Skill Distillery Q&A with Alumnus Brian Thomas

Making the decision to transition into a new career can be difficult. All of the success signs point to the tech field, but where do you start? There are hundreds of “tech jobs” – ranging from “Help Desk Specialist” to “Cloud Architect.” 

Recent graduate Brian Thomas was working in Kuwait when he started to think about his career options and moving back to the United States. After finding Skill Distillery through his research, he decided to apply and attend with the July 2017 cohort. He describes the program as challenging, but a great investment:

Skill Distillery: When you look back on your final decision to attend Skill Distillery and transition into tech, what were some of the deciding factors for you? 

Brian Thomas: When I initially applied, Skill Distillery was the only school teaching Java, and also the only school accepting the GI Bill. I had approximately 8 months of GI Bill left, and the program seemed like a pretty good way to use my benefits. I ended up deferring a year, and there were other bootcamps accepting GI Bill benefits by then, but none of them seemed as good.

SD: What were the toughest parts of the program? What motivated you to get through land a position in tech?

BT: The first chunk was definitely the toughest. Learning OOP and all that, and prepping for the OCA exam. It was hard, but it wasn’t that hard. Going to this class was the only thing I was doing, and I really focused for 8 weeks.

SD: You graduated on November 20, 2018. How did you feel on graduation day? What was going through your mind?

BT: I felt pretty great.  What made graduation even better was receiving a pretty nice job offer that day, and I’d only started applying the final week.

SD: Can you tell us about your job now? How did you feel?

BT: I’m working at NexGen as a government contractor to the Bureau of Land Management, at the Denver Federal Center. It’s pretty awesome – super laid back place with good people.  I’m working on a web app that uses pretty much the same stack that we learned in class, so it was easy to jump right in.  There are a couple different frameworks, but they were easy to pick up after all that I learned at Skill Distillery. Also, a flexible start time is the greatest work perk I’ve ever had.

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

BT: I don’t know. All of it? Everything that we did in class, I do at work. Writing Java, SQL, and AngularJS, reading stack traces, making CRUD apps… All those afternoons where we were assigned a small project at the end of the day were pretty useful.  Those assignments were really similar to getting assigned a ticket that asks you to implement some feature.  

SD: Finally, what advice would you give to someone trying to decide if they should attend a coding bootcamp? What makes you a successful programmer?

BT: You should be pretty sure you enjoy working on a computer all day and solving logic puzzles. If you do, Skill Distillery has a great program. SD has great people, teaching a very in-demand stack. I would say my top 3 adjectives for someone to be successful are persistent, likable, and flexible. 

Brian Thomas graduated from the twelfth Skill Distillery cohort.

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