From Sales to Web Development: a journey of learning
A journey of discovery. When Alex lost his job at the end of 2019 he started question either to stay in sales or not. And that is when he decided to apply for a full-stack bootcamp with Le Wagon in Stockholm. This story is for those who are at a stand still in their professional life and aren’t sure about what to do next. Don’t be afraid to change your life!
How it all started
Five months ago, I lost my job at one of the hottest startups in Stockholm. After several interviews for Sales and Business Development roles with other Tech companies, I started to question what I really wanted to do next in my professional life. I realized that I didn’t want to continue applying for roles I had been doing for the past 3 years. I wanted to learn new hard skills, which I also knew I would need if I wanted to remain competitive as a foreigner in Sweden.
I then remembered a long-lost dream I had put on halt since a first aborted start-up project: Learning how to code.
The first week of 2020, while on holidays in South America to see my family, I took the decision to proceed with this change in my career. After researching the best options available, I discovered Le Wagon. Le Wagon is a French coding bootcamp startup success story with over 39 campuses worldwide, on a mission to gain a global presence. Le Wagon recently raised 19M$ during their first ever round of funding, and they are ranked the #1 Coding Bootcamp worldwide (by Switchup and CourseReport). Their full-stack web development program offers a 9-week intense and immersive curriculum designed to teach its students the necessary skills to land a job in software development or product management upon completion - or to prepare them for creating their own startup.
During the 9 weeks of the bootcamp, our schedule didn’t leave much room for anything else. The days would start with a lesson about the module we were currently studying, led by teachers from all over the world who had either completed the bootcamp themselves, or were long-time industry professionals. The rest of the day was then spent solving the exercises we were given.
We covered 6 different modules, each dealing with different topics from learning to use GitHub and the Terminal, to front-end, back-end and learning about Databases. Every new module came with a new set of challenges for me. For years while working in sales I had been relying on my soft skills to help me get the job done, and now I was facing obstacle after obstacle like never before, with no previous experience to address them. We moved very fast from the basics of coding to object-oriented programming, MVC architectures, and databases.
Every day I felt like I had to stretch my brain more and more to be able to learn all these new things. After a full day in the classroom, I still had to put in additional work at home, rewrite my notes, complete some of the remaining exercises and do my flashcards (a system Le Wagon uses to help the students memorize what they learn) in order not to fall behind.
And it did. The last four weeks of the program I had my big revelation moment when we entered: Ruby on Rails. I was finally able to see the result of this puzzle I had been building! I could finally visualise the results of all the hard work I had been doing. It enabled me to see results and gave me a much clearer purpose of the coding concept itself. It was definitely the boost I needed and gave me even more energy for the final stretch of the program.
For five weeks we had been learning different things, each critical in itself, and now we would be able to start using it all together. We would finish up the bootcamp with two final challenges. First, a one-week project based on an Airbnb clone, and second a two-week group project. Both would include the planning, developing and pitching our very own web apps.
The first project was named “Flowerfriend”. It was an app designed for flower shops to be able to display their products of the week to customers. Users could easily find their location, see what they had in store and book the flower/plant of choice for a later pickup at the flower shop. The idea was not revolutionary, but it was our first time fully coding an app and working as a group!
With COVID-19 starting to spread across the world, we were now all in somewhat of a lockdown: our classes moved online, with teachers/staff reachable via Slack or video conference. We had to find a method to make sure the development of the project was on track by using Trello, learn how to collaborate on GitHub, and having daily virtual stand-ups with the teachers. This way they knew what we would need with help during the day. It was at times challenging because we didn’t really know which direction we wanted our app to take, which ultimately led us to wasting a lot of time on implementing the wrong features and causing us to deliver on a less than desired app. Working from a distance is however a real situation for many web developers, and we had to learn and adapt quickly.
