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Let's Change street sign

After several years in retail and food service, working my way to becoming the general manager of a cafe, I thought about what the future of my career would be. In a bit of a whirlwind, instead of taking the next step in the hierarchy of my company at the time, I began researching, applying, and eventually accepted giving up 6 months of my precious after-work free time to learn how to code. That’s right, I decided to take a coding boot camp to try and completely change my career.

Coding boot camps have skyrocketed in popularity since they first came onto the scene around 2012-2013. The first courses of this kind had under 2,000 attendees throughout the year, and now a decade later, that number has jumped to over 44,000 who attended or graduated from a boot camp in 2020. More than 530 universities worldwide have partnered with a boot camp for in-person courses on their campus or virtual ones that you can take even if you’re not local.

Working at a computer

I signed up for a boot camp that partnered with a local university but was entirely online, so I got to meet and work with fellow cohorts from all over the state and some across the country. After striving to get A’s on all my projects, building up my portfolio, and updating LinkedIn by adding my new skills and the boot camp’s official certification badge, I started my job search.

I thought I was mentally prepared, as several people I talked with said that landing the first web developer job is the hardest. So I was confident I’d eventually be able to get my foot in the door, even if it might take a while. However, I soon felt like an imposter seeing the requirements for entry-level job postings. I began to wonder how to gain the necessary experience for a job that should be specifically for those with minimal work experience.

Enter The Kestrel Co. web development apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are typically full-time paid training programs where you gain development knowledge while on the job. It’s a great way to get real-world experience while working with developers day-to-day.

Apprenticeships, like boot camps, are becoming more popular in the U.S. Already a staple of the European job market, U.S. employers are seeing the benefit of building and growing their own talent rather than searching for it.

Working together

It’s intimidating to change careers and learn a whole new skill set, however, I believe it’s possible to offer transferable expertise from other industries and become a competitive candidate. Employee backgrounds are just as diverse as their education routes, and I think the positions companies offer should reflect that. Apprenticeships can help any company develop highly trained employees that learn the specific and customized skills they need most.

Two weeks into my apprenticeship at The Kestrel Co., I’ve been able to see how a WordPress website can be created from the starting design to the final call walking clients through operating the admin page to the continued site maintenance like scheduling plugin updates or troubleshooting bugs. I can even pull up a website and point to a page where code I wrote is now live!

The other developers were told to think of the one or so things they were rock stars at, the niche thing they did the best, and to make sure I saw them do that thing. Seeing the full scope of how the skills and tools my boot camp instructor taught me could actually be applied in a business environment with a team of developers and their partners, has been my biggest takeaway so far.

Even more so, being embraced and cheered on by my new colleagues has been a huge confidence booster. Projects I’ll be working on for the company still seem daunting, but knowing they want me there to try, to learn, to make mistakes, and to try again helps ease my anxiety. Leaving the classroom and going out into the real world feels like raising the stakes, but I don’t believe there is a better education that I can get. And I can’t wait to find the new thing I’m going to be a rock star at during my time in this program!