Nate Winn Still learning

Meet Dan Cornnell

Dan Cornnell is the fourth interview from the members of The Iron Yard - Atlanta Rails cohort.

What were you up to before coming to The Iron Yard?

I worked at the Georgia World Congress Convention Center in downtown Atlanta, but it was more of an event-to-event basis. They would call me up and let me know a convention was coming up to see if I wanted to work. I was usually available, so I did that. It was part time, but I did it as much as I could. I'm originally from Tampa, Florida, but I have lived up here in Atlanta for about five years now. So, I didn't have to relocate to come to The Iron Yard.

Why did you choose The Iron Yard?

Honestly, one of my main reasons for coming here was that I really like the Atlanta area. I had been looking at similar programs around the US. I applied to a couple of them, but this was the first one to respond. It didn't hurt that it was right outside my back door. I really wasn't opposed to relocating because I knew that attending a coding bootcamp was something that I really wanted to do. Though I was willing to go somewhere else for it, I'm glad The Iron Yard was a perfect fit.

I had been looking at a bunch of different programs, similar to The Iron Yard, in the last year or two. I even considered going back to school to get my masters degree, but I really didn't see myself going back to a traditional, slow-paced university environment. I was ready to learn something new and begin putting it into practice right away. I have a four-year degree in advertising, and I would say that though I learned a lot, it wasn't very focused. At The Iron Yard, I know I'm going to learn Rails, an incredibly practical skill that I know I can use. It's not just general knowledge about computer programming. Though I like advertising, it was just way too broad of a degree for me. I was definitely looking for something more specific.

Why Ruby on Rails?

I've done computer stuff like HTML and CSS before. I also took a few computer programming classes in college. For some reason, I had to take a "foreign language" to fulfill the requirements for my degree. Learning an actual foreign language didn't really interest me, but I had the option to take a computer programming class instead. So, I took an HTML and CSS class and an intro to computer programming class. It wasn't anything too specific, but I did enjoy the problem solving aspect of it. I can remember always enjoying those classes. When I began looking for another job, sifting through job postings online, Rails positions were always popping up. I feel like it's definitely a good skill to learn, and it seems to definitely be something that I would enjoy.

Expectations vs. actual experience?

I feel like they do a very good job of telling you that it's going to be a lot of work. I feel like I am picking it up pretty well. I have a lot of work to do, but it's never anything too confusing or too hard. Though we cover a lot of material, everything seems to be essential. The work is interesting; it's all stuff that I want to learn, so it really doesn't seem like work to me. I find myself thinking about problems that I run into in my coding even when I'm not working. It's fun. Don't get me wrong, there are times when it's confusing and hard, and I'd rather not be doing it, but it's never anything too crazy. I also really like the ATV building. Sometimes it can be hard to focus around here because of the ping pong and free beer. But, it's cool that there's always stuff going on. I feel like that is an important aspect as well. Though, I do wish I had a little bit more free time so I could go to meet ups and stuff like that because I'm usually just way too busy to do other stuff.

What do you enjoy most about The Iron Yard?

I like learning things that I feel are actually useful. I'm learning a lot of quality stuff even outside the classroom setting too. I feel like just talking to John, Shelby, and the other people in the cohort is always helpful. I really like everyone here. It's evident that everyone wants to learn as much as possible in the time we are here. So, we definitely help each other out. I like that a lot.

Your experience before coming to The Iron Yard?

I graduated from college in 2008, and the last two years, I was really into advertising classes. So, I took a class about Dreamweaver stuff. It was all front-end design. I took a PHP class at a local community college too. But, the instructor moved way too slow. It was a summer course that was 50% online and 50% in the classroom. Honestly, it was a joke, and I didn't learn a thing.

I've messed around with computer stuff in the past, but never anything too serious. Before, starting at The Iron Yard, I was trying to get into grad school. I took a prep course that finished a week before I started here. So, I hadn't really even looked at any Ruby stuff other than what John Saddington mentioned to me and typical Codecademy stuff. It was kind of helpful. What helped me to prepare the most was following John's suggestion. He called me up on a Friday and said if I was really serious about The Iron Yard, I should complete Codecademy's HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Ruby tracks by Sunday to see if it was something I still wanted to do. It was a ton of stuff to do in three days. What I didn't know at the time was that it was really similar to what we have here every day. But, it was all stuff I found interesting. I really enjoyed doing it. On Sunday when I called him back, I told him it was great and that I was ready for more.

