How Project-Based Learning Helped Alvin Go Escape His Career Plateau

What if your journal—the place where you write your deepest thoughts—could provide insights like a therapist? What if every entry could be analyzed and deliver comprehensive statistics about your overall emotional state? And what if you could use this information to predict your moods, understand your mental wellness, and possibly circumvent negative emotions?

Thanks to Alvin Go and an app he created in The Coding Boot Camp at UCLA Extension, you can—and it all started with a little introspection.

Technology was the change he needed

Had this app existed a year ago, it likely would have told Alvin that he needed a career change—one that landed him in the field of tech. But luckily, he found his way there eventually.

Feeling stuck in his path, Alvin was at a crossroads. Future growth at his current job meant pursuing an upper management role, something he didn’t want. Without advancing, he felt like he’d plateaued. “I wasn’t learning anything in my recent job, and I was just dying mentally,” Alvin said. “I thought to myself, I need a change now.”

Then one day, an ad for The Coding Boot Camp at UCLA Extension popped up in his Instagram feed, and he quickly enrolled. Immediately, it was a steep and exciting learning curve.

“I got into the boot camp, and every day I was learning something new,” he said.

The project-based curriculum at the boot camp teaches students the skills they need to succeed in a career in web development. In the end, students emerge with a portfolio of projects to share with future employers. And these are made largely through group projects—which is where Alvin’s app came to life.

The app, called Track Yo Self, was the brainchild of Alvin and his teammates (who he now calls friends). Taking users’ journal entries, Track Yo Self would provide helpful insights and tips. The project was full of challenges involving authentication, graphing, merging, and analysis—and those challenges ended up being his favorite part of the program.

“Every day, I would go home and try to figure out these problems,” he said. “I’d smash my face into the keyboard and go back and forth with my friends. We were all struggling together, and when something finally worked it was like, ‘Oh my god, this is great!’”

Taking on challenges

These face-smashing challenges ended up serving as inspiration for Alvin. “For me, with challenges there’s growth,” Alvin said. “That’s what I loved about the boot camp—that I was going somewhere with this. I had a plan to better my life and further my life professionally and personally. And here I am today at this awesome company with a better career.”

That better career opportunity opened up thanks to the boot camp. Shortly after graduating, Alvin was recruited for a web developer position at Scorpion, a company that seemed too good to be true.

Because Scorpion is big on culture and collaboration, he predicted that he’d face a tough behavioral interview, rather than one full of tech-heavy questions. So, his career counselor prepped him with the types of questions he’d be asked and provided ample guidance. The coaching was a success, and Alvin landed an offer just 30 minutes after the interview.

“At Scorpion, I’m learning every day,” Alvin said. “I work with hungry people who want to succeed and do better than yesterday.”

And now Alvin is happy to say he’s doing better than yesterday, too—something he’s sure Track Yo Self would tell him as well. He uses all the skills he learned in boot camp on a daily basis, and he’s challenged at every turn. It doesn’t hurt that he works for a company that provides perks like free breakfast and lunch and an onsite gym with a basketball court. He’s so satisfied with his career that he can’t imagine ever working anywhere else.

To others considering attending a coding boot camp, Alvin offered some wise advice. “Figure out what you’d like to do in the tech world and just run with it,” he said. “With this boot camp, you’ll have lots of success.”

Unfortunately for Alvin, Track Yo Self wasn’t around when he was at a crossroads. But thanks to the boot camp, he now has the skills to create apps built to help people—and is far happier for it.

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