Career 2.0: A professional web developer reskills and takes on mobile – Sonova’s story

Before joining the June 2015 Mobile Engineering cohort at The Iron Yard’s Washington, DC Campus, Sonova Middleton’s career was already an unqualified success. Between earning a Computer Science degree from Howard University’s School of Engineering and spending more than a decade as both a web developer and a web designer (including a turn as a senior web developer), she had already established herself as a professional web developer. But despite her career achievements, Sonova found herself wanting to move in a different direction.

“I didn’t want to go back to design or web development, I think I was burnt out” Sonova said. “After taking some time off and thinking about what I wanted to do with the next phase of my life, I decided I wanted to do something I was passionate about. I looked at my phone with over 600 apps and I realized that was my obsession. I wanted to make awesome iPhone apps! ” Once she had chosen her direction, there was no question – she was going to go for it.

When she decided it was time to re-skill, she knew exactly what she was looking for. “I wanted the full experience. I wanted everything.”

Though her previous work as a developer had afforded her lots of opportunities to skill up, most of those image1opportunities had been week long courses or distance-based learning. Sonova knew that in order to get to where she wanted to be as a mobile developer, it would take something else. “I wanted something intense. Going back to school was out. Computer-based learning was out. Taking short courses was out. The boot camp [model] seemed the most feasible for me.”

Knowing what she wanted to do and how she planned to get there, Sonova started weighing her opportunities. “I had options, but I was looking for in-depth learning, because I knew about coding, but I didn’t know anything about iOS programming, whether in Objective-C or Swift.”

Like many students who consider The Iron Yard, Sonova consulted with her family, as well as friends in the tech industry. “I went to an Iron Yard Demo Day and I saw the students’ final projects, I talked with the instructors and staff, and felt that it was just the best option for me.”

Despite her experience as a professional developer, Sonova admits that she struggled with the course work. “I figured with all of my experience that I’d easily be at the top of the class, but that wasn’t exactly the case” she said. “In the course we had two computer science majors who were taking the course between college classes, an electrical engineer, a movie script writer, and a guy who’d been in advertising” she continued “I’d taken time off, and it had been so long since I’d done any actual coding. I also wasn’t prepared for how much work it was going to be. I knew it was going to be hard, but I wasn’t prepared for the amount of work.”

In addition to the workload Sonova, said it took some time to get used to being a student again. “My experience with traditional college classes made me nervous about asking questions and trying to get help, so it was difficult for me to get used to that.”

Processed with Rookie

Sonova was particularly effusive in her praise for her instructor Tom Crawford. “Tom, was one of the best instructors I have ever had. He pushed me in a good way, and even when I wasn’t fully grasping something, he reassured me in a way that made me confident,” she continued. ” Once I relaxed, listened to his advice and asked questions, it went much better for me. I truly, truly learned a lot,” she continued. “My confidence grew with each app we developed every week. I ended up creating an awesome app for my final project that I loved showing off. Apparently I showed it off to the right people since now I’m working as a iOS developer for Capital One.”

Sonova is happy about the hard skills she gained at The Iron Yard, but remarks most fondly about the soft skills and personal development she experienced at The Iron Yard.

“This was a huge experience for me. One because I got out of my own way, and I changed something about my life for the better.” she said. “I know that I can create an app and get it on the App store…I can do that.”

“Knowing something and wishing for something are so totally different, and that’s what The Iron Yard gave me. They turned my dreams into an actual reality.

Interested in learning more about Sonova? Head over to to check out her work.

Want to learn more about our Mobile Engineering Course? Check out more information right here.

Seeing the world with new eyes: James’ story

James is a current student in the Front-End Engineering with JavaScript course on our Indianapolis campus. He is now five weeks into his journey and recently shared a recap of his experience so far on his blog.

We love his optimistic attitude and how he has embraced the challenges of the course. He has gone from having no prior coding experience to being able to build a website and write JavaScript, and he still has several weeks of learning left. We know how challenging the immersive experience can be, but we also know how rewarding it is when you look back and see all you’ve accomplished. Read more of James’ story, in his own words: 

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Walking into one of our campuses, you’re just as likely to come across a group of students working together on a project as you are to encounter a group laughing and enjoying coffee or craft beers over ping pong and board games. Our standards for producing awesome stuff are extremely high, but so is our capacity to truly enjoy life alongside the people we work and learn with.

Today, we’d like to re-introduce you to Sam Kapila our Director of Instruction. She is a designer from the Dutch island of Curaçao who currently lives in Austin, and is instrumental to nurturing this culture both in The Iron Yard’s classrooms and among our staff. She uses her extensive industry and teaching experience to shape our course curricula, and ensure that our students and instructors receive the support they need.

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“I was trying to teach myself to code to make my life easier.”

Now a full-time web developer with Practice, Erik was first drawn to coding with the hope of gaining the knowledge he needed to build an application for his business. “I was a martial arts instructor full-time for the past 10 years or so of my life,” he said. “There was no web application or anything that did what I needed it to. I was spending two to three hours a day doing paperwork.” Read More

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The tech world has a reputation for being male-dominated and the numbers don’t lie – there is currently a disproportionately low number of women in the industry.

But there is good news. The industry has recognized this problem and government programs, nonprofits and private companies alike are all stepping up to enhance diversity efforts and welcome more women and girls into the tech field. Not to mention, with women like Megan Smith, United States Chief Technology Officer;  Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook; and Alaina Percival, CEO of Women Who Code, leading the way, there is no shortage of amazing, smart women for future generations to look up to.

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The Braddock Scholars program is designed to support members of the Aspen Global Leadership Network who are leading innovative organizations that have the potential to make a transformative impact on society. Through mentorship initiatives, peer-learning and discretionary grant capital, the program supports entrepreneurs with the ambition and ability to achieve significant scale with their organization. This is a huge honor and great opportunity for both Peter and The Iron Yard.

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From Graphic Designer to Web Developer: Tad’s Story

After graduating from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) with a degree in graphic design, Tad held a few different jobs. He did some freelancing graphic design work and worked at AT&T for more than three years first in customer service and then working his way up to corporate representative positions.

A few years after graduation, Tad’s family lost their home and he moved in with his brother. In lieu of rent, Tad helped his brother out with his business doing graphic work and managing the search for a web developer to build his business a website. After a few developers fell through, Tad decided it was a task he wanted to take on.

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