In this episode, we talk about how to transition into development after over a decade in your field, with Christine Fletcher, UI/UX developer/designer at capSpire. Christine talks about experiencing burnout working as a nurse and deciding to take the leap to learn to code, what her experience was going the bootcamp route to learn, and how she landed her first coding job.
[00:00:05] SY: Welcome to the CodeNewbie Podcast where we talk to people on their coding journey in hopes of helping you on yours. I’m your host, Saron. And today, we’re talking about how to transition into development after over a decade in your field with Christine Fletcher, UI/UX Developer Designer at CapSpire,
[00:00:21] CF: Looking at the development process versus the nursing process, they’re very similar. You have assessment, planning, intervention, evaluation, and that’s basically the same thing in tech.
[00:00:32] SY: Christine talks about experiencing burnout working as a nurse, and deciding to take the leap to learn to code, what her experience was going to bootcamp to learn, and how she landed her first coding job after this.
[00:00:57] SY: Thanks so much for being here.
[00:00:58] CF: Yeah, thanks for inviting me.
[00:01:00] SY: So you got your first developer job after being a nurse for 16 years. That is quite a long time.
[00:01:06] CF: Yes.
[00:01:07] SY: Tell us about your transition from that career into this one.
[00:01:10] CF: I said I was a nurse for 16 years and just the last five years, five, six years of my career, I just really started feeling burnt out and wanted to do something else, but I wanted to do something where I could use my creativity and also the problem solving skills and the critical thinking skills that I had developed through my years of being a nurse. And so I just got to the point where I had promised myself when I was 22 years old and a green nursing student and was in class and they were talking about nurse burnout because we had encountered some nasty nurses during our times in the clinicals. And you could just always tell the ones that were burnt out versus the ones that were really enthusiastic about what they were doing. And I promised myself that I would quit if I ever got to that point or saw myself going down that path. And it was getting to that point where I was not the nurse that I knew I could be. So I knew it was time to move on and do something else. So I was fortunate enough to be able to take off for a couple of months to really decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I started working a little bit with my wife who was an IT recruiter at the time and kind of got to know some of the tech people and started learning some of the lingo and all that. And I was just really intrigued by how open people were to talk about tech. So I was like, “Well, I could probably learn this. I mean, I did a little HTML and CSS back in the day, MySpace, and I always had fun with that.” But I just always thought, “Oh, you had to be like one of those super smart people to be able to code.” But then I just kind of started learning a little bit on my own with freeCodeCamp and just really enjoyed what I was doing and learning and built my first website. And I was like, “Okay, I can do this.” And so I started looking into a little bit more of an organized education, I guess, where I could really have a community around me and have somebody telling me what to learn instead of me just kind of guessing and being overwhelmed with the amount of stuff out there that there is to learn. So I did a little research on bootcamps and we had saved up enough money to where I could pay for the bootcamp outright, but I knew it was going to be a long journey of learning. So I found Lambda. And whenever I learned that you could go to school and basically for free upfront and not have to pay anything back until I graduated and making at least $50,000, I was like, “Okay, cool. If there’s a school that is going to invest in me, then I’m willing to give that a shot.” So I applied and got in and it was a great journey.
[00:04:27] SY: So tell me about the timeline for everything. When was that moment when you decided, “Okay, I’m going to take coding and really dig into that as a career”? When did that happen?
[00:04:37] CF: So I quit nursing in October, 2018, and it was January, 2019 that I decided I was going to start learning to code, and then learned on my own for several months, until about April and then I decided to apply for Lambda, and then I started in June.
[00:04:58] SY: And tell me a little bit more about the experience of doing that bootcamp, especially as someone coming from a professional medical background, that feels like quite the leap. What was that like for you?
[00:06:00] SY: You mentioned freeCodeCamp. You mentioned Lambda School. It sounds like you were very resourceful and used a bunch of different things to help you on your coding journey. How did you pick? How did you decide what resources to use?
[00:06:11] CF: Well, I came across freeCodeCamp just doing a Google search and they’re very popular and they have a great curriculum. So that’s just kind of where I started. And then whenever it came time to look for bootcamps, I Googled for coding bootcamps. I mean, I didn’t even really know what the difference was at the time between a web developer and a software developer. I just wanted to build websites. I didn’t really have the intention of being a software developer. But yeah. So I kind of learned those things and really was trying to figure out which path I wanted to take. I was trying to decide if I wanted to go more the UX route versus coding route, but I decided that I really wanted to be able to build the things and that it would probably be better to learn the coding stuff with the help of other people and then I can kind of learn the design stuff on my own, which is basically what I’ve done. Because like I said, I’m a very creative person, so that just kind of comes naturally to me and I really enjoy that part of it. But I also like being able to build things and seeing the end result.
