, no one will study for you. If you don't make your CV, no one will make the CV for you. If you don't participate, ask questions and try to learn, then it's all pointless because you will not get anything out of the bootcamp. The bootcamp is there as a base for you to grow upon and to build upon. They will support you, they will give you all the tools that they can. But in the end, it's up to you. Getting a job, for example, it's not the responsibility of the bootcamp. You don't go to the bootcamp and think, okay, I'm paying them this amount of money, and they're going to hand me a job on a silver platter. No, they're giving you all the tools that you need to be able to get a job but still, you're the one that will need to send the CVs, you're the one that will need to interview. Jan Polák - the lead instructor - will not come and do the interview for you :-) You will be the one that will stand in front of your potential managers. And you'll need to prove that you're worth the potential that they see in you.
Was it hard to find a job? How many job offers did you apply to?
Getting a job was difficult. I applied for 63 jobs. I sent 63 CVs and cover letters. By the way, I recommend making a cover letter. It will impress your future employers, trust me. So I applied for 63 jobs. Three people contacted me back. I finished the bootcamp at the end of March, I got an offer I liked already at the beginning of May, and I started in mid-June because I was abroad on vacation. So I could have started a job about a month and a half after the bootcamp ended. But it was not an easy process.
Once the bootcamp ends, you have to give yourself the same structure: waking up in the morning, looking for work, sending CVs, honing your skills. Because the learning doesn't end when you finish the bootcamp, it only just begins.
You have the potential to be employed, you have the potential to be a developer, but you don't have all the skills yet. And recruiters will be looking to see if you can also thrive outside the bootcamp and what is your structure when you're left on your own.
How did rejection help you improve? It can be discouraging to be rejected or to not receive any answer. How do you deal with that?
Rejection is unfortunately a part of a job search. I actually got more non-responses, which may hurt more. But in some way, you're thinking “I applied, you could have just sent me an email saying that it doesn't work.” How to keep motivated with rejection? It's on you. It doesn't matter. Send 10 CVs, 100 CVs, 1000 CVs, you need a job, and no one's going to do it for you. And even if you get rejected, it doesn't matter. Maybe it wasn't the place for you! But you will find the place that will suit you in the end. So don't get discouraged.
How did you prepare yourself for interviews with potential employers?
I can give two examples. In one company, they gave me a case study right away. They didn't even interview me. I sent the CV, they got back to me and said here's a case study, do it. And they didn't even get back to me after that case study. So that was a bit harsh, because I spent a day and a half on it, in the timeframe they gave me. And that hurts to not even get an answer back.
At my current company, Mews, the interview process was really friendly. I got to them through a recruitment agency. My first interview was with a recruiter, she was very nice, very upbeat. It was a positive experience. She read my cover letter, she saw my CV. She told me “You know what, I think I have the perfect company for you. They just started a hiring gauge of juniors, even though usually juniors don't get hired by recruiters. But I'll send them your information. In the meanwhile, here's their GitHub, which has a lot of information. This is their website as well, with blog posts and more information about them. Do study about them, and they'll get back to you.” So I just opened those links, you know, just because I was curious, how could it be that a company is so right for me. And the moment I started reading all their material, it was like a cork was released in my head. I knew that it was a company I wanted to work for. And I know it sounds a bit like a fanboy, but I was happy for the experience, even if I wouldn't get hired because I knew that what I read on their website would help me in the future no matter what.
How did the bootcamp help you be ready for the real world?
I think the bootcamp did a very good job at preparing me. Coding-wise, it prepared me with the base. I wouldn't say that I was a great programmer when I left the bootcamp, because I was just learning it for three months. You can't be professional after three months. But it gave me three really good things.
One is a base of the languages that I can build upon. I knew how to programme and how I could improve. And that's really important because, before the bootcamp, I didn't know anything. The second thing was the talks about finding a job and how to write your CV, what are the expectations. And the third thing was the mock interview, which really helped, because before, I had never interviewed for a tech job. And that really helped me.
What lessons did you learn as a junior for 5 months?
Becoming a junior again was a very difficult thing for me. I had to let go of my ego, because from being a manager and being in charge of 140 soldiers and then being trained to be an airline pilot, which puts you in charge of hundreds of lives, you are suddenly becoming the lowest person on the totem pole. It was hard, my ego was sky-high, literally, as the size of the Empire State Building. And suddenly to start a job where I'm the lowest person on the totem pole, meaning that basically, I knew almost nothing, I needed to ask all the time, it was a mindset change. But luckily for me, I could do it. And I advise everyone, when you're looking for a job, don't let your ego lead you. Because it will not get you anywhere. It doesn't matter how long you've been working somewhere, it doesn't matter what you know. Let your logic and your personality lead you, not your ego, don't go into a job saying “I want this and this and this”, because maybe they have something better for you. You don't need to pump up your chest and go forward. Listen, adapt, ask questions, and that will be the best for you.
Regarding five months at the job, it's been an amazing experience. The best part of being a junior is that you are expected to learn and you are expected to improve, but you're not expected to know everything. When you have a good team and good managers, they will support you. And they will be happy not with the code you write, but with the improvement in the code you write. They will be happy to see that you can contribute more and that you can give more of yourself every day. And that's what makes me the happiest about my job. I'm not the most knowledgeable person on the team by far, but my opinion is valid as much as any others.
Could I ask you to tell us more about your job?
I work as a front-end developer for Mews, a tech company in the hospitality industry, which means we create technology for hotels. The company has various products and open API products for Hotel Management and for the customers of the hotels. I'm on the B2C team, which means I work with the clients of our clients, i.e. the guests of the hotel. One of the two products I currently work on is a booking engine. When you go online to a hotel's website, and you want to book a room, that's a booking engine. And on that, my job is mainly to update it with new functionalities and improve the design as well.
The second product that I work on is a guest portal, which is basically online check-in/ check-out and reservation management, which is very interesting because I feel that it changes a person's feeling of a vacation. If you need to stand in line for 15, 20 minutes to check-in, your vacation or your business trip will suffer because of that, you just want to get to your room, you don't want to stand in line to get a key. So why not save all that and do that before?
My team is growing rapidly. We have our main team lead. We currently have four front-end developers, two back-end developers, a data analyst, three product managers, one mobile developer, and one QA. And I think that's it, sorry guys if I forgot someone!
Usually, I start my day by reading for about half an hour, because I believe that you should learn and you should always expand your horizons. It doesn't matter what I read, it can be fiction, nonfiction, just to start the day in the right mode. We have a team stand-up at 9:30, where everyone talks about what they did the previous day, what they're planning to do, if they have any problems, it is just a way for our team to connect to each other. Then I usually do not have a lot of meetings, because my job is to programme more than making decisions. But sometimes we have meetings, for example, we have to work on sprints, in two-week sprints. So we also do planning before each sprint, we do planning after each sprint, we do a retrospective. So it keeps life dynamic, which is interesting.
What would you say to future students and fresh graduates?
The hardest part is to make the change. To move from something old to something new is the hardest decision you'll ever make. It's getting out of your comfort zone. So I'm happy that you did that. And remember that you should always learn, you should find the place that is the most comfortable for you. The salary is not the main draw of your job. You should be happy to go to work. If you ask me, I wake up every morning with a smile. And that's worth more than a lot of money to me, because I'm happy, and happiness has no price. Sure, I would probably be happier with a Ferrari in my garage, but I'm also happy where I am now and with what I do. Keep learning, keep asking questions. Be curious, be proactive. And enjoy life because we are here for a limited time. So why not make the most of it?