Brandi Richardson was working as a talent program manager at Delta Airlines when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Like millions, she was furloughed from her job and found herself having to restart her career. So, Richardson decided to pursue her long-time dream of getting into tech with the help of Codesmith. Now, Richardson works as a software engineer at Microsoft.
Here’s her journey.
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before attending Codesmith?
My degree is in public health, but prior to going to the bootcamp, I worked as a talent program manager. I worked in talent acquisition and tech ops. Most of my duties involved managing different projects related to recruiting, tech ops, and employee retention.
What motivated you to explore a new career, and why did you decide to pick Codesmith?
I was furloughed from my position with Delta Airlines once the pandemic started. What got me into software engineering was listening to videos of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Their videos piqued my interest and made me curious about software engineering and all it entails.
After looking at the reviews and outcomes, Codesmith was hands down THE best one. It was the only bootcamp where you built high-level advanced apps. It was also the only bootcamp whose graduates consistently graduate and receive offers for well over six figures. There really wasn’t any other choice for me besides Codesmith.
How did you finance your education, and what were some of your biggest considerations when making this choice?
Codesmith offers a Black Engineer Scholarship that pays for 100 percent of the tuition of 10 black students if you qualify. Thankfully, I was able to apply for the scholarship and received it. This was a huge blessing, especially as a minority student—not having to worry about funding.
What did you like about the Software Engineering program? Are there any highlights that stood out to you?
The best things about Codesmith are the community, the hands-on learning, the projects you built, and the hiring support. The highlight of the Full-Time Immersive Software Engineering program was definitely the project phase. I believe 70 percent of my learning came from all the various types of projects (apps) we built.
Codesmith pushed us to develop apps that were far more technically advanced. The projects not only looked good on resumes but got most of us to mid- to senior-level engineering roles at various companies.
How did you fit the program into your schedule?
The full-time program was extremely rigorous. It was intense; we moved really fast, and the hours were long. Most of the residents invested at least 80 hours a week at Codesmith because we were either learning or studying.
As a resident in the program, you will not have much of a life, so you have to be ready to make sacrifices; however, the full-time program is only three months long and will be worth it in the end.
Can you give us any examples of projects that you worked on during the program?
My favorite project was definitely my production project. We built an electron-powered GUI that generated Puppeteer test selectors for Puppeteer testing. In layman’s terms, our app allowed engineers and developers to create test selectors and a testing boilerplate to test their app, so they would not have to manually create tests through code.
Do you have any advice for someone considering this program?
My number one piece of advice for incoming Codesmith residents is to remember that Codesmith (and coding in general) is a mental game. The journey to becoming a software engineer is extremely challenging, but the way you face each challenge will determine a lot.
Most importantly, embrace the concept of empathy-driven development. As engineers, we are not just coding to communicate with machines but also communicate with people. It is important to recognize that the technologies you create possess the potential to impact others in a positive way.
How did the program support you in finding a job?
The last few weeks of Codesmith are dedicated to hiring support. This includes helping you come up with your story and narrative, which is the most important thing. You will also have multiple mock interviews and mock phone screens over technologies you learned, data structures and algos, and system design interviews as well.
Codesmith’s hiring support basically doesn’t end because you can always reach out for assistance long after the program ends.
Was the job search process different from what you expected?
The job search was not different from what I expected. I feel as though Codesmith did a good job preparing me, and the job search process was not too challenging for me. The biggest challenge for me was going from a very structured environment during Codesmith into an unstructured environment with the job hunt.
How many companies did you interview at? How did you choose which one to work with?
I think I interviewed with a total of 25 companies. All of them were either mid- to large-size companies or tech giants. I chose the ones I liked based on culture, the work I would be doing, the work-life balance, the diversity, and definitely the pay as well.
How are the skills you gained from the course useful in your current career?
More than anything, Codesmith taught me how to be an autonomous engineer. It doesn’t matter what the technical problem is or the “bug,” I have the tools to solve and debug it. Also, the technical communication I learned from Codesmith has been really useful in my current role.
What do you think is different about your life now versus before the program?
I would say I am challenged intellectually a lot more than before and I am working in an amazing industry for a fantastic company. My career is a lot more fun and impactful as well. Also, I am excelling financially, obviously, which is something that was there before the program, but not nearly to this degree.
What do you find fulfilling about your current line of work?
Being an engineer allows you to tackle problems and utilize your logical skills. I love that every day consists of a new challenge and adventure. I also love that I am able to use my creative juices, and the technologies I build are used by millions of people all over the world. I also love that I am able to be an inspiration for another black woman and help to diversify tech.
What do you enjoy about working at your current company? Are there any specific perks you enjoy?
Microsoft has a great work-life balance which is so important to your overall mental health. I also love the wellness benefits where we can get a lot of things such as massages and personal hobbies reimbursed. They have great PTO, and I do not pay for health, vision, or dental. The pay and stocks are also amazing and an obvious good bonus.
Do you have any job search advice for someone considering a career in your field?
I would say that LinkedIn is going to be your best friend when it comes to tech. It is so important to network and connect with other people in tech. Do not be afraid to reach out to people, build genuine relationships, and put yourself out there. Join meetups and attend networking events to gain more exposure. Also, pace yourself and get comfortable with rejection. Keep going and know that this career is possible and feasible.