[00:07:22] SY: Tell me about the lifestyle difference between being a developer, being at a desk all day in front of a screen versus being a nurse, being on your feet all day. What are some of the differences in the work environment and how do you feel about that? I’d love to dig into that a little bit more.
[00:07:36] CF: With nursing, I mean, one of the things that I always hated was I worked nights a lot. I was gone a lot. I traveled the last four years, so I would work a lot of times 50 miles or more away from my house. So I was driving a lot and have two kids, and I mean, you’re exhausted at the end of three or four twelve-hour shifts in a row or you’re on your feet and you’re running around and lifting. I mean, my back hurt all the time. Everything hurts. My feet hurt. And now I’m able to work from home, I work remotely, which was another thing that I wanted to be able to do. I wanted to be able to make a living from home. And this was pre-COVID. Right? So I just wanted to be able to be home with my kids the last few years that I have them at home. And my son is now almost 18 and my daughter is 14. So that’s definitely been a huge bonus. And I don’t hurt all the time anymore. Not to say that I don’t get a neck ache or a back ache from sitting, but I can get up and go stretch.
[00:08:45] SY: Every once in a while, right? Yeah.
[00:08:48] CF: You deal with that. But I don’t feel like I’m completely torn down at the end of the day.
[00:10:42] SY: So tell me how you felt about self-teaching. I know ultimately you decided to go to a bootcamp, but before that, what was that experience like for you and what led you to ultimately decide to do a bootcamp?
[00:10:51] CF: Just because I know myself personally, I knew that I was not going to commit the hours that were going to be required of me if I wasn’t in a “school”. I didn’t want to go back to get a degree. That was just out of the question. So I felt like the bootcamp was the way to go and not to say that you can’t learn what you need to learn on your own. I definitely think you can, especially if you join and participate in the different communities that are out there, like CodeNewbie and freeCodeCamp and things like that. I definitely think you can do it. I do think it gives you a little bit more credibility though, because I didn’t really start getting responses from employers until I was endorsed from Lambda. And once I got that stamp of approval, then I started getting more responses. So I think just having that “certification” that you are qualified to do this helped.
[00:12:03] SY: So what did you do to kind of get through some of those difficult times? Because I’ve been through a bootcamp myself. I can appreciate the ups and downs emotionally, intellectually. It was just really tough to learn such an intellectually challenging skill in such a short amount of time in a condensed time frame. What did you do to kind of help yourself through some of those tough days, tough weeks? What was that like for you?
[00:12:27] CF: It was definitely tough. It was very rigorous. I would get up sometimes four or five, six o’clock in the morning and would code or review the concepts that we were going to be learning that day, basically doing whatever I needed to do, and that was my time. Right? And then we would start class around 10 o’clock and then we would break for lunch for about an hour like one. The afternoon was spent coding projects. I had team leads there at Lambda that I could lean on and reach out to if times got tough and asked them, “What do I do?” And cried to them, whatever was needed, yeah, to just get that support. But I think just focusing on where I was going, why I was doing this and really just keeping myself motivated and pushing through that. And I mean, by the end, yeah, I was definitely like just done and ready to be done because, I mean, it took me almost 18 months to get through Lambda, by the time I ended up kind of repeating some of the content and then I took a little bit of a break to become a TL, which is the team lead, so I got to go back through the program with a bunch of students and I guess keeping a forward eye on what I’m doing. Yeah.
[00:14:11] SY: Absolutely.
[00:14:32] SY: So tell me about what it took to get your first job. What did that look like?
[00:14:36] CF: I feel like I started that whole process very early on in Lambda. They had career lectures for us and one of the things that they highly recommended was getting your online presence out there. So building a portfolio and LinkedIn profile and starting networking with other developers and kind of building a brand, like starting a blog or a YouTube channel, any of those things. And I remember thinking like, “Where am I going to find this time to do this?” And I just did. I forced myself early on to start doing those things. And I really feel like that helped propel me to success and finding a job fairly quickly after getting endorsed. So I was endorsed on September 15th. 2020. And at that point, I mean, I started looking for jobs, reading job posts, usually on a daily or every other day basis, trying to find ones that I was interested in and doing a little bit of research on my company and seeing if that’s a place that I would want to work. And I may reach out to some people that work there and see if I can get a little bit of insider information on the company. Definitely not asking for a referral or anything like that, but just starting a conversation. I feel like I spent most of my time, at least probably 80% of my time, job searching just on networking and mainly on LinkedIn. And I’ve actually been approached a lot from different companies and recruiters. And I mean, I feel like that’s because I have intentionally built that.
[00:16:31] SY: Yeah. And you wrote a really great dev post called “Getting Hired as a New Software Engineer” that talks about your steps and has a lot of really great advice. Any big takeaways you want to share? Any big strategies from that blog post that might be useful to folks?
