At Practicum, we believe that anyone and everyone can learn to code and build a career in tech. Practicum Software Engineer graduate Nathanael Anderson embodies this principle to a tee. A bartender curious about tech since high school, he never engaged in this potential interest until lockdown boredom inspired him to give things a try. After months of fully investing himself, Nathanael landed a front-end web developer role at the MRI predictive analytics company, Neurogazer. Here’s how Practicum helped him overcome his imposter syndrome and launch a promising career.
A seed spurred to life
Still, he didn’t pursue STEM, opting for bartending instead. “I loved the job, it was worth it for me,” he says. However, things changed when bars closed due to the pandemic. He needed to find a way to pivot and get back into the workforce, as well as to have something to do during the day. Fortunately, an opportunity was right beside him: his girlfriend was working in healthcare data analytics and was learning R for her job. Nathanael realized they could do it together.
First, Nathanael went through a number of free online resources to teach himself some software engineering basics. Once he grew more confident in his skills, he decided to enroll in a coding bootcamp. “I started applying for a variety of different bootcamps, including some very big name ones, and some smaller ones,” he shares. “Every single one that I applied for accepted me.” He needed something community-tailored and remote, so he narrowed the list down and decided to complete the intro course for Practicum’s Software Engineer program. When he discovered that it offered in-person interactions and career support after the course, he was sold.
Encouraged by the community
At Practicum, every program consists of a number of two- to three-week sprints. Each sprint includes reading, coding practice, and project assignments where students apply what they’ve learned to industry-level projects. Nathanael could read and practice at his own pace, but assignments had to be submitted by deadlines to get access to the next sprints.
He took his studies very seriously and perceived it as a full-time job. “I was taking five to eight hours of my day working on it, every day. And it felt good,” he recalls. Being able to dedicate the entire day to his studies was very beneficial indeed, as some assignments were harder than the others. “I sometimes needed to spend all day beating my head against one line of code that didn't want to work right. And having the opportunity to actually do that really helped.”
However, he was also able to get support and advice any time he came across a challenge. He could communicate with the program tutors, tech support, his peers, and professional code reviewers who checked the code in every assignment he submitted and suggested improvements. “If I ever had any problems, I was never alone. There was always my tutor. Pretty much anytime I had a question about anything, they were able to drag themselves away from whatever game they were playing, or whatever project they were working on, and help me. It was fantastic.”
Practicum’s community definitely did Nathanael good. He made connections with some of his peers that both eased the learning process and helped him grow. “We had a small group of people in the chat that were very communicative. There were four or five of us that really formed this solid core team. And if anyone said they had an issue, if one of them posted, the other members of that group jumped in to help. It wasn't ignoring other people that were outside of that group, and if anybody else posted, we jumped in to help them too. We just formed this great little friendship, this little clique, and it really worked for me. I had people to compare myself to and compete with, but at the same time if I ever felt like I was struggling or falling behind them, I'd tell them and they'd help me catch up,” he shares.
What’s more, Practicum actually helped Nathanael decide to make software engineering his job instead of keeping it a hobby. He started considering it as a career once he created a couple of web pages. “It was really interesting. I wanted to see if I could make it a career. I didn't have specifically a set job within that career field in mind at the start. But with Practicum, [software engineering] became what I was [primarily] interested in.”
Once Nathanael finished the course in September 2021, he started sending out a lot of cold job applications. However, as the holiday season began, and potential employers took longer to reply, he started getting discouraged. Fortunately, Nathanael took advantage of Practicum’s Career Acceleration program, which helps graduates polish their CVs, put together solid LinkedIn profiles, and practice mock interviews. All of this encouraged him to keep going. “They were being encouraging and helping me along,” he says.
At some point, he decided to try for quality instead of quantity, and only started applying to roles he really liked. And it worked! He landed a front end web developer role at Neurogazer, a company that takes MRI data to make predictive analyses of how a brain is going to develop and grow throughout one’s life. His portfolio and the industry-level projects he made at Practicum added a lot of weight to his resume, and combined with the right attitude, it helped him land his dream role.
“I was very enthusiastic and present for the entire interview process. That's definitely something that I would give as a piece of advice. When you're interviewing for a company, don't just reach out to say thank you for each interview. Send them a note telling them what you thought of the coding problems. That's how I ended up getting this job: they gave me an assessment that had ultimately almost nothing to do with the job that I ended up getting. And there were things that I hadn't learned. I did my best, I took the assessments very seriously, used all the tools that I had at my disposal, and was able to get a decent enough score. I reached out to them afterward and said, ‘Now, here's the stack that I actually know how to do these things in. And here's how I would approach each of those problems using the technologies I'm actually more comfortable and familiar with.’ And that made a big difference.”
Nathaneal’s new company is a startup, so he’s currently wearing many hats. At the moment, he’s setting up the services and will move on to build the company website later. “For right now, I'm working on a lot of tools that will be primarily used internally by the team to modify files or do other things automatically. It's a lot more software engineer focused than web developer, but ultimately that's where I will end up.”
Nathanael is very happy with his journey and where it’s taken him. “Having a job has done wonders for my self esteem and imposter syndrome.” Next, he plans to grow into a full-stack engineer and eventually a managerial role at Neurogazer. “I feel like I have a lot of soft skills that would lend themselves very well to that sort of role within a company. I feel like that's a position that I would be able to both enjoy personally, as I'm still coding, and I'm still working on projects with them and everything else. But then also, I feel like I have a strong understanding of how to judge people's skills and see their strengths and weaknesses and help them to succeed. And I would love to be able to get on board with this really cool company before they make it big.”
You’ve got this, Nathanael! Ready to switch up your career? Check out our top-rated Software Engineer program today.