Justin Matthews, November 3, 2016 | 4 min read

“If you’re willing to put in the sweat…”

Hello there! My name is Justin, and I am a part-time Code Immersion student at the Atlanta Tech Talent South campus. I have been in this program now for seven weeks, which means that I have only one more to go before completing the course which, for me, has been both a challenge and a reward. Please let me explain.

A [really] quick backstory: Not long after graduating high school, I enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve, and then (once all of my training was finished) I began a career as a paralegal in the civilian workforce. I spent many years alternating between my roles as the Soldier and the Civilian. I completed two year-long overseas tours with the military, and, when at home, I continued developing my career in the legal field. The education benefits I received through my wartime service allowed me to earn an undergraduate degree at little financial cost to myself, which I did while keeping my daytime paralegal job to pay the bills (by this time I was married, and my wife had just had our first son).

Realizing that my degree (which was in religion and philosophy) was not going to broaden my career horizons, and knowing that I had some of my education benefits remaining, I decided to begin a new degree in computer science, which I felt might provide me with a skillset that could lead to greater opportunities. Unfortunately, I struggled so much in the first two weeks that I withdrew from these courses and, for a year, abandoned the idea of pursuing any future in computer science or coding. There were many reasons I struggled with this. One, the format of these classes was online, which made grasping the content a great deal more difficult than having an actual, experienced teacher in front of you. Two, I had overloaded myself with classes, thinking that I could handle it all while still working full time. Three, the first coding course I took was in JavaScript which, as you probably know, is an extremely difficult coding language to learn as a total beginner. To sum it all up, I was very disappointed. I’ve always been an academic guy, someone who loves to read and learn new things, but I walked away thinking that coding was just one of those things I couldn’t grasp.

Fast-forward one year later: I find out that my relatively new job for a real estate developer is being eliminated before the end of the year. By now I have a second son, so with a wife and two small boys to look after, I knew it was time for me to learn some new skills. That’s when I found out about coding bootcamps. This growing industry boasted a high success rate, and I really liked the in-person format, but two obstacles stood in my way: one, I couldn’t quit my day job, and, two, I was still discouraged from earlier attempt to learn computer science at university. But, with only a few months left in my position at work, I knew I needed to do something. So, I started reading every review I could find for every bootcamp in the Atlanta area. The idea was that I could try to attend one once I left my job, if things lined up financially. It was a longshot, but it wasn’t impossible.

Then I found Tech Talent South. Not only were their reviews for their Atlanta campus the best I could find (go read them for yourself), but I saw that they had a part-time, evening program, which I could begin almost right away (they had an upcoming Fall cohort). So, after weighing it all out, I applied and was admitted to the program. Honestly, this was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Where do I even begin?

One, it is smart financially. I have met person after person with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt for degrees that get them virtually nowhere. The TTS part-time Code Immersion program only cost me what I would have paid in a single semester of university study. Two, it oriented toward application (coding pun not intended). The design is to equip students with the skills to launch careers in coding. Three, my TTS teacher, Rich Zapata, clearly has a love for not only programming but also for teaching it to others. It would be hard to imagine having made it as far as I have without such a great teacher. Four, the TTS support staff goes out of their away to provide any help they can. They line up speakers and tours of various companies and are constantly trying to connect students to the greater tech community. They work tirelessly on this.

Even though I was nervous I was going experience the same struggle with coding that I had before, I found that the course was designed in such a way as to make learning to code both accessible and fun. The course teaches the programming language Ruby and its matching web framework called Rails, which are far more intuitive and simple tools to use as a beginner. Now, seven weeks into the course, my coding skills are far beyond what I thought they would be, and between my classes and extra time spent studying outside of class, I can definitely see a career in tech ahead of me.

I volunteered to write this blog because I believe what Tech Talent South offers is a ridiculously great opportunity. Seriously. If you’re willing to put in the sweat, this may be the path you’ve been waiting for.