My midlife career change: How I found the time to finally pursue coding - Technical.ly DC

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Feb. 18, 2020 10:08 am

My midlife career change: How I found the time to finally pursue coding

Veronica Dalton-Robles is a graduate of Coding Dojo Arlington and works as a front end software developer for a local government contractor. Here's how she got here.
Coding.

Coding.

(Photo by Flickr user WOCinTech Chat, used under a Creative Commons license)

This is a guest post by Victoria Dalton-Robles, a graduate of Coding Dojo Arlington.

For the last 18 years, I’ve been working in the IT field — both on the civilian and military sides. In my various roles, I was always required to research and learn new technologies and tools. I was interested in adding computer programing languages to my skill set, but never could find the time between the almost endless stream of support tickets, troubleshooting issues, etc.

In 2019, I was stationed in Ohio as a systems admin for the Ohio Army National Guard. Then my wife, who is also in the military, was put on orders to report for duty with the D.C. Army National Guard. With our move back to the DMV, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to finally pursue coding. I didn’t have the time to go back to school formally, plus I already had an associate and bachelor’s degree, so I wasn’t looking to earn yet another.

Learning multiple programming stacks was a priority to broaden my skills and give myself the opportunity to search for different types of positions. Throughout my years researching technologies on YouTube, I kept seeing Coding Dojo ads pop up. I was excited when I saw them, but always had to push the idea to the back of my head and wait for the right opportunity. With the move and full support of my wife, the timing was finally right.

I was excited when my wife and I made the decision for me to enroll at the Coding Dojo Arlington campus. While there wasn’t much doubt or anxiety holding me back from enrolling, I will admit I got really nervous the night before class started. Even with my thorough research, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to master what they were going to teach me.

The big day finally came and I began class. Over the first two weeks we learned web fundamentals like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, JQuery, Bootstrap, and so forth. I enjoyed doing the assignments because it confirmed that I was in the right place and I was proud of the things I was able to build so quickly.

There was no way I could learn every single detail in such a short amount of time, but I learned how to effectively research and fill in the gaps.

Things weren’t always so easy. Even though we did algorithm practice every morning from 9 to 10 a.m., I continued to struggle with them. To this day I still try to build my algorithm skills by doing one every morning.

Throughout my experience, I made some great friends. By the end of the bootcamp, my cohort mates started calling me “mom” because I was the disciplinarian. I always tried to get people back on track or focused on the assignment, and if someone was stuck I’d try to help them out. Another student was “dad” and he was the classic laid-back parent. We were the oldest in the group, both over 40 years old, while everyone else was in their early 20s.

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After graduating, I was confident in my skills but nervous about finding a job. I knew I needed to find one right away since I’d been without work for more than three months, and my financial situation was getting harder. I was more nervous job hunting than I was enrolling in bootcamp itself. I uploaded my resume on LinkedIn, CareerBuilder and Indeed. I was skeptical that I would be able to land a good developer job after only three months of coding education. So, I hedged my bets and applied for both coding and helpdesk-like jobs.

As it turns out, my nervousness was unnecessary and my job hunt went smoothly … and surprisingly quickly.

I graduated on Dec. 20, 2019. By the 23rd, I started applying for positions. On the 24th, I missed a call from a recruiter about a front-end developer position. I called back and left a voicemail due to the holiday and tried again on Jan. 2, 2020. We arranged for an onsite interview on the 8th and I started my new career as a front end software developer for a major government contractor on Jan. 21, only a month after graduating.

What’s more shocking is I landed a position that required seven years of experience. The person who interviewed me was impressed that I’d learned three full stacks in just 14 weeks. I also explained that my education prepared me to embrace the unknown. There was no way I could learn every single detail in such a short amount of time, but I learned how to effectively research and fill in the gaps. The real-world experience of working with a team was definitely a plus, too.

My advice to others who are interested in learning how to code is … just do it! The bootcamp gave me confidence and motivation. I went into my first interview with that same confidence, regardless of my limited experience. I knew I had the tools needed to succeed.

It’s exciting to learn to code and can change your life like it did mine. It’s going to be hard, but you can do it if you give it your all. Never give up!

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