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Alumni Spotlight: Michael Bocim

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Rithm School

Jun 12, 2024

Orchestrating a Career Transition: A Developer’s Journey of Innovation and Self-Discovery

Tell us a bit about you.

I start my day like any other software developer, putting one foot on the floor, then the other.  Then looking around my room for the closest cup and hoping there’s leftover coffee in it. I keep origami paper near my desk and fold myself a rubber duck when I need it.  Sometimes I’ll pick up my flute and play a little to get some air in my lungs (I’m far better at clarinet and sax!). Sometimes it’s a round or two of Tetris 99 to clear my head on a bug or how to get the proper response from an LLM.  When I’m not at my desk, I’m probably running around (I’m coming for you half marathon), at an improv class, or chasing lightning.

Tell us more about your project. 

My project initially started out as a way to dynamically make resumes where I could save all my information and then selectively decide what I wanted to be on the page, reorganize it as I wanted to.

It was a small introduction into an idea for a project. I needed to be working on something that was a curiosity for me.

Then the initial idea turned more into a mission: What kind of tools can I make that will help people change careers? Because changing careers is not easy. There’s not a good roadmap for doing that. There’s an overwhelming amount of information and opinions about what to say and how to say things. It’s sensory overload. I feel that and I feel like there’s got to be other people experiencing that in the world too.

What can I make from my position and perspective that can ease that process for other people? 

Then the initial idea turned more into a mission: What kind of tools can I make that will help people change careers? Because changing careers is not easy. There’s not a good roadmap for doing that. There’s an overwhelming amount of information and opinions about what to say and how to say things. It’s sensory overload. I feel that and I feel like there’s got to be other people experiencing that in the world too.

What can I make from my position and perspective that can ease that process for other people? 

Tell us more about what you’ve done and what is unique about your project.

The first thing I did was the resume feature. During the process of building it, I became interested in how I could use AI to assist me in that process.

I didn’t want to use AI to create content, I want to use AI to enable humans to create content.

I don’t want to write people’s resume details or professional summaries for them. That’s not helpful in my opinion in the scope of the world.

It’s more important to empower people on doing it themselves and help them understand the gaps between where they start and a completed process. 

One of the first things I incorporated was how to give feedback on specific details of an experience, and then how to give feedback on the overall impression of all the details of an experience. 

There’s a more recent feature that I’ve been building which is the chat feature, the ability to just talk naturally about what you’ve done. The chat functionality asks really targeted questions about what you did, what your impact was, what you learned, how you grew. It’s going very deeply into each of those experiences and then parsing it into an outline and a framework that the user could then express effectively on a resume and say “I very confidently did these things and I can write very strongly about it.” That is the epitome of my goal of my work.

How did you start building this app? 

I think about as backwards as I possibly could have done it! Something I learned in the process of doing this is I’ve gotten a good sense of when I should take time to do more design work and when I should do things that will enable me to understand what I’m trying to design, because in the beginning I didn’t know what I was making. I started at the end of working with a pdf generation library and just having my resume information display on that pdf. That was it. It’s caused some pain points along the way because I go back and think: okay this needs to do this and to enable me to get to the end point I need to change all that other stuff I wrote 2 months ago.

So it was kind of like making the pdf and then making my form elements that let me save the information that would go on the pdf and then now it’s been a translation of how do I make this make sense to users. I’ve had conversations ongoing with several UX professionals that have given me great feedback and enabled me to make vast improvements. Trying to explain to the user what the flow is, what their journey is going to be through my site is still a struggle because I think I’m trying to do something a little bit different, and I’m having to figure it all out on my own.

How did you come up with the idea for the chat? 

Actually, there was a conversation with Erik Andersen. I talked to him a little bit about my project and the interview bot that I’d been working on. He’d mentioned something that resonated with me that I thought about too. When he’d worked on resumes with other people they had a hard time expressing themselves and even identifying what they did and how they’d done it, and so that kind of stuck with me.

One of the difficulties of changing careers is that you have this syntax, this dialogue that you’re familiar with in this space, and it doesn’t necessarily translate right away, and that’s a painful learning point in the transition.

That’s what the chat became. It’s like a translator between your past and your future. Once I got building it and I saw responses I realized this could be really helpful. It’s kind of a foundational piece right now, and I think it’s going to grow into something where it’s not just going to be talking about your past and translating that into your future, but also practicing for an interview, or figuring out how to express yourself for networking purposes, etc.   

What place has this project had in your job search overall and how has it impacted you? 

