How Coding and Comedy Overlap: Meet Alumni Derek

By Emily Moss • May 09, 2017

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When Derek finished up his undergraduate degree, he jumped into the first career that presented itself, marketing. Sound familiar? Whether it’s student loans, social pressure, or just the desire to kick-start your adult life, many people find themselves a few years into a career before they stop and assess how they ended up where they are.

Luckily for Derek, he didn’t wait too long to ask himself what he loved doing and discovered the career that is a perfect fit for his interests and aspirations. Derek graduated from Dev Bootcamp in late 2016 and now works as a Jr. Full Stack Developer at theLab, a creative agency in New York City. Find out what drew him to coding and how Dev Bootcamp prepared him for this next stage of his career.

Q: What were you doing before Dev Bootcamp?

A: I graduated from college in 2015 and immediately took the first job I could find; a position at a digital marketing agency specializing in industrial manufacturers. I loved the people but became jaded with the work over time. I wanted to create things for myself instead of promoting what others created.

Q: What made you want to learn to code or become a developer?

A: In college, I did a lot of stand-up comedy on the side. In the time since, I never lost my passion for stand-up. When I became unhappy at my job in marketing, I started to seriously consider comedy for a career. However, I'm an only child with aging parents and I figured I needed some plan for taking care of them if needed. Also... I gotta admit... I didn't want to be a starving artist! I had dabbled in coding before and thoroughly enjoyed it. A friend of mine who was a developer told me about the wealth of opportunities in coding and the ability to work remotely which I thought would be a perfect fit for my aspirations. Little did I know at the time that I would come to fall in love with coding.

The process of developing software can feel weirdly similar to developing a comedy set. You write out what you think is good, you test it (on a computer or at an open mic), and finally, you refactor your code/routine to be more concise and efficient.

Q: What made you choose Dev Bootcamp over another immersive coding program?

A: DBC appealed to me because it felt the most genuine in its message of empowering people with code. They weren't trying to sell me on the promise of a high salary or guaranteed job offers. I'd become immediately suspicious if anyone promises either of those two things. I also like the fact that with an online and part-time Phase 0, I could test the waters while still keeping my job.

Q: What was your experience like at DBC?

A: I joined the Army right out of high school so I'm familiar with "bootcamp" style learning. There's a reason many describe it as "drinking from a firehose." The hours are long and you get out of it as much as you put in. I was determined to get my money's worth so I basically stayed on campus every day from 9AM to 9PM soaking up every bit of knowledge I could from the instructors, mentors, and my peers. You'd be surprised how much you can learn from fellow students. I'd complete exercises, and then walk around and see other people's code and marvel at the innovative ways they solved the same problem. During this process, I also met some fantastic people and remain good friends with them to this day! I was also more than happy to take advantage of the happy hours both sponsored by DBC, and arranged by the students themselves. All in all, Dev Bootcamp was a lot more fun than Army Bootcamp.

Q: How did DBC prepare you for your job search and your role now?

A: What DBC taught me was immediately applicable. The tools and architectural paradigms that we are taught are extremely prevalent and in-demand right now. More importantly, I was taught how to learn on my own, under a time crunch. I wrote it off at the time, but DBC's emphasis on collaboration also prepared me for building real world apps as part of a team.

Q: What was your job search process like?

A: Upon graduation, I refactored a few of my DBC projects and created a personal website to showcase my portfolio. For my hunt specifically, I targeted creative agencies that build apps on demand for clients. I figured these companies would allow me to cement my skill set building a variety of different apps from conception, through launch, and maintenance. I also tried to make sure I was only applying to jobs that were posted recently. Lastly, I made sure I was always working on a passion project to keep my skills fresh. If you don't use it, you lose it. 

Q: Where did you get a job and what are you doing there?

A: I got a job as a Jr. Full-Stack Developer at a creative agency called theLab. I started working on a new client app from day one. My first week was spent drawing, and redrawing, database schemas. I even used the DBC schema designer! These days I'm mostly working on the backend. The app is coming along. I like to think of it as a toddler at this stage; It can do basic people stuff but it's not quite good at it yet. I'm also learning a ton about the production process which involves working with graphic designers and UX specialists. Again, DBC's emphasis on collaboration prepared me well for working with others. 

Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying to a coding bootcamp?

I'm reminded of the movie Ratatouille. [SPOILER ALERT] Part of the plot revolves around a misinterpretation of the quote "Anyone can cook." It's revealed at the end of the film that the true meaning of the quote isn't that "everyone can cook" but rather "a great chef can come from anywhere." I think that applies to coding as well. If you're thinking of entering the world of software development but you're worried your background is too different, I can assure you that a great developer can come from anywhere.

That being said, coding is hard. It's time consuming, it's frustrating, and at times it makes you question your own sanity. Before you reach for your wallet and fork over your hard-earned money, take advantage of all the free online resources and dabble a bit. Run through some tutorials, solve some logic puzzles, make a simple app. Make sure this is something you enjoy, frustrations and all. You'll be spending a significant portion of your life doing this. Don't just do it because it sounds lucrative or easy. The sand in your hourglass is worth more than a paycheck. Also, go to White Horse Tavern on Fridays. Get to know your cohort. They're amazing people!


Ready to put in the work surrounded by fellow lifelong learners who will quickly become close friends? We thought so. Read more alumni stories and discover all the fields and specialities our graduates come from, and find your fit in the tech industry here at DBC. Read to apply? Get started today!

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