What I have learned since graduating from The Iron Yard: Katherine’s story

Katherine Trammell graduated from The Iron Yard’s Front-End Engineering course in Tampa Bay in 2015. Previously working as a project coordinator/ executive assistant, attending The Iron Yard’s immersive course was her first step into a completely new professional world and, in her words, was “definitely outside my comfort zone.”

Now, more than a year since her journey in tech began, Katherine took a look back at everything she has learned about the world of coding and what she learned about herself along the way:

On January 26, 2015, I started as a Front-End Engineering student at The Iron Yard in Tampa Bay, FL. At that time I didn’t know what I was really getting into even though the Campus Director, an Instructor, and even a recent graduate had talked to me extensively about the time it would take and how much stress I would be put under. I especially didn’t know what my life would be like once I entered the workforce as a developer. Coming from my previous position as a Project Coordinator/ Executive Assistant, I was walking into a professional world that was completely new to me and definitely outside my comfort zone.

During my 12 weeks at The Iron Yard there were moments of triumph, moments of panic, moments of just wanting to give up and bury my head in the sand. By the time it came down to building my final project, I had just about had enough and thought the last three weeks would never end. Then, in the next moment, they were going too quickly. I thought career support sessions were a waste of time because I needed to put that time toward learning to code.

I can remember thinking:

  • I am an adult, I know how to write a cover letter and resume
  • I don’t need anyone to help me organize myself for applying to jobs
  • Why do I need someone to tell me how my portfolio should look?
  • Do people really look at portfolios?

It wasn’t until after I had completed the full 12 weeks and walked away after presenting my final app that I realized I was overwhelmed by the idea of looking for jobs, writing cover letters and resumes, and building my portfolio. I re-wrote my letters, resumes, and even re-built my portfolio about 10 times before I felt I had something I could show other people. I probably contacted the Toni, the Campus Director, with each rewrite / re-design asking for her opinion and feedback. Having ongoing career support after the cohort ended was vital in helping me to continue to refine the ways that I was presenting myself to possible future employers.

It took me three months, one internship, and a friend in the right place to help me find a full-time position because I needed to build into the role that I was not sure I belonged in. Changing careers can feel overwhelming, I’m sure I am not the first or last student that will ever feel that way. Looking back now, I can see what my instructors had been telling me.. I understood and had more experience coding than most junior developers coming out of computer science programs did.

I spent the past year and a half working as a UI Developer where I grew to have a fluctuating love/hate for code, for my co-workers, for my company. Being a developer can mean you need to work long hours to complete a project on time, or repair bugs before they reach the client. To combat the impostor feeling that all developers experience you need to continue to learn on your own time. Your co workers can become your best friends as you work together to build and change the project, or at times they can be the people you disagree with the most. No matter how great a company is there will be management decisions you do not agree with or changes in process that you think should have been implemented in a different way. All of these things are typical no matter where you go, they are a fact of life. These experiences help you grow, figure out who you are, and what type of company fits you the best.

Since entering the world of coding, I have watched coworkers walk out in a rage because they didn’t agree with management and co-workers get walked out because of various reasons. I have witnessed teammates overwrite each other’s code because they didn’t agree or understand what it was for, and rebuilt pieces of a project that were completed simply because the customer decided they didn’t like it or we didn’t understand what they meant. Being a developer at times can feel like living in a battle field… you win some and you lose some, you gain friends that you can love to work with and want to strangle five minutes later, and you struggle everyday to keep learning and growing (even folks that have been doing this for years experience this).

So what have I learned since I graduated from The Iron Yard?

  • I learned that while in the program you can’t understand the importance of the little things you need to know, things like career support take on a new life after you graduate.
  • I walked away with more understanding of how to read and write code than I could have realized.
  • Troubleshooting problems has become second nature to me
  • Struggle is part of succeeding and if you aren’t struggling, you aren’t trying hard enough
  • Being part of a team can majorly suck when you butt heads. Having someone question your code or decisions can be difficult to handle. Be ready to question each other and look at yourself too.
  • Being part of a team can be one of the most amazing parts of your job. Talking through problems, celebrating victories, sharing gifs on a rough day help turn your team into more of a second family.
  • Life is going to happen and you are not always going to like how it goes
  • The “perks” that most companies display on their job descriptions to make their office sound fun and exciting aren’t as important as a work/life balance and the people you work with day in and day out
  • It’s ok to be frustrated, face it head on because you can’t avoid it
  • It’s important to keep contact with the people you enjoy being around. They could become your confidant, your next foot in the door, or just someone that you see at Meetups but they give you someone to talk to

In the end becoming a developer was much more than I expected when I started this journey. I’ve had to push myself in ways I never thought of and I have continued to grow personally and professionally since graduation. I’ve created relationships that I would not trade for anything and found the passion for a career that I have always wanted. If you caught me on the street and asked me if I would recommend The Iron Yard or attending a code school the answer would be yes. In fact there have been many meetups where I have spoken to people interested in learning to code and my answer is always yes. If you have the desire to learn to code I would tell you to take the chance, find the coding language that you want to learn and go for it. Coding skills can be put towards more than just writing code.

Knowing how to read and write code can help make you a better project manager, designer, leader. These are skills are not easy to obtain, but if they were easy everyone would have them.

Read Katherine’s post here.

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