Yohlanna Cort is a veteran who’s always had a strong passion for tech. But her fear of committing to the field full time made her think twice about pursuing her dream career. So, she made ends meet by taking on various roles.
Eventually, she took a leap of faith and enrolled at General Assembly. After completing the Software Engineering Immersive program, Yohlanna landed a job as a software engineer at one of the biggest financial services providers in the US, where she makes over $100,000. Here’s her story.
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before attending the program?
I worked at Huntington Ingalls as a Logistics Specialist while also working as an Amazon warehouse associate and Postmates delivery driver on the weekends. I was doing those jobs all at the same time and right before I joined General Assembly’s immersive program.
What motivated you to explore a new career or upskill in your existing field, and why did you decide to pick General Assembly?
I know there was something more out there for me and I truly loved tech. I saw an opportunity that American Express had in partnership with General Assembly to attend a coding bootcamp and possibly receive an offer at the end. I was successfully admitted into the program.
However, [there were some] housing issues, so I decided to use my GI Bill instead. Although I was missing out on an all-expense-paid program, I still had that passion for pursuing tech. [I believe] if there’s a will, there’s a way. You just have to draw your [own] path.
How did you finance your education, and what were some of your biggest considerations when making this choice?
My GI Bill benefits provided a housing stipend and General Assembly accepted some of my GI Bill to cover the tuition. I considered taking [out] a loan but ultimately decided that the housing stipend was a huge benefit in taking the program.
What did you like about the program? Are there any highlights that stood out to you?
[I enjoyed] working on projects after learning a concept, language, or framework. I was able to better understand my application through building. I also enjoyed the setup of GA and how “techy” it felt in a laid-back culture with tons of whiteboards and areas to [just] sit and think, if needed. I also enjoyed going out with the team to celebrate a great project week!
How did you fit the program into your schedule?
I pursued it full-time so I was truly “immersed” in the experience. I worked day and night during the program and stayed after class to finish homework. Overall, I just made it my mission to finish and truly take as much as I can from the experience.
Can you give us any examples of projects that you worked on during the program?
I worked on a project called “Don’t Eat There” that would pull all restaurants’ health ratings that were C and below from the health.gov API in NYC. It would then display all the restaurants that had that rating and their health violations to the users [nearby]… using ZIP codes.
I also worked on a mental health website that incorporated sound and calming sceneries. I hope to still build on these applications one day, eventually making them mobile.
Do you have any advice for someone considering this program?
Immerse yourself as much as you can. Have fun doing what you came to learn. It can be a delightful experience filled with creativity and inspiration, but perseverance and patience are necessary, especially when you feel like giving up. Remember your mission or goal of why you came here…You are going to do amazing things!
How did the program support you in finding a job?
There were career counselors there to help throughout the course. Also, some people you meet are great supporters. There were events you could attend, although I was not able to. You also have a job site and were encouraged to reach out and keep in contact.
Was the job search process different from what you expected?
[It was] somewhat different in that each company has a different process and is looking for different things. You have to find out how to bring the best part of you into that company—learning more tech stacks and different studying methods. I was very motivated and had high energy so I maintained that.
How many companies did you interview at? How did you choose which one to work with?
Two companies, and they both hired me. The first one was my first opportunity and I was new to everything. The second one, I was pleasantly caught by surprise and rolled with it. Honestly, I think it’s just going with whatever feels right for you at the time.
Whichever job speaks to what you value and how you would like your career trajectory [to be]. If you feel that your focus is more on experience and enjoy what that company offers, take that shot and build yourself [up].
How are the skills you gained from the course useful in your current career?
I learned how to search for answers I do not know. I learned the structure of an Agile team and some of the tech stacks we use mimic the ones I use in my career. Understanding the basics laid amazing groundwork into building yourself up to become what you came there to be.
The course gives you a push into that world. It’s up to you to keep walking down that path, learning more along the way. Having projects and meeting deadlines, working out issues that may arise, and the frustrations that accompany learning something new starts in bootcamp, so better to get practice there.
What do you think is different about your life now versus before the program?
My life now is something I cannot believe is real. I was working four jobs at one point to pay rent. I remember once, I was delivering mail in the rain, wet from head to toe. I felt disappointed in who I was but still had faith [that] there was more out there for me.
I had all these big goals and the impact I wanted to make in this world, and here I was, working multiple jobs, not feeling fulfilled. I had left the military feeling like I had made a huge mistake until I took this leap of faith into tech. I am still amazed at what I did by taking that one step to this program and changing my career and upward mobility.
What do you find fulfilling about your current line of work?
I can problem-solve and work toward either finding a solution to something or helping build out a feature that helps customers or users. Seeing what you created or helped create become a reality is an amazing feeling.
I also love that there’s always something more you can learn. You never stop growing in the field. The more you learn equates to perfecting and finding new creative ways to implement a feature or build a new application.
What do you enjoy about working at your current company? Are there any specific perks you enjoy?
I enjoy the income it provides me, leading to more financial freedom and wellness. I also enjoy the vacation and sick time that is available to me. The lifestyle that this job affords me…and others dear to me is beyond valuable. Learning so many different technologies and expanding my knowledge in the tech space while being challenged feels phenomenal.
Do you have any job search advice for someone considering a career in your field?
Perseverance and fun are necessary. Keep going and don’t dwell on what hasn’t worked out. Some days may seem overwhelming and frustrating at times, but as someone said (not me), you didn’t come this far only to come this far…keep going!