Diogo was working as a researcher and following a PhD in social sciences in the Netherlands. He thought our Winter Batch 2020 was the perfect opportunity to switch careers to something he had always been interested in: programming. Whether as a hobby or in his professional life, he was playing with website templates, but he wanted to learn more in the professional but cozy environment that is Coding Bootcamp Praha.
What did you do before the bootcamp?
Before joining the bootcamp I spent eight years in academia, working as a researcher in several research projects in the area of social sciences. I keep telling myself I will still finish my PhD.
Why did you decide to learn programming?
Doing your PhD, especially one that works remotely and almost totally by yourself, is not really for everyone. I feel the need to get something done every day. And, unless you absolutely love what you do, that is something that almost never works if all your goals are long term and your deadlines are months or years in the future - you can always relax today and start tomorrow, right? I have always been interested in computers and technology since I was a kid, but I failed to get into an IT course in university. During college I got a special affinity to statistics and playing around with data, which helped me land my first research jobs, and I knew I eventually wanted to go that direction. I tried learning Python for data science, but never had the discipline and the time to be an autodidact. That’s why I decided to get a proper immersive experience in a bootcamp where I would do absolutely nothing else for three months of my life, in a city with great quality of life where I did not know anyone and would not have a lot of distractions.
How was your experience in the bootcamp?
After so many years of working from home and waking up whenever I felt like, I thought I was not prepared for going back to the classroom as a student, but I got completely addicted to it. I would regularly stay in the bootcamp from 9 to 19, sometimes later. Not that it is required, but the alumni reviews are right: the more effort you put into it, the more you will be able to get from the bootcamp. There were always more exercises to do, and I guess I finished some 95% of those. But don’t do that on Fridays - that’s the time when you should absolutely go for dinner and a few pints with your classmates, who should become your friends. If no one else does, take the initiative yourself!
You can make friends for life, from your classmates to the staff.
The teachers and the mentors were quite approachable, and the list of resources they’ll give you during the bootcamp is priceless - I’m sure you’ll be checking for years some of the websites you first saw in your first couple of weeks there. Unfortunately, due to a country-wide lockdown, the last third of my batch was done exclusively online and we didn’t get to get together in person for our final project. But doing it remotely was extremely rewarding - nothing prepares you for working as a developer in a post-covid world than having to build a website from scratch in two weeks via Zoom calls.
Diogo during one of the teamworks
How was your experience finding a job?
I found a job as a developer the month after finishing the bootcamp during a strict lockdown. However, many of the companies I applied to have not replied to my application, so it is difficult to say whether the process was easy or difficult. I’m not sure if I was lucky or not.
In theory, I feel I could have gotten a job without a single application or I could still be unemployed while frantically applying for positions.
Luck totally needs to be chased, though.
Can you describe how the process looked like? How long did it take, how many interviews, did you have a case study?
I got approached on LinkedIn. I thought the project was interesting, so I submitted my resumé and had a phone call with the recruiter. We had a great talk, which made me even more excited for the project. Then, the next week, a quick culture-fit call with the person I currently report to. And, finally, a video call with my soon-to-be-managers, more on the technical side. Then, I had a really interesting assignment to do. It was a relatively simple set of tasks, but with a catch: I had to use technologies I wasn’t familiar with, and I had three days to complete it. I think the last time I got so obsessed with something was when I bought Final Fantasy VII back in 1998. I immediately started reading and watching tutorials on some Python framework I didn’t even know existed, and got it done in a bit over a day. The Internet is an incredible thing, and so is your brain. (And your developer friends, if you have any - read the bit about my experience in the bootcamp again.) I made extra sure it was documented properly and turned it in. I then had an in-person meeting with my manager to talk further about expectations and the job and I was hired.
Apart from not being able to go to the office, it’s just what I wanted - a mix of small tasks and bigger projects. It never gets boring.
Can you tell us more about your current job?
Forget your preferences for front or back end programming, you’ll probably do both and realise the barrier between the two is quite frail. Although I’m not the only tech-savvy person in the team, I’m the only one working as a programmer, which means you’ll probably take longer to get something done. But as you probably already know if you’re trying to self-study, banging your head against the wall is the best (and sometimes the only) way to learn.
Do you have any tips for job hunting?
I know the thought of being on the phone with a stranger can be scary for some people - it certainly is for me - but please, just suggest the earliest time you can do that phone/video call, and take it. Also, do not limit yourself to applying for jobs, which exactly match your skill set. For example, if you know PHP, you can certainly do Python if you’re curious enough (and have time for a few videos).
First impressions count. Also, don’t limit yourself to job offers that completely match your skill set in terms of programming languages.
What are your top pieces of advice for anyone learning programming?
If you’re taking a bootcamp: some days you will feel like everything’s really easy, some days you will think everyone is getting it except for you and you wonder what’s wrong with you. Nothing’s wrong with you, sometimes the others might be either too shy or too proud to admit they need more help. It’s important to keep in mind that learning programming is not a race, just keep practising and you’ll be fine.
Just keep practicing, read some extra theory on the thing you’re struggling with, and you’ll be fine. It’s not a race.