Best advice for those considering a coding bootcamp?

Clear your schedule as much as possible. You're going to be incredibly busy. I still have free time to to do stuff I want, but I definitely feel like I am going full speed ahead all of the time. It's difficult to catch a moment to step back and take breath, but I feel like I am picking it up pretty well. I am not too worried about it. I couldn't imagine trying to be a part of a coding bootcamp and have a job at the same time. I don't think it would be possible. I would really advise devoting as much time as possible to it and give it your 100% undivided attention.

Dan Cornnell Iron Yard Ruby on Rails

Find Dan on Twitter and GitHub

About Dan

Dan is an avid rock climber. He commutes about 45 minutes on MARTA to make it to The Iron Yard each day. His goal in coming to The Iron Yard was simple, "get a job I actually find interesting."

Meet Ryan Snodgrass

Ryan Snodgrass is the third interview from the members of The Iron Yard - Atlanta Rails cohort.

What were you up to before coming to The Iron Yard?

I went to the University of Central Florida and got a degree in cinema studies. Completely unrelated to programming. In fact, I took a Java or JavaScript class while I was there. I think it was Java. . . I really don't remember. But, I do remember I bombed it. I failed the class within the first month. Nothing really materialized with my degree so, I found myself working at a call center in Orlando, Florida. It was like the worst job in the world.

I have told this story so many times now, but the position was contract to hire. If I worked hard enough, they would hire me as a full-time employee. But, I knew by taking the position, it was going to be a couple of months before I would be offered a position. A couple of months passed, and I still didn't get hired. The thing about a call center is you have just what you need to do your job. You are trained to know exactly how to find specific answers. So, after working for a while, you master the tools and get comfortable with what's going on. And then they say, "Surprise, this department doesn't need you anymore, but we like you enough that we are going to move you to another department." After the third time this happened to me, I became very frustrated with what I was doing.

I've always been technically savvy, building my own computers and running Linux, nothing major, but definitely more technical stuff than the average Joe would attempt. I tried to get into the tech department at the call center. I had a friend who was one of the recruiters for that department and even recommended that I interview for a position. I went in for an interview, and they liked me. But, they eventually hired someone with more experience. So, about a year ago, I knew I would have to do something different to get a position I desired. I began learning programming on my own with Tree House, and things like that, but it seemed like it was just taking forever.

Why did you choose The Iron Yard?

Mom and dad live up here in Atlanta. They actually just recently moved here. I was living in Orlando, and my parents didn't like that too much. Mom wanted me to move to Atlanta and in time raise a family here. You know she's hoping for grandkids one day. Dad found an article from the Business Journal that highlighted The Iron Yard. He knew I was learning to code on my own and encouraged me to look into it. I started looking into other thing that were written about The Iron Yard, and all I could find were stellar reviews. I couldn't believe the guaranteed job placement. The website looked amazing so, I took a shot and applied to it. The next thing I know, John Saddington called me up. I really didn't look into any other bootcamps or programs. Mom and dad said, "Listen, if you come up to Atlanta, you can live with us for free, and we will pay for your class." How could I turn that down? I mean don't get me wrong, I researched The Iron Yard heavily, but I never considered another program. Everything that I saw or read about The Iron Yard was very positive. I felt that I didn't have to look any further than The Iron Yard.

Why Ruby on Rails?

As I mentioned, I was a cinema major in college and had a strong visual background. I also knew from college that there were people far more creative than I was and far more talented at design than I could ever be. So, in light of that I felt back-end development would be a better fit for me. When I was in high school, I had never drawn before. I was really bad at drawing, but somehow I developed an ability for still life drawing. Surprisingly, I became one of the best artists in my high school. One of my drawings actually won second place in a state wide art festival. Really cool, right? So, I think to myself, "Yeah, I am a real rockstar. I'm the best in my high school, I'm best in the state." Then, I get to college and realize just how talented the other artists are around me were. I knew that I could never compete with them. I understand it's not a competition, but I definitely wasn't as good as I thought I was. I took that into consideration when choosing Rails, and I believe I made the right choice. I really enjoy the problem solving. It's like I'm solving puzzles all day.

