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DCE Magazine

Alumni Spotlight: Turning a Dead End Into a Dream Career

Winter 2019

Tricia Leavitt's upward mobility was stalled until she took UCI's Full Stack Boot Camp.

When Tricia Leavitt graduated from University of Denver with a degree in business administration, the timing could not have been worse. It was 2008, right on the cusp of the Great Recession, and employment prospects were slim at best.

She eventually found work in a number of roles — from investment advisor to library specialist — but her interest in technology and coding had always been a passion. So Leavitt took online coding classes through her local library, not just as a hobby but to see if it might be a field she'd like to pursue professionally someday.

In the fall of 2017, she decided to make the jump and switch careers. Leavitt enrolled in UC Irvine's Coding Boot Camp Full Stack web development program, offered in partnership with Trilogy Education Services, and she never looked back.

“I found myself wanting more control over my career, including my prospects for upward mobility,” she said. “My deciding moment to enroll in the Boot Camp came when the company I was working for made it clear that I wouldn't be able to move up from my current role without a master's degree. I knew that if I was going to go back to school, I wanted to pursue something that I really enjoyed.”

Leavitt turned the dead end into a life-changing opportunity. After a demanding 12 weeks of Boot Camp, she recently found her dream job at COFEBE Inc., an innovative software development firm based in Orange.

“I have always loved technology because of the seemingly endless ways it can be used to better our world, our work, and our knowledge,” Leavitt said.

“I carried this love with me through the first 10 years of my career in business, continually looking for ways that tech could improve workflow, productivity and products.”

Today, she lives in Newport Beach with her boyfriend, who's also a software engineer. Still getting acclimated to her new job, Leavitt was nice enough to take a break from her busy lifestyle to elaborate on her journey.

So after taking on some freelance work, you recently landed a lead position with COFEBE. Congratulations! How did your experience with the Boot Camp help make this happen?

I did and thank you! My experience in the Coding Boot Camp helped tremendously in finding work in the software development field, both in terms of the knowledge that I gained during the program, as well as the technical interview preparation that was provided by my teacher and teacher assistants.

Tell me a bit about your new position.

I'm a software engineer for COFEBE, a company that provides custom software development services to a variety of clients in a wide range of industries, and I'm currently leading the front-end web development on a newly released product for one of our clients. We work on client prototypes, minimally viable products (MVPs), and even current software when updates and new features are needed.

I understand the Coding Boot Camp's Full Stack program is pretty demanding — especially the full-time option you chose. What was your experience like?

I can attest to the fact that it is a very intensive program. I personally averaged about 65 to 70 hours per week coding, including time spent in class as well as working on homework and projects. However, that being said, every student is different in terms of the knowledge they come in with and how quickly they learn the material. I believe that students get out what they put in, so it was important to me to take advantage of this opportunity and learn as much as I could during my time in the Boot Camp.

What sort of projects did you work on in class and at home?

Our homework corresponded really well to what we were learning in class each week. We started out making very simple websites, such as our portfolio pages and basic interactive games. Then we began to incorporate things like API requests, working with databases, and displaying the data on our webpages. The group projects were more intensive and required a broader range of skills as well as additional research. We were also given freedom to choose how we wanted the projects to look, which features we wanted to incorporate, and how we wanted to manage the group workflow.

How did you feel about the quality of instructors?

I am very thankful to have had the quality of instructors that I did, especially given that they were so helpful and genuinely wanted to see each of us succeed. Even now, after completing the program, I still receive guidance from them while I navigate my new industry. I'm also appreciative of the fact that they pushed us toward becoming self-sufficient in our research and learning. That skill set has been imperative in my current role.

Was there a part of the camp that you found especially appealing?

My favorite part, other than learning the material, was getting to know my classmates. We all came from different backgrounds and industries, so everyone brought something different to the classroom. We bonded through our shared experience.

You graduated university during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. What sort of jobs did you take on to make ends meet?

My previous experience is quite varied, to say the least. I've worked as a waitress, prep cook, salesperson, lead library specialist and licensed investment advisor representative. I've worked for some great companies and with wonderful people, but although I'm appreciative of everything that I learned while in these roles, they unfortunately didn't meet my long-term career goals. Now I'm very much looking forward to what the future holds for me as a developer!

Getting started in your new tech career must be pretty time consuming. Do you ever bring work home?

I do bring work home with me, which seems to be par for the course in this industry. However, I always try to set aside time to get away from my keyboard every day.

Do you have time for outside hobbies or interests?

Well, I've always been very involved in music, and while I no longer perform, I still enjoy singing, playing guitar, and listening to live music. I also enjoy painting, photography, cooking, traveling and gardening. I have more plants than any one person probably should. And having spent most of my life in Colorado, I try to take advantage of visiting the beach as often as possible!

Learn more at bootcamp.ce.uci.edu.