Like many Springboard students who experienced career setbacks at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Julia Ayres had time to reflect on her career and reevaluate her purpose. After a seven-year career in hospitality management, overseeing the front desk at major hotel chains in Washington D.C., New York and Geneva, Julia Ayres was on the verge of assisting with a new hotel opening in New York City when everything came to a grinding halt.
She had always wanted to become a software engineer like her father but had forgone obtaining a degree in computer science in favor of studying hospitality management instead. A career in hotel management would allow her to travel extensively, something she has always loved to do.
Now, she’s a few weeks into a new role as a full-stack developer at Northspyre, a company that provides a digital project management tool for real estate developers. Since starting her first remote job—Julia used to rise at 4 am every morning to get to the hotel, arriving home at 8 or 9 pm—she has realized that working as a software engineer and having the ability to work from anywhere means she can reconcile her love of programming and travel.
“I still have this passion for travel and I definitely don't want to settle anytime soon, so I think I have a good opportunity here to do what I had wanted to do from the very beginning,” said Julia.
It was quite a career change. I've always studied at math-oriented schools, so I've always had an interest in software engineering. Also, my dad was a software engineer, so I knew what this field was about, but not in-depth. When the pandemic started, I was supposed to open a hotel here in New York, but it never happened. I realized I had the time to dive a bit deeper into my original interest. I understood that if I were to enroll in a bootcamp, I would need some basic knowledge in a couple of programming languages, so I started using free online resources to prepare for that, and then I found Springboard.
Definitely. I grew up seeing what he was working on and it was very, very interesting to me. I learned the basics of programming but that was a long time ago. I did some programming at university but I decided against studying software engineering right away because the time I really wanted to travel, and the field of hospitality and hotel management gave me the ability to move almost every year.
I started in Switzerland, working in hotels and restaurants as well in multiple cities, including Geneva. Then I got a job offer from one of the big hotels here in New York. After that, I moved to Washington, D.C., because one of the hotels from the chain I’d been working for invited me and my husband out there. So I spent a bit of time there and then moved back to New York and went to work for one of the hotels in the Upper East Side.
I still like traveling and I happened to get a job right now that is fully remote. We have people working from Hong Kong, Europe, and the US. And it's really great because I still have this passion for travel and I definitely don't want to settle anytime soon, so I think I have a good opportunity here to do what I initially wanted to do.
My life is quite different. This is my first work-from-home job. Now I have more freedom from not having to spend so many hours away from home because I have a family, and a dog and cat that I need to take care of. Since everybody's working in different time zones, I have flexibility over when I do my work. There’s complete freedom in what I do and how I manage my time, and I really like that.
When I was choosing a bootcamp, what struck me the most about Springboard was the curriculum. Some bootcamps only teach front-end or back-end, but the Springboard curriculum trains you to become a full-stack engineer, which is what I’m doing now. I thought this would be a good choice for me because I'm not the kind of person to settle for one route. The second thing was during my research I used a number of review sites and the reviews from Springboard students were always very, very positive.
I also contacted a few Springboard alumni on LinkedIn and they all said you guys give great support to your students. And students were always able to find a job in less time than other bootcamps, from what I heard.
I didn't know what to expect at first because I've never done online learning. But Springboard provides a lot of support. I felt really supported by my mentor and all the TAs. Everybody is super knowledgeable, and I could ask them a question any time through the chat system as I was going through the curriculum.
I thought it would be very difficult to learn online since I couldn’t ask questions directly to a teacher who is standing right in front of me, but I had a positive experience.
Really good. I wish I had even more time with her. My mentor was Diana Lee [a software engineer at GoDaddy] and I could always email her even outside of our weekly call in case I had immediate questions or a topic that I didn't understand, and she was able to answer all of my questions. While the teaching assistants were on hand to answer immediate questions, she provided support on broader topics and theoretical questions.
Northspyre was one of the first companies I interviewed with, and it so happens that I got a job there. My role is working as a full-stack software engineer, so I work with both front-end and back-end programming languages and frameworks. I’m really glad that I had the chance to learn and use most of these frameworks in the bootcamp, which made me a really great fit for the company in terms of the technology stack.
I’m still in my first few weeks but I've already been assigned to build a new feature for the website and it's really exciting. I'm learning so much in such a short period of time and also building something that people will use in real life, and. I think that's amazing. It’s what motivates me to do my job.
I received an offer from Northspyre about two months from the date when I finished my bootcamp. I did six interviews with different teams, including their lead engineer and CTO. Other than that, I did interviews with six or seven companies in total. The interview process was pretty commonplace, featuring take-home assignments and then a technical interview followed by a behavioral interview, and finally a decision. I made sure to think of it as a two-way street and decide for myself if this company would be a fit or not.
Definitely. I would say the lesson on data structures and algorithms in the Springboard curriculum is the most important lesson to understand in the entire curriculum because it covers a lot of the problems and questions that are asked in real interviews. Without that unit, I don’t know if I would have been able to ace the interview process.
So my advice is to study that unit as early as possible and practice it every single weekend while you’re going through the course. Don’t memorize the code itself, but try to understand the problems.
Secondly, the fact that I took some free online courses before Springboard helped me get up to speed with the curriculum, so I recommend that.
The most valuable part was the number of hands-on projects that Springboard offers. Not only did I add my capstone projects to my resume, but I went back to the smaller applications I’d built during earlier exercises and built them up to make them resume-worthy. So technically, we have four capstone projects to present to potential employers after the bootcamp, but in reality, you can make as many projects as you want and put them on your resume. As long as you spend your time building up those projects, the curriculum and the exercises offer a huge number of projects for you to choose from.
My biggest piece of advice is don't think about what other people know or how many projects you’ve done compared to them. Focus on what you know, your strengths and weaknesses in terms of programming languages as well as data structures and algorithms. There were times when I had the worst imposter syndrome because I thought, "I don't know anything." But at the same time, two months after I completed a bootcamp I landed a job. I am successfully building my applications, and it's crazy how I used to think that I didn't know anything.