Pt. 1: From Blue-Collar To Nerd-Collar
Editor’s Note: Making the Switch is an ongoing series by Zach Jones, a recent Bellevue Dojo graduate. This series focuses on his career transition from truck driver to developer and includes insights, anecdotes and advice. Part 2 can be found here.
You’re a blue-collar worker. Perhaps you are a steel worker, riveting beams together in order to build office buildings for eggheads who prefer Starbucks over working class coffee. You might be a carpenter, building homes one plank at time. You could be a grocer, farmer, waitress, or burger flipper. These jobs are essential for people to live, but not so important that they don’t pay you a fair wage. You might be a trucker like me. Truck driving can be tiring, especially if you are a flatbed truck driver. After securing your cargo, you get in your truck and begin running hundreds of miles per day. You’ll be wondering, “How many hours will I have before I need to take a break?” and “Will I be late to my drop off in Dallas at 4PM?” (The answer is always yes, so please try to get through the door earlier. You’re a blue-collar or black-collar worker, in the service industry, or any other profession, but you’re determined to make a difference. You have decided to go to a coding bootcamp to mix up your life and learn a job you might not know much about. You’re now ready to learn how websites, software, and other things can be made with your Chromebook, MacBook or old-fashioned PC laptop. You know I am a trucker. I also mentioned flatbeds. Before that, I was an active-duty U.S Marine. My job? Truck driver. My dream was to study game development at college. I wanted to be a programmer and artist. This is not the best goal. First, if you want to get a job as a gamer, there are likely to be only one of those things. I hope you enjoy writing code to find bullet trajectory in Call of War 23. Even more, I was not good at college. I failed Full Sail University after I left the Marine Corps. It was a combination of not knowing my priorities and taking on too much. I am also terrible at discrete math. After a brief college career, I returned to driving trucks as an civilian. I enjoyed my job so much that I eventually bought my own truck in 2018. 2018 was a great year for truckers. 2019 had other plans. It was a “sale” for trucking companies that dropped rapidly. After waiting almost a year, I realized that I needed to make a shift after months of not receiving a decent salary. I talked to my wife about it. We had been married since February, and I may have been home for as many as 2 weeks. We knew something had to change. She supported me in every way possible, trucking, programming or not. After another week without a paycheck, I called her and said that I would make more money delivering food for DoorDash or going to college with GI Bill(r). After a pause, she asked me if it was possible to go back to school. I said yes. It was frightening to think about returning to college. I think I once told someone that I would rather be shot again than go back. Of course, this was an exaggeration. The time required to complete such a program was another obstacle. I couldn’t wait for 4 years to start a new job that would provide financial support for my family. A friend of mine, a programmer, suggested that I attend a coding bootcamp. You’re smart enough to do it.” He was an Army vet so I’m sure he called me a wimp in the process of encouraging my progress. I liked the idea of a high intensity program that would teach you everything you need to get a job as a programmer. I did what any rational millennial would do, not knowing where to start. I searched Google for “Coding Bootcamp GI Bill(r)”. This brought me to a list with all the coding bootcamps that accept the GI Bill(r). There are many great schools available, depending on what you are looking to learn. After my short stint as a student, I continued to work as a hobbyist and freelancer on video games. I knew I wanted to learn C# to be able to apply the knowledge to my hobby and my career. Coding Dojo was the first thing that stood out to me. I am not ashamed to admit that I like difficult things. Part of my decision