Meet Charlie Hayes, a recent Lighthouse Labs graduate, and one of the first recipients of our COVID-19 Scholarship

*This scholarship is no longer available. Please see our Financial Guide for financing options.

People have told him for years that he would make a good programmer, but when COVID-19 became a major concern, he decided it was time to have a job that brings more security. He applied for the Lighthouse Labs COVID-19 scholarship and was one of more than 150 initial recipients.

Charlie graduated in mid-August as part of the May 2020 web development bootcamp cohort. We sat-down with Charlie (virtually, of course) to discuss his bootcamp experience, the scholarship funds, and his tips for aspiring developers.

Tell me a bit about your situation before the Bootcamp?

Before bootcamp, I was a tutor, but the hours of tutoring available kept shrinking. Summers are always a little slow, but even the end-of-year crunch period (which usually makes me enough money to carry me through the summer) was disturbingly slow. Compounding the problem is the fact that I am a test prep tutor with a very specialized set of skills--one that Covid is making obsolete. Many colleges and universities in the United States have stopped accepting the tests I teach as evidence of a student's talent, and many aren't sure they'll ever reinstitute the program. At that point, I knew I needed to make a change.

Why did you choose to change your career for web development?

People have told me for years that I would make a good programmer, based on the way I analyze things, but the biggest driving factor was my wife's insistence that I give Lighthouse Labs a shot. She graduated about a year and a half before I applied for the program, and it has really helped her to stay optimistic about our life together.

Knowing that you have some semblance of job security in a world gone crazy is really helpful, and my wife wanted me to have that, too.

What does receiving this scholarship mean to you?

It meant a load off of my mind. Scrounging together the funds was really difficult--the bank was taking forever with our loan application, and new expenses kept popping up. We had planned several contingency plans, but they had all fallen through. In the end, it was the scholarship that allowed us to find the money without resorting to credit card cash advances. It was a lifesaver.

What made you choose Lighthouse Labs Bootcamp?

As stated above, my wife had graduated from LHL, but I was also interested in the post-grad job-hunt help. I haven't gotten to use it just yet (more on that below), but here's the long and short of it: I spent a lot of money getting a degree in writing, and that debt has done nothing but drag me down for the last ten years.

The last thing I wanted to do was make an investment in another field that couldn't provide me with a job, so the job-oriented focus of LHL was incredibly appealing.

What advice would you give to aspiring developers?

Just make something. I did a bunch of tutorials (including my own freestyling based on those tutorials) before I joined LHL, and it was super fun. If you're enjoying making random stuff, you'll get the hang of the problem solving required to be a good developer. Once you're good at the methodology, it's not that hard to adapt to a slightly less fun situation--like using it to make money.

What are your career goals now that you graduated?

Currently, my old tutoring boss and I are working on an app to shake up education in a big way. Using what I learned at LHL, I'm essentially designing and developing the whole thing all at once, which would seem like a big task if it weren't for the crazy thing I've already accomplished as a student at LHL. I enjoy every minute of the process now that I'm designing from the ground up, and it's really fun to see a project come together. If this app doesn't make us moderately rich, I may go in search of another job, but our agreement is going to cover my bills until January, so I think I'm just gonna sit tight and make this thing happen for now!

Do you have anything else to add about your experience?

It's called "bootcamp" for a reason. It isn't easy, and it takes a lot out of you, but by the time you're done, solving problems one at a time--even problems you've never dreamt of before--is so much easier than you ever would have imagined. I know that there are a million things out there in the programming world that I don't know, but I'm making headway, even without having mentorship at a bigger company. I feel capable of things that I wouldn't have even tried six months ago. I survived the hard part, and now I'm enjoying the fruits of my labor.