[00:16:46] CF: I think one of the biggest things besides building your online presence, once you’ve done all that, that’s great. Once you’ve applied and then you get that interview, I think getting your interview skills up to par is probably the best thing that you can do to help you find a job because you can be as qualified as you want, but if you can’t talk to people and if you can’t interact with another human, then it’s probably going to be harder for you to get hired. And I also think having the online presence kind of helps build that, shows that you can write and you can speak effectively and have clear thoughts.
[00:17:30] SY: You write a lot about why and how you use LinkedIn, which I think is really interesting. I think usually it’s when my experience with social media and online presence is primarily through Twitter. That’s kind of where my activity is, and that’s kind of where I spend my time. But you used LinkedIn. Tell me more about LinkedIn as a tool for getting hired and for building a presence.
[00:17:50] CF: So LinkedIn to me just seemed the most logical place where I wanted to focus my efforts. I definitely am on Twitter as well and I know a lot of people use Twitter, but I really liked how on LinkedIn, you can build your entire profile and you can have your resume on there and you can link your blog posts and things like that, and it’s a very professional platform. So I think people are a little bit more open to communicating on there about their jobs and things like that, or at least from what I’ve found and plus their job board.
[00:18:33] SY: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.
[00:18:34] CF: Their job board is amazing. It’s very easy to use and the notifications and everything, and you can see how many applicants have applied. I mean, I didn’t even bother with the ones that had usually over 25 up or maybe 50, depending on the company. But I would try to jump on those early and apply. And I mean, I think it really helped me get interviews.
[00:18:59] SY: And let’s dig into that a little bit. Let’s talk about interviewing. How many interviews did you end up doing before you got that final job? What was that experience like for you?
[00:19:07] CF: Yeah. I think I went on about 10 interviews.
[00:19:11] SY: That’s not bad. That’s pretty good actually. That’s a good rate.
[00:19:13] CF: Yeah. I’m pretty proud of that. I know a lot of people apply to hundreds of different companies before they get their first interview. But again, I feel like having that online presence kind of helped me get a foot in the door. And a lot of people were really interested in my nursing background, which kind of came as a surprise in a way.
[00:19:41] SY: What made them so interested? What do they see in that past experience?
[00:19:45] CF: During one interview, I had a guy tell me that I needed to advertise more about that I used to be a nurse because he felt like with my previous nursing experience that I would have very good like user empathy, which I do. And that’s always like the one thing that I will bring up in team meetings or whatever, and be like, “Well, but whenever a user clicks this and does,” like, I’m always thinking from the user’s perspective, which is what you should do, right? When you’re building software, and kind of sparked some things, like, “Okay. Yeah, I can do this.”
[00:20:27] SY: That’s great. Yeah. I think anytime you’re able to leverage your background, your previous experience and use it as an asset in being a developer I think is really, really powerful, especially because I feel like too often when you’re coming from a different career, you want to like hide it, I think is your instinct, is to kind of be like, “Oh, I know it’s not related, but…” So I think it’s great that you’re able to bring that to the forefront and really take advantage of it.
[00:20:51] CF: Yeah.
[00:20:52] SY: So I know you haven’t been on that many interviews. It sounds like you had a really good success rate, congratulations again on that. But from the interviews that you did do and the job search experience that you had, what worked for you? What did you find effective in your situation?
[00:21:06] CF: I think just being as relaxed as possible and treating the interview like a conversation and remember that you are interviewing the company as well as them interviewing you. I try to go into every interview with that frame of mind. And with that being said, I would usually interject questions. I wouldn’t ever wait until the very end when they say, “Do you have any questions?” I would try to make it a very back-and-forth-type conversation. And I always felt very good walking away from an interview. And I feel like, again, my nursing experience really kind of helped me be able to develop rapport very quickly with people. So I think that helps as well.
[00:21:57] SY: So let’s go back to LinkedIn for a second. Tell me about some actionable steps that people can take to boost their profile, to leverage that network, that platform to their success. What does that look like? What are some steps people can take?
[00:22:10] CF: I would definitely recommend completing all the sections of your profile, make sure you have a professional profile picture that’s of you, not of your kids or your dog or whatever. And then make sure that you change the banner photo, and that can be a little bit more personal, show your personality a little bit there and then make sure your headline reads the title of the job that you want to get, not aspiring software developer or searching for blah-blah-blah. It needs to be a specific searchable term that recruiters can find you by. And then there’s actually a place, I think, that’s called opento, that’s a little dropdown, if you go to your LinkedIn profile and you click on that, and you can say open to job searching, so actually will open up your profile to where recruiters can search for you, and we’ll find you, and then making sure that you’ve completed your About Me section and that should be a little mix of professional stuff and personal stuff, just kind of who are you exactly. And I mean just posting every once in a while, at least maybe on a weekly basis, kind of like what you’re working on and what you’re learning. If you’re kind of the inspirational person, like I kind of try to be just anything that could be inspiring or motivating to someone else. I mean, if you can help someone else, why not? And then as far as like networking with people, I mean, you get all the suggestions of people that you can connect with. So I’ll go through and connect with people there. And then if people like something that I post and they’re not a connection, then I make sure and connect with them and thank them for liking my post or whatever, and reaching out, sending messages to people and answering messages that people send me. I mean, I try to be available, but without dedicating all my time.