Expectations vs. actual experience?

I knew The Iron Yard was going to be exceptionally hard. I will say that my classmates are a lot less nerdy than I thought they would be. On a side note, I'm really surprised at how many married people there are in the class. That was definitely surprising. I just assumed everyone would be young and single. For the most part though, everyone is kind of the same, mid 20s to early 30s, intelligent. Everyone here is really intelligent; it's very obvious. And everyone is really nice. There are very broad backgrounds. We've got Jeff who is an engineer. I studied cinema. Sid a chemical engineer. Chris worked in non-profits. Dave worked for the DoD. Dan did marketing. Such a broad range of backgrounds which has definitely made things interesting.

Best advice for those considering a coding bootcamp?

Prepare as much as you possibly can! I found out about The Iron Yard a month before it began so, I didn't have much time to prepare. Though, I did do quite a bit on Tree House prior to my arrival. I completed the Ruby track on Codecademy before attending with John's recommendation. I hear Michael Hartl's tutorials are really good. Definitely get familiar with the Ruby and Rails docs. We use them a lot! Ruby docs will be used day 1.

Be prepared to work very long and very hard. Realize that you're not going to have a life for three month. It seems like that I'm working non-stop but, I make it a point to not code on Sunday. It's a chance to hit the reset button. But, it is honestly hard to not think about code. Last Sunday, I went to the Atlanta History Museum with my family, and I found myself thinking about code. Specifically, Ajax. I was wondering how I could get past a specific problem I was struggling with. But, I do my best to try put those thoughts in the back of my mind and rest my mind for at least one day a week.

What do you enjoy most about The Iron Yard?

Free beer. Wait . . . is this thing recording? In all honesty, the tools The Iron Yard provides for us—24-hour access to ATV, the guest speakers, John Saddington, the meet-ups, and opportunities like start-up weekend and hack-a-thons. The Atlanta Tech Village, where we have our classes, is absolutely amazing. It's a fantastic building with some incredible amenities. But, by far, the student body is the best! Everyone here is so much fun to be around and just hang out. We often waste time just sitting around chatting and I enjoy every minute of it. We're all in this thing together, there's no room for egos. We all pick each other up and that creates a really positive environment.

Your experience before coming to The Iron Yard?

Failing Java, haha.

Where do you see yourself going from here?

I've been so focused lately, that I haven't even thought about it. And believe me, that's a good thing. The last thing you need is something to distract you from coding. I haven't even thought of the big picture once I'm done. I'd love to get a job overseas in some place exotic. Working as a developer in Paris, Berlin, Rome, Venice, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tokyo, Okinawa, or Osaka would be awesome. I really like the idea that as a developer, I can work remotely from anywhere.

Ryan Snodgrass Iron Yard Ruby on Rails

Find Ryan at his Blog, Twitter and GitHub

About Ryan

Ryan is a 28 year-old movie buff who recently moved to the Atlanta area from Orlando, FL. After realizing his degree from University of Central Florida wouldn't land him his dream job, Ryan started learning to code at Tree House. He's been hooked ever since. He makes the commute from Marietta each day to attend The Iron Yard in Atlanta.

Meet Jeff Scholen

Jeff Scholen is the second interview from the members of The Iron Yard - Atlanta Rails cohort.

What were you up to before coming to The Iron Yard?

Last December, I lost my job and began immediately looking for another one. Around that same time, I saw an advertisement of some kind about The Iron Yard beginning in March of this year. I immediately knew it was something I wanted to do. At that point, it was more of a pipe dream. March was too far away, and I needed to land a job well before then. I had been laid off before, so I wasn't too worried about getting another job rather quickly. So, I buried The Iron Yard in the back of my mind and began interviewing for other positions. By mid-February, my prospects of finding a job were still pretty bleak, and I realized the timing of The Iron Yard might seem more realistic.

The thought of attending worried me. So much so, that I never approached my wife, Tracey, about it. I can remember we were driving in the car one day, and she asked me, "What are you thinking about?" I knew the twelve weeks would be more of a burden on her than me. But, our decision in me attending goes back to 2009.

