Gabriela was our student in Batch#97 of 2017. She has then worked as a freelancer, before recently landing a job at MongoDB. We talked to Gabriela to understand her story, her motives and what drove her from her background in Education to take the challenge to learn how to code.
What did you do before Le Wagon?
I was a High School English teacher. I went into education really enthused and idealistic, wanting to make a change. I realize now, I did do that, but on a smaller scale of 1:1 with my students. It was incredibly fulfilling though, the four years I was teaching.
What made you consider this career change?
It was an accumulation of factors. I think to sum it up, I crave mobility.
Mobility in a professional sense, but I knew if I wanted to move up within education, that would mean going back to a traditional uni institute for 2-4 years, spending $30,000+, and I wasn’t inspired by it. I played for years with the idea of going back to uni, but I kept reading how the tech industry was disrupting how current society views education, weighing experience over traditional brick and mortar schooling.
I also craved physical mobility. When I was teaching, I’d travel about 3 months per year, and dreamt of a career that would allow me to do that full-time if I wanted and take my work with me.
What drove you to learn to code?
I think if you’re someone who doesn’t know how to code, the word “code” can be intimidating and impressive. You think “oh wow, that person must be so smart since they can code.”
So, I figured, instead of being so impressed with everyone else’s intelligence, I wanted to be impressed with myself.
On top of that, of course, was this career plan unfolding in my head, that if I just learned a strong foundation of coding, it would open up new doors and opportunities into an industry that I found otherwise difficult to step into with my background of Humanities & Arts.
I wish I could say I was one of those people who was always fascinated with code and computers since I was a kid, and maybe I was in my own way, but I was initially driven by ambition and the idea that one can never be overly educated. So, as far as I was concerned, it was a new skill I’d be learning, and you can never go wrong with accumulating new skills.
Of course, once I dove into code, I was totally immersed and never looked back.
Why did you choose to join Le Wagon in the first place?
I literally Googled “best coding bootcamps”, and Le Wagon was the first one to show up in each and every survey as far as reviews, content, curriculum, culture, etc. Also, after comparing the prices and other factors, I’d be receiving the best education for the best price.
As a US-based American at the time, this meant uprooting and moving to Lisbon (the Le Wagon campus I chose) for at least three months. Even after adding the cost of flights and housing, it was still a better price option than some of the US-based or local boot camps I was coming across.
During Le Wagon
How would you review your experience overall?
It changed my perspective on how I view our world related to computers, code, machines, data. It changed my brain, thinking in a computer’s flow; I’d dream in code and wake up in the middle of the night, jotting notes and ideas for code I was working on. It changed my career from English teaching to tech. It also changed my confidence in how I view what I’m able to accomplish.
I’m not exaggerating when I say it was life-changing.
It was also one of the most challenging experiences I’ve had, but incredibly fulfilling. The days were long and difficult, but the culture, nurtured by our driver, Shannon, was incredibly inclusive, encouraging and promotive.
Any best moments you want to share?
Each time I had an “Aha!” moment was a highlight. You’re warned in advance the first few weeks are the most rough, as your brain grasps foreign or abstract concepts, but when they start taking shape, making sense, and you’re able to create something using unique code you’ve generated, it’s a natural high.
...and biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge was balancing anything else with Le Wagon. I’m hesitant to say “all of my time”, but it’s true that all of my time went into Le Wagon during those nine weeks. I was really consumed by studying, coding, testing, breaking, learning. It’s true that Le Wagon creates a very kind culture and preaches rest time and break time. However, it’s worth noting that if done right, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The point is to leave Le Wagon with something invaluable, and if there’s any time to take advantage of your resources to learn something new, it’s then.
The point is, you only get out what you put in. I really took that to heart.
After Le Wagon
And any final words of wisdom?
If I could offer any advice to anyone making a career switch and stepping into tech as their 2nd industry, I’d say to welcome the opportunity of restarting as a junior. When I went into Le Wagon, I was mid-level in my teaching career. When I finished Le Wagon, I was stepping into a new industry, but back at entry-level. Use whatever experience you have from your previous industry experience and know that it’s your strength, not your weakness. It’s what gives you an edge, and you should use it.
The two most important positions I’ve held since going into tech, including my current position at MongoDB as an Enterprise Modernization Consultant, hired me because of my dev experience but also because of my background in education. Honestly, those are the kinds of teams for whom I want to work.
Gabriela shares more about her experience whilst doing Le Wagon in this article she wrote during the final weeks of the bootcamp.