Course Correction: How a Hiring Roadblock Led One New Grad to a Career in Coding

Michelle Jung

Michelle Jung was ready to take on the world. After graduating from college in May 2017, she was eager to secure her first full-time job and put her years of learning to the test.

She sent application after application, but no job offer materialized. Michelle began to lose confidence in herself—and in the career she’d set her sights on.

“I was reconsidering everything,” she said. “Why wasn’t I getting responses or offers? Did I need different skills? Had I put in all that work for nothing?”

Luckily, some much-needed advice prompted Michelle to take a hard look at her strengths—and reconsider her plans for the future. Then, with the help of UC Davis Coding Boot Camp, she set out on an unexpected track that was better than she could have ever imagined.

A hiring roadblock leads to a breakthrough

Michelle studied new media and communication technology at college—a concentration that focuses on evaluating the design and functionality of existing apps and interfaces for users, but doesn’t involve any actual coding. After graduation, she got to work applying for positions where she could leverage her skills. The job search dragged. Summer turned to fall, and then the doldrums of winter arrived.

“I had been out of school for nearly a year,” said Michelle. “My frustration was slowly turning to desperation, then fear.”

It was around this time that Michelle began thinking more seriously about going back to school to pursue a different interest: web development. In her youth, Michelle was an avid fan of Neopets, an online gaming site. It gave users the freedom to customize their page using HTML, a feature she took full advantage of. Throughout college, she’d continued to play around with coding, but she’d never considered pursuing web development as a career—until now.

“I knew I couldn’t learn anything beyond what I already knew—a little JavaScript, HTML—on my own. I’d already tried, multiple times,” said Michelle.

So when a family member told Michelle about an advertisement she’d seen for the UC Davis Coding Boot Camp, it seemed like fate. Within days, she had signed up.

Learning to ask for support

Walking into the classroom on the first day of the course, Michelle was excited. “After so many months of applying to jobs, it felt good to be taking a concrete step in my career path,” she said.

Coding can be complicated, though. At first, Michelle was hesitant to ask for help. During her high school and college years she shied away from raising her hand with questions, for fear she’d be considered less intelligent. In the UC Davis classroom, she found the courage to speak up.

“I had this moment of realization. If I just kept asking questions, no matter how dumb I thought they might be, I’d end up learning so much more,” said Michelle.

Her instructor and TA were happy to answer every inquiry, never once making her feel silly. Instead, they went above and beyond to make sure she was up to speed with the curriculum, especially when it came time to do the more complex course projects.

“Getting over this fear was big for me. I realized that asking questions is part of the learning process, and for years I’d put myself at a disadvantage by not speaking up,” said Michelle.

By asking for help whenever she needed it, Michelle was fully prepared to tackle her final project with confidence. Using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Bootstrap, React, and MongoDB, she created a platform named BSides (short for Both Sides of the Story). It’s a space where two artists can connect to collaborate on a single piece of art. As an artist herself, Michelle wanted this platform to spark new conversations among creative-minded people in the Sacramento area.

“It’s still a work in progress,” said Michelle. “But completing the final project was a serious accomplishment—something I was proud to add to my portfolio.”

Hitting the ground running (with support from Trilogy)

By the end of the course, Michelle’s portfolio was full of impressive web development projects. With demonstrable work in hand, she was finally ready to apply for jobs that fully captured her interest. For additional support, she turned to career services.

“Before, I found interviews nerve-wracking,” said Michelle. “But the career center was there to help me perfect my resume and prepare for upcoming interviews.”

It didn’t take long for all the hard work to pay off. Michelle landed a web developer role with Paratransit, a transit company in Sacramento. After a year and a half of working toward this goal, she was eager to apply her new skills in the workplace.

“The boot camp gave me a portfolio and the ability to actually code applications instead of only designing and evaluating them,” said Michelle. “I felt so lucky to have a company like Paratransit be interested in my skills, and when they offered me the role, it was amazing—I never thought that would happen!”

The UC Davis Coding Boot Camp gave Michelle the skills to tackle web development dilemmas head-on. After a little course correcting, she really is taking on the world, one coding project at a time.

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