Alumni Stories

What’s It Like to be a Software Engineering Learner at Kenzie Academy?

Maybe you’ve tinkered a bit with coding — or Googled: What’s it like to be a software engineer? As you research software engineering and the types of jobs you can get, you may also be wondering, “What’s it like to learn software engineering?”

Get an inside glimpse from three learners who reveal what it’s like in Kenzie Academy’s 12-month Software Engineering with Specialization in Backend Java program.

infographic describing advice on what it's like to be a software engineering learner at Kenzie Academy

What’s it like to learn software engineering at Kenzie?

“I would say it’s been really fun.”

For many Kenzie learners, software engineering is brand-new to them. Aside from perhaps a couple introductory coding tutorials or trying Kenzie Free, a large number of our learners are beginners and making a life change. So, what’s it like to start and be in the software engineering program at Kenzie?

Marika: When I was beginning, I was pretty nervous. It’s a really big change. I’m 31, so it’s intimidating to be completely changing everything and starting something new … But I was comforted by the realization that there were a lot of people in the course that were like me, older, and starting something completely new.

Candace: I would say it’s been really fun … I thought software engineering could be a good fit and as I started going through the program, I realized that it really was … Being able to work with the code itself has been very fun … The projects are good. It’s a full immersion into what coding is like.

Ryan: It was stressful the first month and half. Eventually I got a different job that I was able to just have a set 40-hour week and then be able to say, “OK. I can do this.” Now it’s a lot easier for me to dedicate more time to this and then my family and then work all at the same time … My biggest thing is discipline, discipline, discipline. Then having a set schedule.

What did learners wish they knew looking back?

“All the opportunities that can come out of it.”

The software engineering program isn’t easy! The goal is for learners to be trained with real-world skills and ready for their first job after graduation, so it’s a rigorous program — but it also opens doors to opportunities. With determination and the right mindset, the short-term investment will likely pay off in the long run.

Marika: I wish I had known how much more intense the advanced Java course was going to be … Taking as much time during Foundations and really solidifying and repeating the things that you learn in Foundations … Don’t slack off in the beginning, just really take it in, because you’re going to need it.

Candace: It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of self-studying. It’s a lot of frustration in the beginning. There are bugs that you might not solve that day and you just need your brain to reset and look at it again the next day and that’s OK. There’s no need to spend 24/7 frustrated when what you might really need is a mental reset and just wait until the next day.

Ryan: The biggest thing is shown all the opportunities that can come out of it … What I would’ve told myself is, “You should have done this a lot sooner,” just because of how really cool it is … I’m very fortunate and happy that my friend brought this to my attention and was like, “Hey, give this a try. See what happens?”

What are some wins as a learner?

“I would say the group projects … It’s great to be in a team environment.”

The challenges are hard, but the reward of solving a problem or completing a project can end up being greater than the struggle. If you put in the effort, stay consistent, and work with your team, you can experience the gratification of growth and reaching every milestone.

Marika: There comes a point where you get to a slightly more complicated problem and you solve it. It’s like, “I just did that.” And it’s a very satisfying moment.

Candace: Seeing improvement has been a win. Maintaining consistency in the results of my work has been a win … I would say the group projects as well, not just for myself, but for my colleagues. It’s great to be in that team environment … When you solve a problem together, that’s incredibly liberating. Like a bug you’ve been working on all day. Then you show your group and everyone puts in their thoughts, and it’s like, “Wow, this is rapport. This is team building when you go through challenges together.”

Ryan: The biggest accomplishment is getting through that capstone. That was something. And then two, being able to actually read the code and understand what it’s doing.

How can I stay motivated?

“Thinking about what my reason is.”

Learning new technical skills … It’s a grind. So, it’s natural for motivation to ebb and flow. It’s impossible for motivation to be at a high level at all times. What matters is being able to step away from the work and find a way to refocus or recharge that works for you.

Marika: Thinking about what my reason is … What’s my reason? Why am I doing this? What’s my goal? You have to have one of those really deep-seated, from your core, kind of reasons to get you through … Remind yourself of that all the time. And what it is, that is what gets you through.

Candace: I do yoga and meditate daily. That’s kept my sanity in check … I do listen to motivational videos quite often … I listen to Jim Rohn. He’s always like, “Build your character by discipline. You have to put in the work to get the results.”

Ryan: The biggest thing is I think of my son because I want to watch him grow … That’s probably the biggest thing, is always having something that drives you. It’s more of why am I doing this? What am I doing it for? Part of it is, I want to get a good career. I want to be there for my family instead of just existing.

What does a day in the life of a software engineering learner look like?

“Read the material. Do the projects. Get frustrated. Take a walk.”

Not all days look the same for Kenzie learners. Some learners, like Candace, are focusing on school full-time; whereas others, like Ryan, continue to work and have a family. Here’s a glimpse into their day-to-day, starting with Marika and what keeps her going:

Marika: Coffee. But making sure that I’m giving myself breaks … Just have things throughout the day to make yourself stop and schedule me time as well. You have to let your brain rest.

Candace: I chose to take time off from work to do this program, so it’s like: Sit at my computer all day. Read the material. Do the projects. Get frustrated. Take a walk. Come back. Try to do it again. Sometimes I solve it, sometimes I don’t. Move onto the next material. Get things ready for group. Ask questions during group. Solve the problems, usually, and that’s about it. Maybe I study again. It’s a legit program.

Ryan: The morning is a review session … As far as the homework, I do that at night when I get home. I usually spend on it between 9-9:30 until midnight. I do that until it’s basically done and I’ll do it every single day. So if I finish Thursday, now the rest of it’s just going to be a review. Then as far as my breaks, I usually take breaks on the weekends just because that’s the biggest time I can spend time with my family. If I still have homework that needs to be done, I’ll do it Saturday night. But I at least try to take one day off a week.

Our Software Engineering program is co-developed with Amazon Technical Academy (ATA). Kenzie was selected by ATA as one of the only two coding schools to deliver their internal Java curriculum. Graduates of our program have gone on to find jobs at Wunderkind, Nationwide, GenSpark, SiteRx, and Microsoft.

Interested in a future in software engineering? We’d love to meet you! Apply today and we’ll be in touch soon to learn all about you, share more about Kenzie, and answer your questions.

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