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Technical.ly’s Editorial Calendar explores a different topic each month. The May 2017 topic is Learn to Code. These stories explore ways to dive into web development and software programming in each of our five markets.
After nearly eight years working at an Apple Genius Bar and pursuing creative writing, Kyla Massey decided to switch things up and learn to code. The promise of a good-paying developer job beckoned. Having gone through an immersive, three-month bootcamp at General Assembly, there are some things that Massey learned.
One of those is that getting a job after graduation is not a lock.
“For three months they cram so much in your mind, I don’t feel totally confident of doing a full-time job yet, so I’m looking for like a three-month summer internship before I look for a full-time web dev position,” Massey explained in an interview.
Massey attended the program on a full scholarship through Per Scholas, a nonprofit organization which helps low-income New Yorkers learn to code. Still, she had to live in New York for three months with no income. Not an easy task.
“I literally blew through my entire savings,” Massey explained. Did that freak her out? “Absolutely. That’s the most high-stress aspect of it besides trying to learn. It’s a huge investment and it’s a huge risk. And there’s not a guaranteed return on it, you have to hustle. If you don’t have the funds or the support to live through the program, it might not make sense.”
Massey came to New York about 15 years ago, when she left small-town southwestern Michigan and matriculated at Sarah Lawrence College, in Westchester. She studied filmmaking and creative writing. After school, she took a part-time job teaching writing to kids, as well as teaching some writing classes upstate to inmates at Westchester County Jail, in Valhalla. Later, she took a job at Apple, while continuing writing and projects on the side.
“Before [GA] I would have still been in tech, but it would have been more IT-related,” Massey explained. “Server maintenance, hardware maintenance, and that’s still good money, it’s not as much as you’d be able to get doing web development.”
Per Scholas, the organization which aided Massey with tuition, has grown recently. Originally a small, Bronx-based organization which collected used computer equipment and taught classes, it’s boomed into a nonprofit with locations in cities all over the country, including a new space in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“Our large scale goal is to open doors to tech careers for individuals who are super talented but don’t otherwise have access to the education necessary for these careers,” explained Per Scholas’s managing director, Kelly Richardson, in an interview last year. “We hope to make a significant impact in the demographics of the companies in these industries.”
But it isn’t so easy, Massey says. A bootcamp education can help get someone in the door, but it still doesn’t stack up to a four-year college education.
“I think there is a lot of people who saw this as a be-all for coming out of underemployment or unemployment,” she said. “If you think you’re gonna go through it and at the end someones gonna hand you something thats vastly inaccurate. It’s like, you came through a bootcamp and did this for three months and you don’t have the skills of someone coming through a four-year program and thats real. That’s really real.”
Still, it opens up opportunities. Despite her reservations and qualifications, Massey feels it’s a good investment.
“I would recommend it,” she said. “I would also recommend really emphasizing that it’s going to be a really difficult transition but it’s going to be worth it.”