Corrina Chow excelled as a bootcamp student. Today, Corrina works as a mentor and instructor with Lighthouse Labs while balancing a career as a full-stack software developer at Unity Technologies, a video game software development company. Unity Technologies is best known for the development of Unity, a licensed game engine used to create video games and other applications.
Learn more about how Corrina reached this point of their career, what the Lighthouse Labs grad is currently up, and what's next.
Tell me about yourself, and where you're working
I am a full-stack software developer at Unity Technologies. In my first two years as a developer, I worked at Plusgrade as a full-stack developer. I’ve also worked with Lighthouse Labs as a front-end instructor and web bootcamp mentor.
What is your educational/work background?
There are a few that overlap:
- 2012: Canterbury High School Fine Arts Diploma (painting & illustration), Ottawa
- 2015: Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency, Ottawa - Junior Risk Evaluator
- 2015 - 2017: Babely Shades, Event Coordinator, Promoter & Graphic Designer
- 2012 - 2016: University of Ottawa, Bachelor of Science, Ottawa
- 2016 - 2017: Travelled, and and moved to Montreal
- 2017 - Music Publishing, Montreal, Copyright Administrator and Office Manager
- 2017 - Present: Freelance brand direction and graphic design, Ottawa/Montreal
- 2018: Lighthouse Labs
What made you choose Lighthouse Labs for bootcamp?
One of my friends in Vancouver had recently completed the web development bootcamp and was happy with the outcome. I researched all the options available in Montreal, including other bootcamps, colleges, and universities. I ultimately chose Lighthouse Labs because it had been around for a few years at that point, and they offer career services across Canada. I was open to moving, so I wanted to make sure career support was available regardless of where I ended up.
Tell me about your experience learning at Lighthouse.
The bootcamp was challenging for me.
I was often there until midnight, completing the day’s work. I had some previous experience with HTML and CSS from 10+ years ago (from using it on Neopets!, no less), and I had completed a significant portion of the front-end module on freeCodeCamp before Lighthouse. Regardless, I still felt under-prepared for the pace and intensity of the bootcamp.
The mentorship model was essential to my success at Lighthouse. Talking to people with years or decades of experience from diverse and often unconventional backgrounds was crucial in understanding the challenges I would face. It also helped me identify what kind of web development interested me beyond the front-end/back-end dichotomy; some mentors worked at agencies, others at SaaS companies, and some were data engineers, among other specializations. It gave me a broad overview of what is possible as a programmer.
Tell me about your experience as a bootcamp-trained individual in the industry.
My biggest takeaways from the bootcamp were learning how to be uncomfortable and learning how to learn.
Being a mentor and instructor has also been an enormous learning experience as it allows you to keep up to date with (or revisit) modern web technologies and tooling that are in demand at the moment.
Lighthouse Labs dissolves any hesitancy to ask for help from mentors. They set the curriculum up to push you to think ahead. I brought this with me into the workplace and always asked questions or for clarification because if you don’t ask, people will assume you know or understand.
What has the company culture been like at your current and past jobs?
Having worked in the government, a startup, and finally a mid-sized tech company, my experiences vary greatly.
The mentorship model was essential to my success at Lighthouse. Talking to people with years or decades of experience from diverse and often unconventional backgrounds was crucial in understanding the challenges I would face.
I wanted to start my new career off on the right foot and was selective with which company I wanted to work at. I wanted to make sure I’d have the mentorship support that I needed as a junior developer, a culture that revolves around knowledge sharing, and a lateral hierarchy so I’d be able to contribute from the very beginning. Not all places will have employees at all levels involved in decision making, make investments in your training and professional development, or the flexibility to accommodate needs and interests outside of the office.
It’s just as important for you to interview the company as much as they are interviewing you.
Have you been working on any side projects?
I recently relaunched my website with a CMS to facilitate changing the content. It also has a blog section where I talk about my experiences in tech and teaching, as well as post tutorials. I’m constantly adding many more features and keeping myself accountable through posting about it on Twitter.
I’ve also been spending more time on writing, designing and conducting workshops — some with Lighthouse Labs. Stay tuned!
When not working on my projects, I try my best to contribute to open source as often as I can. Last year I took part in Hacktoberfest, an open-source contribution event in October.
I recommend these sources to get started on contributing to open-source:
What technologies are you currently working with?
I’m primarily writing code in TypeScript, working with technologies like Node, React/Redux, GraphQL/Apollo, AWS, and Docker.
What, if any, advice would you give to aspiring or professional developers?
Stay humble and believe in yourself! Programming is such a broad field that it’s impossible to know how to do everything. Specialize in what you love, whether that is front-end, back-end, DevOps, etc, and know just enough about everything else to know what to ask of others who specialize in that domain.
It’s important to remember that in this profession you will be put in situations where you don’t know the answer. It’s up to you to look for it. Let that curiosity drive you and approach every problem with the attitude of “I have no idea, but I’ll figure it out.
How did you get involved with Lighthouse Labs, and what made you choose to mentor here?
As I was finishing up the bootcamp, I was looking for ways to integrate into the Montreal tech community. I volunteered at a few events, then was invited to mentor a few workshops, and eventually was offered to lead some. I enjoyed being able to share my experience with other people.
After hearing positive feedback from the workshops, I gave mentoring a try.
Why did you get into teaching? Tell us about your teaching philosophy.
I’m constantly mindful that my role as a mentor and instructor is to create an environment where students are empowered to think creatively about solutions, to learn to seek help from colleagues or refer to documentation, and to develop as self-evaluators.
Being a mentor and instructor has also been an enormous learning experience as it allows you to keep up to date with (or revisit) modern web technologies and tooling that are in demand at the moment. It keeps you on your toes because you need to think about what you’re teaching, how you’re teaching it, and how to present the material in a context meaningful to students, especially when they come from a wide variety of backgrounds.
What stands out to you about your time at Lighthouse Labs?
Looking back at my bootcamp experience from over two years ago now, I’m very grateful for not only the instruction I received but also the patience and kindness of everyone around me. That includes the other students in my cohort, mentors, instructors, career services, and the rest of the Lighthouse team. Diving headfirst into a new career is daunting. Being able to share your fears and concerns, and being met with compassion and constructive advice is immensely comforting.
It’s important to remember that in this profession you will be put in situations where you don’t know the answer.
This experience has fundamentally shaped my approach to mentoring and teaching. It has taught me a great deal about the importance of community. I always aim to pay it forward, at Lighthouse, and beyond.