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A Wordle-Class Coder Jill Oakes, TrueCoders GraduateSeptember 6th, 2022

TrueCoders' Alumni Jill Oakes

Tons of students enroll with TrueCoders to realize their dreams of becoming Software Engineers. Those students go on to do fun, exciting, and impressive coding feats once they leave. Jill Oakes is one example of a TrueCoders student who saw a future in the coding landscape and went for it. We asked her a few questions about what she learned with us and what she’s doing with that knowledge.

What were you doing before you decided to start your TrueCoders journey?

"Before enrolling at TrueCoders, I worked as a television newscast director for sixteen years. I was an automation director, so I was basically the conductor of a robot orchestra made up of cameras, automatic tape playback machines, and automated audio/graphics systems. I would script out – very simple code compared to what I learned later at TrueCoders – what I needed all the systems to do before a show, then keep them all working in sync with the news anchors."

Jill Oakes working as a newscast director

What made you decide to switch careers and pursue a more coding-focused path?

"Directing live TV is fun, but it’s a very high-pressure environment. I reached a point in my career where I would have had to move to a bigger market to move upwards in pay, and I was exhausted from working what felt like an unending run of in-person, second shifts through the worst of the pandemic.

"By re-skilling for a career in software development, I saw a chance to increase my earnings potential in a growing field without having to relocate to another city. But leaving a good job for the unknown was still scary."

What made you decide to sign up for TrueCoders once you heard about us?

"I shopped around for a few weeks before enrolling at TrueCoders. I attended online informational sessions with other camps, made a lot of phone calls, scoured Course Report for reviews, and asked other code camp graduates a lot of questions.

"What sold me on TrueCoders was when Michael Doyle (TrueCoder’s President) explained how the live "day" classes and the Flex classes work. I could start in the day class and move to the Flex class if I wasn’t keeping up or if life got in the way, or that I could start in the Flex class until I was ready to move to the day class for more instruction. Combine that flexibility with the reasonable cost, and I was ready to enroll."

Did you know anything about coding before starting your TrueCoders classes? Was it an intimidating feeling to start learning something so new?

"I knew some very basic things about coding prior to starting at TrueCoders. I had taken a multi-week Python class through Coursera about four years prior, but I didn’t keep my skills up after the class ended.

"More recently, I read a couple of great coding books that got the ball rolling for me: HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites by Jon Duckett and Learning Web Design by Jennifer Niederst Robbins. Those books made me think I had an aptitude for the fundamentals. It was still intimidating to begin learning C# and work in Visual Studio, but my day class instructor, Jeremy Huddleston, broke it all down into manageable pieces."

Jill's Code for WordleAssistant Game

Which TrueCoders course did you take: The Web Development course or the Software Engineering course?

"I enrolled in the Software Engineering course because I wanted to learn C#, SQL, and ASP.NET. Those are the skills I wanted for the jobs I was looking at. I chose TrueCoders’ Software Engineering specifically over other bootcamps because their curriculum is spelled out very clearly on their website. A lot of other camps I was looking at didn’t have that level of detail so easily accessible."

Were there any big challenges you faced in class? How’d you get past them?

"I was thrown for a loop right around Week 6 when we began learning about ORMs, Object Relational Mappers. That was immediately followed by APIs, Application Programming Interfaces. The gist of it is, ‘How do I get this software to talk with that software?’ It took me a good long while to figure them out."

"Luckily, There’s a whole team of instructors and teaching assistants at TrueCoders that are available to help you succeed. During the live class, you can jump into a breakout room and ask questions. After class, you can schedule one-on-one Zoom sessions with teachers or TAs to work through things. In the evening when you’re working on a project after dinner and run into trouble, you can jump on Discord and ask questions there; teachers and TAs might answer if they’re available. I didn’t expect them to be available at all hours, but they’re really good about getting back to you so you don’t get left behind."

You created a Wordle-helper program called WordleAssistant for your final project with us. Tell us about it!

"Wordle is a word-guessing game from the New York Times. You get six chances to guess a single word, and your clues come from your previous guesses.

"In order for my program to work, I needed to gather every possible Wordle answer and put them into a database. I got those answers by combing through the code on Wordle’s website. There are over 2,300 possible answers.

"WordleAssistant, my project, is an app that helps you win Wordle games and track your outcomes over time. You enter the green, yellow, and gray letters from your in-progress Wordle game into WordleAssistant, and my app provides a filtered list of words that might be the answer you’re looking for. When the game is over, you can enter the answer, your outcome, and the date into a database so you can keep track of how you’re doing.

"WordleAssistant is based heavily on the SQL lessons I learned at TrueCoders, as well as the MVC design pattern (Model View Controller). It’s written in C# and took 2 weeks of 10-12 hour days to complete. My biggest challenge was getting the filtering logic to work. I tried several different methods of sorting Wordle answers based on the input from a user, but I was having trouble with combining separate search results for the green, yellow, and gray letters. After three days, I settled on a final answer: one long parameterized Dapper query."

How have you used WordleAssistant to your advantage in the job market?

"WordleAssistant was a hit on Graduation Day! I got to demo my project to the Software Engineering and Web Development classes and received a lot of positive feedback. I spent the week after graduation making a YouTube "Code Chat" video about my project that I then submitted with job applications.

"The video landed me an interview at Beck’s Hybrids, a retail seed company where I am now employed as a Software Developer."

What do you think of your time with us in hindsight?

"The money I paid for a nine-week TrueCoders class was absolutely worth it to me. It was the right price and the right amount of time for my personal situation. I got extremely lucky in my job search, but it was predicated by the effort I made to follow the advice of Denise Shines, the Director of Career Services at TrueCoders. She taught us the difference between chronological and functional resumes, how to develop our personal brand as developers, and how to prepare for coding interviews. Thanks to Denise, I crafted a robust LinkedIn page to use in my job applications and a succinct elevator pitch to use in interviews."

What would you tell someone who is ready to start their own TrueCoders journey?

"The first thing I’d ask someone who is inquiring about code camp is, ‘Have you done any pre-work?’ Doing some pre-work lets you get a taste of what you’re getting into before you put money down. Plus, it lets you ask better questions once you get to class. TrueCoders recommends W3 Schools and SoloLearn as pre-work for anyone signing up early and for current students to reference.

"If you’re still on the fence about TrueCoders, call or email them and inquire specifically about the Flex class. You go at your own pace, on your own time, and can ask questions on Discord or in one-on-one Zoom sessions whenever you get stuck. I chose the day class because I was ready for a career change, but if that doesn’t work for your situation, I’d recommend looking into whether Flex is right for you. I’m really glad I made the leap!"

If you’re like Jill and you're ready for a change in your life, there’s no better time than NOW to become a Software Engineer. Reach out to us today and start building your coding future. You won’t regret it.

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