Chuck Stephens spent seven years as a real estate broker until the birth of his son, which required him to put his career on a short hold. Afterwards, he began managing a bar part-time, but soon saw an end to that job when COVID-19 struck and restaurants shut down.
Ready for a change, Chuck decided to pursue a career in tech, knowing it was the industry where his interests and ambitions could come into full fruition.
The start of a new journey
Originally, Chuck was researching traditional courses to take at the University of Texas at Austin — until he came across their coding boot camp as an alternative to acquiring a computer science degree. He was excited that he finally had an opportunity to pursue a long-time interest in a formal setting.
The full-time boot camp lasted three months, with classes every day from Monday through Friday — but because the program was particularly intensive, Chuck found that the workload occupied his weekends as well.
“You have a limited amount of time not only to finish projects, but also to learn what you need to move forward in your courses. I had to practice not dwelling too long on mistakes or rehashing errors I made in the past, because the first priority was to always move forward. It required a lot of self-discipline,” he said.
Building Tinder for pets
Out of the three projects, the last one was the most memorable for Chuck.
“Essentially, we built a mobile Tinder app for dogs,” he said. “We used Petfinder’s API, which provided a database of dog shelters around the United States. The mobile app was able to draw from the database and help users search for dogs in their local area.”
After the initial development stage, Chuck and his team added a feature that allowed users to also search for cats. Presented with an array of pet photos, users could easily swipe left or right in a nod to Tinder’s famous selection mechanism. The animals that users liked were saved on their profile, where they were then prompted to read more in-depth information about each pet.
Learning through direct experience
Through perseverance, patience, and plenty of growth, Chuck and his classmates were able to take their learning to a new level and apply newfound skills to real-world situations. The coding boot camp pushed Chuck with its many challenges, but also taught him valuable lessons that would equip him for further success.
“One skill in particular that I was able to hone was research. Using the internet to identify solutions is a huge part of coding, and the boot camp taught me that you don’t always have to know how to build everything from scratch,” he explained. “It’s really not about knowing how to do everything — it’s about knowing how to find the right solutions and implementing them quickly.”
Forging his own path
A significant portion of the boot camp curriculum was dedicated to helping students build their professional portfolios and polish their LinkedIn profiles. Whether through mock interviews or 1-on-1 career coaching, the boot camp prepared students to set themselves apart from others in a highly competitive technical industry.
By the time Chuck graduated, he was ready to start interviewing with an improved resume, a wealth of knowledge, and access to a wide professional network under his belt. However, he began to seriously consider what type of career would help him feel most fulfilled — and ultimately decided to pursue freelancing instead of formally joining a company.
“I always valued the idea of getting to be my own boss, and really appreciate the flexibility that freelancing offers,” he said. “I like the satisfaction of being able to independently complete a project.”
A bright and independent future
Today, Chuck spends his time coding both for paid projects and self-development. He hopes to continue growing in his field, increasing his pool of clients, and making his freelancer dreams a reality.
“The boot camp gave me the full confidence to work independently and continue building core skills,” he said. “It truly set me up for success.”
Ready to reinvent your career in tech? Explore UT Austin Boot Camps in coding, data analytics, UX/UI, and more.