Wiljay Flores’s path to becoming an iOS developer began in 2018 when he was working at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport as a screening officer. An interaction with a traveller first sparked his interest in the field. “It] started with a chat with a developer travelling for work which led me to think, ‘I can totally do that.’”
On his next day off of work, he booked an appointment with Lighthouse Labs and the rest is history.
Today, Wiljay, a graduate of the July 30, 2018 iOS Development Bootcamp, works at Loblaw Digital as a mobile release engineer on the productivity engineering team. Loblaw Digital is Loblaws Inc.’s ecommerce division behind the digital experiences of Joe Fresh, online grocery, Beauty Boutique, and PC Optimum to name a few. Recently, Loblaw Digital was listed among Canada’s top 50 most innovative workplaces, according to Elevate.
Not one for traditional education, Wiljay came to Lighthouse Labs after jumping between accounting, electronics engineering, computer networking, screening at the airport, and being a host at the Ontario Science Centre. At one point, he held three different roles within the same company which earned him the broader title of ‘operations specialist,’ simply to eliminate confusion with clients. As he describes his journey, he experimented with many different roles and education streams, and as a result his resume was as jumbled as his transcripts.
“I googled ‘Toronto Coding Bootcamps’ and I planned to see a few bootcamps on my day off from the airport,” he recalls. “Lighthouse Labs was the first one I had scheduled that day but I knew right away that I wanted to be there, I actually didn’t bother showing up for the rest of my appointments. Lighthouse gave me a very welcoming feeling that I was immediately drawn to.”
The day of Wiljay’s bootcamp interview didn’t quite start as he hoped. He lost his wallet while on public transit en route to his interview and, instead of turning back to look for it, decided to continue on, arriving with nothing but his laptop. Prior to the admissions interview, he had already completed half of the prep work, which typically takes 60-80 hours. After speaking with admissions, and being accepted, he quit his job the following day and started bootcamp shortly after.
“I had so many reasons that day to turn around and say ‘you know what, I can do this another time,’” he recalls. “I felt how much I wanted to become a developer and I was not going to let anything stand in my way.”
He then found his wallet at a lost and found, with everything still in tact. Maybe that day wasn’t so bad after all.
Fast-forward to bootcamp. During the 10-week iOS program, Wiljay describes the learning experience as amazing, and the working environment as a way to alleviate the stress of bootcamp. “It is okay not to know everything right away,” he says, before adding that, “for those who are still in bootcamp, you will be frustrated a lot of times and feel like you absolutely suck at coding and that is okay. Don’t forget that most of us took bootcamp because we wanted to learn and become great developers not because we already were.”
After bootcamp, instead of jumping right into the job search, Wiljay spend the next few months continuing to expand his knowledge and build upon the foundation he created at Lighthouse Labs.
“Working at Loblaw Digital, I feel like a complete beginner surrounded by a team of superstars,” he says. “I’m still having a hard time believing that I’m working alongside these talented people. I constantly feel like I need to catch up to their level as soon as possible and trying to learn multiple things at the same time. I have been lucky enough that my team tells me to slow down and focus on one thing at a time.”
“I still smile randomly during our sprint planning sessions because this whole journey has felt so unreal. Sometimes it happens during the most inappropriate times so I just look away from my team so they don’t see me smiling.”
Currently, Wiljay works a lot with Ruby, Swift, Gitlab, Fastlane, and Bitrise. There are more tools that his team uses, although he hasn’t started with them personally, he says. “The company culture at Loblaw Digital has been great,” he says. “They have given me everything I need to succeed and grow as a developer. Everyone on my team is always excited to share their knowledge. Together we celebrate our victories and take our failures as a chance to improve and learn from our mistakes. I feel like they are raising us to become fearless developers on a mission towards innovation.”
Since its launch five years ago, more than 200 students have graduated from the iOS Development Bootcamp program, a particular point of pride for all of us at Lighthouse Labs. Recently, the final cohort of the iOS students graduated from our Vancouver campus, while our penultimate cohort graduated in Toronto in July.