Capture + Build + Sell | Graduate Spotlight

May 2, 2017
Mandy Arola

What do a photographer, a welder, and a salesman have in common? They’re all NSS graduates! Our students’ prior work experience is as varied as a 120 count box of crayons. Abby was a wedding photographer who wanted to reclaim her weekends. Ben was a welder who was seeking a career with advancement opportunities. And Trent was afraid of becoming a tired, old salesman. Here are their stories.

Abby Fleming

Abby FlemingAs a wedding photographer, Abby was responsible for capturing one of the most important days in a couple’s life. Working up to 30 weddings a year, she wanted to reclaim her weekends. She had some prior experience playing with code and realized that it allowed her to be both creative and analytical.

Abby started her search with the local colleges. There were not a lot of options and they all required a 2-4 year commitment. She wanted something more accelerated that not only taught the how, but the why behind the code. She wanted to think through challenging problems instead of using a textbook solution. Ultimately, she chose NSS.

As a part of Cohort 16, Abby’s biggest roadblock was herself. It was easy to think “I’m not good enough,” “I’ll never get this,” or “I don’t belong here.” With support from friends, family, and instructors, Abby started tackling small projects. Shortly thereafter, those small projects became big projects, and eventually they became her capstones.

It’s all about breaking a project into small bits and giving yourself tiny wins.

She encourages current students to “be nice to yourself. You’re changing the way you think about problems and it may not click the first time around. That’s okay. Trust the process and know that it will eventually click.”

Abby’s front-end capstone is called MeTime. It is a self-care app where you can select 20 cards to use when you need a little “me time.” The cards range from watching Netflix, to hiking, to buying yourself flowers. The user can also create their own cards. The app was built using Angular, JavaScript, Firebase, HTML, Bootstrap, and SASS/CSS. When Abby started the project, she wanted to learn more about data structure and SASS. Once the app was functional, she enjoyed making it visually pleasing with lots of imagery and minimalistic styling.

For her back-end capstone, Abby created an app called gearTracker. It’s a pack in/pack out list for photography gear for events and photoshoots. The user can create event types like weddings, engagements, or family and a list of gear that they need for those events. When they get ready to head out on a photoshoot, the photographer can review the list of gear and check items in as they pack it. When they wrap up at the shoot location, they can check off the equipment again to ensure that nothing gets left behind. The app will also give an error message if a piece of equipment is not checked in. The app was built with Python and Django, and use Django templates and Bootstrap.

Currently Abby is working on SQL and Handlebars. She also plans to revisit Angular and Flask. She’s enjoyed having more time to connect with the Nashville development community at meetups.

Listen to Abby’s interview with Clark Buckner about her journey and check out Abby’s profile.

Ben Marks

Ben MarksBen Marks has had a variety of his jobs throughout his career. He was a stay-at-home dad, an actor in a community theater, and most recently, a structural welder repairing imported forged chandeliers and furniture. Without a lot of room for advancement and opportunity to learn new things as a welder, Ben decided it was time for a change. He had always shown an interest in computers and heard about NSS through his wife, who learned about it while working in Mayor Karl Dean’s office. Ben loved NSS’s local focus, scope of training, and rigor of enrollment.

As a part of Cohort 16, Ben’s favorite part of the six month bootcamp was the final day. Not because it was over, but because he realized just how far he’d come. The icing on the cake was all of the positive feedback he received at Demo Day for his capstones.

Ben’s front-end capstone was a crossword puzzle app called leXicology. The app uses randomly selected words from Wiktionary to create a crossword puzzle using words you’ve never seen before. You can solve the crossword puzzle and expand your vocabulary at the same time. The app was built with the Wiktionary API and Angular. Ben found the Wiktionary API far more complicated than he expected and his front-end capstone became his biggest hurdle during bootcamp. If you would have told him when he completed leXicology that 90 days later, he’d create a back-end capstone in only 9 days, he would not have believed you.

For his back-end capstone, Ben built an app called Pilzjagt (Mushroom Hunter). The app allows you to enter the characteristics of a mushroom you’ve found and tells you if it’s edible. The app is built entirely in Django with Materialize and has no front-end components.

Coding is really interesting. I remember being really young and seeing a computer for the first time, before we had even bought one, and it was magic. It was just magic. And it still is.

Listen to Ben’s interview with Clark Buckner about his capstones and check out Ben’s profile.

Trent Hand

Trent-HandPrior to NSS, Trent Hand was a soldier in the Army, taught English as a second language in Turkey, and a salesman. Trent spent the past 12 years selling everything from consumer electronics, financial products, and most recently, data centers. As he looked to his future, he was afraid of becoming a tired, old salesman and realized he would rather pursue something with a greater technical challenge. He really enjoy working with the IT departments when selling data centers and liked the idea of building things. When his last sales job ended, Trent became a driver for Lyft. It was during one of those drives that he met James Fryman who recommended NSS. Trent gave development a try by taking a few courses on Udacity and built a couple Android apps. He also did his research on NSS, and as they say, the rest was history!

Trent’s favorite part of the six-month bootcamps was the pace. He shared, “It was excruciating and packed. That allowed me to gain an incredible amount of knowledge in a very short time.” He also stressed the importance of completing the pre-work. You don’t want to get left behind in the first week.

Trent Hand’s front-end capstone is called Ingredient-Finder. He and his wife enjoy cooking, but have a hard time remembering where they found some unique ingredients. The app is built with Angular 1.6 and includes geo-location to record where you found certain foods and how much they cost.

For his back-end capstone, Trent built an e-commerce site for selling comic books. Comic-Store was built using Python, Bootstrap, Django, a JSON file from Marvel’s API, and Stripe integration to accept credit card payments.

NSS is very big on people understanding the fundamentals before diving into the frameworks.

Prior to graduation, Trent also built four Swift/iOS apps and is currently building a run-tracker that he plans to submit to the app store. Additionally, he is working towards becoming certified as a Salesforce Developer.

Listen to Trent’s interview with Clark Buckner about his time at NSS and check out Trent’s profile.

If you’re considering a career change, come see us at our next Info Session May 17th

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.

Check out all of the recent grads on the Cohort 16 class website.

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Topics: Student Stories