“I have a whole new life now,” says Andrew Snelling from England. An English teacher before coming to Coding Bootcamp Praha during the Winter 2021 batch, Andrew felt the need for a major change during the second year of the pandemic. This gave him the final push to pursue his personal interest in programming. Andrew now works as a web developer at Pipedrive, a cloud-based software as a service company. Why did he choose programming and how does he feel about this life-altering career change? We interviewed Andrew to find out.


Why did you decide to do a coding bootcamp? Did you have any prior experience coding?

No, not really. I started coding a month or two before I started the bootcamp. And why? Because it was time for a change. I had been teaching for a long time. There was a pandemic and some changes in my family, so it was time for a new career. I’d always been interested in technology, but never really involved in it. So it kind of gave me a way to combine my interests with professional pursuits.


How did you prepare for the bootcamp?

I mostly did the pre-bootcamp studies. I wish I had done more. It’s a good start, definitely. But it was still a shock to get into it and get really deep into it, especially in something like JavaScript and PHP. But I mainly did the bootcamp stuff, some extra activities in freecodecamp, and a couple of other resources. The pre-bootcamp studies are a good start, but if you want to be really prepared, the more the better. 


Did the bootcamp live up to your expectations? Did it change your life like you expected it to?

Yes, definitely. I have a whole new career, a whole new lifestyle, as much as we can have a lifestyle in these days and age. But work is a lot more flexible, and working from home is a lot easier, even when you don’t have to. So I definitely think it’s lived up to my expectations and had a positive impact on me.


What was the biggest challenge for you at bootcamp and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was, I think, going through a lesson, for example, and then doing one of the problems or one of the activities afterward, and just failing. How to get over it? Just keep trying, especially in the early stages, you only have so many tools that you can work with, so use all of them. And as you progress, you’ll get more and more tools. Still a year on, it’s a lot of debugging and a lot of fixing old code, but it is what it is.


What did you enjoy the most? 

I think the hackathons were the best. Because it gave us a real opportunity to experiment and play, and do it more or less on our own, even though we also had the support of the mentors. We had a general assignment, but a lot of freedom in what we could do with it, especially in the later hackathons, as far as design and stuff like that goes.


Can you describe your bootcamp experience in a few words?

In a few words: it was definitely a roller coaster. There were good days and bad days, days where I thought I had made a big mistake, and some days were like “okay, this is good, I can do this.” It's not easy, but it pays off in the end for sure. 


How was the teamwork?

Um, as good as it could have been, I think. I studied entirely online, so that obviously poses some challenges. But I think that the instructors and the mentors used the Zoom space well.


What about the job hunting process? How did it go for you?

I got a job within a month after the bootcamp. I think I sent out about 20 or 30 applications and CVs, and heard back from maybe 10 companies. A few of them asked me to do a task first, gave me a week, or three days, or 24 hours, whatever their procedure was. And then did a review on it, and if it was up to their standards, a follow-up, an interview or culture interview, or something like that. The case studies would usually be using their technology. So that was really interesting to see how different companies do different things. And as far as questions, technical questions were usually about the technologies, JavaScript, React, something like that. And the culture questions were different for different companies, but all very, kind of, are you a normal person questions? (Laughs.) 


What is your current job and what does your typical day look like?

I’m a full-stack developer. A typical day starts around nine, we have a stand-up in the morning. And then work meetings, training, stuff like that. As far as what I do, I’ve recently been working more on the front end, working with React, and JavaScript. 


How would you say the bootcamp prepared you for the real world?

It prepared me in a way that now I know how to learn something new. So yes, it taught me some basics of JavaScript and React. But then, when I started my job, everything was in TypeScript. So that’s an added challenge. It is JavaScript, but it’s not. So I had to learn basically how to do that. You know, taking what I learned in the lessons and then further self-study, I think helped a lot in approaching new things. In the job it's like, okay, I know a little bit about this, but now we need to know more.


How do you keep learning at work? 

We do have a mentorship programme. It’s a little bit informal, which is nice. It’s kind of ad hoc, so that’s helpful when you need it. Otherwise, we have a huge training budget every year. So we can buy books, or courses, or go to conferences, whatever. So I’ve used that a lot. For juniors, they’re very flexible with how much time we take to deliver certain tasks. We can take time at work to study and learn more. And last year, we hired a bunch of juniors, so we all kind of worked together, collaborated, and checked with each other. 


When you started as a junior, is there something you wish someone had told you?

I think the biggest thing would be working with larger projects and larger code bases. The first time in the bootcamp when you bootstrap, like a React project, that’s big, or a Laravel project, that’s big, but it’s tiny compared to what you see when it’s an actual web app used by paying customers and stuff like that. So just the complexity of deployments, working with Git and continuous integration, continuous deployment, stuff like that. All the basics are there during the bootcamp, but a little disclaimer: it’ll be a lot bigger.


Do you have any tips for web developers starting their careers?

Learn Git, it seems really simple, and for how it’s used in the bootcamp, it is. But it’s a really, really powerful tool. And i’'s something you use all day, every day. Otherwise, it’s really dependent on the language or the technology that you want to work with. Take what you learn, take the basics, and never stop learning.