From GED to Senior Software Engineer at AT&T: How A Boot Camp Gave One Student the Confidence To Dream Big
Higher education can lead to great things for a person’s career. But for many people, a traditional degree isn’t always feasible. Four years without a full-time salary plus student loans can be a daunting and unviable investment.
This was the case for Edward Nunez. A New Jersey native with a GED, Edward had to withdraw from college after his first year for financial reasons—disrupting his plans for a computer science career. But one decision (despite his initial reservations), led him to an exciting job at a Fortune 100 company and showed that traditional education isn’t the only path.
The push to learn, no matter what
After leaving college, Edward got a full-time job at a technology solutions company, continuing to grow his web skills however possible. “Everything I did was to push myself to learn [computer science] on my own,” said Edward. “I would watch videos, read books, research online, ask my friends if they had time to teach me—I’d try whatever I could to learn more and grow my skill set.”
He still had dreams of being a web developer, but programming is complex. Edward tried to learn the abstractions and languages on his own, but it soon became clear that he needed a teacher to show him the ropes.
With a little research, he found the Rutgers Coding Bootcamp. The course’s length, cost, curriculum fit his expectations, so he took the plunge and signed up.
Learning to overcome doubts
On the first day, Edward expected his classmates would be leaps and bounds ahead of him. But he quickly realized his fears were baseless. The class was full of students of all ages, genders, and abilities. For Edward, the dynamic was refreshing.
“On the first day, I saw that all of us in the classroom were on the same playing field—we were all there to learn and grow our skills together. Being in that position made some of my doubts disappear,” said Edward.
But during the first week, Edward still wasn’t sure if the boot camp was the right fit—or if he even had what it took to succeed. Feeling uncertain, he talked with a TA, unpacking his thoughts about dropping the course.
“Early on, she realized my potential and did everything she could to help me reach it,” said Edward. “She told me that the bootcamp would be one thing that is just for me. It would help me jump forward in my career, and it could benefit me in the long run.”
In the end, the TAs remarks convinced him to stay the course, and for the first time since high school, Edward found himself learning in a group setting—and thriving.
Hard work leads to self-confidence
At first, collaboration was a challenge. For the first group project, the class was tasked with building a Marvel-style superhero game. Edward’s group figured they’d just divide the work from the start, then piece the project together at the end. As you may expect, this wasn’t the best process for developing a gaming platform.
“Pretty quickly, we saw that if we wanted to succeed, we’d need to organize, learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses, then complement each other’s efforts,” said Edward. “It ended up being a great experience, and we created something that we were all very proud of.”
It took time—and it wasn’t a traditional approach to higher education—but thanks to the boot camp, Edward discovered an avenue for learning that fit his exact needs. And today, he’s testing his new skills in a new role: Edward is now a senior software engineer at AT&T, designing the tech solutions of the future—and earning double his previous salary.
“Everything I learned from my boot camp has proved absolutely essential to my work with AT&T—and during the interview process, my skills helped me stand out from my peers,” said Edward. His senior leadership title has taken some getting used to, but each new day bolsters Edward’s confidence.
“Before I started the course, I had a lot of issues with self-doubt. I never believed that I could be a developer,” said Edward. “But going through the course showed me that I can master these skills and actually become a role model. Really, this is the reason I’m so grateful for the bootcamp.”