The Virtues of the Developer Boot Camp: One Local Software Engineer Talks Career Growth
Mark Valdez’ journey to become a software engineer at Iterable might sound familiar.
Valdez once worked in the nonprofit sector, emotionally fulfilled but professionally dissatisfied. He longed to break open a future rich with possibilities but felt unsure of which step to take next.
Enter the developer’s boot camp.
Every year, tens of thousands of hopefuls have passed through the virtual halls of various boot camps, which have cropped up in the hundreds in the past decade. Among these hopefuls was Valdez, hoping to tap into his latent creative and problem-solving nature as a means of catapulting into tech.
“I was hesitant because I had this image of coding being all about complicated algorithms, but I decided to jump in,” he said. “I fell in love with the logical process: the unlimited possibilities, and being able to create cool things.”
Beyond coding abilities, Valdez boot camp experience empowered him to embrace his authentic personality — a journey that Iterable has encouraged and sustained.
“One of my coaches in the program called me out directly on my lack of authenticity — they pushed me to not hide behind my idea of corporate professionalism, but rather showcase who I really was to my colleagues, classmates and in interviews,” he said.
The sage recommendation helped Valdez launch his software engineer career at Iterable, where he has continued to nurture his technical skills and genuine workplace presence.
“Ultimately, people remember your personality, so embrace who you are and let it shine,” he said.
What appealed to you about enrolling in a coding boot camp and breaking into a tech career?
Before the boot camp, I was working at a nonprofit that supported adults with developmental disabilities. While it was rewarding, I was feeling stuck in my personal career growth. I wanted a career that could provide more options than what I was given. A coworker suggested coding because of my creative and problem-solving mindset.
I jumped in and joined the Hack Reactor boot camp. It was transformative. I never thought I’d become a studious person, but the program really whipped me into shape. It challenged me in ways I didn’t expect and pushed me to grow exponentially.
The most surprising part was realizing just how much I was capable of achieving. I had this belief that I had already reached my personal peak, but learning to code changed my mindset completely. It showed me that there’s always room for improvement. It gave me a sense of hope and a future to look forward to.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when entering the job market after finishing boot camp?
Battling imposter syndrome. I constantly questioned whether I was truly good enough to be part of a large tech company. Some of my colleagues had degrees in computer science, while I had just three months of boot camp experience under my belt.
The boot camp gave me a solid foundation of knowledge. It was up to me to take that foundation and make something remarkable out of it. I took this knowledge base and dove into production code as a software engineer. I proved that I had what it takes to thrive in the job market.
I won’t lie and say that overcoming imposter syndrome was easy. It took time and effort to build up my confidence. But I surrounded myself with supportive colleagues who went through similar experiences, and we uplifted each other. We reminded ourselves that we were there for a reason — that we had the skills and the determination to succeed.
I surrounded myself with supportive colleagues who went through similar experiences, and we uplifted each other.”
Everyone’s journey is unique. We all come from diverse backgrounds. It’s what makes the tech industry so vibrant.
What advice would you give to current or prospective boot camp students about landing their first job after graduating?
Never diminish your worth. Completing a boot camp is no walk in the park. It’s tough. If you manage to come out of that experience, you are undeniably strong. Remember that, and don’t let any rejection discourage you. All successful boot camp graduates have faced their fair share of rejections, but they persevered and found jobs eventually.
Stay hungry. Even if you receive an offer, don’t just settle and coast along. Keep that hunger for learning alive. Keep pushing yourself and applying your skills. The more experience you gain and the more you refine your skills, the better your prospects will become.
Finally, never underestimate the power of authenticity. What I loved about Hack Reactor is that the program taught you to be yourself.