Off Your Chest: Anonymous Thoughts for Positive Emotional Change


Before the start of the pandemic, Tyler Smith found himself at a bit of a crossroads in where to take his interest in coding. He had always enjoyed programming, but he wasn’t sure which direction to go.

Unsure about the career prospects in developing music production software or video games, Tyler spotted an ad for The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin. He applied immediately, and got his acceptance call not long after.

“I saw the ad for the school somewhere for the University of Texas program,” he said. “I applied, and the next thing I knew, I was signing up, paying for it, and getting ready to start.”

Projects for positivity

After spending some time in the program learning the ins and outs of web development using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, Tyler and fellow students were tasked with developing a web-based project. Tyler had been inspired by a museum installation where people would leave anonymous notes along a wall, describing their thoughts and feelings.

“A lot of them were really heartfelt things about their personal life or about grief or loss,” said Tyler. “Some were silly. Some shared advice for the next person.”

This experience moved Tyler and got him and his project teammates thinking about a kind of social online experience different from what’s already out there. “I was wondering if we could emulate that same feeling on a website, and that’s kinda what sparked the idea for this,” he said.

The result was the aptly titled Off Your Chest website.

Here’s what it’s all about

With a simple mouse-based graphical user interface, Off Your Chest presents the user with 20 blank Post-it notes on a corkboard, a count of the number of notes submitted, and the option to create a note or view more notes. Clicked notes show anonymous content and the number of views.

The simplicity and anonymity of the project helps keep the notes honest and heartfelt. I’m concerned I won’t be a good coder, laments one user. Think like a proton and stay positive???? writes another. Be your authentic self no matter what! intones a third.

Some are sillier: Yo world; this app is sick; ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. – Wayne Gretzky’ – Michael Scott.

Digitally, Tyler and his teammates built on the ideas of lingering nostalgia and grief that Tyler had seen in Austin. As he put it, “The idea behind it is to be able to say something that you can’t really say to another person, or that you don’t have the ability to say that you wish you could’ve told somebody five years ago, but it’s too late now.”

Building for betterment

Building it required close collaboration between Tyler and his teammates — Josh Wilson joined him on front end work, while Jesse Jackson and Desmond Baldrige focused on the back end. In the process, each learned about the importance of communication to achieve mutual goals.

“It was hard for the four of us to delegate who would be working on what. We might have an objective — let’s say for the front end — like okay, let’s build the ‘Create note’ and ‘Get more notes’ buttons and put the note text on-screen. And that took about 30 minutes. And then, from there, we just kind of weren’t sure where to go next as a team, so we had to figure that out,” said Tyler. 

Making connections that last

Working on the Off Your Chest project through The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin gave Tyler the opportunity to meet and work with a group of individuals to make something heartfelt and special — and that collaboration may continue.

“We’re trying to figure out a time to get together and work on something new, but this has created a lot of new ideas,” he mentioned. “I really want to flesh out the project to where it’s a full thing that people recognize, that they can use to kind of de-stress or get something off their chest.”

In the meantime, his experience with The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin is immeasurably helping Tyler navigate the career world.

Tyler felt particularly empowered to succeed thanks to the support of the boot camp’s Career Services team. “Even when I wasn’t the best at getting back to her, my advisor was always there, always ready to answer any questions I had,” he said.

Getting better with the boot camp

The biggest takeaway, Tyler notes, is that after going through The Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin, he simply got better as a web developer. 

“I tried to teach myself web development before and it didn’t really stick,” he explained. “But ever since the boot camp, I can say … I’m a full stack web developer. That helped me secure some interviews.”

Tyler recommends others give the boot camp a shot when they need help finding direction in their careers and lives. “I can make just about any website that I need to now, which will definitely help land me a job. I would not have been able to do it otherwise.” 

Tyler is also grateful for the networking opportunities the boot camp experience afforded him.

“I made a lot of connections through the class. Jesse, who I worked with, referred me to another job. I would not have gotten it had I not gone through this program. That meant a lot,” he said.

A month after Demo Day, Tyler showcased a few of his projects — Off Your Chest being one of them. Though he didn’t end up sticking with them for work-life balance reasons, the projects he developed as part of his boot camp experience ultimately helped him land an interview and get a job.

Interested in discovering what you’re capable of — and creating a passion project of your own? Explore UT Austin Boot Camps in coding, data analytics, UX/UI, cybersecurity, and digital marketing today.


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