For the second project we were better prepared. It started with each one of us pitching an idea and the two best options would be selected and taken into production. I was lucky to have my idea chosen and so we started working on Fleapit. The idea of the app is a cross-breed between Ebay, Tinder and a traditional flea-market, but non-monetary. The app is about countering the wastefulness of our society and instead help balance consumption and sustainability. The focus is to create a platform where users can exchange things they have at home with items of other users with an equivalent value range. The user would register on Fleapit, add a first item and start swiping left (dislike) or right (like) on other users’ items. If two users happen to like each other’s items a match would happen and a chat would be accessible for the users to accept or not accept the trade.
We started by creating the look & feel of the app on Sketch in order to have an almost final idea of what features our app would have and to avoid some of the mistakes we had made in the previous project. Then we started developing the app, each one of us working on specific parts or in groups of two to help each other. Working from a distance for this project was indeed challenging and at times frustrating, but it gave us a glimpse at what the life of a freelancer really is about. I was chosen to lead the team which meant that I needed to be disciplined when it came to time management and prioritisation. This experience gave me great learnings and first insights to a future potential role as Team Lead, or Product Manager.
From the beginning we had been very ambitious with our app. We had to implement a fully functioning matching feature between two unique users, a chat function, a randomized display of items for users (Tinder style). In addition to that, we had to tackle many other challenges in the backend, as well as creating different types of views on the frontend part based on which user was logged in. Although difficult and unfinished as of publishing this article, our app has been a source of learning and strengthening of my recently acquired skills. Interestingly, I found myself working more on the backend of the app, which meant coding the features, than the frontend, which is the opposite of what I had originally planned. I was fortunate to have a well balanced team and I am very proud of the amount of work we did in only ten working days.
I graduated on Friday April 3rd with an online Zoom meeting with our friends and family where each group pitched their final app. It was a perfect opportunity to practice pitching a product that we had built from scratch in front of our teachers and loved ones.
Beyond the bootcamp
When I started the bootcamp my idea was to focus on a product manager path. Coming from Sales and Project Management, it felt more natural for me to go in that direction. During the last three weeks of the bootcamp, when I was assigned team lead for both final projects, it really helped me grasp the importance of the role in a company. But having completed the course, I now feel like I could also fully embrace the path of junior web designer with a passion for designing beautiful and functional web apps with great user experiences.
To summarise, my experience at Le Wagon was incredible. During the entire bootcamp we never stopped pushing the limits of our brains. I would often finish the day completely exhausted but with a strong sense of achievement that I had not felt in a long time. I am amazed by my own capacity and that of my colleagues, to have been able to develop functioning web apps with basically just 9 weeks of coding experience.
So, what is next for me? With my newly gained hard skills, I will keep on this journey of educating myself and furthering my knowledge. I will also continue working on my final project, “Fleapit”, to deliver a fully functional web app. Additionally I am fortunate to have friends with terrible websites who will let me re-do theirs. All of this in the aim of mastering what I’ve learned. Soon enough I feel confident I will have accumulated enough experience to feel comfortable applying for two different types of roles. Either a junior web developer position with a focus on frontend as I am more product oriented and I like the design part of creating an app (the complexity of UI and UX have an appeal to me...) or a product manager position where I can combine my coding knowledge and project management past experience. Time will tell.
On a final note, I would like to thank my incredible class members and recent graduates of the first Le Wagon Stockholm batch for their dedication, full commitment, help in times of need and easiness to work with. Starting with my group members, Felix Rönn, Nina Skyttmo, Daniel Hermansson, and the rest of the class, Raphaelle Richard de Latour, Sander Nobel, George Tarcea and Madeline Andrean. The teachers for patiently educating us, Claire Demont, André R. Ferrer, Clara Morgeneyer, Diogo Heinen, Leon Entrup, Tom Gardiner, Hadrien Matringe, Valerie Schraauwers, Yuval Drori and Vilhelm Sjölander, and lastly Sara Strom and Yves Lesaffre for their support making this experience a success. If you are thinking about joining a coding bootcamp know that it will be the best decision you will make. Being able to achieve so much in so little time and learn a whole new scope of hard skills is incredible. If you are on that decision cross-road, keep in mind that joining a bootcamp is not the easy road to take. Give it your full commitment, set the right expectations from the beginning and never give up. You won’t regret it.