Cami La Porte’s career was the stuff most kids dream of. She got her start as a streaming gamer and freelance video producer and quickly moved on to work for top-tier gaming companies like Blizzard Entertainment.
But despite working in a field she loved, Cami wasn’t completely satisfied.
“I was in love with my job as a game producer and project manager supporting character artists that made in-game skins. I’m a pretty huge gamer,” Cami said. “The only problem is that I never actually touched the products I was launching because I didn’t have the coding background.”
More than anything, Cami wanted to understand the code behind the games. That meant a radical career pivot—and a return to the classroom.
“I was tired of feeling stuck on the sidelines,” she said. “I wanted to take pride in actually watching my code get deployed. That’s a feeling I could never get as a producer.”
A challenge turns into an opportunity
Unfortunately for Cami, her career shift began under less-than-ideal circumstances.
“I had to leave work for health reasons,” she said. “To be honest, I thought my career was over. I kept getting endless bad news after each surgery.”
Cami took some time away from her career to focus on her health. While it was a struggle, her time off came with a silver lining.
“I was at a point in my life where I began to reflect and think about what I wanted while I was recovering. The idea of going back to school started as a way to keep me from being depressed,” Cami said.
Cami took as many free online coding classes as she could find, but after a while, she realized she needed more formal training to make any serious career changes. Her early gaming and streaming success, however, meant that Cami didn’t have the same educational background as many of her peers.
“I didn’t go to college. I love to learn but it wasn’t my path before,” said Cami. “I was 18 when I got my first job and I’ve always worked with people who have degrees and technical experience. I always felt either underpaid or behind.”
At age 30, she didn’t want to take four years out of an already successful career. That’s when she found The Coding Boot Camp at UCI Continuing Education.
“I did a ton of research before signing up for the UCI coding boot camp, and the thing that sold me on the program was their extensive career support path,” Cami said. “I was coming from a freelance background, so getting me to be employer competitive was vital.”
Back in the game
Cami enrolled in UCI’s full-time, 12-week coding boot camp to upgrade her skills and get back to work as quickly as possible. Initially, though, she was concerned about her lack of coding experience.
“I’d been a managing producer and content creator, but I was nervous about my inexperience with actual code,” Cami said. “I wasn’t one of the people in class that just got things right away, but once I worked it enough, concepts started coming quicker.”
Despite her fears, Cami found that support from her teachers, TAs, and classmates helped her succeed.
“I took for granted how valuable it is to have teachers and faculty invested in your success,” she said. “I loved being in an educational setting. I never had that when I was younger.”
Cami had to put in a lot of time and hard work to stay on track, but she knew it would be worth it in the end.
“The full-time boot camp is a really fast course. You learn something then move on, which meant I had to practice on my own time,” said Cami. “I’d show up at 7 a.m. and study or do homework. If I’d just done the four-hour classes and then gone home I wouldn’t have gotten where I am.”
In fact, Cami’s hard work paid off before she even finished the course.
“My teacher actually recommended me for my current position as a back-end software engineer role at TensorIoT. He noticed my hard work and asked if I was interested in the job,” Cami said. “I’d been looking for a new job for months before the boot camp. I went to school and got one before I even graduated!”
Career power up
Cami’s coursework proved instrumental to landing her new job because it focused on using real-world data to build projects that solve actual problems.
“For our very first project we used NASA and SpaceX APIs to build a website that featured things like a photo of space every day and the current position of the ISS,” Cami said. “It was so easy to build because we loved the idea, but it was also a preview of what it would be like to work in a field where you’re passionate about your product.”
That passion continues to drive Cami to learn challenging but rewarding new concepts and skills, even after graduation.
“I need to get AWS certified for my new job, but I’m excited about it,” Cami said. “In the past, I’d take my time with stuff, but the boot camp really pushes you through new concepts in a matter of hours. I’m able to absorb difficult concepts more quickly now and break them down into something I can understand and use.”
A new way to play
Her health on track and her career revitalized, Cami feels there’s no limit to what she can now achieve.
“This opportunity has opened so many doors for me, when I believed there was nothing left to open,” she said. “I feel like I can do stuff now. I have the courage to try really difficult things and expect more from myself.”
Cami has big plans for the future.
“In five years, I’d like to be developing my own app,” Cami said. “One single guy designed and built my favorite game of all time. One guy. He’s my hero, and I’d like to do something like that.”
For anyone on the fence about enrolling in a boot camp, Cami has one piece of wisdom to share.
“You’re worth getting an education,” she said. “Wherever you come from, or how dumb you think you are, you deserve a chance to learn something that you love and a chance to do something that you want to learn. Grab the bull by the horns. Ask questions. The UCI boot camp gave me all the tools I needed to make this happen. This course is for you.”
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