Over the next few weeks, we’re touching base with a few of our female alums. We’re finding out what their experience was like during the Zip Code Wilmington boot camp and what it’s meant to them and their careers.

First up is Kelsey. She attended the boot camp in the fall of 2015. At the time, she liked her workplace but didn’t care for the work that she was doing. She needed a change and the boot camp inspired that change.

Kelsey at Zip Code Wilmington using her laptop Kelsey attended the Zip Code Wilmington Boot Camp in fall of 2015. She says, “It was extremely challenging, but so fulfilling.”

Q: Kelsey, how did you first learn about Zip Code Wilmington?

I had researched other coding boot camps. I had even applied to one and got in. I wanted to go, but it was so expensive that I changed my mind. Then my sister-in-law saw a billboard advertising Zip Code Wilmington. She texted me, “Have you seen this? You should check it out.” I went to the website and applied that same day.

Q: What made Zip Code Wilmington appealing?

It was extremely inexpensive and they connected students directly with corporate partners that were part of the program. Both of those things made choosing them a low-risk decision.

Q: Why did you want to attend the Java boot camp?

I felt stuck in my job. I liked where I worked, but I didn’t like what I was doing. I already had a master’s degree so I didn’t want to go back to school again and pay for another degree. Some of the work in my job at the time involved a bit of programming.  I found it interesting, so I began to research what becoming a programmer would entail. There were lots of coding boot camps all over the country, but I didn’t want to move so far away. Zip Code Wilmington’s boot camp was close, so my family was still nearby.

Q: What was the boot camp like?

It was extremely challenging, but so fulfilling. I did well in high school and college, but the boot camp was the first time I felt I’d have to work hard to do well. At first, it was overwhelming. I kept thinking I wasn’t good enough to be there and maybe coding wasn’t for me. But after a while, you start to realize that all your classmates feel the same way. When you see where you started and where you end up in such a short time, it turns out to be unbelievably fulfilling.

Q: Did graduation from the boot camp lead to a new job for you?

I’m a little different from most people in the program. When I told my company I was leaving to take the boot camp, they offered me a job if I’d come back once the boot camp was over. That was great. Now, I do a lot of work in their database in SQL, writing reports, and doing data analytics.

Q: What typically stops people, particularly women, from seeing coding as a viable career option?

I think it’s so foreign to most of us. People put it on that same level  as “rocket scientist” when it’s really not. There are two main reasons why I think women don’t choose it as a career path. The first obstacle is school and our education system. I didn’t take my first real computer class until I was a sophomore in college. I was top of my class in math and science during middle and high school. Yet, I didn’t know computer classes were available. There seems to be a systemic difference in how girls are told about or encouraged to pursue STEM subjects. Because of that, coding is not a field many women realize could be a good fit until they’re older and out of school. At that point, they often feel it’s too late. To get into the field, you have to take a big step of quitting your job and going to a boot camp or back to school. It feels comparable to moving somewhere and learning a new language. As you get older, those steps feel risky. A lot of the women, because of family ties or other reasons, don’t feel like they can take that kind of risk.

Q: What was the most surprising thing you realized about coding during the boot camp?

I didn’t understand there were so many different fields you could go into. I never knew there were so many options out there, so many different places you could work, and so many different specialties. During the boot camp, I realized, “Oh wow, I could go anywhere with this.” You can find out exactly what you like and are good at. There’s not just one path. Learning coding is a door to a million other doors.

Q: Why should other people consider going to Zip Code Wilmington’s boot camp?

I’ve watched this program change people’s lives over and over again. The possibilities are endless once you take that first step. Put in the work. It’s totally worth it and it really can change your life.