An Artist Describes How He Changed His Life With Code

Posted by Flatiron School  /  January 25, 2019

At Flatiron School, our success is our students’ success — when students get jobs, we achieve our mission of enabling the pursuit of a better life through education. But, students’ stories don’t end after they graduate. In this series, we chat with Flatiron School’s alumni community about their journey into coding, and how that journey transformed their life.

In the alumni story below, Scott U. discusses his journey in his own words. Scott changed his career and his life after Flatiron School. Discover how this artist went from animation to software engineering and how you can change your own life with code.

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My Flatiron School journey began in 2017 when I returned from working overseas in Thailand. I had heard about the program from family and high school friends who have gone through the program in NYC and I was seriously considering flying from Texas to attend. I had been doing freelance work as a graphic designer for several months and found it increasingly hard to keep up with bills, insurance, and other basic costs of living.

I lived at home with my parents to mitigate the extra costs of rent and food, but felt that I had to do something a bit more stable to support myself.

I was very hesitant to join a bootcamp at first due to the high upfront costs and leap into a technologically-oriented field. I found myself thinking,“What if it doesn’t work out?” and “Am I cut out for this kind of thing?” When Flatiron School announced a new campus in Houston — along with the Facebook Scholarship — I knew I had to apply.

From art to code

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My background in code was limited to whatever I picked up in high school and college. As an arts student, I didn’t study anything past basic Java. I had extra experience in c# from designing games, but my grasp on Object Oriented Programming (OOP) was fairly loose. The Flatiron School Coding Bootcamp Prep for the Software Engineering Immersivecovered exactly those topics in Ruby and JavaScript.

Most of the process was pretty straightforward; I had my initial interview which went very awkwardly. I was stammering and remember being very nervous about “making the right impression,” but I guess it worked because I advanced to the technical interview, which was scheduled for the following week. They interviewed me over a project called Deli Counter, which was code covering basic array manipulation. The coding task itself wasn’t overly challenging, but talking about it felt unusually difficult.

During the interview, I thought I was making mistakes even though the code was working. Fortunately enough, I received my acceptance email a week after my technical interview. I was more than elated. I started wrapping up any open-ended projects and freelance work I had and prepared for the hardest, most rewarding 15 weeks of my life.

The Flatiron School experience

In many martial arts movie or series, the protagonist goes up to an isolated mountain to train their mind, spirit, and body in order to take on their great rivals. Flatiron School was my mountain, but what I had gotten myself into was not some mere mountain.

First, and foremost, was the intense impostor syndrome I felt when I met my cohort. They all seemed like high-caliber people — that still holds true — and I felt way out of place. Day 1 came and I was already struggling to set up my Macbook (I stick strictly to PC so learning the ins-and-outs of a Mac was totally new). Everyone else seemed to know exactly what to do. I was already feeling way out of my league, but remembered that I had committed to the program. For me, Flatiron School was a complete lifestyle change, and I made sure to make time to workout and diet properly while I worked my way through code everyday.

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The thing about Flatiron School that gets me every time is the emphasis on love. To do things with, and for, love. In evaluating different bootcamps, Flatiron School stood out due to its emphasis on emotion and commitment to forging a strong community. Time flew quickly given all the content we had to learn.

I warmed up to a lot of the other students and they became a second family to me. It was particularly comforting to hear about their reasons for attending and their backgrounds. All of them were interesting and varied. It takes me back to a line from the movie Ratatouille where Colette says to Linguini, “We are artists, pirates. More than cooks are we,” except applied to coders.

And that holds true.

We had people from the the food industry and the medical field, chemical engineers, college students, and consultancy firms all making that career shift. There was a sense of solidarity, and we formed a tight bond of friendship. When the going got tough, other students would volunteer their time to help another out. The journey through Flatiron School wasn’t only educational; it was also emotional.

Next steps

I’m now working on the career counseling portion of the program, but I officially graduated from the “bootcamp” part. I have learned a lot and have felt a lot more. Flatiron School helped me gain the knowledge I need to get a job and has given me back the emotions I had been disconnected from for a long time. I now understand why people who’ve been through this program say good things about it.

If I had an opportunity to travel back in time and do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat.

It’s bittersweet that this chapter in my life is coming to a close. All the friendships I formed and struggles we braved through together comprises one of the most holistic and satisfying educational experiences. I learned that collaboration and work aren’t necessarily about having all the right answers, but is about being willing to find them. It has taught me that being out of my comfort zone is an opportunity to grow — and I continue to do so.

The Flatiron School experience also taught me to be thankful for the small things in life — simple gestures between people, and even smiling, which help make (if only a little bit) the workplace a better environment. While my official bootcamp experience has ended, I will take what I’ve learned to my next chapter in life — wherever it may be.