Q&A: From boot camp to Senior Software Engineer

July 22, 2021
8 min read

Boot camp. Not the military kind. I sat down with Logan Graves, Senior Software Engineer at Trustpage and Dev Bootcamp alum, to talk about life before Trustpage, career transitions, and what it was like to suddenly move to Detroit.

Q. What were you doing before Dev Bootcamp, and what made you decide to enroll in one

A. Before bootcamp I was working in sales for a small company in New York City. It was an interesting gig, but it just wasn't quite my thing. Just before that, I had been teaching English in South Korea for three years, which was a truly fantastic experience. Through those years of being a teacher and then back in the US in a stable job, I realized that I wasn't getting what I really wanted, which was to build and create things, which is when the idea of a bootcamp came to mind. I had some amateur programming knowledge that I had collected over the years, but I knew I needed more, and so I started looking into how I could make a career of it. After applying to a few, I got into Dev Bootcamp and enrolled! I chose Dev Bootcamp because of its strong reputation at the time (they sadly went out of business in 2017) and its approach to education that followed what was considered back then to be the ideal modern tech stack, or the collective of technology skills used most commonly in programming jobs.

Q. Bootcamps are significant time commitments. How did you balance that with your work—and your life—at the time?

A. It certainly was, and I had to be prepared to give up nearly all of my free time for the duration of the program. When I first got to boot camp, it was very daunting. There was so much on the curriculum, and there really wasn't all that much time to go through it all. There was already a decent amount of work put in just for applications and screening alone, so we all earned our spot, but we were also all constantly warned by the program staff that it would only become more rigorous and demanding once the boot camp began. But all that said, it was a great time, and it was rewarding to occupy so much of my time with something so fulfilling. There was a lot of excitement from day 1, just from meeting the other participants to group coding challenges on ambitious timelines—almost too ambitious. But that's what we all signed up for. There was a bit of a rush from moving so quickly on something and watching little projects come to life. The cautionary tale from it, however, was that if you did not get your projects done on the day they were due, you'd immediately fall behind with the tasks assigned the next day, and would soon be in over your head. Time management was a massive part of the bootcamp; this manifested itself in our first few days as more tasks than you can complete are thrown at you. During these long, hectic first few days you bond quickly with others through that struggle. I remain very close friends with many of the folks from my cohort, and I think so much of that fact that we were all embarking on this genuinely life-changing, jam-packed adventure together

Q. Your first job out of boot camp was at Ambassador, a familiar place for the Trustpage folks. How did you land that job?

A. So the boot camp definitely helped with getting a job. They offered lots of coaching and resume help and things like that, but a lot was still on us. I had a few interviews in New York and Boston with several startups but wasn't finding anything that clicked for me. They were mostly larger startups where I could easily blend in. I wanted to find a place where I could make a real impact. And then, I found Ambassador, a referral marketing startup in Detroit. That connected with me at the time because, like so many, I knew the power of referral marketing. So I applied on Angel List, went through a phone screen with HR, and completed a skills challenge. To my surprise, I got an email back saying they liked it, and they wanted me to fly out to Detroit to their headquarters for an interview! It all moved so fast that I hadn't even told my wife about it at this point. But I went and met with a few folks, and I had a blast. I connected with everyone well. They all gave me a great idea of what this field of work would be like—it just worked. I got the job, but it took until the first day for those feelings to set in. This was it. My life really did just change in a matter of a few months. It was a great feeling, and it's a fond memory. Sometimes you just have to take a chance.

Q. How did boot camp prepare you for the job you have now with Trustpage? Do you feel like you're still learning new things?

A. The boot camp prepared me in many ways to be, primarily, a frontend developer, and, yes, I'm always still learning; it's part of why I love being a software engineer. I attribute getting my job at Trustpage to my work at Ambassador and the relationships I built there. I didn't come into Ambassador with every skill I needed, but I did come in with a massive amount of curiosity and resourcefulness to get the job done and grow my career. Ambassador took a chance on me as a new engineer, and I'm thankful for that. When the opportunity came along with Trustpage, it was hard to say no. It's crucial to find a community of folks and a work environment that you can thrive in.

Q. What advice would you give to someone looking to switch to a technical career? Should they go through boot camp, or are there other viable options as well?

A. There are so many ways to learn these days. The information's out there if you want it. But where a boot camp differs from self-learning is the discipline and pressure that comes from people a part of an in-person group. It's incredibly supportive, though demanding. In a self-learning environment, you're on your own with the pace at which you learn and, in many cases, the way you learn. I loved my boot camp experience, but before you decide to enroll in one, ask yourself these questions:

  • "Do you enjoy solving problems of all varieties?"
  • "Are you able to focus on something for several hours at a time without becoming distracted?"
  • "Do you have the discipline not to cut corners?"

Bootcamp is undoubtedly not for everyone, but if you put your mind to it and commit yourself to the end goal, it can be one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences.

Q. What do you like the most about being a software engineer?

A. The ever-changing ecosphere within each of the disciplines. Rarely do you go more than a few months without seeing some rather significant change to the "meta" of what is most efficient in structuring, syntax, or resolving various needs within the language you are working in. Software engineering is an inherently progressive and forward-thinking field of work, and one that requires you to adapt to new ways of thinking. Some may specialize in specific areas of software engineering, but the underlying ways by which those fields work could look completely different after just a few years. I love the constant momentum of having to learn and adapt that this job brings.

Q. What do you miss the most about your work from before boot camp?

A. Sometimes I miss the randomness of individuals whom I would interact with through work. I've had many different experiences over the years, and it certainly got me involved in some different circles. As a software engineer, you generally work with the same groups of people a lot. There is stability in this, but I sometimes find myself missing that excitement and sporadic nature of my earlier life.

Q. If you could go to another career boot camp today—not for software engineering—what would you learn?

A. If I had to choose, I'd probably focus on something in the broader engineering category—perhaps electrical or mechanical engineering—because what I've learned is that I have a genuine love for systems and understanding how they work. For me, it's enriching to be able to identify all the different components of something, how they all interact, and how they can produce something extraordinary. I'm also just a curious person, and I'm constantly finding new things that interest me—I think life would be pretty dull without that. Particularly in my 20s, early in my career, life was an adventure. I was living in Korea, meeting all sorts of new people, and it was fun. I discovered so many new things that I otherwise wouldn't have. That's so much of what boot camp is about. It's not about a magical career switch. It's really about passionately learning something new, and I think it takes a very particular kind of person to excel in that environment. It's essential to be curious and willing to take on new challenges, but it's even more critical to have the balance and discipline to extract value from all those interests. That's where boot camp comes in.

Q. Do you think Trustpage would be a good place for a first job out of boot camp?

A. Absolutely. It's pretty clear from our roster that we value unique backgrounds and like to create opportunity for those willing to seize it. I would, without a doubt, recommend Trustpage to someone coming out of a boot camp. We're certainly moving fast, and that can be demanding for a new engineer, but that's also part of what you sign up for in this field of work. We have a strong engineering team already that would offer fantastic mentorship to someone in the position I was in at Ambassador. Everyone at Trustpage looks for ways to give back, and I think we take great pride in that. If you're a new engineer looking to make the switch, we'd love to meet you.


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