Imagine completing a coding boot camp in just six months, with very little prior programming experience. Now, imagine doing that while also working a full-time job, with a two-year-old at home and a second baby on the way.
Melissa Cadena enrolled in the Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin, powered by Trilogy Education Services, a 2U Inc. brand, in May of 2020. At the time, she was six months pregnant and working in a customer service position at Southwest Airlines.
With her family’s support, some serious time management, and helpful resources offered through the program, Melissa completed the boot camp with an expert set of coding skills, a new job, and — of course — a brand new baby.
Striking the right balance
Melissa became interested in coding just a few months before enrolling in the boot camp. She took some free online coding courses and then started researching boot camps, which is how she discovered UT Austin Boot Camps.
“I liked that these programs covered full stack coding. I see a lot of boot camps that are focused on one language only,” she said. “Trilogy teaches more than just [the] front end, and goes beyond HTML or CSS. That’s what drew me in.”
Before classes began, Melissa had to figure out how she was going to balance work, class, and raising a family. “My husband and I had to have a conversation before the boot camp started so we could both understand how much time the program was going to consume,” she said. “We had to be very structured and organized with how I was going to spend my time each week.”
Melissa worked every weekday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and had classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She spent time before and after class studying and completing assignments, and dedicated her weekends to the class as well. She spent every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after work with her family.
Finding community amidst change
Although classes were virtual, Melissa still felt a sense of community and quickly made friends. “We stayed in the same groups for every project because we had gotten so close and loved working with each other,” she said. “It was hard and it was a lot of work, but it was definitely a great experience.”
Prior to the boot camp, Melissa struggled with the programming language SQL. For a few weeks in a row, classes focused on this language. “During the boot camp, it was really frustrating because it was difficult for me to grasp,” she said. “But I’m so glad that we spent time on it because SQL is something that I use every single day at my job now.”
Landing a developer role
When it came time to apply for jobs, Melissa leaned on the boot camp’s career services staff for support. “I had them look at my resume and help me create a brand statement so that I felt ready to start applying for jobs,” she said.
She began submitting applications six weeks before the boot camp ended and eventually landed a web developer role with Westrom Software, a company that develops and sells QuickBooks add-ons. “Our software helps optimize routes and provides business management tools for route and delivery companies,” Melissa explained. “We also help them with all of their corporate reporting and things of that nature.”
Melissa works from home now, writing code and completing pull requests among other duties. “It’s exciting to use everything that I’ve learned from the boot camp and actually be coding every day,” she said. “Even this morning, I thought: ‘Pinch me! I can’t believe this is real!’ I’m working my own schedule with flexible hours.”
Doing it all
Reflecting on her entire experience, Melissa says that the boot camp staff was always supportive as she worked to strike a balance between taking classes and raising a family. She gave birth just a few months before the boot camp ended and only missed one class — a testament to her unfailing determination.
“I utilized everything to help me through the boot camp,” she said. “It’s all about the effort that you put in. If you take advantage of all the available resources, you can be really successful.”
Want to find out how a career in web development can change your life? Explore UT Austin Boot Camps to gain skills in coding, data analytics, cybersecurity, and more.