One Year After Bootcamp: Laith Azer By: Rebecca Haliburton Laith is one of the very first graduates from our Toronto campus! After finishing his undergrad with a degree in Industrial Engineering, Laith took the plunge to enrol in bootcamp in pursuit of a career that excited him. Now, a year after he left Lighthouse, he's found what he was looking for in his role as a Developer with Think Research. We caught up with Laith to learn more about his Bootcamp experience and the year that followed. What were you doing before Lighthouse Labs? Two years before becoming a student at Lighthouse I had finished up my undergrad in Industrial Engineering. Afterwards I worked in the procurement and logistics industries as an analyst. What made you decide to come to Lighthouse Labs? Since like most people I was forced to choose a career path when I was 16, I never felt a passion for my work after graduating. Almost immediately after graduating I was dreading going to work because I found it really boring. I needed to change something but didn’t want to go through university again as I felt the risk of another 2-4 years of studying was too high. I started to hear about developer bootcamps but was skeptical at first. Was 2-3 months really enough for me to learn a brand new skillset? I did some extensive research about the teaching model and graduates, and it seemed to be feasible. I had also done a few computer science courses in my undergrad and really enjoyed them, so I thought it would be a good fit. I initially decided to attend a bootcamp in San Francisco, but it was very expensive so I needed time to save up the money. Almost immediately after graduating I was dreading going to work because I found it really boring. I needed to change something but didn’t want to go through university again as I felt the risk of another 2-4 years of studying was too high. I remember coming home one day very frustrated from something at work, and I would typically google developer bootcamp success stories to keep me motivated. For some reason that day Lighthouse Labs showed up in the search results. I looked at their website and it seemed well established in the Vancouver tech scene and were taking applications for a Toronto branch that was starting in a couple of months. I did some more research and saw they had some of the best reviews for a bootcamp out there. The cost would have also been a fraction of what it would cost in San Francisco… and I already had enough savings to do it! So that same day I applied to the June 2015 cohort, had an interview and met a couple of staff members a few days later and was then accepted into the program. What advice would you give someone who wants to become a developer? First I think it’s important to be sure that becoming a developer is what you really want. If you go into it for the wrong reasons I don’t think it will end well. It’s a hard career change to make and there are many frustrating days you will have. So make sure it is really what you want by getting your feet wet: do a few free online courses, attend meet ups and talk to current developers to get a sense of what their typical day looks like. Once you are sure, I highly recommend going through a developer bootcamp. You can definitely become a self-taught developer, but I think the most efficient way these days is through a bootcamp. They are designed to push you to your limit and support you through it. The atmosphere at a bootcamp is like no other. You will be surrounded by other highly motivated people from all kinds of backgrounds and develop a bond as you work through the curriculum and celebrate your successes at the end of each week. The mentors and instructors are some of the most knowledgable and experienced people in the industry and their support is always available, even after you graduate. I think the most important piece of advice I can give is that you must be prepared to let go of your ego and be willing to fail continuously. Coding can be very challenging and you might struggle and fail more than you are used to, especially at a bootcamp. Don’t let this discourage you at all, it’s actually one of the best parts of being a developer; there is always something new to learn and usually the best way to do so is by breaking stuff. How did Lighthouse prepare you for your transition from bootcamp to your first full-time role? The assignments and projects are designed in a way that not only teaches you programming concepts, but also how to break large problems into smaller ones, how to conduct your own research and how to test your results. After going through many of these at bootcamp, this pattern becomes a habit and for me it carried over to my first role. Another useful part of Lighthouse is that you are never spoon-fed answers to problems; you’re usually given some tips or hints and then it is up to you to take that and figure things out on your own. This is invaluable as in a job you will not have someone to solve your problems all the time, you must be able to depend on yourself and come up with your own solutions. It’s been a year since you graduated Lighthouse Labs, what have you been up to? Almost immediately after graduating I worked at a boutique software agency called Functional Imperative. I was really lucky because one of the bootcamp instructors, Jon Salis, is also the CTO at the agency and I was able to get continuous mentorship after bootcamp from the whole team. I worked on several projects, one of which was the Learning Management System used at Lighthouse Labs. It was really cool seeing students use features I built! I also got the chance to work with some of the newer technologies like React and Redux on some of my other projects. Overall it was a fantastic learning experience and a lot of fun working with the team. Right now I am at a company called Think Research, which builds software to give clinicians the information they need in order to better and faster treat patients. It’s a great opportunity as I get to be a part of building complex software that improves the way my friends and family receive treatment. There is a great company culture and I get to work with some very talented developers, doing both back-end and front-end work. Tell us about the Toronto tech scene. The majority of people I meet in the scene are very passionate about their work. There are tons of social events happening everyday and lots of exciting start ups based in the city. What technologies are you working with? These days I’m working with Ruby on Rails, React/Redux, HTML and CSS. What's the weirdest, or most interesting part of your job? Probably 70-80% of my time, I am either using part of a technology I haven’t used before or building something for the first time. For me this is the best part, I never get bored and continuously feel challenged. Working in a team of developers can be lots of fun. You get to argue about different things (developers can be very opinionated), build stuff together piece by piece, and generally enjoy your work. What’s next? Keep learning as much as I possibly can. Maximize my code gains. #juniordevforlife Anything else you want to share? Looking back at my bootcamp experience at LHL, it was the perfect balance of challenging, rewarding and fun. I’m really glad I was frustrated enough at work one day to apply to the program. I recently started a new position at Think Research, and before that I was at Functional Imperative. What’s common to both of these jobs is that there are great developers working in the companies to learn from. That’s probably the most important factor to look for in a job; make sure there are smart people you can learn from.