Trevor Tabaka

Where do you live / where are you from?

I’m from northern Minnesota, but have lived in Odense, Denmark for the last 7 years

What is your job title now?

Software Developer

What was your job role / title before the coding bootcamp?

Software Test Engineer

Which CodingNomads course did you take?

I was a part of the Java Career Track program that took place in Bali.

What was your education and work background before CodingNomads?

I had an Electrical Engineering degree and had worked at 3 different companies.
I first worked as a systems engineer at John Deere in the US  on their large tractor drivetrain validation and verification teams. I then moved to Denmark and worked as a software test engineer in the machine control industry. I had just started my final job as a software test engineer for a robotics company in Denmark before my CodingNomads story started.

What sparked your interest in learning to code?

While studying electrical engineering in university, I took a C++ and embedded systems course and found it to be an interesting area. I never dove deep into it during my studies as I wasn’t sure what direction I really wanted to go.

After university, my first jobs included doing some small code changes in C++ and C#. I also spent time reading through code to track down issues and see what the correct outcomes in the real world situation should be. I also learned some Python while helping my previous employer set up their testing automation framework.

Through these experiences I realized that I enjoyed working with software, and creating something of value out of code. It was a long growing interest that I was not able to ignore.

What made you finally take the leap into learning coding?

I felt like I was beginning to be pigeonholed in my software test engineer role. If you do not know how to code in that role, you will get more manual testing tasks. As that became how I was spending much of my time, I began not enjoying it so much. I found it not intellectually stimulating enough, felt like I wasn’t growing, wasn’t creating, and wasn’t doing enough problem solving.

In my first job, while working on the John Deere tractor transmissions and the control software, I had gotten those aspects and it was rewarding and quite enjoyable. But in my newer roles working in a software scrum team environment, I wasn’t fulfilled being just a tester. I would test things and find issues, but then I would have to hand it off to someone else.

I wanted to be able to do the creating and problem solving at work too. Without good coding skills, I didn’t see an intriguing way to make that happen. There is an automation side in those roles but you need to be able to code, script, etc. in order to get those tasks.

So there I was. I needed to make it happen for my sanity.

Why did you choose to learn with CodingNomads?

I chose to pursue CodingNomads because the other available bootcamps were either way too expensive, and/or the other bootcamps taught more front-end technologies for web or app development, and not Java/backend. One of the reasons that I was granted the opportunity was that my manager saw the course content and outline, and was very impressed with how it aligned closely with the technologies they used.

What was your favorite aspect of the bootcamp?

I really can’t say enough about the bootcamp itself, the CodingNomads team, and overall experience. It’s a total package.

There were a lot of great aspects from my bootcamp experience. In the end. I will make it two-fold. First, getting away, escaping from the 9-5 life in your late 20’s for 2 months in a beautiful location and experiencing the Balinese culture was truly something I am grateful for.

And the second side of the answer I am even more grateful for: that I wasn’t alone in the experience. Our cohort of people, instructors and others participating like myself, was amazing. We functioned really well together. We had all sorts of experiences, memories, and great friendships were formed. You really do not get many opportunities to create connections like that after your school days. I feel like I am not doing it justice with my words here even.

It sort of felt like a combination of those early reality TV shows Road Rules and Real World, but without the “made for TV drama” parts, and instead putting in tons of work and effort to grow towards a common goal we shared.

Everyone around you in a growth mindset, everyone pushing, everyone helping each other and everyone having fun right alongside you. It was a moment we all shared together and connected us all forever.

I know many of our group have kept in contact, and I even got a visit last year from a fellow bootcamper who was traveling the world and stopped for a few days to catch up.

Want to become a Java Software Engineer like Trevor?

Click below to check out CodingNomads’ Java Career Track Course.

I want to change careers to Java
What types of skills are you using today that you learned with CodingNomads?

I am now applying my coding knowledge at work and I feel that the course prepared me very well. I am coding in Java as a backend developer. I also use Git, Maven, databases, IntelliJ and APIs, as well as the Scrum process and systems like JIRA and Confluence. The technologies, tools, and areas of study in the bootcamp were quite in line with what my company used, which is one of the reasons I was able to get them to sponsor my studies.

Did your salary change after the bootcamp?

I was already working as an engineer and so I basically just changed roles within my company, so my salary and all that stayed the same. But it’s a good engineering salary.

