Zach Porras

Zach Porras

Career Path: Software Engineering

Chef to Software Development Engineer

Before Coding Temple: Prepared Foods Manager

After Coding Temple: Software Development Engineer @ Fortinet

What were you doing before you decided to attend Coding Temple?

I did attend college but did not finish my 4-year degree. My only college accolade is a technical certificate in general studies from a state community college. While taking a break from school, I worked as a chef in restaurants & catering. This became my career for about 5 years and I would only return to school to study culinary arts for one year. I then worked for Whole Foods Market in Chicago for over six years, most recently as a Prepared Foods manager for 4 years.

What motivated you to enroll in a tech bootcamp?

I was burnt out from the culinary/service/retail world, particularly from the hardships we faced during the onset of the pandemic. I felt like I hit a ceiling and could not continue to advance without taking on more stress or feeling like I wasn’t able to perform at my highest level due to our tough work conditions. I knew I was interested in technology & computers and saw a path for myself in computer programming. After doing some self-teaching for a few months, I left my job & enrolled at CT.

Why did you ultimately decide to enroll at Coding Temple?

I researched coding bootcamps that were based around Chicago so that I could have at least a small locally based support system. The curriculum seemed well-rounded, there appeared to be a substantive alumni & job search support program, and reviews were positive enough for me to seriously consider CT. I was able to qualify for a loan with payments deferred until 3 months after graduation.

What was the most challenging part of the program for you and how did you overcome it?

In terms of technical aspects, understanding how different tools & languages are layered and generally becoming familiar with the application of basic & advanced computer science concepts were a huge hurdle. It was also difficult to come to terms with the ever-present troubleshooting aspect of programming and I spent many hours wondering if this was right for me. But in general, perseverance & support from my cohort and instructors were what helped me the most in overcoming those obstacles.

What was the most valuable lesson or skill you learned during the program?

There is always something going wrong that you have to figure out, and usually that is done on your own!

What resources did you find most helpful during the program?

W3schools, MDN docs, other cohort members, and reaching out to instructors (not just for my class, but from the entire bootcamp).

What was the job search process like and how did Coding Temple prepare you for your current job?

The job search was grueling and felt like a full-time job in itself. Sending out a handful of applications every day was tiring. Communicating with recruiters & managers on LinkedIn was also a lot to manage, sometimes with no replies. Getting interviews was exciting but feeling disheartened by rejections or lack of call-backs was tough to handle. The best way to succeed in the job search is to keep going and telling yourself that there is a position out there for you, that there is a team or company that wants someone like you, regardless of experience or finite skill set. This is how I succeeded in landing my first role. CT helped immensely with great weekly discussions on job searching, and there were usually available appointments with our Alumni Director Marlene to talk about either big picture topics or specific jobs & interviews. Marlene was almost always available for just a quick phone call even if her schedule was booked full.

How has your career progressed since graduating from Coding Temple, and what are your future career goals?

My first role was a contract position where I worked full-time remotely for about 8 months. I then landed a full-time remote (hybrid available) salaried position and have been with that company for nearly 6 months now. I have learned so much and have interacted with so many new technologies that I am somewhat anxious to see what else is out there, but I plan to stay with them for at least a few more years to really dig into the new things I have learned and reach an advanced level of knowledge & skill for a wide array of tools. Eventually when I feel I am ready for something new, I will apply to companies that deal with one of my personal interests…a “dream job” sort of situation.

How did Coding Temple compare to your expectations, and what surprised you the most about the experience?

CT was just as difficult as I imagined it to be with how many new things I was learning in a short amount of time. We were told we would not become “experts” after 10 weeks, but that we would be in a position to continue learning & applying ourselves to projects on our own while entering the job search. This much was definitely true and I did feel prepared to showcase my skills & knowledge honestly and comfortably for recruiters & hiring managers. I was most surprised by how much more time it took outside of our weekly topics to really understand some more advanced concepts to the point of being confident in applying them to our own personal projects. Again, this was something we were told would be the case, but nonetheless it took me a great deal of personal investigation to properly grasp things like front & backend frameworks and using multiple types of technologies together to create an application’s architecture.

What advice do you have for current or prospective bootcamp students in terms of preparing for and succeeding at Coding Temple?

If you are doing a full-time bootcamp like I did, I do not recommend working any job including part-time. You will spend most of your free time focusing on your bootcamp learning & homework, and if you do not, you will most likely not benefit as much as you can from this program. Be very communicative & open with your instructors and fellow cohort members. It is OK to struggle and everyone has things that they find difficult at first, but you cannot receive help or improve without the right collaboration with others, especially those who do have a better understanding or are more experienced with certain topics than you are.