[00:24:20] SY: Absolutely.
[00:24:21] CF: So it can definitely be time consuming.
[00:24:33] SY: Coming up next, Christine talks about how her skills working as a nurse have translated and been an asset while working in tech after this.
[00:24:54] SY: How have your nursing skills translated? How have you kind of seen all that in action? How does that play out?
[00:25:02] CF: My people skills have definitely came in handy. I’ve already had like one personality challenge on the team, but it’s always going to be there. So I feel like that has kind of helped me navigate that. And as far as the work environment, it’s been great. It’s been a great team to work with. Everyone has been open and willing to help me grow and learn. I think Lambda helped prepare me a lot for working on a team, on a software development team, because during our time, every month we would have build weeks where we would build a project on a team. And then towards the end of the program, we had a two-month lab section where we built a huge project on a team with the complete agile process. It was a great experience. I mean, I enjoyed myself. It was very fun. And then now I feel like I’m basically back in labs, just working on my features and doing what I need to do.
[00:26:12] SY: So tell me about the kind of work you’re doing now at capSpire. What is that like? What are you up to?
[00:26:16] CF: So I am a UI/UX developer and designer on the Gravitate Team. Our project that we’re working on as the Best Buy Dispatch. It’s not live yet. So I kind of got in on the ground floor. They’ve only been building it for, I think, about a year, but the product is going to be for dispatchers. Basically, we mainly work with the energy companies like gas and oil, but we also have clients from like the gold industry. So basically any commodities where we’re managing inventory and supply options and things like that. So the particular one that I’m working on is basically for gas companies to be able to use a system for their dispatchers and their drivers to be able to navigate loading the trucks with the gas and dropping it off at the store and all of their orders and everything basically. It’s pretty exciting because once they get the software, they’ll be able to decrease the number of dispatchers and things as well. So it’s pretty cool.
[00:27:30] SY: Is there anything else about your experience, any final words of wisdom, action items you want to leave us with?
[00:27:36] CF: Put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid of what other people are going to think about you and stop comparing yourself to other people. Everyone learns in their own time and their own journey. So you just have to own your journey. You’re only responsible for yourself and your growth and rely on other people that know more than you to really help extend your knowledge. I really think that that is key to success is just relying on other people to learn what you need to learn because sometimes you just can’t understand things from reading or watching a YouTube channel. Sometimes you just need the compensation.
[00:28:31] SY: Now at the end of every episode, we ask our guests to fill in the blanks of some very important questions. Are you ready to fill in the blanks?
[00:28:38] CF: Yes.
[00:28:39] SY: Number one, worst advice I’ve ever received is?
[00:28:43] CF: So I would say the worst advice I’ve ever received and followed was from my mom telling me to go into nursing.
[00:28:51] SY: Oh, no! Oh, sorry to hear that. Oh, man!
[00:28:58] CF: And maybe that’s just me being jaded about the nursing profession. But I mean, it was a great career. I had made decent money and things like that, but it was definitely never my passion.
[00:29:12] SY: Number two, best advice I’ve ever received is?
[00:29:16] CF: Whenever the career counselor recommended that I build my online presence and his LinkedIn for networking…
[00:29:24] SY: It’s a good one.
[00:29:25] CF: Yes.
[00:29:27] SY: Absolutely. Number three, my first coding project is about?
[00:29:31] CF: So the first website I built was just a generic, like marketing page using HTML and CSS. And so I thought it was extremely difficult trying to get the layout just right and using Flexbox and all that.
[00:29:49] SY: Nice! Number four, one thing I wish I knew when I first started to code is?
[00:29:55] CF: I wish I knew that software development was a team sport because I think I would have started reaching out a little sooner than what I did. I kind of thought that it was just more of like an isolated activity and you just have to figure it out, but I wish I would have started that sooner.
[00:30:14] SY: Well, thank you again so much, Christine, for joining us.
[00:30:16] CF: You’re welcome. It was my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.
[00:30:26] SY: This show is produced and mixed by Levi Sharpe. You can reach out to us on Twitter at CodeNewbies or send me an email, email@example.com. Join us for our weekly Twitter chats. We’ve got our Wednesday chats at 9 P.M. Eastern Time and our weekly coding check-in every Sunday at 2 P.M. Eastern Time. For more info on the podcast, check out www.codenewbie.org/podcast. Thanks for listening. See you next week.
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