Perseverance Pays Off: One Boot Camp Graduate’s Path To Landing The Job

For Nirav Patel, learning a new programming language came naturally. But mastering the language of the job interview was an entirely different challenge.

When he graduated from the University of California Irvine Continuing Education Coding Boot Camp, Nirav felt fully prepared to handle the technical challenges of any position for which he applied. But he struggled to get that message across during interviews, and didn’t always project the confidence required to land the job.

So what was the key to securing a position as a Junior QA Analyst at SQAsquared, where he’s now on the road to a new and exciting career? Perseverance—and utilizing the career services center that’s available to all boot camp students and alumni.

Learning to navigate difficult questions

Nirav didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the resources offered through boot camp. “After class, career services sessions were available, where we could practice our interview skills,” he said. Besides whiteboarding actual examples of coding questions that grads might be faced with in interviews, students were coached on how to handle some of the behavioral questions that might otherwise trip them up. “The career services staff really helped with strategies to answer those tricky questions like, ‘tell me about your strengths and weaknesses,’” he said. Armed with that preparation, Nirav’s confidence grew as he continued sending out résumés.

Nirav was landing interview after interview, but a job offer remained elusive. Regular post-interview debriefing sessions with the career services center helped Nirav hone his conversational skills and prepare for the next interview on the horizon, and eventually, a fantastic job offer came his way.

During the interview for his current role, Nirav was presented with a question that was identical to one that his career services coach had whiteboarded with him in a practice session. “Because of that interview practice, it was really easy to land this job,” he said.

Communication skills help bridge the gap between languages

As a QA Analyst at SQAsquared, Nirav is using a different coding language than the one he learned at boot camp, but the skills he learned still translate. “The concepts are the same, even though the syntax is different,” he explained.

Nirav said that the soft skills he acquired at boot camp—learning to be a team player, listening deeply to other people, working effectively with many different people, communicating well—are even more important than the actual coding languages he mastered.

When it comes to communication, Nirav stressed the importance of reaching out to peers and instructors alike. Asked what advice he would give to potential boot camp enrollees, he said they should make an effort to foster community. “You’ll get the most out of it by talking to classmates and teachers. I still talk to people from my boot camp all the time. Stay in contact, build connections, and put 100 percent effort into it,” he said.

Hands-on learning and projects put skills to the test

When he came to the boot camp (on the recommendation of his sister, who attended UC Irvine’s Data Analytics Boot Camp), Nirav already had a degree in civil engineering. But he found that the style of learning at boot camp was a complete departure from what he experienced while earning his Bachelor’s degree. “I was used to lecture-based classes. Boot camp was different. The whole hands-on experience of learning was amazing. The projects forced us to put our skills to the test,” said Nirav.

The projects Nirav worked on with his team included a social media app for amateur craft brewers, where they could follow their favorite brewers, swap recipes, talk about the tools of the trade, and share information about tastings and other events. “Like Facebook, but for homebrewers,” Nirav said. “One of our team members used to be an amateur craft brewer before coming to boot camp, so we wanted to make a website for people like him.”

Another project entailed setting up an online retail store for Girl Scout cookies—something any Thin Mint fanatic who has ever tried to track down a cookie-seller can appreciate. Nirav’s group created a site where cookie-hunters could either look at a map and pinpoint the closest vendor near them, or simply order cookies online for delivery direct to their door.

“Keep on trying—don’t get discouraged”

To anyone who might not find their dream job immediately after boot camp, Nirav offered this hard-won wisdom: “Don’t get discouraged. Keep applying, keep on sending out résumés. Apply to as many jobs as you can and try to get your foot in the door.”

Utilizing career services, as Nirav did, is a great way to get an edge. Boot camp students and graduates can practice their interview skills, get advice on making a résumé the best it can be, and even get help creating a polished LinkedIn profile.

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