This content was created by Girlboss in partnership with General Assembly.
Sarah Goldgar’s career journey has finally come full-circle.
Her love of mystery novels and the arts propelled her to go to film school at the University of Southern California. Then, she got her law degree with a focus in entertainment law, because she wanted to work with musicians and filmmakers.
Fast forward to today, Sarah is a senior software engineer at The Walt Disney Company, where she works on streaming and fan websites, like Marvel, Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN.
So, how did she make such a drastic career change?
In 2016, Sarah enrolled in the UX design bootcamp then the 12-week software engineer bootcamp at General Assembly. It’s an online learning platform where more than 40,000 alumni from full-time and part-time courses have acquired the skills they need to make a career change or advance their careers in the fastest-growing tech roles, like coding, data and UX (user experience) design.
Read on to learn more about Sarah’s story.
On figuring out her new choice path
On getting started with General Assembly
“I did a bunch of research on different bootcamps that you could go to. I didn't want to go back to school. I'd already been in law school. I was looking for one that had a specific curriculum that felt modern. I wanted one that had a career counselor because I knew that that would be really important in making connections to get a job in the future. So, General Assembly had all of that.”
On the bootcamp process
So, you get that, and then you get the career counselors who have all these connections to the companies. You get resume workshops. It’s a really good community too. We would study together after class and go out for lunch. [Editor’s Note: When Sarah enrolled in General Assembly in 2016, it was all in-person, but now, the bootcamps are online-only.]
On the key takeaways from the bootcamp
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The instructors made us feel really comfortable to say, ‘Hey, I'm not really getting this,’ or to ask like a classmate. I also found it really helpful to teach other people things that I understood. It helps solidify your own learning.
What you learn most at General Assembly is how to learn. Because it can be intimidating. You have to learn how to ask questions, and how to ask questions in a way that will get you an answer. You learn all the fundamentals to be a junior developer which really helps you have a basis for learning more advanced things and getting a job down the road.
The career coaches were amazing. They met with us once a week, and we had workshops on our resumes or our LinkedIn profiles. We would group-read each other's, which was really nice. That’s especially useful if you’re choosing to do a bootcamp instead of a traditional college degree.”
On finding a new job
“My career counselor actually got me my first job as a software engineer at PayPal because she knew the hiring manager. She recommended a couple people to be interviewed and I ended up getting that job, so it's really all due to her. But before that, I spent two to three months applying to maybe 50 jobs. It really is a numbers game. You start to feel a little discouraged. But after that, it gets so much easier. I never thought I would get hired somewhere like PayPal because I thought they were only going to hire people with computer science degrees, but they actually wanted to have people with more broad experience.”
On the skills she learned from her lawyer days
“Communication is probably the biggest one, and I think you can learn this in any career. You don't have to be a lawyer to know how to communicate with people. That’s been really great because sometimes you’re talking to people who don't know programming. They don't really know what you're talking about technically, but you need to explain these very technical concepts to them. You also need to understand where they're coming from with all of their product requirements, so that's been huge for me—to just learn how to listen.
These soft skills are things that maybe people don't see as the most important part of being a software developer, but in my experience, they're right up there with your technical skills.”
On the advice she’d give to anyone who wants to take their next career step
“Dip a toe in first before you commit. Financially and time wise, it is a huge commitment. So, I highly recommend taking free classes to see if you really want to do this. And then talk to people who have done it, or people who are in the industry. You need to emotionally prepare yourself for what it's going to be like to look for a job after one of these bootcamps or graduating from college. Plus, find a good Discord or Slack channel. Some of my favorite communities are Women Who Code, ChickTech, Girl Develop It, Ladies Get Paid and Open Austin.”
Thinking about making a “career change into tech” plan like Sarah? Get real answers from real advisors by hopping on a call with a General Assembly admissions specialist who has helped many career changers get to a job they love that also loves them back.