From Coding Bootcamp to Team Revelry: Meet Deja Trudeaux

Nick here. I’d like to formally introduce you to Deja Trudeaux! Deja has been a great addition to our Engineering team, graduating from the Apprenticeship program with flying colors. Deja and I have actually known each other since high school so I’ve known how dope she is for some time now. In typical New Orleans fashion, we’ve had multiple conversations trying to figure out exactly how we know each other with little to no success. I’m not super worried about it, I’m just glad she’s reveling with us now.

As a former professional seamstress, Deja’s path to coding and a career in tech may not have taken a traditional path, but it’s one we can all learn from. Here’s her story in her own words.

Deja’s Story

“Why did you decide to do this?” was the question someone asked when I decided to attend a coding bootcamp. I hadn’t really given too much thought as to why I was doing it, since I’ve always been interested in computers. But after a short pause, my explanation began and it almost felt like somebody else was narrating my life.

Sparking an Interest in Code

It all started when I was in first grade. I had one of those little kiddie fake laptops that I don’t think people have anymore, and it was my favorite possession. While other kids had Barbies and Hot Wheels, I was on my “VTech Talking Whiz Kid” thinking I was the bees knees. So when my elementary school teacher, Ms. Stemley, asked on the first day of first grade, “Who here has a computer at home?” I raised my hand because I really thought my little talking machine was the real thing. I looked around and realized that I was the only fool to raise my hand.

Ms. Stemley said, “Ok, well you’re gonna be the computer teacher of the year and show all the other kids how to use our classroom computer.” I thought, ok no problem (I was the teacher’s pet)… and came to find out that the class computer was nothing like the plastic thing I had at home! And that’s when I learned how to A) fake it til you make it, and B) use a computer. This was a while before every child was tech-savvy like today. I taught myself and every other kid in that class without letting on that I originally had no idea how to use this thing.

Fast forward to college, when people were still saying, “study what you love”. Well, I love a lot of things, including art, history, and philosophy. So I smashed the first two together as a major and minored in philosophy before realizing that Art History lands itself at the top of almost every list of “Worst Majors If You Want to Get a Job After College”. I did learn a lot of valuable skills in school that I don’t think I’d ever take back, but certainly one of the subjects I was drawn to most was Symbolic Logic. I enjoyed learning to reason about abstract concepts, and post-graduation considered going into programming, as I was very interested in how it related to Symbolic Logic.

My Everest: Immersive Coding Bootcamp

After spending some time waiting tables, bartending, and sewing for a living, I began throwing around the idea of starting a career in software engineering. I had played around with HTML and CSS in high school when trying to make my DeadJournal look edgy, but other than that, I knew little to nothing about functions, data structures, or web development in general. A friend told me about coding bootcamps, and I was immediately intrigued by the idea. I started doing some of the exercises on FreeCodeCamp.org and was hooked. This was right up my alley: telling machines what to do and solving puzzles. It was at this time that I proved to myself that I really enjoyed coding, and while FreeCodeCamp was very useful in that way, I felt I needed more of a tailored curriculum to get the ball rolling. Enrolling at Operation Spark, a local Bootcamp and Immersion Program, seemed to be the next logical step. So I did it — and so did my boyfriend, Patrick!

People who have gone to programs like Operation Spark will tell you this: “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.” And I’m not going to lie, that is true unless you have climbed Mt. Everest or something (and that’s just not me). Starting a coding bootcamp with barely any knowledge of computer programming feels like an insurmountable challenge at the beginning, and boy was it hard work. At first, you take classes 2 hours a day, 4 days a week. This part is called Prep, the free part of the program where you decide whether coding makes you want to keep learning or throw your laptop in the trash can. The next part is Bootcamp, where your hours are increased to 3 hours a day, 4 days a week. During my 5 weeks of Bootcamp, I learned the fundamentals of Javascript: things like datatypes, operators, functions, and the basics.

After Bootcamp comes Immersion, my mental equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest. It is very intense, you doubt yourself, you think you’re not retaining information and then suddenly, things click, and you figure out which things can stay and what things you can kinda just Google later. What Operation Spark taught me was how to learn. They didn’t give you the answer, they asked you, “Did you Google the problem? Did you use the Debugger’s Checklist?” Basically, “Did you spend time thinking about why you’re having this problem, and how you will solve it on your own?” The master was teaching the student how to not need a master, and I think that’s the most valuable thing any of us can gain. You know, the “teach a man to fish” thing.

As a result of my newly discovered autodidacticism, I gained the confidence to bombard the recruiters at Revelry when it was time to get a job. Patrick and I had been friends with Jonathan Walters and Bryan Joseph, who had told us about the great company culture and team there. While I was ready to jump into the field, I thought a few more months of education would only benefit me, so when offered an Apprenticeship, I seized the opportunity.

Apprentice Life

At first it was a bit of an acclimation coming from Immersion where every minute of my time was scheduled for me to Revelry where your time is mostly self-managed, and most of the employees work remotely. I spent most of my time working on tutorials provided in the Apprenticeship Curriculum, a course of study created at Revelry for filling in gaps in understanding while also aiding in learning things that were completely new. I focused mostly on Elixir and Phoenix since I had very little knowledge of Functional Programming. While that was a big difference for me who is still new at programming, having established a foundation at Operation Spark really helped me to put the new things I was learning into place.

After three months as an Apprentice, my progress was reviewed by the engineers at Revelry I had worked with most. I personally felt that I had grown a lot in the 3 months of my Apprenticeship, and my reviewers seemed to think so too! That’s when I reached my ultimate goal of being promoted to Software Engineer. All of my hard work finally paid off, and I was able to prove to my peers that I have what it takes to work on a team at Revelry.

Reflections

While my journey is only beginning, I feel that what I’ve learned during school and my Apprenticeship have already helped me grow so much as a person. I now have the confidence and skills to keep improving as a developer, and I surprise myself every day with how far I’ve come. If I could go back to last year at this time and see my future self, I would be scratching my head, saying, “Wait how did I do that?” And also, “Wow that’s the biggest glow up of 2018-19.”

Tl;dr I’m proud of myself and super excited about my new life as a Software Engineer at Revelry.

More Posts by Deja Trudeaux:

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