For This Stay-at-Home Mom, Online Education Was More Than a Perk. It Was a Necessity.
As the daughter of a robotics engineer and the wife of a software developer, Katie White has always been surrounded by technology. In college, she considered a career in computer science — but the idea seemed impossible. “I didn’t think I could do it,” she said. “There was a lack of female representation in technology, and programming wasn’t a viable career path for women. That sounds silly today, but it’s what people thought back then.”
After years of working in sales and marketing post-graduation, Katie still couldn’t shake her love for technology. In 2018, she finally resolved to pursue her passion and go back to school.
With a young son to care for every day, Katie knew that online education was her only feasible option. University of Denver Coding Boot Camp perfectly suited her lifestyle, so she eagerly enrolled. Read on to learn how the online program helped Katie gain in-demand skills, overcome imposter syndrome, and secure her dream job — all from the comfort of her own home.
How was your experience with the program in the online format?
The online boot camp actually wasn’t that different from an in-person class! When I was in college, online classes were all message board-based. But this boot camp was really cool, because we got one-on-one interaction through the virtual classroom. I made really good friends and still stay in touch with my TAs. This boot camp was as close as you can get to an in-person class — except you get to wear pajamas, which is amazing.
How did the boot camp’s online format aid in relationship-building?
It was a live, online boot camp — classes weren’t pre-recorded lessons that you watched later. Knowing classmates were there learning at the same time as you was so important. There were breakout rooms where three or four people would work on projects together. That format helped students get to know each other really well. And when we needed help, we could just virtually raise our hand and an instructor would join the room. We also had weekly online study groups, which is where I made a lot of really good friends. I still stay in touch with some of them on a weekly basis. Our goal is to all work together one day!
How was your instructor helpful during the initial transition into the virtual classroom?
My instructor works remotely full-time, so he’s used to that method of communication. He always encouraged us to be on video, and he even set up video office hours. That support was really helpful.
What did a typical day look like for you in the online format?
I had evening classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. After taking care of my son all day, I’d scarf down dinner when my husband came home from work and run upstairs to go to class. During breaks, I’d spend time with my son and say goodnight before returning to class. Since I didn’t have to commute anywhere for the boot camp, I also had more time for studying.
What did you work on as your final project for the boot camp?
My team built an app called “Forget Me Not.” It’s designed to help people remember brilliant gift ideas. For instance, your husband might say he really likes something when you’re in the store together — but by the time his birthday comes along, you’ve completely forgotten that conversation. We built the app with React. You can pull it up and take a picture of a gift, then assign it to a person and an occasion. Our project team was amazing, since we all knew each other’s strengths. I did most of the front end design. We even created our own logo!
Fast-forward a few months, and now you’re working at CapTech Ventures. How did you land your current role?
I got my job from attending Demo Day! A lot of companies were there giving students advice and scouting for talent. I met a man from CapTech named Ben, who’s now one of my mentors. He was impressed by the app my group had built. I emailed him after Demo Day, saying I’d love to take him out for coffee and learn more about CapTech. From there, he connected me with a recruiter. The practical knowledge I picked up in the boot camp wound up helping so much during my technical interview. I could rattle off all of the important programming languages and had lots of past projects to talk about.
Congratulations on the new job! How are you enjoying it so far?
I love it so much. As a software engineer consultant, I help clients solve their problems by building custom apps. Solving puzzles all day long is the coolest thing in the entire world. Going through the boot camp was worth every second for getting me here.
I also work closely on diversity and inclusion efforts at CapTech. We really want to increase the diversity in our applicant pool. Sourcing from boot camps is a great way to do that, since you see people from all different backgrounds.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned in the boot camp?
I learned how to learn. Now, when I don’t know something, I say, “Let me figure it out.” Traditional computer science degrees teach a lot of theory — but it can be hard to make the connection to daily, on-the-job work. Boot camps model daily work and teach you how to teach yourself. That can really give you a leg up in your career.
Looking ahead, what are your professional goals for the future?
I used to think I wanted to job hop every year and do new things — but then I happened to find a job where I do new things all the time. I want to move up at CapTech. Right now, I’m on track to become a subject matter expert in front end frameworks. I want to be a thought leader and subject matter expert who helps big corporations build solutions that actually work for them.
What would you tell someone considering an online boot camp?
It’s going to be hard. You have to put in time and effort to succeed. If you slack off, you won’t be successful. Know you’ll work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life — but that it’ll all be worth it.