Neha Gupta was a doctor in naturopathic medicine before realizing she wanted a career that enabled her to solve more varied problems each day. With family and friends who worked as engineers in the tech industry, she had a supportive network to help her transition to tech. Neha sat down with Course Report, a top online resource for intensive bootcamp programs, to discuss why she chose to learn to code at an all-women bootcamp, how her bootcamp learning experience compared to college, how she balanced the full-time program with a part-time job, and why she chose to become a part of Hackbright Academy’s first South Bay cohort!
What is your pre-bootcamp story? What made you want to switch career paths from medicine to technology?
I went to Northwestern and received a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Science and a degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics. My goal was to become an allopathic doctor and go the traditional MD medical route, but I ended up wanting to do natural medicine.
In my last year of medical school, I was taking classes and working as intern at the school clinic. My experience there was very repetitive. I don’t generally like to do the same thing over and over again when at work, so I got bored of that quickly.
I moved to the Bay Area from Chicago right after I graduated. I took my board exams, passed, and got licensed for the state of California. I was searching for naturopathic doctor positions, but in the back of my mind, I was also thinking, “my experience wasn’t that great in terms of the variety I was seeing. So do I really want to do this?”
In the Bay Area, we’re surrounded by tech and many of my friends and family are engineers. My parents are both engineers so I’ve had that engineering background surrounding me since very early on. I thought, “Why not combine medicine and engineering and find a job that is at the intersection of healthcare and technology, because there’s so much potential.”
How did you find out about the coding bootcamp model?
Actually, my husband was the one who told me about coding bootcamps. I definitely didn’t want to go back to college because I’d just finished four years of undergrad and four years of medical school. So I did my research and looked at a bunch of different bootcamps in the Bay Area. Hackbright Academy was top of my list mainly because of its mission to change the ratio with its all-women bootcamp. I only applied and interviewed with Hackbright, and I got in. The whole process went so fast, so I didn’t look further after that.
Can you tell me about your cohort? How did an all-women cohort with different life and career backgrounds add to your learning experience?
As the inaugural South Bay cohort, we were a small group, but I liked it because we all grew closer to each other. Most of us had no prior coding experience, and some of us had taken coding classes in college. We all came from different backgrounds, and all wanted to do different things in tech. My focus was on health tech or education tech, since I was also a tutor during college. There was another woman whose focus was on the intersection of social justice and tech. It was definitely nice to have such a small cohort where we could share our past experiences that shaped who we are.
Describe a typical day at Hackbright Academy’s South Bay campus. What was the learning structure like?
The program is broken into three sections. For the first five weeks, lectures were at 10am every day for an hour or two. Then we would have a lab to reinforce the concepts discussed in lecture. We had lunch from 1pm to 2pm, then another lecture, then a lab again to reinforce the lecture concepts. We went home around 6pm. Those first weeks were very structured.
The next five weeks were when we started our individual projects. For these weeks, we still had lecture at 10am, but then we had individual project time. If we needed help, we would get into the queue and then one of the instructors would come and help us.
The last two weeks were more career focused. We had lectures, but they were a lot of guest speakers like engineers from partner companies and Hackbright alums who are working in the field. We also had field trips to different tech companies.
Compared to learning in medical school, how was your experience learning new subject material with all women?
In college, I was surrounded mostly by guys, because I had STEM majors. Even in high school, I was one of the few girls in my math and science classes. Now, learning something new later in life compared to high school and undergrad, I definitely appreciated that the atmosphere was the opposite of competitive. Hackbright Academy was very nurturing. I was surrounded by women who had each other’s backs. The experience helped me be okay with making mistakes, which is natural when we’re learning something new for the first time.
What was your biggest challenge whilst learning to code at Hackbright Academy?
Time management was my biggest challenge – balancing going to bootcamp with having a part-time job. It was probably even more challenging than learning the new stuff because you barely have time to do anything. After the bootcamp finished at 6pm on weekdays, and all day on Sundays, I would tutor high school students in chemistry and algebra. Saturdays were the only day when I could focus and ensure I understood what was being taught at Hackbright Academy that week.
It was definitely intense, but in a way, it was kind of relaxing. At Hackbright I was the student and I was learning all this foreign material, and then when I was tutoring, I was teaching material I already knew.
How has Hackbright Academy helped to prepare you for the job search?
Hackbright has been super supportive in terms of the job search. It’s been more support than I expected because I didn’t have this kind of support with my past schools. It’s been amazing. I just graduated last week, but even one week out, I feel very supported. We have a Hackbright career counselor to whom we send weekly or bi-weekly updates on our job search. If we have any questions, she’s always there.
In terms of my job search, it’s going well. Right after Hackbright, I went to Hawaii for a weekend because I hadn’t had a break for three months. When I came back, I started applying to jobs and got some phone screens so it’s been good so far. On average, Hackbright grads get jobs in three to six months, so those are my expectations.
What’s the biggest unexpected difference that you’ve noticed about searching for tech jobs versus searching for jobs in medicine? Have you noticed a difference at all?
The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that there are so many jobs for software engineers out there. There’s so much opportunity. There are so many places that I can apply to in almost any industry. For me, particularly it’s health and education that I’m looking at, but tech is needed for everything. So whatever anyone’s interest is, I’m sure they could find some way to bring tech into it. There’s no shortage of job opportunities.
What advice do you have for other people who are considering a bootcamp and changing careers?
One big thing is make sure you like to code. When my husband first suggested coding as a possibility for me, I immediately said no because I had taken a coding class in undergrad and hated it. I thought there was no way I was going to do this. But I gave it a chance, tried it out, and realized that I actually really loved it. But if I hadn’t loved it and had forced myself through a coding bootcamp, it would have been a miserable experience. So definitely make sure you like to code and you like to think in that way before starting a bootcamp.
This post was originally published on Course Report, it has been abridged for Hackbright Academy. Find the full article, more bootcamp news, and read Hackbright Academy reviews on Course Report’s website.
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