Back in 2009, I wanted to get a MacBook Pro. My wife and I weren't struggling financially, but we just didn't have a lot of extra savings. When I approached her about buying the computer, she got kind of upset. She said, "We don't have a lot of money, and you want to go get a $2,000 computer?" Shortly after that, she came back to me and said, "God is just asking me to have an open hand with you about this, and so if you want to get that computer go ahead and get it." So, I went out and got it the very next day. When opened up my new MacBook Pro for the first time, I immediately noticed a problem. The cord that came with it was very annoying to manage. I quickly came up with an idea to keep my cord wrapped up and posted it on Quirky. They chose to produce my idea, and I became an inventor. As a result, I have made about $90,000 in royalties over the last four years. Her small decision to let go and let me buy this computer resulted in the payout.

When she asked me that day what I was thinking about, I told her about The Iron Yard. So, instead of throwing up her hands, she kept asking questions. I was completely unaware that she had been meeting with a friend whose husband had been out of work for over a year during their marriage. The advice she gave my wife was to keep an open hand since she didn't know what God might be doing in my life. As a result, my wife didn't put up any roadblocks.

I met with John Saddington shortly after that, and he seemed to be positive about me attending. Because I was still looking for a job, I still questioned if it was a real opportunity. If God wanted me to move in this direction, He was going to have to kind of open all the doors. Over the next few weeks, I had several phone interviews, a lot of them positive, but every door closed. It was like one thing after another. A week before the class started Kimberly Clark called me and said they wanted to bring me back to interview for another position. But, they ended up offering that job to someone internally. I took that as an affirmation of God opening up one final door. I had confidence that attending The Iron Yard was what I was supposed to be doing. There were other things that aligned too. Finances worked out. My dad agreed to pay for the class. Knowing the struggle it was going to be, my wife was one hundred precent in favor to go.

Why did you choose The Iron Yard?

I had heard about The Iron Yard doing something in Greenville, so I was hoping they would eventually come to Atlanta. When I heard in December they were starting in Atlanta, I thought it might be a possibility. Because of John Saddington's involvement in Atlanta and knowing his reputation for excellence, I knew I could trust him to put something together—something awesome. I really didn't know of any other bootcamps in the Atlanta area like there were in other parts of the country. Going to a distant state to attend a bootcamp would have been incredibly impractical for my wife and three kids. So, the Atlanta location was perfect for me.

Why Ruby on Rails?

I began working for a startup back in 2007. It was a medical device company that created a device which interfaced with a Rails backend. I soon became friends with one of the programmers there. We had a lot in common and even went to the same church together. He started showing me Rails, because I was interested in software as more of a hobby at the time. The more he talked to me about Rails, the more I began to read about it. I began to toy with it by working through Michael Hartle's Tutorials on Rails. As I went through the tutorials, I would gain some momentum and then would quickly fall behind because life and work got in the way. I knew I needed something more disciplined if I were to really learn Rails.

Expectations vs. actual experience?

My wife and I established up front that it would be many late nights and difficult weekends. But, I think it has been less stressful for her because I have made the decision to leave ATV around 4pm everyday to help her with the kids. For her, it's still a burden when the kids go to bed. I basically check out and do my homework until late in the evening. So, there's very little quality time we spend together. I anticipated I would be spending a lot more time on the weekends doing homework but, it's just tough to do that. I have decided to simply do the best I possibly can.

What do you enjoy most about The Iron Yard?

I love the environment. I have worked for a couple of companies that didn't really care for the employees. I feel like The Iron Yard is a place of generosity and outpouring where people are being cared for. It's the kind of culture I really want to be a part of. And ATV is no different. This place maintains a culture where they want to see us succeed. I really like our instructor, Shelby; she's been great. I love the class; it's tough, but I'm truly enjoying the process.

I feel like I'm really learning what I've wanted to learn for the past five years. My dream is becoming a reality.

My strong suit is troubleshooting, and this has been troubleshooting on steroids. Even though it's tough at times and you want to pull your hair out, I feel like I'm really learning what I've wanted to learn for the past five years. My dream is becoming a reality. Often times, you will feel overwhelmed and wonder if you'll have the skills you need to get a job done. But, I have determined to just learn as much as I possibly can and have fun while learning it.

How much experience did you have before starting?

