Alumni Stories: A Veteran Becomes a Full Stack Engineer

Veteran Nikki Dunlap becomes a Full Stack Software Engineer

LEARN Academy is lucky to have a significant amount of our community comprised of veterans. We are honored to be part of many service members transitioning out of the military and supporting them as they rejoin the civilian workforce. Despite having many support systems available, we know this can still be stressful and vulnerable for many. We recently spoke with Navy veteran, musical producer, and Full Stack Software Engineer Nikki Dunlap, who kindly offered to share her experience with the world.


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

Before LEARN, I was a hospital corpsman/dental assistant in the Navy. I worked in the sterilization department. I am also a freelance music producer, so building things starting from a blank canvas has always been my niche.
I knew my time in the military was ending, so I finally decided to pursue something that would allow me the freedom to express myself. I enjoy problem-solving and creating from scratch! So what better field to go in than web development!


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

My expectations for Jumpstart were only to learn more about the program and get a peek at what to expect day-to-day if I was accepted into the program.
I was met with a very enjoyable experience. The staff was amazing, warm, and informative. I did not feel like I was being “sold” the opportunity to attend the cohort. Everyone was polite, and it was overall a pleasurable experience.


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

My biggest takeaway from Jumpstart was realizing it is okay not to know everything. Coding is HARD. Attention to detail is PARAMOUNT. Learning to code is literally like learning a new language. Understanding, processing, and applying the things we are taught takes time. The staff did a fantastic job at reassuring the attendees that it is entirely normal to feel overwhelmed.


What has your path been like since Jumpstart?

Since Jumpstart, I have had the pleasure of being accepted into the Bravo 2023 cohort. It has been AMAZING. The instructors are highly supportive and understanding. The entire LEARN team was very warm and welcoming to everyone in my cohort.


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

After doing research for many months, I discovered LEARN. This program stands out to me because of its internship program. That experience equips one for the REAL life experience of a web developer. Another bonus is that they provide you with a laptop for class. This makes it simple for everyone to be on the same page.

Quite often, at other bootcamps, you are taught all of the skills of a web developer; however, once you land a job, you may be unable to maneuver and apply the skills you have learned in a training environment.


You identify as part of a marginalized group; how has that informed your experience of attending a bootcamp and launching a career in an industry that historically hasn’t been as welcoming to diverse groups of people?

Being a black LGBTQ woman in tech makes me a triple minority. Joining this program allowed me to realize that I will have others looking up to me, and that will encourage them to just DO IT. Seeing others who look like me in spaces where we were previously not present is the biggest reward.


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

My advice for those considering joining the program is to DO IT. Do your research and reach out to those who are in the program/who have graduated from the program. Take the leap and land stably by joining the LEARN team. They will not let you fall. Single-handedly, that is what sets them apart from every program.


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

My advice for those beginning the program is YOU CAN DO IT. Take it easy and give yourself grace. Realize the importance of taking a break before you feel overwhelmed. Understand that coding is HARD, and it is completely fine to admit that; however, you’ve completed the first step of becoming a web developer. That alone speaks volumes!


Is there anything else you want to share with us?

The staff at LEARN is literally amazing. From Jumpstart, I felt like I was on Zoom with family. Everyone was so welcoming, personable, and informative. I would suggest this program to anyone interested in becoming a web developer.


Jumpstart is an integrated element of the application process for our full-time program for a good reason. Joining us for two and a half days gives you a genuine understanding of the joys and demands of learning to code. Our regular instruction staff and current students from the full-time program teach the weekend program specifically so that you will get an authentic firsthand experience. Then you can then decide whether our program is the right fit for you! Sign up for Jumpstart today, and start planning your next big moves, whether you are interested in joining the growing tech scene in Denver, Co, or looking to join that famed tech employer at The Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, NC!