# Engineer Stories - Eva Lieu, Senior Developer Consultant @ Thoughtworks

Engineer Stories - Eva Lieu, Senior Developer Consultant @ Thoughtworks

Join us in this interview with Eva Lieu, a coding bootcamp graduate and now a senior full stack developer.

Discover how she transitioned as an English major to software development and what her advice is for others who want to make the same switch 🤝🏼


Eva is a Senior Developer Consultant at Thoughtworks, working as a full stack software developer. You can follow her on Twitter at @itsevalieu (opens new window) or connect on LinkedIn (opens new window).


# An interest in tech

Can you tell us how you got to today? What sparked your interest in working in tech, what was your thought process at the time?

Currently, I am a senior developer consultant at Thoughtworks (opens new window) with four years of experience working as a full stack developer. Previously I worked as a software developer at a nonprofit called RAICES (opens new window), which provided free or discount legal services to immigrants and refugees.

Despite where I am today, I didn't actually study computer science as a degree or even considered pursuing a career in tech until my last year of undergrad. During college, I was a pre-law English major working towards law school to specialize in immigrant or labor rights. To further those goals, I even joined an internship at the CA State Capitol and minored in labor and workplace studies.

Then one quarter, I took an intro to C++ class purely because I loved video games and thought I could learn a little bit about the basics. I fell in love with it.

It was hard, but the satisfaction I got from being able to solve a problem and create a solution from just my own skills and ability to learn made me completely reconsider my career path. There was so much potential with programming. I could still support the missions I believed in, like immigrant rights, social justice, and climate change. I didn't have to be a lawyer or policy maker to do that.

So during my last quarter at UCLA, I entered the Coding Bootcamp for Full Stack Development with UCLA Extension (opens new window). I still graduated as an English major, but from that point on, a career in tech was all I was interested in.

# The Bootcamp experience

What was your bootcamp experience like - was it full-time in person, was it class-based or practical projects? Did you focus on a particular language or framework?

My bootcamp was part-time for six months.

I started during my last quarter at UCLA so I had to juggle bootcamp and regular classes. Some of my cohort worked full-time while they did the bootcamp. Our curriculum was class-based and had three practical projects for us to work on. We worked on those practical projects in teams. We focused primarily on JavaScript and JavaScript libraries and frameworks for full stack web development.

Who were your classmates, did everybody already have some experience, did they end up working in the industry, etc

My classmates were a very diverse group of people.

Some came from data analyst backgrounds. Others already had experience but had left the industry and took the bootcamp to come back and update their skills. One of my classmates was a project manager seeking technical experience. Another was starting his own company and wanted to learn web development to work on his own site. I think there was a musician and a stay at home dad in the class as well.

I was one of the younger students, but we had a very wide range of ages and ethnicities. It was lovely to learn with people coming from so many backgrounds. One of my old classmates just reached out to me for a coffee chat so we can share our journeys with one another. Our teaching assistants were also very knowledgeable and available to us.

# Life After Graduation

You mentioned some resistance from recruiters in hiring bootcamp graduates - tell us more!

Oh boy, are you sure? I'm not going to name names, but there was a recruiting firm who tried to gaslight me into accepting a lower offer for a junior developer role. They connected me to a nonprofit I was interested in applying for. I actually loved the team and the work. I could see myself growing as a developer there.

When they first introduced me to the role, they told me it was 100k-110k. I told them I was interested in the 120k range, but they convinced me to interview and if I did well, they could try to negotiate up for me. So I did. As I passed the interviews, they told me it was actually 90-95k since I'm a junior-mid developer.

When I reminded them I was looking for 120k, they told me that statistically someone of my background, an English major that went to a bootcamp with only a few "stints" of programming, didn't make 120k or over. I replied that I didn't believe those statistics as I knew several people who achieved the goals I was striving for. They told me I should be "grateful" for the opportunity to learn and gain experience there and that they were the experts in recruiting and those weren't the numbers they were seeing.

I did wonder if there was a reason why they weren't seeing those numbers and if they were playing an active part in it. In the end, the recruiter told me the nonprofit wanted to give me an offer, but only if I would accept. So I told them I wouldn't, and I promised myself that I'd prove their statistics wrong.

Since you graduated I think you've worked in a few roles already. How does your work experience compare to what you learnt in the bootcamp, was it what you expected?

It was certainly different than I expected. My bootcamp offered me a broad overview of all the technical topics I should expect to know in most full-stack developer roles. I was always under the impression that I had to know everything. I thought I would need to immediately have all the in-depth technical implementation knowledge. This wasn't the case at all, especially since I know now that most good companies expect you to learn and continue learning on the job. You don't need to know everything from the start.

What ended up being more important for me was learning how to work on a delivery team. What I didn't learn at the bootcamp was how to work well with designers, product owners, business analysts, and clients. These were skills I picked up while working at my roles and having 1:1 chats with team members to understand how I can work better with them to make their job easier.

However, I did learn a lot of the important things at the bootcamp, such as how to version control with git, how to debug, how to pair program effectively, and how/where to read documentation. These are all skills I used in previous roles and still use at my new job at Thoughtworks.

# Advice for those considering coding bootcamps?

Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently? Any advice for somebody considering a coding bootcamp?

Knowing what I do now, I'm glad I went to a coding bootcamp. I met a lot of wonderful people who became my friends and professional network, and I also learned a lot of fundamental skills I needed to feel confident in steering my own self-learning.

If I were to do anything different, it would be to join programming meetup groups and communities sooner than I did before. The quicker you join a community, the more access you have to resources and friends that are in the same boat as you. It helps being able to geek out over what you're learning together.

For anybody considering a coding bootcamp, I think it is important to temper your expectations and really think about why a bootcamp might or might not benefit you.

In my case, I knew I learned better in a classroom environment where I can ask my classmates or teachers all the questions I have. I also understood I was only learning the broad strokes and basics of full stack web development, not the in-depth stuff. It was on me to seek further knowledge and resources. Your learning should not end at the bootcamp's curriculum. A bootcamp worked out for me because I understood what I expected to receive from it. Not a job, but a foundation to further my own self-learning.

In the end, you don't need a computer science degree to pursue a career in tech. If you don't think a coding bootcamp is right for you, that's okay too. Because you don't need a bootcamp to pursue tech either. I know plenty of self-taught developers who are doing great. If you can learn it, you can do it.

# That's a wrap!

Thanks for your thoughtful answers Eva! If you are looking to enter the tech industry without a computer science degree, we hope Eva's experience helps you decide whether you should attend a coding bootcamp or not.

As a reminder, you can follow Eva on Twitter at @itsevalieu (opens new window) or reach out on LinkedIn (opens new window).

If you are open to sharing your journey, please email us at mike [at] swepro.co.

Last Updated: 11/21/2021, 9:50:52 PM