Even preparing was difficult. I knew I couldn't spend all my time preparing when I knew I was about to be busier than I had ever been before. So, I had to balance my time carefully. Aside from doing the Code Academy, I kind of reviewed Michael Hartle's course and read some blogposts about Ruby and Rails. I have absolutely no programming background. I took a couple of courses in Pascal when I was in college, but that was 20 years ago. And even then, I didn't do too well. I just didn't get programming back then. But, when I began going through Code Academy tutorials I thought, "Yeah I can do this." I can remember John telling me when I met with him, "If you simply can't do it, we can't help you. But, if you can struggle through it and get it done," he assured me The Iron Yard could provide me with the tools to learn Rails.

Best advice for those considering a coding bootcamp?

My best advice would be to just clear your calendar. If you have family, make sure they understand. Honestly, I wish I were single doing this because that would have given me a much better opportunity to learn. Just be prepared to work hard and cry a lot.

Where do you see yourself going from here?

I had two motivations for doing this. One, I've wanted to learn programming for years; and two, I have the desire to build my own applications. And, of course I get little ideas here and there. I already have the ability to follow through on those in a tangible way. I would ultimately like to find a company with a good culture and a good fit, and a salary that I can live on—and still on the side build my own app. Long term, I have always wanted to be in business for myself, so I'd love to be able to start a company.

Jeff Scholen Iron Yard Ruby on Rails

Find Jeff at his Blog, Twitter and GitHub

About Jeff

Jeff Scholen is a 45 year-old husband and father of three little girls. Jeff commutes from Alpharetta each day to attend The Iron Yard in Atlanta. Take a look at Jeff's awesome invention, the PowerCurl.

Meet Chris Turner

Chris Turner is the first interview from the members of The Iron Yard - Atlanta Rails cohort.

What were you up to before coming to The Iron Yard?

I started a non-profit organization in high school and continued to build it through college. In fact, non-profits interested me so much, I got a masters degree in non-profit management. Every non-profit organization does some type of fundraising, and that quickly became my niche. I did fundraising for two different organizations in Augusta prior to moving to Atlanta to take a consulting gig for an area non-profit.

I recently wrote a post on my blog about this recent experience. I consulted on a fundraising project for an organization that was teaching kids how to be entrepreneurs. The organization was called Georgia Real. I had signed on to raise $100,000 from September to the end of the year. When I came on board, I spent a ton of time bringing them up to speed. They were way behind on what needed to be done to make the project a success. So, I helped them update their financials, produce marketing materials, and establish a social media presence. That alone took about a month and a half, but I knew it was essential if the project was going to be a success. I then built relationships with potential donors. Just one week prior to my deadline, I had received $200,000 in pledges! The next week, my deadline, all of the donors fell through. Everything fell apart. My wife didn't have a job at the time, so we were left with nothing.

I began looking around to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was fed up with fundraising at that point. I found The Iron Yard, and it aligned with my desire to be an entrepreneur. I had always wanted to get projects off the ground, to build my own stuff. The Iron Yard seemed like just the right place for me. My ultimate goal is to create an organization to inspire and empower kids to create things. So, I figured what a better way than to create the tools I need myself.

Why did you choose The Iron Yard?

I'm guilty of over researching things. When I found out about The Iron Yard, I looked into every similar program imaginable. It kinda drives my wife crazy. I considered going to Greenville for The Iron Yard front-end program. In fact, I had actually selected the front-end program until it was decided the Atlanta location wasn't going to offer a front-end program right away. So, I changed my mind back to the Rails track and committed to the Atlanta location. But, I definitely did my research before I came. I ultimately chose The Iron Yard - Atlanta because it made the most sense for my situation.

Why Ruby on Rails?

Rails wasn't my first choice, to be quite honest. My personality is much more inclined to design, and I don't really have an engineer's mindset. I'm much more of the free spirit type. I initially made the decision to pursue the front-end track because I thought it would be a better fit for me. But, choosing Ruby has been a blessing. I find that I am much more capable of teaching myself the front-end aspect of development. I know learning Rails now is eventually going to make me a more well-rounded developer. I would never have taken the time to learn all the Rails, AJAX, and database stuff myself.

Expectations vs. actual experience?

