Alumni Stories: A Veteran Becomes An Instructor

Our Jumpstart weekend program serves several functions. The first is that it gives our students a solid foundation, ensuring that everyone comes to the full-time program with the same baseline of information to build upon. Next, it provides a window into the daily life of our students. Jumpstart is an excellent opportunity to see what it’s like to learn and interact in a live-remote classroom. Attendees get to work with instructors, staff members, and current students while they get their hands dirty building a functional website. It allows them to confirm their interest in coding. Dedicating four months of your life to completing our full-time program is a big deal & we want our students to be confident and excited about their decision!

Nicole Mares Rivera was ready for her next big adventure and knew she had values and priorities she wanted to keep in focus. After getting confirmation of that alignment in conversations with different members of the staff at LEARN, she went into our Jumpstart weekend program with clear expectations & came away with a solid grasp of how instruction works and a fresh mindset, more than ready to tackle the mountain of learning ahead of her!


Tell us about you! What were you doing before LEARN, and what was the catalyst that set you on this path?

Before LEARN Academy, I was an active duty member of the United States Navy. I honorably separated after seven long years of service and moved across the country to San Diego, California. I found LEARN Academy on the Veteran Affairs website, and after really connecting with the core values and beliefs that LEARN harbors, I quickly decided this was my best choice. This brave space was exactly what I needed. I was searching for a compassionate place to learn and grow, which is exactly what I found here at LEARN. Jumpstart was just the beginning of a whole new journey for me!


What were you expecting coming into the weekend program, and what surprised you about the experience?

Coming into the Jumpstart weekend program, I expected not to understand anything from start to finish. I had very little understanding of the material I tried to prepare myself for, and I did not have much hope of piecing it together until afterward on my own time. However, by the end of the weekend, I could understand the basic concepts and even create my own fun logic. The instructors and teaching assistants were beyond patient and able to help answer all my questions. The weekend gave me the fire I needed to get into the headspace to start the full-time bootcamp!


What was your biggest takeaway – this can be coding-specific or more abstract!

My biggest takeaway from Jumpstart was my ability to be patient with myself while learning something new. As much as I love problem-solving, I usually try to push new material into my brain as fast as possible. This does not give enough room to understand fully, and it is just enough to ‘regurgitate’ information. This weekend helped me realize this and curb a bad habit just in the nick of time before the cohort started. I also learned that pair programming is a lot more open-minded conversation than I first thought. I expected to be paired with more knowledgeable developers, but they were also open to my ideas and creativity.


What has your path been like since Jumpstart? 

Since Jumpstart, I have graduated from the full-time boot camp, completed two internships, and was hired as an Associate Instructor with the one and only LEARN Academy. Little did I know on that Friday evening on the first day of Jumpstart, what amazing growth opportunities would await me. This journey has been incredible and life-changing. Not only technically or professionally but also interpersonally. I found a true passion in being an instructor. It brings me so much joy to have the opportunity to be able to give back to the wonderful community that cultivated so much of my growth.


Can you share with us more about your current role; how did you find it, how was the interview process, and how are you enjoying it? How was LEARN a resource for you in the job search?

My current role is as an Associate Instructor here at LEARN Academy. I found my current position here while I was still an intern and on the job hunt. My interview process was a bit different, however. I used every piece of advice and tips I received during professional development week, which I truly believe helped me get into this role. This role is everything and more that I was looking for while separating from the armed forces. I was seeking a safe and brave space to be able to be myself and also a trusted professional. This is truly the best career I have ever had! The LEARN community was the greatest resource in my job search.


How did LEARN stand out to you amongst all of the available programs?

The importance of diversity in the tech community and the reinforcement of maintaining a brave space are the most significant factors that led me straight to LEARN and away from any other program I had seen. Things that helped validate that their mission statement was true was each onboarding interview with the staff; I asked one simple question, “In what ways does LEARN actively bring more diversity into the technical field?” and without hesitation, the answers seemed almost rehearsed with each of their flares to it. That told me that each person I interviewed with shares the same passion for their overall mission. This community’s sheer size speaks for itself.


Any advice for folks considering making the leap and taking the program?

Simply allow yourself to explore other paths with the patience to learn something new.


What advice for people who have signed up and are about to begin the program?

For anyone who is taking their courageous first steps of hopefully many more to come, I would tell them to lean into the uncomfortable. Knowing that it will get tough, but it is easier and more fulfilling to get through it to the other side. The material will seem easier, but it’s not. You are just getting better.


For Nicole, the Jumpstart weekend program was the perfect next step in her journey with LEARN Academy. It gave her the confidence and skills she needed to take on the full-time bootcamp and pursue her dreams of a career in technology. Nicole’s story is a testament to the power of a supportive and inclusive learning environment and the importance of aligning one’s values with their goals. Our weekend program is an excellent chance to test the waters and determine your next steps. Sign up and find out for yourself!