A former engineer and a paramedic walked into different Trilogy-powered boot camp classrooms at the University of Central Florida—and walked out with jobs at Deloitte.
Minal Jajoo and Alex Lewis had spent years doing the same tasks at their respective jobs only to find themselves itching for new careers. Separate epiphanies led them to pursue technology. Minal was drawn to the UCF Data Analytics and Visualization Boot Camp, while Alex pursued the UCF Coding Boot Camp.
Though neither knew each other at the time, they’ll soon be working for the same multinational company, doing the kind of work they’ve always dreamed of. Here’s how their shared passion led them there.
Tell us about your background.
Minal Jajoo: I was an engineer a long time ago in India, handling hardware, programming SIM cards (which were popular at the time), and being really hands-on and immersed in the technology. I immigrated to the U.S. to raise my kids—one is now 18 and the other is almost 16. I was a stay-at-home mom when they were young so I could focus on raising them, but when they got to a certain age I became restless. To fill this need, I led after-school programs in tech and robotics to share my knowledge with kids in our community.
In the last couple of years, I began to re-evaluate joining the workforce. With all of the time that passed, there was no chance of me transitioning back to engineering.
Alex Lewis: I’ve been a paramedic for the past 10 years—it was a job that I loved, but it was very high stress. I spent six years in the 911 unit specifically, which took a toll on my mind and body. I also had a young daughter and a little boy, and my job didn’t make enough money for me to be comfortable or have regular hours so that I could support my family at home.
Long before I became a paramedic, I was actually enrolled in UCF’s computer science program, but I dropped out. I was never able to learn the way classrooms were set up; I’m much more hands-on. When I thought about changing my career, I thought a return to technology could be a good fit but wasn’t sure where to begin.
How did you become interested in the boot camp?
MJ: I knew I wanted to do something in tech, so I began to search for options that enabled me to learn current skills. I take personal recommendations very seriously, so when a close friend told me she went through the UCF Coding Boot Camp, I knew this was an option I should consider.
Coding didn’t appeal to me as much because I like to see the bigger picture and visualize things. I signed up for the UCF Data Analytics and Visualization Boot Camp, and my husband was really supportive of the career choice.
AL: As mentioned, I had some experience with UCF’s facilities and when I came across the UCF Coding Boot Camp, I felt drawn to it immediately. At the end of the day, I was still a paramedic and a parent and needed something flexible. I was able to work full-time and attend the boot camp, so it was ideal for me.
What was your experience in the boot camp like?
MJ: I’m the type of person who, when committing to something, puts one hundred and ten percent into it. One hundred percent is not enough. I knew I was getting into a lot when my program supervisors told me to anticipate 20+ hours of homework per week.
My class was diverse in age, and there were people from all experience levels. I did get intimidated by people who seemed to know what they were doing right away, knowing my only experience was over 18 years ago. Once I started, I realized I was really good at it and enjoyed being a student again.
The pace was like boom, boom, boom. As soon as one topic ended, you would move on to learn another equally important yet different concept. At the end of the boot camp, I knew how everything worked together and how to put data into perspective to achieve a goal.
AL: I’ve had a mixed relationship with education in the past, but I can’t say enough great things about my time in the UCF Coding Boot Camp. There were people from all walks of life in the room with me, and I felt like I could identify with them. We had a plumber, a registered nurse, a therapist—all people who were there to learn together.
It was very fast paced, but the way the activities and exercises are structured really helped me. I spent a lot of time outside of class doing repetitions and drills until I knew them well.
How did the projects prepare you for a career in tech?
MJ: The assignments were set up to use real-life data examples. The projects helped me work through solutions hand in hand with others and use teamwork to solve a problem. In real life, you have to work through things together—and if someone else isn’t understanding, you have to go above and beyond to help the team.
The experience helped me think about the outcome. How can I accomplish my end goal, and what are the limitations?
AL: The projects were a time to be creative for me, unlike the last ten years. My group created a daily challenge app that was Dungeons and Dragons themed. You could move through the game for fitness goals, saving money, whatever challenge you were looking to accomplish.
My final project was a social network, which was very complex and difficult. Approaching it was something I never thought I could do. The way the projects were personal and engaging helped give me an added layer of context to learn the concepts and taught me I can build anything I can put my mind to, and not give up—even if the work seems difficult at the time.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered throughout the program?
MJ: For me, it was just catching up. My experience was from so long ago, and some concepts like back-end data visualization didn’t come easily for me. I learned that I’m strongest on the front end. I always put all of my effort into anything I do, so I would spend the time I needed to understand something and then go beyond.
AL: At times, I would struggle through an entire class and wonder if I learned anything. It was those days when I wasn’t getting anything at all that I learned the most. After class, I would go home and spend hours until finally I would grasp the concept.
I’m lucky to have some perspective from being a paramedic—in coding, no one’s dying. So even if something seems stressful and I don’t get it on the first try, I know it’s okay because I will eventually.
What’s next for you?
MJ: I secured work as a contractor with Siemens from February—part-way through boot camp—to the end of August.
As for what’s next, I’m joining the team at Deloitte as of September. I started speaking with their team at the boot camp Demo Day and showed off my project. I wasn’t sure if I’d get the job. When I interviewed with them in April of this year, I was very transparent about certain skills I didn’t have at the time, but would possess by the end of the program.
The Deloitte team and I connected after my completion, and they offered me a position based on my honesty and strong understanding of the data landscape. This boot camp gave me everything, and I’m excited to be working in such a fast-paced field again.
AL: I worked with the career services team in the boot camp to update my resume—they helped me identify transferable skills from my time as a paramedic. I also relied on the practice interviews to get a sense of how technical it would be walking into a real-life interview.
I was hired by Deloitte and am joining their team this summer. It’s an opportunity I definitely wouldn’t have had if I didn’t put the work in throughout boot camp.
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