The biggest impact it’s had is to help heal self-esteem and ease doubt in changing careers. I think that’s one of the main reasons why I’ve struggled in the job search. I haven’t believed in myself enough and I recognized at some point that I needed to fix that. That’s when I stopped and said: “Okay I’m going to make this thing. I’m going to take an idea that’s in my head and make it real and prove to myself that I’m capable of doing this work.” It’s been a process! It’s been a lot of reading documentation and trying things and taking those steps to take it from imagination to reality. There’s a lot I can still keep doing but it’s demonstrable to myself and to other people that I’m very capable and would be an asset to have on a team. Seeing that and feeling that is very empowering and I guess my only regret is that it took me as long as it did to start doing it. 

What was the deciding factor? When did you decide, okay I’m just going to go ahead and try?

Some of that was the months of applying without getting really any meaningful results. That was a telltale sign that something needed to change. I did get the sense that I didn’t really have anything unique on my resume and that felt important. Something I’m starting to come to grips with in the last year or so is that my intuition is pretty accurate about things. 

In searching for a job there isn’t a lot of control and that’s really hard to grapple with. You wake up and you think: “Okay, is somebody going to get back to me? Is anything going to happen today?” With this project I get to decide what I’m doing with it and that feels good.

I think that’s something that anybody on a job search needs to consider:  what do you have control of, what can you take control of, and what do you have to let go?  If 90% of your day is spent on the things that you can’t control like waiting for an application response, you’re gonna get sucked dry.

Has working on this app hindered your progress in any way?

Within the scope of the project I’ve had little hiccups, but in the scope of life, maybe the worst thing is that I’ve wanted to spend too much time on it at times. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that just means I found something that I care about and that I want to spend time on. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be writing code at 1 a.m. but sometimes that’s my best thoughts happen, so I have to work with it! 

Just to reiterate, I wish I’d started it sooner but I really like what it’s done to heal and empower me to spend the time on it. That’s something that I would really encourage anybody else on a job search: Find something that you care about, that’s interesting, and just start throwing code together.Then you’ll probably pick something out of the mess and realize “oh I really care about this thing” and just start running with it and make it into something worthwhile. 

What is your advice for bootcamp grads who want to start working on a project? 

Start from a place of comfort. Whatever technology you are comfortable with, that you like the most, spend time working with that. Because again the job search is hard and straining so you don’t want to drain yourself further by working on something you don’t necessarily resonate with. If you genuinely love python, spend time working on python. If you love writing SQL queries, do that. Latch on to that thing where you find joy and build on top of that.

In addition to those things I would strongly recommend finding some way to work AI (LLM) into your project. Maybe coming up with some kind of chat based feature, or having that interact with APIs is fascinating. If there’s some kind of data set that you’re interested in you can incorporate into a project. And that’s not even including the audio and visual aspects. There’s so much that can be explored and it just takes creativity and imagination.

Who should they talk to about their project?

The short answer is everybody. The more structured answer:  start with the people that will support you, that will rally you, that will say “yeah this sounds cool go for it”, those yes people in your world. Once you’ve gotten a little bit along the way in that process you kind of have to step out of the comfort zone and start showing it to the people that might be a little more critical of the work because that’s important too. Just because you might have the best button in the world it doesn’t mean it actually serves a meaningful purpose. At some point you have to start getting that kind of feedback from other people that’ll check you a little bit and that’s a place of growth. At some point just share it with everybody! Because you’ve made something that’s going to be meaningful, or useful, or cool. Or maybe it connects you with a hiring manager that says “I like your work, why don’t we see if we can find a place for you.”  

What have people said about your app?

A whole spectrum of things. There’s been a lot of (great!) feedback that I’ve had to take in because ideas I’ve had haven’t necessarily translated and so there’s ongoing work on doing that.

On a larger positive scope, just a general sense of excitement, encouragement, positivity, and just general goodness. People have been very impressed and eager to see me complete this! They seem to see a place for my app in their lives. I’ve heard numerous times:  “When is this done so I can use it.?” To hear a statement like that from somebody else is exciting! It’s exciting to achieve that, and then I’m thinking what else am i capable of?  

Any last words of wisdom for job seekers?

Find something that you care about and make something out of it. That way you have something that you have control of that gives you a little bit of energy that gets taken away by the rejections or the silence of applications, and don’t be afraid to show what you’ve done because if you care about it and you value the work you’re doing, then other people will see that and that’s going to make a very strong impact. You never know where that’s going to take you. 

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