An Interview with Java Developer Steve Nagle

Keeping in touch with graduates is important to us. Java developer Steve Nagle shares his thoughts and experiences in the program and how he feels now that he is employed with one of the largest health insurance companies in the nation…

SteveNSkill Distillery: Describe where you were in your life when you applied (and then, were accepted) to Skill Distillery. What were some of your thoughts?

Steve Nagle: I had recently decided to leave my career in business/marketing and pursue something entirely different. I felt like I’d always been interested in technology and computers as a hobbyist, so it naturally made sense to see if I’d enjoy software. I bought a Python book, started off on it, and decided that I needed to fast-track my education and skills. I spent a lot of time shopping for boot camps after not wanting to go back to college at the time, and then I found SD which taught a great stack and took VA benefits, which I had a little left of.

SD: You were switching careers with a little bit of coding knowledge. What were the toughest parts of the program? What motivated you to get through?

SN: The toughest parts of the program were definitely the first two months. I felt defeated at times, but I never wanted to give up. I struggled in the early parts of the program to really “put it all together.” I felt like I understood individual lessons but didn’t do as well piecing it all together. I realized early on that I would not be the “Developer Savant” that I’d hoped, but that I’d refocus on just absorbing and moving at my own pace.

After being a professional developer for a year, that’s still where I’m at and my skills are growing organically, and I don’t have to live under my own pressure.

SD: “Growing organically” speaks a lot to gaining confidence in your skills, which took time. How did you feel on graduation day? What were some of your thoughts?

SN: I was excited, and a little intimidated. I was excited because I felt like I’d just completed the most academically rigorous thing in my life, and maybe I’d get some rest after driving massive amounts of information into my brain. I ended up being wrong about that, because I still drink off the firehouse to this day! Haha. I was intimidated because I knew it was time to stop being a student and start being a professional, and I didn’t know where I’d end up.

SD: Describe your first job after completing the program. What were you doing? How did you feel?

SN: My first job after graduation was the result of a couple months of work trying to get my foot in the door somewhere. The job market for entry-level developers is not easy, but it’s also not impossible. I took a position doing application development for third-party clients. It was mostly Java and JavaScript, and I picked up a .NET project toward the end. I felt intimidated once again but just pushed through and absorbed as much as I could, and I think that I ultimately wrote some good software.

SD: So, where are you now?

SN: I’m a Java Developer at HCSC (BlueCross BlueShield of IL, MT, NM, OK, and TX). I recently started here, and it’s back to the firehose again because the education never ends for a developer! The work is really high-level and challenging, so every day brings new problems to solve.

SD: What do you feel has been the most valuable Skill Distillery lesson or “trick” that you use on the job?

SN: I think it’s definitely more of a skill than a trick, and I don’t think it’s anything related to coding. It’s really just more of the mindset that I picked up at SD, which is that there are a lot of solutions to every problem, but some are better than others and good developers always keep learning to get better at figuring that out.

SD: What advice would you give to someone trying to decide if they should attend a coding bootcamp?

SN: If you’re thinking about going to a bootcamp, do your homework and find a camp that teaches you what you want to know and what the market dictates is beneficial. Decide how much of each one is important to you. I graduated from SD, but I didn’t graduate from learning.

I try to absorb information and concepts like a sponge, and sometimes my brain feels like one! Also, no matter what any program tells you, getting your foot in the door as an entry-level developer is not easy, but hard work and passion will almost always produce results and pay off.

SD: What are three adjectives you would use to describe a successful programmer?

SN: Communicative, passionate, and creative…in that order. A lot of people think that developers just sit there and pound out code, and maybe some do. My experience has been that a lot of time is actually spent debugging, testing, and just talking through concepts and plans and bouncing ideas off one another. You have to enjoy problem-solving, and if you’re like me, life is easier when you can translate plain English into code and vice versa, and really engage with teammates to produce the highest-quality work.

Steve Nagle graduated from the sixth Skill Distillery cohort. 

Leave a Comment