From Armed Forces to Software Developer

Tell us a bit about you life before you discovered coding.

I was in the military and I was coming home from Afghanistan and I had a year off. I thought I wanted to go off and join special forces so I started applying for that. During that process I saw DecodeMTL and I thought about how years before I’d wanted to do coding, but I figured there was no way I could since I don’t have a computer science degree or anything like that. When I saw the school I realized this could be my in, so I made the decision to do this instead of continuing in the army and I don’t regret it at all.

My educational background is in urban planning, which is one of those things that you do need a technical background in to get a job. So I think it could compliment my new skills.

I’d wanted to do coding, but I figured there was no way I could since I don’t have a computer science degree… When I saw DecodeMTL I realized this could be my in, so I made the decision to do this... and I don’t regret it at all.

What sparked your interest in coding?

It was the creative side. I’ve always been a creative person, but I didn’t get to explore it that much in school or in the army. I write a lot of music, I used to draw, and do creative writing as well, so programming opened up this world of potential. The way I looked at it there was so many possibilities that I could explore, not just “ok I’m going to program one website”, there was really unlimited potential.

What made you realize that this was something you were passionate about?

I discovered DecodeMTL last April, came to the interview and knew it was what I wanted, but the cohort I wanted to join wasn’t until October so I had lots of time in between. I was also able to convince some of my friends to join, so we all started coding together over the summer to get ready for the bootcamp. And it just clicked right away, we all loved it.

It just clicked right away, we all loved it.

When did you know you wanted to do this as a career?

I knew pretty soon after starting. I’d been in the military for nine years, and I still am part-time, so I still have my foot in the door there. But coding is a whole other world - I can pick my laptop up and work from anywhere, any city, and there are so many companies who need developers. The unlimited potential is what really sold me on this career path.

Mark Conn Class

What made you come to a bootcamp compared to learning on your own?

There’s so much to learn out there, and there's resources to do it on your own, online. But I think it would have taken me more time, much more discipline, and I find there's value in coming in and being with a group of people and learning together every day - you can’t really put a price on that.

I find there's value in coming in and being with a group of people and learning together every day - you can’t really put a price on that.

What was your favorite part of the class?

I really liked the first two weeks because it was the intro to coding, and we learned how to solve algorithms which was really cool.

Did you jump straight into a career after bootcamp?

Yes. At Demo Day there were so many different companies and I was approached by several. A few phone calls and interviews later I ended up at my first job, along with my friend who I had signed up with, two weeks after graduation.

I ended up with a job two weeks after graduation

What was your first job post-bootcamp?

It was a creative agency called People Like Us, it’s a super cool place. The idea behind hiring us was that, the company has been around for a long time and they had a lot of PHP code which isn’t really the new cutting edge stuff, so they wanted to change the old stuff to JavaScript. That’s some of what we were working on.

What was a typical day in the life at work?

I would arrive at 9:30am and eat breakfast there, check emails and relax a bit. Then we would do a meeting with the Dev’s at 10am some mornings, to see whats on the agenda and what we want to work on. Most days were spent working on a project or learning something new, watching a tutorial or else. We would receive clients' work as well sometimes, but that didn’t take up too much time. My days were really spent coding and listening to music, and taking walks when I needed a break.

How did DecodeMTL prepare you for the transition from classroom to full-time work?

I felt it was pretty similar being in the bootcamp and being at work. We did group work in the bootcamp and I did that at work too. It’s really important to be able to communicate - to be able to translate coding language to English - even if you’re talking to another developer. An important part of the bootcamp for me was learning how to communicate.

At the same time it taught you how to work alone too. It’s important because no matter what you’re working on, there's going to come that time where you need to put your headphones in and do it by yourself.

I understand you’re starting a new job soon. Where will you be working?

The reality as a developer is that we get approached weekly by companies asking us to come work for them. And finally I ended up taking a new job at Covera. Technology-wise the jobs are similar. What’s different is that now I will be working directly under the CTO, and the whole job is about the software and building it, which is very exciting - it's a big project!

How do you find the tech scene in Montreal?

There’s definitely a scene. We collaborate a lot with other companies and we are constantly going to events and meeting people.

What are you most looking forward to in the future as a developer?

Right now, I’m looking forward to getting to the point where I can lead my own team. I would also like to become knowledgeable enough to try some freelance work and be able to travel to other cities while working.

What has been your most memorable moment while on this journey?

The most memorable moment for me was at DecodeMTL was Demo Day, because it was so intense. One of the guys on our team is an engineer and our final project was an app to control a skateboard and it was extremely difficult. We had so many problems along the way, and we spent so much time in the rooms with equipment and circuit boards and laptops, and wires were breaking. It was wild! We only got it working about 20 minutes before the presentation. I can’t say that my job ever got that crazy intense.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I like going to the gym, and I play a lot of music. I always go hiking and on canoe trips, cross country skiing. I try to be outdoors a lot.

Any words of wisdom for students who are just getting into coding?

I would say try and find a friend to do it with, and follow through. I’ve recommended it to a few friends and I told them: “It doesn't matter who you are, if you're like Steve Jobs or whoever, the first time you program, it sucks. And you’re going to get frustrated, you’re going to realize that you don’t understand what’s going on, and thats totally normal." I think a lot of people are going to come and they’re going to get they’re a** kicked a bit, and that's normal. Once you get through that and realize that it’s part of the process, it becomes easier.

Thank you so much to Mark Conn for sharing his story and his great advice!