Before becoming a software engineer, Abdelkareem ElSharief worked in one of the most fast-paced, high-stakes jobs: responding to 9-1-1 calls concerning a medical emergency and transporting critically ill patients via ambulance or helicopter. As an emergency medical technician, no two days were the same. Now that he works from home as a software developer for Bread, a company that provides an online payment platform for e-commerce businesses, Abdelkareem says no problem is too big for him to face.
Before enrolling in the Software Engineering Career Track at Springboard, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey. However, he found that the course was very theoretical and didn’t afford him the opportunity to work on hands-on projects or learn about the technology stacks being used in the industry, so he decided to enroll in a bootcamp.
As someone who prides himself on being self-sufficient, Abdelkareem was planning on creating his own curriculum to teach himself up-to-date software engineering skills when he came across Springboard. That’s when he decided that enrolling in a bootcamp—and having one-on-one weekly calls with an industry mentor—would be better than going it alone.
“My experience with Springboard was everything I hoped it would be. It was flexible, I had a mentor who was an industry professional checking my code,” said Abdelkareem. “I think it also helps with imposter syndrome because you have an actual professional to validate your decisions and make sure you're writing code that is optimal.”
It was an interesting ride. I did emergency transport, so if anyone called 9-1-1 and they wanted an ambulance, I would show up. I worked in urban and suburban areas, and I also did non-emergency transport which involved transporting critically-ill patients from one ICU to another. I worked closely with nurses, I did helicopter transfers. I did a lot of things in the world of EMS. It was really interesting.
I had always wanted to be a software engineer but I started working as an EMS right after high school just so I could have a job that pays decently. Then I obtained a bachelor's in computer science and once I had finished that, I started the Software Engineering Career Track at Springboard.
Typically, a CS degree is very theoretical. They don’t teach you all the skills that are needed on the job, but they do teach you how to write code, how to think like a programmer, and general problem-solving techniques, in addition to theoretical things like data structures and algorithms.
With a CS degree, you have to go above and beyond to create things you can actually show on a portfolio. Most projects and assessments are not necessarily user-facing. They're mostly text-based, logic-based, or involve mathematical operations.
I started at Bread two weeks ago. The company is a subsidiary of Alliance Data Services and they are a Fortune 500 company. It has been really interesting. The onboarding experience is essentially like a bunch of mini-courses that get you up to speed with their technology stack. Everyone's really laid back and they tell me, “Take your time. Whatever you need so you can get up to speed, just let us know."
Yes and no. I did think I would have to do some training on the job, but what I didn't expect was just how easygoing everything would be. In EMS, I was so used to having to be on the ball, working quickly, and getting things done. Now I’m in a really relaxed atmosphere and I'm not used to this.
Yes. I have yet to experience any imposter syndrome. People are always talking about impostor syndrome, but I'm just like no, I belong here. Whatever happens, I'll figure it out.
I'm just really calm about everything. I guess it comes from all the things I saw from working in EMS. No matter what happens you know you'll figure it out eventually. So don't be afraid. Just keep doing what you're doing.
I was in the process of drafting a self-taught curriculum in software engineering for myself. I had decided I would create a curriculum on my own that would get me ready for my first job. Then I saw an ad for Springboard on Facebook and I thought: an online program? That might work with my schedule. I decided I was going to do it and that was it.
I tend to pride myself on doing everything on my own and I don't usually ask too many questions unless I’ve made a good effort to figure things out myself. My mentor matched that style, which I really appreciated. He said, "I'm here if you ever need me. Don't worry about it." So essentially I would come to my mentor and say, “These are the decisions I made, everything is working. Would you approve this for production?” And he would give me pointers.
But for the most part, he just allowed me to do my thing and didn't pressure me to do it any other way and I really appreciated that.
Yeah. I worked about 80 hours a week while doing Springboard. So it took me an extra two months to finish.
The interview process with Bread was extremely practical because, unlike all the other coding assessments I did for other companies, theirs was job-focused. It was essentially a ticket from IT in the form of an email that said, "Hey, this is a problem we currently have and it's most likely in this database. Here are a few code snippets and here's a programming environment.”
My job was to figure out what the problem was, email them back and email customer support to advise them on what to tell the client as they’re waiting for the bug to be fixed. It’s obviously a simulated environment, but it represents actual job responsibilities. Overall, the interview process was short, concise, and very job-focused.
I applied to about 170 jobs. I got back a roughly 10% response rate. So I did around 17 coding assessments or phone screenings. And then I did five final-round interviews and received one offer from Bread and one from another company.
Always go over your resume with your career coach. That was really important. My career coach was awesome and I really enjoyed working with her. In terms of actually getting jobs, it is a numbers game. So just apply to as many as possible and stay away from job boards like Indeed because they don’t work, in my opinion. It was just an abyss.
I mainly focused on LinkedIn jobs, and once I did I would get either a phone screening or a coding assessment, or a rejection. I also used AngelList, because the platform guarantees a response and focuses mostly on startups.
No, I never included a cover letter. Job searching is a numbers game and I knew that right from the beginning. I don't have time to customize a cover letter for every job. So whenever a job application asked for a cover letter, I would just reattach my resume. Also, any job that asked for two years of experience I would consider as an entry-level position.
I think the most valuable part to me was having a mentor. I could have just purchased a couple of classes on Udemy and learned by myself, but I wouldn’t have had an actual industry professional making comments on my code, helping me improve my code, and making me feel like the decisions I make are decisions an industry professional would make. The mentorship was one of the biggest selling points for me in choosing Springboard among other online bootcamps.
Some general advice I would give to students at Springboard is to remember that job searching is a numbers game. Don't take rejections to heart. I received so many rejections, but it was better than receiving nothing at all. Just apply to as many jobs as you possibly can every week without exhausting yourself. Focus on LinkedIn jobs, AngelList, and Career Karma. You might have to submit 200 or even 300 applications, but all it takes is one yes.