Career change from pre-dental to software engineer

Upon graduating from our Beginner Coding Bootcamp in February, Natalie Tang faced a challenging hiring market (that’s now improving). Through perseverance, staying connected with her Career Services Manager, and continuing to learn and hone her skills, she landed her current role as a Software Engineer at JPMorgan Chase.

In this Q&A, Natalie talks about her job search, her passion for coding, and her career change from pre-dental student to software engineer.

How did you become interested in coding and software engineering?

It was my partner who introduced me to the software engineering industry. He was a computer engineering student at the time I was a pre-dental student. Since he would always talk about his projects and what was taught in class, I was constantly surrounded by the information. It wasn’t until his senior project that I really became more interested in what he was doing. I ended up doing more research about the field and became intrigued. I eventually took an HTML and CSS course to start my journey and loved it!

What led you to seek a career change through the Hack Reactor Beginner Coding Bootcamp?

When researching different coding bootcamps, I was able to use Reddit as a good source to ask questions and opinions from others. A person I met there – who I still talk to – introduced me to Hack Reactor and said it’s a great opportunity. That led me to read more about the program and I eventually applied to the 19-week program. I chose it because I wanted full-time learning at a great pace.

During your time in the program, what stands out in terms of skills you acquired and/or projects you built?

What stood out to me was getting to learn every bit of technology and being exposed to so much. Even if some topics weren’t in-depth, the curriculum still allowed me to gain a fundamental understanding, so if someone were to ask me about it, I would at least know the concept. It was great exposure and I was able to showcase and use the skills I acquired toward the final project of the program.

Congrats on your new role at JPMorgan Chase! I know it’s new, but what has it been like so far?

Thank you! Because I’m in my role through the ETSE (Emerging Talents Software Engineers) program, I’m currently training for a few weeks. After that, those of us in the program will join our teams on-site and work on the projects given. In terms of my role, I do know that I’ll be working in Securities Services Technology. I will say that during this training, it does feel like class all over again, in which being focused and engaged is essential.

You mentioned you’ll work on-site once you join your team. Is this role on-site full-time?

After the training, which is remote, I’ll be working hybrid. I’m definitely excited because I love a good balance between both – and the office I will be working at is so nice! As much as I like being in the comfort of my own space, I know being in the office gives me chances to network and be surrounded by hard-working teammates.

How was the post-program job search process for you?

I graduated in February, and since there was somewhat of a hiring freeze in the market during that time, it was definitely difficult. However, my amazing Career Services Manager was able to give me great advice. One thing she mentioned was that I have to love what I do, which brought me to ask myself: What do I see myself doing as a programmer? What languages do I like and want to pursue?

Before going through about 500 applications, I knew I wanted to be a part of JPMC, which encouraged me to take the time to keep learning even beyond what was taught at Hack Reactor so that I would be a great candidate.

So you studied biology and you mentioned your pre-dental career. Is there anything from those areas that you’ve been able to carry over into software engineering?

I’m able to carry over skills such as attention to detail, problem-solving, adaptability, teamwork, communication, and the most important thing I carry with me is to stay true to helping others. The attention to detail allows me to ensure I write clean code and identify any bugs. The problem-solving ability is vital in programming when troubleshooting issues and optimizing code. Teamwork is very important since there’s collaboration involved every day, and effective communication is equally important to explain technical concepts. I’ve always loved helping others and giving back to the community, so I’m grateful I am able to carry that over, as well.

Do you have any advice for incoming bootcamp students?

Learn as much as you can without feeling too pressured or overwhelmed. If anything, the bootcamp has taught me not to cram, not to try to know everything, but to learn at a pace that’s enjoyable. After all, what’s great about being a programmer is the continuous learning! Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek assistance. Sometimes the instructor could also learn from the programmer.


Ready for a career change? Learn more about our Beginner Coding Bootcamp