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From Coding Bootcamp to Full-Time Developer… A Journey to Big Nerd Ranch

Rashad Cureton

I didn’t always know I wanted to be an Android Developer. In fact, it happened in the midst of a major life change. I struggled, like many college graduates, to figure out what I wanted to do in life. With a B.A. in Political Science and a M.S. in Sports Management, I knew I could be a lawyer or a politician, or work in an athletics department. But none of those really appealed to me.

However, I knew that the one thing that I could always follow was my work ethic—I knew that it would take me the places that I wanted to go. I’ve played sports my entire life, and from that, I’ve learned that everything in life is a process… if you put the necessary time and work into something, then you will receive great results. I decided to leave my job in January 2016 and enroll in an Android Development program—a framework that I had wanted to learn for some time. And those changes ultimately led me to a relocation to Atlanta, my new home! There have definitely been some ups and downs, but all in all, it has been a rewarding process.

I used the same athletic mentality that has served me throughout my life when I decided to change my career and dive into becoming an Android Developer. Building apps has always interested me, and last year was the perfect time for me to embark on this journey.

Android Development Beginnings

In October 2015, I saw an advertisement to learn about Android Development at a coding bootcamp. I was working in the financial services sector at the time, and this advertisement happened to appear right around the time that an entire floor got laid off. Thankfully, it wasn’t my floor, but it signaled that my department could be the next to go. That was the moment where I realized that I needed to prepare for the unexpected.

I’ve always looked for a sense of job security, and with the economy at the time, I knew I needed something different. Witnessing the growth of the tech industry and mobile development, I knew that this was a good path for me to follow. So I applied for the programming bootcamp and never looked back.

During the program, I met people who will be lifelong friends. We shared in a process that was very intense, but also very rewarding. For four months, we spent 8-10 hours per day together working through new materials and projects. We were learning a new programming language while creating Android apps that increased in complexity over time. Aside from our programming work, we often went to networking events and bonded over our shared joys and our shared frustrations. And despite our differences, we had one thing in common… we started to learn programming for a change of career. We wanted to learn a modern day trade and have the ability to contribute to great companies, or even start our own!

Rashad's coding bootcamp class

The program was a challenge for me, but having supportive friends helped carry me through to the end. I had no prior experience with programming, but I stuck with it. I sacrificed so much to participate in this program, leaving my job and investing a large sum of money, so seeing this through was my only option. I was fortunate to have two great instructors that coached me along the way, reassuring me that the emotional rollercoaster was normal. They reminded me of my place with the program and that my life experiences could help other students.

Welcome to the Ranch

While completing the program, I applied for the Android Developer position at Big Nerd Ranch in June 2016. I had two phone interviews and then traveled to Atlanta for an interview at our Intergalactic Headquarters. Three days after my onsite interview I received an offer, which I excitedly accepted. I could tell that Big Nerd Ranch values learning as much as they value creating great products, and I knew it was someplace that I wanted to work.

Most of the companies that I interviewed with expected Senior Developer knowledge, which was unrealistic given my level of experience. Big Nerd Ranch did not. Leading up to my in-person interview at Big Nerd Ranch, I prepared for two weeks, going over sorting algorithms and recursive methods as well as Android-specific questions. To my surprise, this was the first company to actually question me based on tasks I would be doing day to day. There was a company culture section, but the interview was highly focused on Android. This was different from the conventional practices of the industry and could be trendsetting for the future.

I officially started at Big Nerd Ranch in October 2016, and I have contributed to a variety of projects since then. I started by working on our internal projects, including our Receipts app that helps track employee expenses when traveling. I have also been able to assist in teaching our Android Essentials course and share my experience with students, which has been completely rewarding.

And once I had a few months of experience, I started working on our client projects. I recently completed my first project, which taught me about client communication, professional design specifications and how to work on a team to produce quality Android applications.

Moving Forward

Working in and learning from the Big Nerd Ranch workflow first-hand has been a great experience. We really do get to design and build exceptional apps and teach others to do the same, which has been everything I could have hoped for.

I’m proud to say that taking a chance on those major life changes was the best thing I ever did. The changes came with sacrifice and hard work, but they’ve all led me here to Big Nerd Ranch, where I get to spend my time working on Android applications with my amazing and talented co-workers. And hopefully soon, I’ll get to attend an Advanced Android bootcamp too.

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