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From waiter to a Full-Stack Developer: Louis’ path as a part-time student

Meet Louis, the part-time web development bootcamp graduate who transformed his career through Le Wagon. With a background in the service industry, Louis's passion for coding led him to pursue the part-time online program. From immersing himself in the supportive community to acquiring essential frontend and backend development skills, Louis's journey showcases the transformative power of coding bootcamps.

Can you please introduce yourself and share a bit about your background?

Hello everyone, I’m Louis. I have been living in Louvain La Neuve, Belgium, for 9 years and I am currently a Full-Stack Developer. When I turned 18, I moved to LLN and started working as a waiter in a restaurant. I thought it would be a temporary job, just to get by, but I ended up staying there for 7 years. I never really enjoyed it though. However, I felt stuck and didn’t think I had any other options without a college degree or certifications.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and we had to go into lockdown. The restaurants closed, and I was temporarily unemployed. While many people found it challenging, it felt like a dream to me. I had been spending most of my free time as a shut-in since I was 14, and suddenly I was being paid to stay home and play games until the lockdown ended. It was a fortunate time for me.

When we returned to work, I realized how miserable I was in that job. While many people were happy to get back to work after the lockdown, I felt the opposite. That’s when I decided it was time to make a change. As a gamer who often played online, I had interacted with many people working in tech as developers. I discussed my situation with some of them, and one person particularly encouraged me to explore a career in tech. Although I wasn’t passionate about it, I thought I would be more comfortable working on a computer all day instead of serving clients I had grown to dislike.

Just as I made the decision to quit my job, the second lockdown was announced. It was unbelievable timing. Once again, I was being paid to do nothing. However, I didn’t have much money, so I used that time to teach myself as much about frontend development as possible, hoping to secure a job before the lockdown ended. Unfortunately, I wasn’t successful. Eventually, I had to choose between going back to my old job or pursuing a new career. I decided to take the leap and follow the path towards becoming a developer.

At that point, I thought I would continue coding in my free time while working. However, I found myself exhausted from work and lacked motivation, so another year went by without much progress.

What led you to pursue the part-time online program at Le Wagon? How did it fit into your schedule and career goals?

At some point my partner and I decided to leave Belgium for a couple of months and travel somewhere. This meant quitting our jobs, and for me, it was the third time I had quit the same job. I promised myself that this would be the last time. Unlike my previous attempts, this time I had the financial means to support myself. I realized that what I lacked the most was a certification, so I started looking into bootcamps as the fastest way to obtain the necessary credentials. After reading reviews and researching different options, Le Wagon stood out as having the best reputation.

Initially, I considered attending a bootcamp in Brussels, but I wasn’t enthusiastic about committing to a full-time program. I had never undertaken such a demanding schedule before, and I knew from experience that I often struggled with studying. I was concerned that I would become overwhelmed quickly if I chose the full-time option. Additionally, I didn’t feel a sense of urgency to complete the program quickly. After discussing my situation with Le Wagon’s advisors, I ultimately decided to enroll in their part-time remote bootcamp, which spanned from October to March.

How was your experience balancing work or other commitments while attending the bootcamp part-time?

Well, I didn’t have a job, so I was fortunate enough to be able to quit and fully dedicate my time to the bootcamp. Although it was considered part-time, in my case, it felt more like a full-time, six-month bootcamp. This immersive approach allowed me to learn much more than I would have otherwise. While attending the bootcamp, I had some free time every day to play games and take care of household chores. Overall, I found the schedule and organization to be manageable.

Did you have any prior experience or knowledge in web development before joining the bootcamp?

Yes, I did. As I mentioned earlier, I tried to become a frontend developer on my own for a little over a year. I have to admit, I wasn’t very studious, but I did acquire a decent amount of knowledge about HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Vue.js. I also dabbled in Python and PHP at one point, but I quickly gave up and don’t remember much about them. Prior to the bootcamp, I hadn’t really coded anything for nearly a year, so I didn’t think it would matter much. I was mistaken. My previous experience came back and helped me pick up Ruby quite quickly.

Initially, I assumed that everyone would already have that kind of knowledge. Again, I was mistaken. Le Wagon attracts many individuals who have never coded before but are eager to make a change in their lives. Looking back, if I had the financial means, I probably would have pursued this path two years ago. It likely would have expedited my journey to becoming a web developer.

What was your biggest challenge during the part-time online program, and how did you overcome it?

To be honest, I didn’t face any significant challenges during the bootcamp. I knew what I was getting into, so I made sure to have ample time to fully commit to the program. My prior experience in coding also helped me grasp concepts easily and quickly. In fact, I understood the material well enough that I ended up explaining things to my classmates more than relying solely on the course materials.

