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Craig was introduced to some early computer video games by a childhood friend. He fell in love with the 8-bit world and wanted to own the experience for himself. Craig’s father, a network administrator, enjoyed computers and accepted his son’s interest in owning a computer. But with little disposable income, his father insisted that if Craig wanted to have a computer to play these games on, Craig would have to build it himself using money from summer jobs. So Craig started working summers, built up enough money to build a computer using the cheapest parts possible, and began putting it together.
Fast forward to 2016. Craig’s hobbies of video games and computer-building made way for more career-minded pursuits. He worked for a time as a Marketing & E-Commerce Manager for a company that was making custom display cases.
In his role, headed up the e-commerce department:
“The schematics we had, the software for it was like 15 years old. It was done by an outside company that was long gone. So I couldn’t get any updates from them. I was trying to add new variations and got nowhere. I couldn’t manipulate the software. If I knew how to code, I could improve the software and do what I wanted to do. It was a problem I wanted to solve.”
That’s how he arrived at Hack Reactor:
“First, I started to teach myself how to code. I took an online course (intro to computer science) through Harvard and really enjoyed it. I set myself a goal to do it everyday and got a few people to hold me accountable. I told them I’d email them every week. If you don’t see the email from me then something’s wrong.”
His initial goal was to see if he could write some code for the schematics for his employer. But, as he progressed deeper into his online lessons, it became clear to him that he wanted to use his newly-found programming skills to propel his career forward. But he knew he needed to learn more than what online lessons would teach, and at a greater pace:
“I was thinking about Masters degree….but there was a coding bootcamp in San Francisco called Dev Bootcamp that I had heard of. I started doing some more research into all the bootcamps that were out there. I looked up students on LinkedIn from Hack Reactor. Typically, they did the bootcamp, then had a job. I reached out to a bunch of them and asked them about their experiences.”
Although Craig lived at the time in Stone Mountain, Georgia, he considered attending Hack Reactor’s San Francisco campus:
“I had family living in Berkeley and I could sleep on the floor if I came out to California. It just seemed like a viable option at the time. I thought I could make a go of this.”
Although he was ready to uproot to San Francisco to take the program, he wasn’t accepted immediately into Hack Reactor:
“It took me two interviews to get in. I took the first technical interview with Hack Reactor and got a provisional acceptance where I had to do the precourse with some mentors, then pass the second interview. So it took me two tries.”
Craig did get a chance to tour Hack Reactor’s San Francisco campus before he made the decision to do it:
“Right before Hack Reactor merged with MakerSquare, I took a trip to San Francisco to see my family. I figured I would also take advantage of the time to tour several bootcamp campuses there. I went to MakerSquare, Hack Reactor, and App Academy. I saw the Hack Reactor space and thought, ‘ok this is really the best option for me’.
Soon after getting accepted into Hack Reactor’s program, Day 1 arrived:
“I really didn’t have any expectations coming into Day 1. Hack Reactor is so regimented and you know exactly what you’re doing every second. I already knew what was going to happen the first day.”
Craig quickly realized there were a whole lot of smart people alongside him and soon identified the individual strength each classmate had:
“Once you can learn who’s strong at what.. everyone can help each other. If you end up being a loner, it can really hurt you when there’s a lot of info coming at you. If I sucked at something I knew who to reach out to . One sprint was on SQL, and I had never done anything like SQL before. Doing the queries in SQL was throwing me for a loop. Some people had done SQL before they came so they were really good at it. I paired up with one guy for that sprint that was able to help me get my head around what it takes to think that way.”
The cohort’s tech mentors and Hackers In Residence were quite helpful, too:
“You could always reach out to them. They would always stay after hours as well. They didn’t have to stay past 5 but a lot of times they were there til 8 or 9 if you needed help with things.”
Immediately after graduating from Hack Reactor, Craig had plans to go back to Atlanta to look for work. But during a job fair, he accepted an opportunity to interview with Uber. That interview didn’t go too well:
“It was my very first interview. I kind of froze up on the technical part of the interview. I completely went straight to the most complex thing I could think of. It didn’t end up that well but it gave me a good starting place of what to prepare for.”
He made his way back to Atlanta soon after and spent most of his time looking for job opportunities and studying for technical interviews. At one point, he held 7 simultaneous job offers. He settled on Turner, where he has been now for almost a year:
Craig looks back on his experience at Hack Reactor with advice for future bootcamp students:
“Second, you’ll be involved in group projects. Don’t focus too much on coming up with something super novel and creative. Just show off your general skills, solve problems, and work with a team. Once you’re out there working, those come into play.”
“Lastly, focus on the process of each project. Trust the process because it’s exactly how it is in the real world.”
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