With the pandemic pushing everything into a lull, Derek Oshita had to rethink his career in tech sales. Recognizing the demand for highly skilled tech professionals, Oshita turned to software engineering.
He enrolled in a Software Engineering Immersive course at one of North America’s most trusted bootcamps, General Assembly. Today, he works as a Fullstack Engineer at Statusphere, earning up to $100,000 a year.
We sat down with him to find out how his bootcamp experience changed his life.
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before attending General Assembly (GA)?
I spent about five years working in tech sales in the Bay Area. I started my sales career at Yelp and worked at a few startups where I transitioned into a closing role. Unfortunately, I found myself unemployed during the pandemic. At the time, I had to consider a career transition.
What motivated you to explore a new career, and why did you pick General Assembly?
[I was motivated by my desire of achieving a certain quality of life and to learn new things that made me explore software engineering. While my career in sales taught me a lot of valuable soft skills, I often found that I was too bored and stressed out.
How did you finance your education, and what were some of your biggest considerations when making this choice?
General Assembly offered loan services through MOHELA [Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri]. I had to ask myself how dedicated I was to make this transition [before applying for a loan.] I also wanted to make sure that my time in the program would not go to waste.
What did you like about the program? Are there any highlights that stood out to you?
We were limited to a remote learning environment due to the pandemic. However, I was surprised by how smooth and pleasant the whole [online learning] experience was…I remember doing a Python/Django project with two of my favorite people [in the cohort.] We had a lot of fun working together, and it was one of my easiest project experiences at GA.
How did you fit the program into your schedule?
I was not working so I had the time to [fully commit to the] SEI program.
Can you give us any examples of projects you worked on during the program?
My first project was a static website using HTML, CSS, and Vanilla JS. We created a game, which is a replica of Tamagotchi. During the Python/Django module, we also created a travel blog where we chose a few exciting locations where users could post comments…Finally, my capstone project became a platform where users could get information on COVID-19 cases by state.
Do you have any advice for someone considering GA’s Software Engineering program?
Getting your first job as a software engineer is the hardest part. This takes time, money, and serious mental fortitude. So be sure to keep this in mind when considering enrolling in the program.
Did you find a new position after the program?
I found a new job [as a Fullstack Engineer at Statusphere].
How did GA support you in finding a job?
Interviewing, specifically on data structure and algorithmic style, is a skill that you are not really taught during the program…[But my GA career coach] helped optimize my resume, improve my job-hunting process, and provide feedback on behavioral questions during mock interviews.
Was the job search process different from what you expected?
The job process was extremely difficult and discouraging because of the pandemic. It took me about 10 months before I landed an internship. It was another three months of searching, interviewing, and studying before I got a job at Statusphere as an Associate Software Engineer.
How many companies did you interview at? How did you choose which one to work with?
I probably interviewed with less than 20 companies. When you are looking for that first role with little to no work experience, you don’t have the luxury of “choosing” which company to work with.
How are the skills you gained from the course useful in your current career?
Working in engineering is a team effort, so learning how to communicate and [collaborate] with others effectively is super important. You get that [training] while doing group projects in the bootcamp.
What do you think is different about your life now versus before the program?
Everything! I look forward to working because it created a positive impact on almost all aspects of my life. I have a fantastic work-life balance, so I don’t often feel like a “cog in the machine.”
What do you find fulfilling about your current line of work?
The work is rewarding for me because it is fun and challenging. I enjoy taking the time to learn new things every day. It also feels really good when you get compliments from your end users. I have received positive feedback from other team members on some of the work I did on our internal tools—how it has been more efficient and easier to use.
What do you enjoy about working at your current company? Are there any specific perks you enjoy?
The leadership team at Statusphere understands the importance of having a work-life balance, so they provide us with unlimited PTOs. So long as you are performing well and meeting or exceeding expectations, you never get any pushbacks when requesting time off.
The product team has “casual Fridays” where there are no mandatory meetings. We can use this time to level up our skills, work on side projects, or even log off a bit early as long as we meet our deadlines.
My compensation at Statusphere is also at par with the median salary in the job market. I am beyond grateful for the accommodations the leadership team at Statusphere has provided me as well. I hold close to my heart even the little things they do, like giving me flowers and offering their condolences.
Do you have any job search advice for someone considering a career in your field?
The job search won’t be easy. It may even be one of the most difficult things you will ever do. So you need to work hard and make some sacrifices to land that first job. Once you can do that, it will be one of the most fulfilling things you’ve ever done, which can also lead to more opportunities.