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One Los Angeles Software Engineer Lands Her Dream Job

Karolee Carlson grew up in California near Riverside, and enjoys hanging out with her friends, sightseeing in Los Angeles, and playing video games. A year ago, despite holding a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, Karolee found herself working in a small office in Pomona, doing administrative work she didn’t find satisfying.

“I wasn’t happy in general,” she said. “I wasn’t getting paid very much.”

At that job, though, she happened on a new interest.

“I started doing little things on the company’s website, fixing one line of code and stuff like that.”

It didn’t occur to her that this was anything special. It was her then-boyfriend, now husband, who said to her, “Why don’t you do one of these coding bootcamps? "He was the one that convinced me,” she said.

Karolee started looking into bootcamps and found Hack Reactor’s Los Angeles campus.

“Hack Reactor was highly rated and the hiring rate was really high, so that’s why [I] went with it,” she told me. She had already been studying and practicing on her own using “anything that was free online.” Once she decided on Hack Reactor, she went through our recommended materials such as Hack Reactor Prep and this continually-updated study guide.

Karolee passed the our technical interview. She advises Hack Reactor applicants: “I recommend that if you plan on applying, make sure you are prepared to go all in and commit to the program.” This is good advice particularly because uncertain applicants sometimes end up putting off enrollment.

Karolee joined HRLA19, which began in November 2017. Asked what the program was like, Karolee remembered, “It was difficult, for sure. I didn’t feel like the smartest in my cohort, but I worked hard. The staff was great -- I still talk to some of them. My cohort -- I still talk with most of them. Everyone there was wonderful.”

  Karolee (sixth from left) and some cohortmates.

Karolee (sixth from left) and some cohortmates.

When, like most students, she struggled with a concept, she would reach out early and often as recommended to get back on track. “I’d reach out to my cohort mates, to the HIRs [Hackers in Residence], to see if I could find someone to explain it.”

“It was really great to have the support of the HIRs,” she said of the dedicated grads who assist the lecturers, technical mentors, counselors, coordinators and coaches with teaching students. “You could tell they really wanted to help me and that felt really good.”

Of course, the staff’s job is specifically to avoid spoon-feeding answers. Karolee recounted, “One of the HIRs sat me down and was like, ‘We’re going to go through this line by line and you’re going to explain to me what your code is doing’ -- made me really break it down. I had extra work and stuff to study. I’d go over it and make sure I understood it.”

After graduating Hack Reactor--an incredible accomplishment in itself!--it was time for the job search. Karolee graduated in February and right away, hit the ground running, following her career coach’s guidelines.

It was important to Karolee that her new job provide a sense of purpose. “There were a couple things I didn’t [apply] for because I was like, that’s not who I am,” she said. She wanted the job to be near where she lived, or in Los Angeles, and to be something she felt was helpful to the world.

“It took awhile to get traction going,” she said. “I was pretty dedicated right off the bat; I made sure I was applying to several jobs throughout the day, contacting people.” It wasn’t easy.

“I felt a time crunch. I quit my job for this, I took out a loan. It was stressful. I was like, ‘I can’t fail,’ but I’m struggling.” She reached out to her Hack Reactor career coach, Yu-Lin Kong. “I told Yu-Lin and she said, ‘I can see you’ve been trying. Let’s bring you in to talk to a couple people’.” Karolee went through her resume line by line with Hack Reactor’s outcomes staff.

During this time, Karolee also happened to be planning her wedding! The date was set for April 28. “I really wanted to get a job before the wedding,” she said. “The week before the wedding I was doing the interviews for my top choice and one other place. They had told me I was one of the top two candidates.”

That must have been hectic, right? Yes, said Karolee, “but I didn’t feel stressed out.” She’d given it her best shot; either she would get it or she wouldn’t.

The first job offer came in on April 27 from her favorite team, Revolution Prep in Santa Monica -- the day before her wedding and just 2 months into the search. “So that worked out!” she said, laughing.

How did it feel to get the offer the day before getting married? “It was pretty awesome!” she admitted.

“I’m really glad this team gave me a call back,” she added. “My team is really awesome.”

  Karolee on her wedding day. Congratulations!

Karolee on her wedding day. Congratulations!

Karolee took a week off after her wedding and started her new job as a junior software engineer in May. A little over a month in, she says of her new job:

“It’s great. I really like what I do. I really like that there’s always something to fix, there’s always a task to complete. It’s not just menial work, like filing papers. There’s always something to do that matters. And this team is great, they have a good purpose.”

Revolution Prep provides online tutoring for college-level standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, as well as general tutoring focussing on growth mindset (which we love at Hack Reactor too!).

“I’m junior level there - mostly refactoring and fixing little bugs and stuff like that, and they’re getting me started on the backend.” The company’s front-end is Angular, “which was pretty easy for me, going from React to Angular,” Karolee mentioned matter-of-factly. Although given the chance, she said, she’d like to work with React again. “React was better, the way it was organized -- the freedom you had. You could organize in a way that was better for you instead of the rigid structure of Angular.”

She’s learning Ruby on Rails and RSpec testing on the job to work on the backend. For learning new technologies, Karolee said, Hack Reactor helped her solidify “Just being focused on it...and learning & practicing as you go along is really important.”

She still loves seeing her friends and sightseeing in Los Angeles. But now there’s a lot of travel on the horizon, too. She’s going to Chicago for a weekend, then Arizona to see family, then Spain. “I love the beach,” she said. “We’ll probably stick around Barcelona.”

“As far as the experience of being in the program,” Karolee reflected, “I think the people are what stuck with me the most. You know, when you find the people who have the same mindset as you and you just click with them - I feel like that’s what I found.”


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