I really made sure I had a good understanding of what I was getting myself into. I talked to John a good bit before committing to attend. I asked him exactly what the process was like. I made sure that I reaffirmed my own concerns about not having an engineer's mindset, that I wouldn't have a problem developing an analytical approach to coding. John said it would be one of the hardest things that I had ever done. But, as long as I was dedicated to do what I said I wanted to do, I would make it through. John talked much about the relationships that I would create at The Iron Yard. Any time you go through a challenging experience with other people, you build close relationships much faster. This has definitely exceeded my expectations. I didn't expect to create such good relationships with those in my cohort. I know everyone in our class on a much deeper, personal level than any other person I have only known for just 7 weeks. It's been really cool to watch these relationships grow and develop.

Best advice for those considering a coding bootcamp?

This has been my challenge—understand that people are coming into this with different levels of experience. Do not compare yourself to them! I still fight this every day. You have to constantly remind yourself and tell yourself over and over again that as long as you're trying as hard as you possibly can, you're okay. Put in your absolute best effort and be fine with that. There are going to be people that come into the program that have a whole lot more experience than you. You must have the mindset that you don't suck just because they seem to be doing slightly better than you in some way. You must realize that we're good at different things too. I feel like I am improving my design skills with each new project. So, there are days when I'm really proud of the design and disappointed with my code. Someone sitting next to me may admire my design, but in reality his code may way better than mine! Constantly avoid envy at all costs.

Where do you see yourself going from here?

Working from the back, forward . . . my ultimate goal is to start a company with what I've learned and have the ability to launch ideas when I think of them. Because of my situation, I need to find somewhat of a permanent position to have some stability in my marriage. So, the perfect scenario is that I would finish and move into a company that has an entrepreneurial mindset. I want to continue to learn and be challenged with difficult assignments and tasks. I would ultimately like to learn more of the front-end as well and add those skills to what I've learned at The Iron Yard to become a solid full-stack developer. Working for a company that would also allow me to expand in that area would be awesome!

Chris Turner Iron Yard Ruby on Rails

Find Chris at his Blog, Twitter and GitHub

About Chris

Chris Turner is a hacker, husband, and social entrepreneur who loves Pixar movies more than any man should. He founded a nonprofit organization in high school and went on to serve as a professional fundraiser for nonprofits as small as 3 employees and large as CARE International. He will soon graduate from the The Iron Yard’s first-ever Ruby on Rails cohort, and looks forward to using his code skills to empower creativity in others. Chris Turner lives in Decatur with his wife Hannah and their crazy Australian Shepherd, Salem.

Coding Cohort

"What does what mean?"

"Cohort....you said you're going to be a part of a "cohort" at The Iron Yard. I'm just curious what that means?"

This was a pretty typical response I heard when telling friends and family of my plans of attending The Iron Yard. I honestly couldn't give a good response to those who asked me about the term "cohort". Now nearing the two month mark at The Iron Yard in Atlanta, I now understand why the word "cohort" is far more than a cliche describing those attending The Iron Yard Coding Academy.

United in Battle

The word cohort comes from the latin cohors referring to a tactical unit in the Roman army during the first and second centuries. The 480 men making up a "cohort" were organized and commanded by one ranking official. They were inseparable. United both in life and battle. Everything was approached together. It should then come as no surprise why the organizational structure of the Roman military is still regarded as a model for modern militaries. The success stems directly from the success of the cohort model.

And that is why "cohort" is the only fitting term for my fellow coders at The Iron Yard. Over the past 8 weeks, we have done far more than sit in the same classroom. We have become family pressing toward a common goal, striving to reach an elusive prize—not individually racing to be the first to cross the finish line, but rather choosing to endure the marathon together. The Iron Yard is by far the most emotionally draining challenge of my life. Finishing would not be possible without having fellow comrades facing the same battle.

In the Trenches

Before making a final decision to attend The Iron Yard, I scoured the internet to hopefully read the experiences of people who attended similar bootcamps. Unfortunately, I could find very little. I wondered why. It's very apparent now. With little time to even sleep, it has proven to be a challenge to record my thoughts. Regardless, I wanted to give those who come behind me a look into the trenches, not just from my perspective, but also from those in my cohort.

During the next few weeks, I will be personally interviewing each member of my cohort. It is my hope to shed some light on just how incredibly challenging, yet rewarding, this experience has been thus far. My hope is the interviews will be a help to those who consider attending.