After a long career in insurance, Kenneth Huynh was ready for a change. He was always interested in programming growing up, but despite his curiosity, he found himself pursuing a different career path.
“I dabbled in it in high school but never really got too deep into it,” he said.
When he began thinking about switching careers, coding immediately sprang to mind. Ken was browsing online for coding boot camps in Chicago when Northwestern Coding Boot Camp piqued his interest. He liked that the six-month, part-time course was close to home and allowed him to continue his day job while learning programming at night.
“A few of my friends had taken a coding boot camp before, and they had a really good time with their work-life balance in their new roles,” he said. “So I enrolled.”
A wrong path righted
Ken earned his bachelor’s in finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. After graduating, he worked for a number of major insurance companies before realizing that his chosen career path just wasn’t a good fit. This became especially clear at one of his previous employers, where he served as a business insurance manager. His role involved a great deal of client management—something he simply didn’t enjoy.
“I used email and phone calls to communicate with customers to build their insurance plans,” he said. “Insurance is very client-facing. For me, talking to clients is exhausting.”
Rather than sticking with his unsatisfying job, Ken made the bold decision to proactively switch careers. It’s easier said than done—especially considering that coding requires an entirely new skill set.
For Ken, getting started was the hardest part. His limited experiences with coding were helpful but only up to a point. Ken was confident that this was something he needed to do, though, so he threw himself into the boot camp with vigor.
“There is a learning curve,” he said. “But once you get running, it gets smooth.”
Building for a better future
Ken participated in three group projects during his time at boot camp. The first was called WanderList, an application that lets users know of attractions happening nearby based on their location.
The third, Looking Back, was a social media app designed to help users memorialize their deceased loved ones. Ken found this project the most enjoyable and meaningful, thanks largely to the enthusiasm of his team and his desire to exceed expectations.
“This one was a big, final project for us,” he said. “We were all collaborating and we all wanted to get this done. We said, let’s do something that no one else thinks we can do.”
Called JobSpace, the app gave Ken and his team a place to organize their job applications after they graduated from the program. The group even integrated a calendar feature and a drag-and-drop interface to set them apart from other similar apps. This would prove a handy resource when Ken set out to jump-start his new career.
A valuable diplomatic skill
While Ken never really enjoyed the client-facing side of his insurance role, he knew that all jobs would require some communication. His innate empathy and compassion definitely helped him through the program.
“I learned how to work through interpersonal differences to get the job done,” he said. “In our boot camp, there were certain situations where my peers were difficult to communicate with. Some people are just arrogant and unwilling to help you or learn themselves—I found the best way to learn coding is to stay humble, put in the work, and admit that you don’t know it all.”
This ability was immediately useful when Ken began interviewing for jobs, too.
“In the interview process, I did speak with developers that were hard to talk to. Being openly willing to learn and listen definitely helped my job search,” he said.
Hard work pays off
Even before graduating from the boot camp, Ken was hard at work preparing for his job search. He advises that learning in a boot camp setting ultimately does not guarantee a job, and it’s largely up to the effort you put in.
“I worked with my cohort mates on a few freelance projects while job searching,” Kent shared. “The boot camp gave me the tools to get a developer job, but I had to actually brand myself and tailor my image to someone that tech companies were interested in hiring.”
It took months of hard work, dozens of applications, and in-person and phone interviews—but remained positive throughout the search, knowing the hard work would pay off eventually.
With this attitude, it wasn’t long before Ken landed a job that fulfilled him. He is now a front-end developer for Dealer Inspire, a company that creates websites for the automotive industry. He not only is able to focus on tasks he loves rather than constantly talking to clients, but also gets the chance to use the coding languages he learned in the boot camp on a daily basis.
His advice for others considering enrolling in a coding boot camp? “The more you put into it, the more you get out of it,” he said.
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