I discovered a passion for programming about four or five months after I got my bachelor's degree from Georgia State University in Atlanta. I had studied to be a registered nurse, but in the end that profession wasn't for me. Honestly, it never was the profession for me, and pushing through it anyway left me burnt out and feeling like a failure by the time I'd finished. When I discovered programming, it was like, “Where has this been all my life?” It was fun, but definitely challenging, and it more than satisfied my desire to build something that I could call my own. However, I had no idea how to get into programming professionally. I spent a little more than a year trying to teach myself to code, worked an awful, boring, mind-numbing part-time job for 9 months, and finally just quit that and took a break for about 5 months. I got the rest I needed, and then I was ready to move on. I had had the idea of attending a coding bootcamp in the back of my mind for a while, and teaching myself wasn't getting the results I needed, so I knew I needed some sort of program to get me going.
And here's where TTS comes into the picture. I started doing some research, found some coding bootcamps in Atlanta, where I was already living, and discovered that Tech Talent South had a session starting in just a few weeks. I figured I would at least check it out. After all, even their full-time program was way cheaper than most coding bootcamps! I'll admit, I was a bit concerned at first by the fact that the program wasn't 40 hours in the classroom (which so many are), but those fears were quickly dispelled by talking to some of the awesome staff people at TTS (and now that I'm in it, I can tell you 100% that less time in the classroom in no way affects the quality of what you learn). I got my interview and then shortly after set up a tour of the ATL location with Mandy, our community organizer. A better representative for TTS Atlanta could not be found. After seeing the space and talking to Mandy, I didn't feel like I needed to check out any of the other coding bootcamps in Atlanta, and four weeks in I'm pretty sure I was right.
Well, I suppose you're wondering what it was like after I started the program, right? Given the experience I already had in coding (somewhere between 50 and 100 hours in Python over the past year), the first two weeks the material we covered was pretty familiar to me, so it was nothing but excitement. (Which was probably a good thing, since I had to start getting used to waking up every day at 5 AM for the first time in...well, ever.) I enjoyed the diversity of our group, I got to code every day with relative ease, and all of my classmates seemed to be pretty awesome folks (shout-out to all of y'all!) But it didn't stay that way. Somewhere in Week 3, it got fucking hard. And the realization came that the program was flying by, and my personal savings weren't going to last forever. So I also had to get out of my comfort zone and start schmoozing. Which unfortunately was a new experience for me. Luckily, though, I had a lot of support in some of the people at TTS (especially Mandy ;), so I'm still working on it, but it gets easier every time. (Oh yeah, and events with free beer helps a little.)
So, it's still hard, but there's so much of a collaborative spirit in TTS that it's really hard to stay discouraged for long. I know this is the profession for me because no matter how hard it's gotten, I never stop wanting to learn new things. And the more we learn, the closer we get to actually being able to build a full-fledged web app/website. That's pretty freaking cool. I feel so lucky to be able to realize a big dream of mine at this point in my life.
What advice can I give you if you're considering attending Tech Talent South? Well, the short answer is just do it. At least talk to Mandy, because if you're on the edge and you haven't talked to her, doing that might just push you over the edge. If you feel like coding is your calling, but you're not sure how to do it, I guarantee you won't regret coming to TTS. The awesome thing is that there's a plan for you no matter your finances or how crazy your schedule is. I can't not recommend the full-time program simply because of how much time you get to spend coding, and coding around others that are struggling through the same problems, but if part-time is all you can manage, then I think the only thing that matters is that you want it enough to work hard and learn the material. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Can I say that again? Don't be afraid to ask for help. I say this as someone who has long struggled with that, and someone who always “got it” without any help in his formal education. But if I had entered this program with that mentality, I guarantee I would have crashed and burned and thrown a couple (*cough* or more than a couple *cough*) grand down the drain. This stuff isn't natural, so if you just don't “get it” immediately, congrats, you're in the same boat as 99% of everyone else. Last piece of advice, go to as many networking events as you can handle. I hated networking when I started this program, but I've forced myself to get out there a little. Now, I can only handle going to two events a week, tops. Maybe one is your limit. That's fine. Just do as much as you're able (unless it's none, that's not okay). (And if you need someone to push you to go to events, talk to Mandy. I speak from experience ;)
I still remember the end of my first conversation with Mandy, which was also my first point-of-contact with Tech Talent South at all. She asked me, “So is there anything else I need to tell you to convince you that this will be the coolest thing you do in 2016?” And I wasn't 100% sure at that point in time, but the answer quickly became “no.” And yet, as sad as I am that I'm already halfway through the program, I'm maybe even more excited about all the doors that TTS is going to open.
To top it all off, TTS could not be in a better location. Our classes take place in Strongbox West, which is a basic but incredibly awesome coworking space in west Atlanta. While I wrote this blog, I was listening to an indie-rock artist by the name of Janie Chu, who now works as a life coach so she can be more present as a wife and mother. And oh yeah, she works at Strongbox West, which is the only reason I heard of her in the first place. There's also a company at Strongbox whose primary goal is to find clothes that fit their customers really well (Fittery, check 'em out). Another business offers their clients web design as well as search-engine optimization. (Like, we're talking first page of Google, optimized.) That's just to name a few. Strongbox is characterized by a sense of collaboration, innovation, and just general bad-assery. And what better place to have a coding bootcamp?
Shameless Plug: Janie Chu's music is awesome, and you should check it out. You can listen to her songs on her website before you purchase.