Earlier this week we spoke with Liz Sanger, Fletcher Watson and Tim Maddux about their experiences prior to and during NSS. They detailed how and why they built the capstones they did and shared their insight on how to succeed in this unique environment. This week we look at 3 more recent graduates and how they transitioned from their past lives into their new roles as junior developers.
Be sure to listen to all of the graduates talk to our friend, Clark Buckner, about their journey into development and about their experience at NSS. And stay tuned for more Graduate Spotlights.
Matt Kraatz is all about using software to enhance workflow. In his previous job at a small value-added reseller, he reveled in building dashboards in Excel, working with reporting engines in NetSuite and automating workflows with AutoTask and HotDocs. It wasn’t a wild leap into coding from there: “After learning that I could apply these skills to software development, and that the field is ripe with creativity, collaboration and constant learning, I know that coding was the right move for me.”
It's easier to design and get excited about a project when you can see yourself as an end user.
On Demo Day, Matt featured 3 projects, spotlighting an app call Green Apron. As a man who enjoys cooking, Matt is also a man frustrated by inefficiencies surrounding the process of meal planning. His app utilizes the Spoonacular API to retrieve recipes searched for by the user. The app then uses the ingredient list from the recipe to generate and manage a grocery list. This grocery list is used to populate a digital representation of a pantry so users can reduce those redundant purchases (like when you buy a bottle of ketchup because you can’t quite remember if you have it already, get home and realize you have 5 bottles because you’ve done this same thing your last 3 trips to the grocery store). To truly capture the space where users would be interacting with his app, Matt built it as a native mobile app using the Xamarin framework to compile native iOS and Android code.
Also included in his showcase, “GroupMe Memories” is an app where a user can retrieve entire conversation histories from GroupMe to create customizable eBooks. And just to kick it up another notch, Matt included a personal side project, “Yes Bot,” that can be hooked into a conversation and provide affirmation to anyone seeking it.
Matt’s “free time” plans now that he has wrapped up at NSS include adding a few features to his mobile app, Green Apron, before submitting v1 to the App Store and Google Play. He’s also building Alexa Voice Service into the app to enhance the user experience.
Meg Ducharme came to NSS already having lived many lives in many hats. After graduating with a Health Science degree, she worked as a program manager at a non-profit for four years. From there, she adventured to Thailand to teach biology and eventually started a coffee company. But when she was first introduced (in the most mild sense of the word) to the world of coding, she was immediately drawn to it in a way that made her confident that this was the career she wanted to pursue.
During her time at NSS, Meg wrote 2 capstones intended to remedy problems she’d encountered in her personal and professional life. Her front-end capstone was an itinerary generator created with AngularJS and Firebase as the database and authentication method. It was made to answer the age-old question “What do you want to do tonight? … I don’t know, what do you want to do tonight?” with a response other than “Guess we should just stay in and watch Netflix.” Her server-side capstone was a cost estimator for the non-profit she used to work for, utilizing C#/.NET to seed her database with commonly worked on projects and generate estimated costs.
Meg will be continuing her journey into software development at NSS as a Junior Instructor. She’s sharpening her debugging skills, expanding her mastery and enjoying passing on the knowledge she gained in her time at NSS. She’s already been thoroughly enjoying being on the other side of the table: “It has already been a blast to watch the lightbulbs go off during class and to watch a student finally understand a concept they had been wrestling with all day.”
Relish the feeling of working hard and literally living life to the fullest. There's no better feeling than when your head hits the pillow and you realize there's nothing more you could have squeezed into your brain that day.
“NSS is hard, and don’t let yourself think otherwise. Take the time to get to know your classmates. Ask questions, but also make sure to teach a classmate when you understand and they don’t. The best way to learn how things work is by breaking them. Walk away when you’re stuck. I solved a lot of coding problems in my sleep, while showering, and on my drive home from school. Lastly, enjoy the process…”
For Scott Schaffer, this journey started on a Commodore 64 and “it was inevitable that [he] stuck with computers for the rest of [his] life.” He had been working in Software Quality Assurance for years; during is tenure, he noticed the landscape of his career move from manual testing to automated testing. And that meant learning to code. Scott completed the bootcamp in our part-time evening program while continuing his career in testing software.
There are no secrets to getting through NSS. It's hard work and persistence.
“My capstone projects just came to me through research and inspiration.” Scott’s front-end capstone, “Gift-Card X-Change” was inspired by a time when he received an (unwanted) gift card from a product rebate. He knew there should be a space where people could exchange their unwanted gift cards, and he had the resources to create it. He built it in AngularJS and used Firebase Database and Authentication, adding in user experience features like messaging. While he enjoyed working with the logic side of his front-end project, Scott lights up when talking about his server-side project, “Wordris.” A spin on Tetris, Wordris allows users to drop blocks of letters to form words. This project utilizes the Dictionary API, but each time a user successfully creates a word, the result is stored in an Entity framework database to cut down on external API calls.
Scott’s experience with technology, and his critical thinking and problem solving skills made him a valuable teammate throughout his time at NSS. Scott was a major participant in extracurricular knowledge-sharing sessions, and, in fact, advises future students to do the same: “Get to know your classmates, because they can be a source of help as well. I know that by the end of the year, we really got to be a close-knit family.”