Graduate Spotlight | David, Dan & Elliott

Last week we spoke with Zach Parris and Edgar Barajas. One of the common threads that runs through these stories is the desire to learn and to have a career that is both challenging and fulfilling. The grads we feature in this week’s episode went to some extreme lengths to get there: leaving stable careers, putting in odd hours to make ends meet while in school, and working vigorously to learn new skills.

Be sure to listen to all of the graduates talk to our friend, Clark Buckner, about their journey into development and about their experience at NSS. And stay tuned for more Graduate Spotlights.

Check out all of the recent grads on the Cohort 15 class website and the Cohort E3 class website.

David Yunker

After 11 years with the Tennessean, David Yunker was looking to make a change. During his time on the digital team he was exposed to CSS and HTML. David also had friends who attended NSS and so he decided it would be a great way to make a career change and learn something new. David’s attention to detail, knack for solving problems, and love of gaming all came together at NSS.

David was a member of Cohort 15 and class wasn’t always easy. David shares, “I was breezing along in the first few weeks and then I hit a wall. The most important thing for me to remember was that we’re all learning at our own pace and that I wasn’t alone in feeling ‘lost’ at points.”

For his capstone projects, David focused on things that he enjoyed. For his front-end capstone, David built an app called Before You GO. The app allows Pokemon Go players to map out their favorite routes while catching Pokemon. David included the weather as well so that players could check the forecase before they head out. The app was built with AngularJS, Firebase and uses the Google Distance Matrix API, Weather Underground API and Poke API.

David created an app called What Should I Drink? for his back-end project. The app queries a database to give you options for what beer you should drink. The user inputs things like how they are feeling or what kind of night they are looking for and the app generates a list of beers. It was built using ASP.Net Core with identity framework.

There’s nothing more satisfying than getting the data you want to show up on the screen, even if it’s just the console. Those moments where it ‘clicks’ – you really get an adrenaline rush.

David encourages current students to work with other classmates. The opportunity to discuss projects with your peers and to see how they came to a solution in a different way was really helpful for him. His inquisitiveness and love for making processes more efficient make David a great team player.

David is currently participating in the Alumni Enrichment Program here at NSS where alumni are able to continue work on projects, code challenges, and practice interviews. Beyond what he is gaining from executing code, David is growing as a developer by becoming part of a new team that uses a different approach to building the same project and solving the same problem. He is independently expanding his knowledge through videos, code reviews, and investigating and studying the fundamentals.

Listen to David’s interview with Clark Buckner about his NSS experience and check out David’s profile.

Dan Ventura

Dan Ventura was our resident coffee expert in Evening Cohort 3. Dan worked for a coffee company while attending NSS part-time. His interest in technology and development began with a failed attempt to start a company with a friend developing mobile apps. They quickly learned that they didn’t know enough about software development. Dan majored in Chinese in college and thought that learning to code would be as simple as learning another language. Once at NSS he quickly realized that his initial assumptions were not quite accurate.

Dan’s first roadblock came when they learned about for-loops in JavaScript. It took some time and help from the Teaching Assistant Greg for Dan to wrap his mind around for-loops. Dan shared, “After a few of these ‘Valley of Despair’ moments I realized that only repeated exposure and sleeping would allow me to fully understand the more complex topics we were learning.”

Dan’s front-end capstone project was iCaddy, a mobile app that allows golfers to record, view, update, and delete scorecards. It also calculates a player’s handicap based on the average par of 72 strokes per round. Dan built the app using HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, Angular, Materialize, WUnderground API, and Firebase.

For his back-end capstone project, Dan created an app called Bio.io that leverages a micro-controller to emulate shark-tagging software by generating routes made up of unique GPS coordinate sets. The app also features collections of previous routes generated by the user and the ability to track the device’s location in real time with Google Maps API. Dan built the app using HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, Angular, Materialize, C#, .NET, ASP.NET, Moq, and Azure.

I would tell current and future students to develop a network of classmates and meet regularly; the more you meet and expose yourself to new ways of thinking about code the more you will retain. Explaining something to someone only reaffirms it in your mind and gives you confidence in your own knowledge.

Dan is continuing to study JavaScript/C# in the Alumni Enrichment Program. He is also interested in open source projects for ocean conservation and is working with a marine research lab to develop tools and apps for a project focused on re-growing coral reefs in and around Florida.

Listen to Dan’s interview with Clark about why he decided to pursue software development and check out Dan’s profile.

Elliott Williams

Elliott Williams wanted a job that he felt connected to. Tired of working for the weekends, Elliott wanted to wake up excited about what he was going to contribute at work that day. He first heard of NSS through a friend and became part Cohort 15. At times Elliott felt overwhelmed by the need to understand everything about the languages he was learning. He shared, “I eventually realized that I wasn’t at NSS to memorize a software language, but to understand how to learn. This skill applies to every software language and also to skills outside of software development.” Elliott’s advice to current students? “Trust the process, trust your instructors. Most of all, trust yourself, and your ability to solve a problem with code.” Elliott’s ability to collaborate with others makes him a great addition to any team.

For his capstone projects, Elliott built apps that he would want to use. His front-end capstone project was an app to record data about your workout sessions. He wanted his app to be simple and free of ads, premium content, workout tips, and syncing with a cloud. He wanted an app that solely collected the data so it could be viewed later. The app is built using the AngularJS framework and and Firebase Database backend.

For his back-end capstone project, Elliott built an app to sort through his favorite podcasts. After listening to podcasts for years, he had accumulated several hundred “favorites” on the podcast app he was using. However, there was no good way to go back and find podcasts on a specific topic. The app allows podcast listeners to tag a podcast based on the content and recall them with these tags. The app is built using ASP.NET MVC and uses MSSQL for querying his vast database of favorites.

Software development is so rewarding because, if you're dedicated, it can be a lifelong pursuit. It's not something you can have mastered or memorized. The technologies you use are constantly changing and evolving. You can never be a coder and just turn your brain off.

Currently, Elliott is enthusiastically working on a few personal projects to expand his knowledge of ReactJS, a framework beyond the NSS curriculum. He is very interested in component-based architecture and is independently researching the benefits – but is already finding one: it’s intuitive. You’ll be seeing Elliott out at the NashJS, React, etc meetups (say hello!).

Listen to Elliott’s interview with Clark about how pursuing his passion led to NSS and check out Elliott’s profile.

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