For This Teacher, an Online Coding Boot Camp Gave Her the Courage to Follow Her Passion
Rebecca Wieberdink is not an underachiever. Growing up, she had a passion for learning and a tendency to overprepare—often taking double the time to study for a test as her classmates. “I’ve always been a perfectionist. I like to research my research,” said Rebecca.
And yet, come senior year of high school, she chose not to send an application to her dream school, Georgia Institute of Technology. “I didn’t think I was good enough to pursue any of the paths that Georgia Tech offered,” said Rebecca. “The school is so prestigious, how could I compete?”
But Rebecca was good enough—and six years later, thanks to the online Georgia Tech Online Coding Boot Camp, she’d have the chance to realize this for herself.
An opportunity for change
Instead of heading to Georgia Tech after high school, Rebecca pursued a degree in education at a college closer to home in Augusta, GA. Out of college, Rebecca was working as a math and science middle school teacher—but after a few years, she could see the career wasn’t for her.
For Rebecca, there was still a lingering dream of going to Georgia Tech. One night after work, she decided to explore the school’s continuing education course offerings, and she discovered the coding boot camp. Though she had limited computer science experience, a career in coding was intriguing. “The more I thought about it, the more I could see myself being a coder,” said Rebecca.
Big surprise, small envelope
She applied with high hopes, giving it her all in the interview. When an acceptance letter arrived in her inbox, she could hardly believe it. “I was shocked,” said Rebecca. “Georgia Tech carries a legacy of excellence, and I didn’t think I was worthy. There was a lot of imposter syndrome going on.”
A psychological phenomenon, imposter syndrome gives people a debilitating feeling of doubt—even when there’s evidence showing they can succeed. Though common, it’s more prevalent in high-achieving women and minorities pursuing STEM education, often creating a roadblock to success.
But despite her fears, Rebecca was determined to give the boot camp her best shot.
Luckily, Rebecca was met with support and positivity from the beginning. Though women in the tech industry are still disproportionally outnumbered by men, more women are choosing to study computer science. Rebecca’s class had a good ratio of men to women of all ages and experience levels, which helped make the learning environment more comfortable. “We women are making a comeback!” Rebecca said.
As for rigorous lessons, Rebecca was far more capable than she’d realized. Though the curriculum is thorough, and, at points trying, Trilogy-powered boot camps are designed to help learners like her overcome obstacles with networks of support. The instructors approached the material strategically to ensure no learners fell behind. The TAs helped, too—whatever the question, they’d direct Rebecca toward how to find the right answer.
But most of all, Rebecca relied on her classmates. Though their classes were all online, Rebecca’s cohort planned regular meet-ups and study sessions in Atlanta. “A few of my classmates became my best friends,” said Rebecca.
Those friends were there to offer comfort, help, and validation whenever the old feelings of doubt began to creep back. “They showed me that I wasn’t alone in doing this,” said Rebecca.
She needed them most when it came time to present her final project. Leading up to the deadline, she and her friends had a few sleepless nights. The final project relies on two languages—React.js and MongoDB—and local tech professionals are invited to attend the culminating Demo Day. The pressure is on—but Rebecca was determined to deliver. “At a certain point, the project became our baby. All my attention was focussed on its success,” said Rebecca.
Discovering a new sense of self
Despite all the worry, the project came out perfectly, and Rebecca is so sure of its success that she didn’t want to share details. “We created something we’re proud of, and we have plans to take it city-wide—maybe even nationally,” said Rebecca.
When the course came to an end, Rebecca said goodbye to teaching, and hello to a web development position at Augusta University. On the side, she and her classmates started a small agency, taking on development projects and working to perfect the final project they created in class.
But to Rebecca, the most important thing she took away from the boot camp is confidence. Learning to code showed her that she’d been living with a stunted sense of her potential, but now, she’s ready to follow her passions.