Nancy Hinojos traces the beginning of her tech journey back to consulting. While working at Deloitte, she started using data visualization tools like Tableau and Power BI to help leaders make data-informed decisions. Convinced of the power of data representations, Nancy wanted to learn how to build them from scratch. This goal, coupled with an ambition to master the fundamentals of computer science, led her to The Coding Boot Camp at UCLA Extension.
Despite being a new web developer, Nancy immediately felt a sense of belonging at the boot camp — a feeling she credits to the program’s welcoming atmosphere and accessible curriculum. Here are three ways that the boot camp’s leadership cultivated a supportive environment.
1. Demystifying a complicated topic
From an outsider’s perspective, coding can seem extremely complicated, brimming with confusing jargon. The boot camp, however, was formatted to optimally support people with a range of technical knowledge and experience, gradually introduce them to new concepts, and welcome learners from underrepresented backgrounds.
“Getting into coding can sometimes feel like having to break into a geeky boys club,” said Nancy. “Though I don’t want to stereotype, that’s often the image presented to describe the coding community. For someone like myself, who doesn’t fit that picture, it can be daunting to enter a space that’s dominated by a different look and feel. But the boot camp was so encouraging and made my goal of strengthening my technical skills very accessible.”
Before asking the class to tackle any coding problems, the instructors organized a thorough pre-work curriculum where they defined tech-related terms, explained why certain terms are used, and broke down fundamental coding concepts.
“They helped us transition from our day-to-day English to developer speak,” said Nancy. “The whole concept behind the pre-work was that they were getting us ready to hit the ground running, and that we should be really excited about the upcoming learning journey.”
Even the boot camp’s instructor, Omar Patel, once made a career pivot into tech himself. This gave him a firsthand perspective on what the boot camp participants were experiencing before, during, and even after completing the course. Omar shared helpful tips for ensuring success in the program — like building good habits, prioritizing deep work, and structuring study schedules in advance.
“Before starting class, he would always share inspiration or a reminder that the practice of coding can be ours, too,” said Nancy. “That always set the stage for a very positive classroom experience, and gave me the impression that this program was comprehensive. We weren’t going in alone and that was really comforting. I felt like I had a good safety net to learn about something that I hadn’t learned about before.”
2. Encouraging teamwork and building community
In the boot camp, Nancy and her peers had plenty of opportunities to collaborate.
“Inevitably, we would start to get to know the people we were sitting around. Our assignments and in-class exercises encouraged us to form study and coding groups,” she said.
Nancy became close with three classmates in particular — a former nurse, a former accountant, and a former construction project manager — whom she worked with for the boot camp’s three class projects, as well as after completing the program.
“We all came together with our different skill sets,” said Nancy. “We decided to go to market together and followed up with our clients from the class projects to see if they wanted any continual work. That’s how we started freelancing. It was really powerful to immediately leave the boot camp and have a team of developers to count on.”
3. Building confidence
The comprehensive introduction to the field and a rock-solid support system helped Nancy launch her tech career with confidence. Currently transitioning to a new role in data science at Palantir Technologies, Nancy looks back on her boot camp experience with gratitude.
“I picked up the key technical skills that I needed to take my career to the next level,” she said. “I felt way more comfortable navigating the tech space and my confidence boosted. I know I can achieve my career goal because I have the fundamental skill set both on the business side and technical side to be able to get there.”
For those about to embark on a similar journey, Nancy has some advice.
“Know that there are a lot of people in your court rooting for you,” said Nancy. “Enjoy the process of learning, enjoy the process of struggling with something that may not be so clear, and take comfort in the community and accessibility that’s embedded in the program.”
Ready to start learning? Check out UCLA Extension Boot Camps in coding, cybersecurity, and product management for more information on finding a tech community.