Nathaniel - "Nat" - Greenwald, a statistics major in his twenties, decided to break into data science by enrolling in Byte Academy coding bootcamp. Nat now has an exciting career working as a data integration engineer in the AdTech industry. Read about Nat's personal experience learning to code in addition to his career tips and advice to those who may want to follow in his footsteps.
Please describe your background before entering Byte Academy coding bootcamp including college major, work experience, etc
Statistics major, worked as Accounting Analyst and Business Analyst.
Congrats on your new job! Can you elaborate on the role including company, job title, salary insight (shh, we won't tell..)
This month I'm starting as a Data Integration Engineer at a company in ad-tech, a growing industry with a big presence in NYC. The company specializes in mobile advertising, so serving ads on mobile devices.
Salary.... (Nat gives a big smile:)
Tech jobs do pay well, but what is cool as I meet more people in tech is how many of them enjoy their jobs and find them fulfilling. They can be confident that if their start-up goes belly up or if they don't like their current job, it's comparably easy to find a new one.
To some, coding bootcamps maybe a new concept - can you just give an overview/important information to the coding illiterate? What type of people should join?
Fullstack and app bootcamps are geared towards producing graduates who can build basic websites and applications, while data science bootcamps aim to produce junior data scientists. Developing apps and doing analysis are different things; if you don't have much math or quantitative analysis experience, data science camps aren't the place to learn them.
You should enjoy problem-solving, and also building things. If you've played around building your own projects but the code is crazy complicated and you can't explain how it works, bootcamps are a good idea. If you've got some math or quantitative analysis experience but haven't done any programming and don't know where to start, bootcamps are a good idea. If you have graphic design skills and want to build your own websites or apps, bootcamps can be a good idea.
Why did you decide to enroll in Byte?
Wanted to do programming, and had a vague idea about getting into data science. Byte's teaching of Python made it a logical choice.
Can you comment on the other bootcamps you considered and why you chose a bootcamp that emphasized Python over Ruby?
I was interested in data science and back end-related programming in general. Python is at a nice intersection of data analysis and object-oriented programming, and is easy to read. Python has many, many libraries, so once you get comfortable with it you can use those libraries to do some really cool things. Some camps are more geared towards producing mobile app developers, and I wanted something more general. Same with the data-science camps, where it's my impression they don't delve too much into application design. Byte's curriculum provided a nice all-around intro to object-oriented programming and web development, while the inclination of the students towards finance led to more data analysis-related side projects.
Can you describe your experience at Byte in general?
It's hard to imagine how I could have learned more in 3 months. In theory you can teach yourself to become a programmer with just a laptop and internet connection, but I found having hands on instruction and going through a thorough curriculum with other like-minded students a way more fun and fruitful approach.
What were the top 3 things you gained from the experience?
1) Understanding of basic programming concepts--data structures, algorithms, application design, and web basics.
2) Honed ability to learn on my own. The instructors throw a lot of things at you and frequently you have to fend for yourself. That means debugging your own errors, reading documentation, and researching problems on your own.
3) Confidence I can build projects from scratch myself. The third phase, in which you build a project on your own or as part of a team, is when you solidify the skills you've been building over phases 1 and 2.
What were your classmates like?
Smart and nice. The diversity of backgrounds is great. Some are college hot shots who pick things up quickly, while some are older--their maturity and work/life experience enrich the learning experience. People who have worked before better handle the struggles of the course, in my opinion. Classmates of all ages have had very interesting project ideas and I have learned a lot from them about technology, finance, and other areas.
Can you describe your instructors and team members in general?
Instructors were awesome. Always available and usually patient. The student-instructor ratio is one of Byte's biggest advantages. Have to give a special shout-out to my cohort instructor, Tom Harvey. He was great at explaining programming fundamentals, and thoroughly explaining how and why things worked, not just showing examples of things working. While I certainly don't debug and develop as well as he does, I try to emulate his approach to diving into problems, with reasonably acceptable results.
How did Byte prepare you for career?
Byte not only taught me a lot about programming fundamentals, but taught me best practices, and perhaps most importantly, what I didn't know. Before Byte I had many unknown unknowns, and after Byte many of those mysteries have become known unknowns. That is to say, now I know much better what I have to learn, and I have a context in which to mentally place those topics.
Concretely, I could not have applied to software engineering jobs without my phase 3 project and without having the credential of completing a bootcamp.
Like many junior programmers, I struggled on my first few technical interviews. After graduating and while looking for jobs, I continued coming into Byte and practiced "whiteboarding" with instructors and fellow students and graduates. Post-graduation I continued my education at Byte, free of charge.
What top advice would you give to anyone considering coding bootcamp?
Play around with programming before enrolling. See if you can write and understand simple functions like FizzBuzz, see if you like solving problems. Instructors hate it, but codecademy.com is a gentle introduction to total novices.
Think about what area of programming you want to get into--data science, front-end, mobile apps, etc. Also take into account your coding level, as some are better at educating total beginners while others expect a certain base level of knowledge.
For those who might be trying to learn on their own, bootcamps are nice in that they provide a curriculum which hopefully gives you some formal understanding and also instill best practices. In addition, collaborating with others is a far more productive and enjoyable way to learn, in my opinion.
*Big congrats from Byte for your hard work and new role as a Data Integration Engineer