For five years, Choo Yen Yen spent more time in the skies than on land as a flight attendant at a renowned airline. In 2021, the 31-year-old made a bold move – she hung up her uniform and went back to school. Enrolling in Le Wagon’s Web Development course, Yen Yen and 13 other motivated individuals in the same batch took a deep dive into the foundations of building a web app. Coming into the bootcamp, every student had their own reason for showing up. Yen Yen’s was simple but close to the heart: she wanted to help take her Father’s furniture business up a notch by bringing it online. We speak with Yen Yen on her experience at Le Wagon and how you can make the most out of the nine-week bootcamp:
What motivated you to pick up web development online?
I wanted to help my father get his furniture business online in order to stay competitive. After taking several free programming courses online, I found myself drawn to the tech world.
What was it about the free courses online that hooked you onto the subject?
The ability to start from a blank page and see it evolving into something awesome that actually works. Being able to create something, bringing an idea to life is an incredible feeling and definitely worth the effort and time.
What convinced you to take the leap from the free courses online to paying for a 9-week bootcamp at Le Wagon?
After taking a few online courses and building some small projects, I could see myself building more websites and spending more time debugging. So I decided to pursue this as a career.
I think bootcamps are not an alternative to formal education like a Computer Science degree, but it’s a good option for someone like me who wants to move into a new career with little experience and doesn’t have the luxury of time to do a full-time or part-time degree. In this sense, bootcamps are more practical.
I had three reasons for choosing Le Wagon over other bootcamps:
1. Le Wagon has the highest rating among bootcamps in Singapore
2. The nine-week duration worked out nicely because I couldn’t afford to go on no-pay leave for a longer period
3. I believed the rigorous curriculum would give me a greater advantage when seeking employment.
“Coding is like driving, we get ‘rusty’ when we don't practise it.”
What were your expectations vs reality about the Web Development course at Le Wagon?
A dull classroom setting such as sitting down half the day for lectures.
Lectures usually last no more than 1.5 hours in the morning. The classroom atmosphere is pretty chill – we can be standing or sitting down as long as we’re not obstructing other students.
The class ends at 6 pm and we can call it a day.
There were weeks that were more challenging than others, and I found myself working a bit harder and longer to complete the homework. Finishing the assigned work isn’t compulsory but I knew that putting in that extra effort would help me in the long run.
Coding is an isolating and lonely experience.
There are pair programming practices where two students are seated side by side with one computer. One acts as a driver while the other acts as a navigator. During project weeks, I learned a great deal about how to program in a team.
Bootcamps aren't taken seriously by employers.
My job-hunting experience tells otherwise. Most employers respect the dedication and self-discipline involved in committing to a career change and are willing to give bootcamp students the opportunity.
How did you stay motivated during the job hunt?
I focused on visualising my dream job, desired job role and salary. I pictured myself in an ideal situation to remind myself of why I was dedicating the time to the job search. I also surrounded myself with peers who were in a similar situation of switching career tracks into the tech industry. We met up quite often to give each other support, to share interview tips and job opportunities we heard about.
Congratulations on landing your dream role! Can you share more about it?
I am now a Full-Stack developer at the same airline I was previously employed at. I currently work on lifestyle apps.
In the time leading up to getting this role, I continued learning on platforms like Udemy, working on some projects and practising algorithm questions on HackerRank and LeetCode. There is no shortcut. I learned and practised every day and doing so helped to hone my ability to think like a developer. It bridged the gap between learning and applying new skills.
This journey was by no means easy. Sometimes it took me a whole day to crack an algorithm question. When I felt burned out, I ate or exercised before resuming the practices. When it came to job hunting, I failed a couple of interviews but I had never felt disheartened and continued to apply to other opportunities. I have always believed that hard work pays off eventually.
Not to mention, the Le Wagon Career Week is also beneficial to the students. We were given the necessary resources to build our LinkedIn profiles, we get the best out of the alumni Slack channel, and were given all sorts of tips and advice to look for a job. I am particularly grateful for all the support given by the teachers.
“Thinking like a programmer is all about finding more effective ways to problem solve. We can solve a new problem quickly if we have already solved the problem before. But it is impossible to have seen every problem, so the challenging part for me would be identify a pattern in the challenges. This skill requires many practices in order to understand the solutions for a variety of problems so deeply that you’re able to identify when two problems are similar.”
What was your interview process like before getting the job offer?
Most companies will send a coding test in the initial round. It can be a take-home assignment, proctored or a timed test. If you manage to pass the test, the company will arrange another or a few more rounds of interviews.
How did the Le Wagon experience prepare you for your new role?
Le wagon offered something invaluable in my opinion. I learned not just the fundamentals, but also how to think and logically troubleshoot problems. We weren't given the answers right away but were guided to find it ourselves. In a way, I learned to be resourceful enough to seek out the answers on Google or by reading lines and lines of documentation, which is an important skill for a programmer.
How would you describe the support given by the teachers at Le Wagon, and how it helped you in your journey?
The teachers are uniformly knowledgeable and helpful. They are very much willing to lend the extra help when needed. Many times they stayed back after 6 to help out the students. They didn't just spoon-feed answers. Instead, they taught us how to learn coding, how to understand documentation and how to utilise debugging code. These are skills that I couldn’t have learned from books.
What are some of the most important qualities that incoming students should have in order to optimise their time at the bootcamp?
1. Be self-motivated.
Having a goal in mind and knowing what you want to gain from the bootcamp will help you to be self-motivated.
2. Manage your time well
The bootcamp demands time, energy and dedication. It’s important to learn how to effectively schedule your own time to get work done and make room for everything else.
3. Be eager to learn
You will learn new topics every other day, so it's important to keep up the learning spirit.
Is there any advice you'd like to give to future/incoming students at Le Wagon?
Come prepared. The base-level knowledge like HTML and CSS is all freely available on the internet, so take some time to get a general understanding of the topics in the course.
No short-cuts, just visualisation of your goals and practice practice practice. Yen Yen certainly shows us how it’s done. Thanks for the inspiration and we wish you all the best in your new role!