Last week, I talked with Brent Meyers, Senior Programmer, about the experience of mentoring interns from Code Platoon. As Brent mentioned, we ended up bringing one of those interns, Megan Nilles, on board as a full-time programmer. Now that she has a few weeks as a Noggin under her belt, we chatted about her experience so far.
Tell us about your military service.
I was in the Air Force for 12 years. I spent a lot of time deployed due to the nature of my job. I flew on three different planes, two of which were active combat roles.
How did you get involved with Code Platoon?
When I got out of the military and moved back to Chicago permanently, I worked on finishing my degree in Classical Languages and Biology. My minor was in Bioinformatics, and it piqued my interest in programming. It was kind of a fluke that I found Code Platoon. I hadn't thought about going to a boot camp. I was familiar with them, but figured that I should wait to finish my degree, and their price-point was high considering I was still paying for college. I accidentally came across a job posting for the lead instructor at Code Platoon, which I was obviously not qualified for; but I decided to apply to the program. It was kismet really.
What was the program like?
The program was much more involved than I had assumed it would be. Code Platoon doesn't operate from a standpoint that you should learn to code for 8 hours a day, and then graduate. They really made it more comprehensive. We had speakers come in who were familiar with the challenges facing veterans, particularly in seeking employment and health resources. We networked a great deal, both with companies that were veteran-friendly, and people who volunteered their time and expertise because they were passionate about coding and helping veterans. I would say that we got a much more tailor-made experience than we would have received in a more traditional boot camp. This is what makes the difference. Veterans, for the most part, are older than traditional students and tend to have more complicated lives. We have already been in the workforce, as it were, and we have families and degrees. What we don't always have is a lot of time, and Code Platoon definitely made the most of it.
And then you became a NogginLabs intern. How was that experience?
The internship was definitely exciting. I personally loved the interview process that we went through with the companies. NogginLabs stood out because it was different than everything else. The tech stack was not what we had focused on, the company was smaller, and the product was certainly unique. The newness of all of this was definitely a leap for both sides. The idea that Noggin had faith in my ability to pick up enough of the job within the timeframe of the internship speaks volumes. A lot of companies can find a programmer who knows exactly what they're doing when they show up, but it takes a certain kind of optimism and dedication to take someone and basically shape them from the ground up. The internship was a learning experience for everyone, and it went better than expected. Noggin was in a situation that they don't experience very often, learning how to incubate talent from a basic frame. I had to learn a bunch of new strategies and languages that I was super unfamiliar with. In the end, I think everyone came out better for it.
How have your first few weeks as a programmer here gone?
It's so easy to feel like you have no idea what you are doing as a programmer. When you are surrounded by smart people with a lot of experience and knowledge, you need to be assertive and proactive at admitting what you don't know. Which I think is something that may not come as easily to veterans. By the time most of us got out, we were, for the most part, at the top of our respective job level. The learning part of employment was a considerable distance away. The people at Noggin have been great to lean on. Most people have been here for a long time, which is not the norm in the programming world. They were immediately very inclusive and a pleasure to work with. There have been natural waves in how the job has gone. There was a slow ramp up, and then an immediate moment that was the culmination of everything that I had been doing. The investment that the other members of the team had made in me really paid off in that moment. It was like everything clicked, and I was able to accomplish much more than I would have thought. I really credit that to the people around me who had been acting as mentors in my role here.
What's the best part about working for NogginLabs?
NogginLabs has been an experience I didn't expect. I don't know a lot of people who actually like their jobs. Really enjoying what I do, and truly liking the people that I work with, was something that I thought just didn't happen. I was wrong. The people that work here are exactly as advertised: smart, nice, and funny. It really makes all the difference. No matter how stressful deadlines are, or the projects seem, there is no way that I will ever feel alone or unhappy with what I'm doing. I'm grateful that I got the opportunity to come here, and that the team had enough faith in me to keep me here.
Thank you for your service, Megan. We're thrilled to have you as part of the Noggin team!