Pursuing a New Path: How Coding Boot Camp Led Keiana Hanson to a Career She Loves

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Keiana Hanson was working in the New York healthcare system when she decided she wanted to change her path. After talking to her parents about potential options, she was encouraged to pursue a career in technology. 

Keiana’s dad told her about a nonprofit organization aimed towards girls 18 and under called Girls Who Code. From there, Keiana found Women Who Code, which empowers women to go after jobs in technology. 

She joined the New York City chapter and began attending events where she listened to women talk about their experiences. She was inspired and empowered to embark on her own journey towards a new career.  

Investing in personal growth 

Keiana received a scholarship to Columbia Engineering Coding Boot Camp through Women Who Code, in partnership with Trilogy Education Services, a 2U, Inc. brand. 

“Women are already underrepresented in the tech industry, and Black women even more so,” she said. “This boot camp felt important, and I wanted to learn more to see if I could potentially inspire other women the way Women Who Code inspired me.”

Keiana worked full time Monday through Friday and attended the boot camp on Tuesday, Thursday evenings, and Saturday mornings. Often, before and after class, she attended office hours or met up with her cohort to work on assignments. 

“Even though it was taking up a lot of time, it was a huge investment in myself,” she said. “I wanted a change. I wanted to get out of my job. I wanted to do something better, something that would make me happier in the end.”

Going into the boot camp without any coding experience, Keiana primarily wanted to develop those skills. Additionally, she wanted to gain new skills that she could put towards one of her biggest passions — video games. 

“Video game development doesn’t use the same programming languages I learned in the boot camp, but once you learn one language, it’s easier to learn others,” she said. 

The boot camp focused on Javascript and how it can be utilized in front end libraries like React.js, and utilized for back end frameworks like Express.js. When she came across lessons that were more difficult to grasp, she turned to YouTube for help. She also reached out to the resources available through the boot camp, including her course assistants and other learners in her cohort. 

“Utilizing office hours and rewatching the recordings of the classes are really what got me through the boot camp,” she said. 

Nailing down a job 

After the boot camp, Keiana continued to utilize the Career Services resources available to her . She met with her dedicated career coach twice a month for about five months to help polish her LinkedIn, resume, and portfolio. Then she started applying for jobs. 

After receiving rejections from various companies she applied to, Keiana’s career coach suggested she look at developer-adjacent jobs, leading her to roles in developer support.

“I have a lot of customer service experience from working in healthcare, and my counselor and I both felt we could utilize that experience with the skills I just gained in the boot camp to find jobs,” she said.

She started hearing back from companies, and accepted a position as a developer support engineer with Plaid, a financial services company based out of San Francisco that’s powering fintech and digital finance products. 

“My favorite part of the job is the work-life balance,” she said. “Plaid supports mental health and overall wellbeing, and they understand that if you’re not feeling well, then you can’t work well.”

Plaid is also a diverse company with a staff that includes many women and many women of color. 

“Not everyone is an engineer who came out of a four year college with a CS degree,” she said. “The company acknowledges the diversity, whereas I think some companies are scared to do that. People at this company come from different backgrounds, and they’ve made it okay to speak about [it].” 

Exciting times ahead 

As she looks toward the future, Keiana wants to gain a better understanding of the financial ecosystem so she can grasp how Plaid and her position fit into this landscape. 

“Plaid aims to give financial freedom to everyone, and I just want to figure out what that means to me,” she said. “How do I understand my company’s goal?”

In the long term, she wants to continue growing as a developer and hopes to tap into the video game development industry. She already has an idea for a game in mind, and once she has the time to put into it, she hopes to release the game in the next three years. 

For prospective boot camp learners, Keiana advises doing research beforehand. When her dad first brought this career path to her attention, she began by researching nonprofits, like Women Who Code. She also joined a UK-based nonprofit called Coding Black Females

“I listened to the organization’s webinars to hear people speak about the industry,” she said. “That’s the best outlook you can get from a job because you’re hearing from someone that’s in it, and it’s even better when you can speak to someone who looks like you or has a similar background.” 

Launch your career in tech today by checking out Columbia Engineering Boot Camps in coding, fintech, cybersecurity, and more. 

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