However, there was one thing that worried me during the first couple of weeks of the bootcamp. I wasn’t sure if I would be motivated enough to fully embrace the experience. In the past, I had attempted coding without much success, and it wasn’t a passion for me at that time. So, I questioned myself several times about whether I would end up failing again. However, as I progressed through the bootcamp at Le Wagon, I found myself enjoying coding much more than before. It has now become one of my main areas of interest, and over time, those fears gradually vanished.

How did the online format of the bootcamp support your learning and engagement with fellow students and teachers?

In our batch, Le Wagon introduced a new format called “Flex,” which was a first-time experiment. Previously, the bootcamp used to organize fixed weekly sessions at specific times where students could interact with teachers and fellow students. However, in our case, everything was more flexible. We had the option to choose which day to attend the livecode sessions. Additionally, every evening, we had “helpdesk sessions,” which lasted for three hours. During these sessions, students could collaborate and teachers were available to answer any questions. We also had a forum where students could ask questions anytime, and teachers would try to provide answers even outside of the helpdesk sessions.

Fortunately, we had a highly committed teacher who would answer questions from 10 am to 1 am every day. This dedication made it much easier to receive assistance when we encountered challenges. While there wasn’t a strict requirement to interact with others outside of the livecode sessions, one of the strengths of bootcamps, in my opinion, is the sense of working together as a cohort to grow. Through this process, we had the opportunity to meet many amazing people who were going through the same learning journey. This camaraderie served as a significant motivation to keep pushing forward, and it likely contributed to my success in the bootcamp compared to when I was learning on my own.

Le Wagon is a community first and foremost. Did you experience the sense of community and connection during the part-time online program?

Absolutely! While we never see each other in person, we connect every day through online platforms like Zoom, Gather, or Slack. The level of community and connection experienced in the part-time online program depends on how involved each individual wants to be. If you choose to engage with the community, you’ll have ample opportunities to interact with your batch mates. On a broader scale, you’ll be joining a community of over 20,000 alumni who have gone through the same journey you’re undertaking.

Even after completing the bootcamp, I had the chance to meet some people from my batch who were also living in Belgium. I attended a few events organized by Le Wagon Brussels where I had the opportunity to meet even more people. If you’re interested in being a part of the community, rest assured that you will be welcomed. There are plenty of avenues to connect and engage.

Have you stayed in contact with any alumni from your batch or other Le Wagon alumni?

Yes, I have stayed in contact with some alumni from my batch. Given that we had over 50 students in my batch, it’s not possible to keep in touch with everyone. However, I’m currently mentoring or working with around five individuals from my batch, and I frequently exchange direct messages with another five.

In addition to staying connected with my batchmates, I have also had the opportunity to meet alumni from other batches. In fact, it was through these connections and interactions with alumni on Slack that I found a job. For me, the true strength of Le Wagon lies in its community on Slack. If you’re not actively participating in that community, you may be missing out on a crucial part of your overall experience.

In what ways has the bootcamp helped you advance in your career or achieve your professional goals?How has it impacted your confidence and abilities as a web developer?

My goal was always to become a Full-Stack developer, but I lacked knowledge and experience in backend development. Le Wagon immediately addressed that gap as their current focus is on backend development. Learning about Ruby, SQL, and eventually Rails was crucial in filling that gap and getting closer to my goal.

It turns out that I was performing quite well in these areas. Since I didn’t have much to compare it to previously, I wasn’t sure about my abilities. However, discovering my proficiency in these new skills boosted my confidence and reassured me that this career path was a good fit for me. Additionally, the job I secured after the bootcamp was through a connection I made at Le Wagon. Without the bootcamp, reaching my professional goal would have been much more challenging.

Do you have any advice or tips for someone considering the part-time online program at Le Wagon?

I have a piece of advice, and although I’m semi-joking, hear me out. Consider quitting your job. Having the time to focus, free from stress and well-rested, on coding for 4 or 5 hours a day is incredible. You will experience faster growth because you’ll have the capacity to go above and beyond what Le Wagon expects. However, I understand that not everyone can afford to do this, especially those with families. If you can, though, I highly recommend it. Just be aware that by quitting your job, you remove your fallback option, and you’ll need to commit fully to this new career path.

Here are a couple more tips: Stay curious. Le Wagon’s courses are excellent, but they can only teach you so much in 9 weeks. If you start feeling comfortable with what you’re currently learning, take the initiative to explore additional resources like YouTube to expand your knowledge.

Thank you for sharing your insight with us Louis, we wish you all the best with your new tech job ????

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