From English Teacher to React Developer

After three years of teaching English in France, Peter was ready to jumpstart a new career in IT and web development in the Detroit metro area. He decided to enroll in Thinkful’s Engineering Immersion Program to learn frameworks like ReactJS with the support of a mentor. We recently asked Peter to tell the story of how he landed his new role as a React Developer and to share advice with prospective Thinkful students.

What was your life like before Thinkful?

I studied international relations and French in college, and taught English in France for three years before deciding to pursue a new career in IT and web development.

The main reason I chose to enroll in Thinkful was the curriculum. I was specifically excited about the possibility of learning ReactJS. There are a lot of tutorials available online, but learning with a mentor and other students in a more controlled setting made a huge difference. I reached my goals faster. Remote learning was another huge plus for me. I didn’t want to limit my learning experience to just the physical opportunities in my little corner of Michigan.

Describe your learning experience. Was the program what you expected?

I enrolled in Thinkful’s Engineering Immersion course while living in the Detroit Metro area (Ann Arbor). I started at the very end of February 2017 and finished in July 2017. I did the full-time program and powered through. And I found a job in the field about one week after finishing Thinkful.

Fundamentally, the course was not that different from a traditional university setting. You’re still learning and working through a structured curriculum. Working remotely demands a strong work ethic, and the ability to stay on task and stay organized. If you can do that, and you are interested in the material, I think you will do well in the program.

One thing that surprised me about Thinkful was the social aspect. I expected to feel like I was working alone a lot, but Thinkful did a good job of ensuring we worked in groups, which helped keep the members of my cohort on track.

How was your mentor relationship beneficial to your learning experience?

Having a mentor was a huge bonus. For the most part, my mentor and I reviewed material from the curriculum to ensure I understood it in depth. He also helped me understand topics that may have been mentioned in the curriculum, but weren’t covered in great depth. He was an excellent resource throughout my Thinkful experience. I was very grateful for his help because he also advised me on future academic opportunities and the job market.

Did you attend tech meetups in the Detroit area while you attended Thinkful?

In Ann Arbor, MI there are several good Javascript-focused meetups in the area. In addition to making initial connections to tech professionals, the meetups made me a better developer as well, since they are usually centered around an interesting presentation. Meetups are intimidating the first few times you go, but eventually that passes. I still regularly attend a tech meetups in the area.

What was your hardest challenge throughout the program? What was your favorite aspect about the program?

The hardest part was managing anxiety about finding a job when the program ended.

The project-centered curriculum and encouragement to explore and be creative were my favorite parts.

How did you land your first job after Thinkful?

A recruiter found me on Linkedin and he was looking for a Web Developer with ReactJS experience. It was good timing! The interview was not very “code-based.” We reviewed my resume, past experiences, and the projects I had completed for Thinkful. By the time I left Thinkful, I had a nice portfolio of projects that demonstrated competence in full stack development with nodeJS and ReactJS. Right now, I am a React Developer for a small startup in the Metro Detroit area.

With any new job, there is a learning curve. And obviously there were some things I had to pick up on the job, but for the most part I felt confident and prepared after Thinkful.

Do you have any advice for prospective Thinkful students?

I would suggest that you do Codecademy or Free Code Camp before enrolling in Thinkful. Make sure that web development is something that really interests you. If you find that you really enjoy it and are able to pick up a lot of the basics on your own, then completing a Thinkful course is an excellent way to get into the field.

Learn more about Thinkul’s Detroit community here.


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