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Interview With An Alumni: Katie Krieger

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Rithm School

Sep 19, 2017

Katie came to Rithm School with an impressive background in Environmental Engineering. While she loved the field, Katie felt limited by her skillset and wanted to focus more on her interest in technology. She began to consider software engineering as a career that could allow for more hands-on problem solving.

While researching bootcamp options, Katie was drawn to the environment at Rithm School, particularly the small class sizes and individual attention from instructors.

Katie talks more about her experience in an interview with SwitchUp. She also offers her advice for students, and explains how the skills she learned at Rithm School will be used in her new position as a Software Engineer at ClassPass.

Katie Krieger Headshot

1.) You have a broad academic background in STEM, which includes Aerospace Engineering, and Civil and Environmental Engineering. What got you started in coding?

I first started coding in school. Fortran is common in the aerospace industry and was therefore my first introduction to programming. I also used Matlab quite a bit in school. I liked it from the beginning.

2.) How did you decide to pursue a career as a Software Engineer?

I've spent my career working in the environmental field. While I'm passionate about those issues, I felt a bit limited in terms of what I could do. I wanted to have a concrete skillset that employers would value. I also wanted to focus more on the technical skills that I'd always gravitated toward. I love working through problems and getting lost in the "flow".

3.) Tell us about the environment and curriculum at Rithm School. What made it the right fit for you?

Rithm is different from other schools. Our class had 10 students and 3 instructors. When I interviewed, I got to sit down and chat with all 3 instructors and ask them all my questions. I compared this to interviews at other bootcamps, where I would be in a cohort of 30-60 people, and where I didn't get to talk to a single person during the interview process (it was all written and videotaped). I felt the personal touch at Rithm would be huge, and I was right. We quickly became a close knit group. I never hesitated to ask a question I had (you can ask my classmates!). That was huge for me. And the instructors were all absolutely fantastic – smart, engaged, funny, well prepared, and willing to answer all of our questions. The curriculum was fantastic as well. Anyone can see from their free courses online that these instructors know how to teach. We dove deeply into JavaScript and Python, and I found potential employers to be really interested in my experience with tools like ReactJS and Node.js. But what really drew interest from employers was my experience working with outside companies as part of the Rithm curriculum. That really helped set me apart from other bootcamp grads.

4.) What were the pros and cons of attending a bootcamp?

Before I started, I spoke with a number of bootcamp grads. Many of them told me it was one of the hardest things they'd ever done. I don't think I found that to be the case. The atmosphere at Rithm was so supportive and collaborative that I never felt stuck or alone. Yes, it was a lot of new material to learn, but it was presented in an engaging way. You might call it a con that I had to learn so much in such a short period of time, but I felt that was fundamentally a positive thing. It's amazing to me to look back at how much I've been able to change my career for the better in just a few months!

5.) You recently worked on a big project for another bootcamp, Tradecraft. Tell us about the project and your role.

Tradecraft wanted to develop a website for its students and alumni to organize information during a job search. Tradecraft had a very clear vision for how the site should look and operate, but it was up to us to select appropriate technologies and figure out how to actually make it work. We decided to use a MongoDB database, with Node.js and Express on the back end. On the front end, we opted to use ReactJS and Redux. I got to help set up a single-click signup process using OAuth 2.0, build out React components, style elements on the page using CSS3 and SCSS, and write a bunch of unit tests. It was such a good learning experience and became a great project to highlight during my job search.

6.) How did Rithm School prepare you for life as a Software Engineer?

Rithm gave me skills that employers value, and set me up to get real-world experience with two different companies. I learned how to work on a team using Git (for version control), which is an important skill that I wouldn't have been as comfortable with at a bootcamp that focuses solely on solo projects. Rithm also works with Outco for interview prep, which was hugely valuable in terms of understanding how potential employers think and hire. The lessons I learned there will carry me through all future job searches.

7.) You recently accepted a Software Engineer position with ClassPass (congrats!). Does your new role require any of the same skills you developed at Rithm School or as an environmental engineer?

Absolutely! I will be working as a front end engineer at ClassPass, using tools like JavaScript and ReactJS that I learned at Rithm. But beyond that, I'll be able to build on my previous experience as an environmental engineer. First and foremost, my experience with problem solving and data analysis will be (and have already been) very useful. As I progress through my career, I think my experience managing teams, managing my time, and managing schedules and budgets will all serve me well. I'm really fortunate that ClassPass sees and values the skills I bring from my pre-bootcamp career, as well. I could not be more excited.

8.) What challenges did you overcome to get to where you are?

One of my biggest challenges is self doubt (or the imposter syndrome). I had to really put myself outside of my comfort zone so many times, from doing my first white boarding interview at Rithm to showing up for class on the first day! But I knew that it would be good for me to do so. Possibly the hardest challenge was the decision to leave my former job. I really loved my manager and my organization, and it was incredibly tough to walk away (into the unknown!). But for all of the reasons I've described, it was absolutely the right decision.

9.) Tell us about your goals and plans for the future. How do you hope to build your career over the next few years?

In the short term, I want to find my footing in my new role and start to really master some of the new skills I've acquired. Looking out a little further, I'd love to put some of my former work experiences to use and move into a management role. The most important things are to believe in the work I'm doing and to keep learning.

10.) What advice do you have for people who are interested in attending a bootcamp?

As a first step, I'd suggest taking some free online courses. Rithm's are a great place to start. Once you have some basics down, try signing up for something like codewars.com. You want to be sure you like to code! If you've gotten that far, I would attend free courses or info sessions at various schools to get a feel for their culture and learn about what they have to offer. You might also reach out to graduates to hear from people firsthand about their experiences. Think about what matters to you in a bootcamp and follow your gut.

To learn more about student experiences at Rithm School, check out our profile on SwitchUp.

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