How did you get approval from your employer to sponsor your bootcamp?

Well this is a story. I had only been working at my company for 3-4 months when I asked my company to sponsor my bootcamp.

I took initiative

Before starting this job as a software test engineer, however, I told the hiring managers that I wanted to become more software/coding literate, rather than just a manual tester. So my boss knew my intentions upfront.

During my first few months I began doing free coding courses online in my spare time. It was helping a bit, but it wasn’t getting me anywhere very quickly.

I began looking for trainings and learned about coding bootcamps. But between the high tuition prices, time commitment, locations (most were in the US vs. Denmark), and that most taught front-end website curriculum, I didn’t think there was much of a chance to attend a bootcamp.

I found the right training for my job requirements

I had almost given up on trying to find a Java program, but decided to look one more time. That’s when I found CodingNomads. Java, Git, Maven, JIRA – the curriculum checked all the boxes for what I needed. And it was much more affordable than the other bootcamps as well.

I gave my manager the course syllabus, and he said he would look into it. At this point I was a bit surprised he even seemed open to looking into it. I knew the financials would be a tough sell, so I was prepared to pay my way if they would give me leave.

I showed how serious I was

I decided to actually believe I could make this happen. It was right at CodingNomads’ application deadline too. I remember being in touch with CodingNomads, and they were very understanding and agreed to give me a few days around the deadline.

The next day we met and he said the curriculum looked really great, but they were hesitant to cover the living costs for the 2 month program. Instantly, I said I’d pay for that. At that moment I saw in his face that he realised how serious I was. He told me he would discuss it with his boss, the CTO. The next 24 hours lasted forever, I swear.

The next day my manager told me he got approval for me to go, and that they would sponsor the whole thing. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening!

In sum, here’s why company agreed to pay for my training: 

  1. I made my intentions to become a software engineer known when I was hired.
  2. My manager knew I was taking online courses in my own time, so he could see that I was serious about learning.
  3. My company was rapidly growing and couldn’t find enough Java engineers to fill their job openings. So it made sense to train from within, especially since I was genuinely interested to learn.
  4. My company knew my goal of becoming an engineer, and they didn’t want to risk losing a valuable employee by not supporting my professional development.
  5. I was confident, and showed drive and ambition.
  6. I asked for what I wanted.
What was the hardest aspect / biggest thing you learned when transferring into the engineering team after the bootcamp?

Going from learning the foundations and making a small project or two to working in a much larger project, code base, complicated architecture, build pipeline technologies, etc. made it very hard in the beginning to really understand all the moving parts. Projects with large and older code bases aren’t always historically put together with best practices over time. At times I struggled and felt lost.

Also because of my work situation, I did not participate in the larger group capstone project at the end of the bootcamp. Instead I went right back into work, and focused my time and energy on that transition. I think I would have felt more prepared had I worked on the final group project.

I am still constantly learning on the job, which is a challenge, especially when working with other really experienced and bright software engineers. Becoming a software engineer is one of the hardest things I have ever done. But it’s also very rewarding.

If you could do it all again, would you?

I have already been trying to figure out how to make it happen again some day! Absolutely.

What advice would you give someone considering learning to code?

Learning to code can be overwhelming. So many languages. So many connecting technologies. I recommend spending some time doing free courses to learn about different languages and what they’re used for. After that you really need to have significant amounts of time to dig in and grow your knowledge base. For me, that’s why I looked for a bootcamp. I’m not sure I could have realistically done it without being able to put all my focus into it for some time.

Also, software engineering is not something you learn once and then are good to go. The field is always growing and expanding, and you must be willing to do the same. Try to work in industries or projects you can find interesting. This makes it easier to stay motivated when you have to learn new technologies on the job.

If you are like me, find a mentor. I was lucky to have one on my team at work who really embraced the teacher/mentor role with me. He challenged me to ask the right questions, and worked hard to help me visualize what it was I was trying to accomplish with my tasks.

Above all, it might sound a little woo woo, but if you want to do it, then you really need to believe you can. Tell yourself you can do it. Even when nothing seems to be working or making sense. Those moments will come. This process has challenged me both mentally and emotionally more than anything. But it’s very worth it, if it’s what you want. It can open up so many doors going forward depending on your life. ◈

Want to become Java Software Engineer like Trevor?

Click below to check out CodingNomads’ Java Career Track Course.

I want to change careers to Java