More Than Coding: Peter Abeln’s Boot Camp Journey Included Lessons on Teamwork, Too
Peter Abeln was a senior web developer at a PR firm in Minneapolis for 12 years. Then, in October 2018, he was suddenly laid off.
A few months into his job search, things weren’t shaking out the way Peter had hoped they would. With scattered interviews and only a few leads each week, he was starting to feel discouraged. Then, while browsing online, he came across a banner ad for a coding boot camp—and everything changed.
“I looked into it and it just so happened there was a course starting soon,” Peter said. “So I got all my stuff together, applied online, and started a month later.”
Come January 2019, Peter was fully enrolled in the University of Minnesota Coding Boot Camp. Before long, he was back on the horse and racing toward a new career.
Building new skills
Thanks to his prior work experience, Peter was already well-versed in front-end development. Luckily, the boot camp he signed up for taught both front-end and back-end coding technologies.
This wasn’t a mistake. Peter knew that if he wanted to grow as a person and return to the job market a stronger and more competitive candidate, he would have to step outside his comfort zone.
It was around the sixth week of boot camp that Peter felt the coursework start to exceed his previous abilities.
“When we began working with Node.js, Express.js, and MongoDB—that’s when it got really exciting for me,” Peter said. “That’s when the course started delving into technologies I had never used before.”
Growing strong teams
Even without much experience in some of the back-end languages the boot camp was teaching, Peter’s extensive professional background made him something of a role model for his classmates.
“I found that because of my experience actually working in a development role, I was in a really good position to lead and mentor the people around me,” he said.
During the first project, Peter utilized a goal-oriented project management process he had picked up at his old job to help his classmates stay organized. He started by identifying every teammate’s strengths and weaknesses, then assigned them roles within the project that would challenge their skills—without exceeding them. He checked in regularly and made sure everybody was communicating clearly and consistently.
The group’s project, called BooksListed, was a success. It pulled data from the New York Times Best Seller API and allowed users to pick a genre and then a timeframe and see what was on the publication’s bestseller list at that time.
Thanks in part to his guidance, Peter’s teammates not only grew their coding skills but also got the opportunity to learn about the day-to-day methods that real tech companies use to track projects.
Peter employed the same process for his second and third projects, his supportive nature and authority singling him out as a leader each time.
Peter’s second project, TrashTaggers, was based around the #trashtag viral challenge, which encouraged people around the globe to clean up green spaces in their neighborhoods and post before-and-after photos online.
TrashTaggers used the Google Maps API, a calendar function, and a back-end database to help users schedule, plan, attend, and send out invites to #trashtag events in their neighborhood. The project was a huge success and won several awards for Peter and his team.
For his third and final project, the team developed a fun and simple scavenger hunt game that tied into the Minnesota State Fair. It was inspired by Peter’s own experiences at the state fair as a kid.
The idea behind the app was that attendees of the fair could pull up a bingo-style game board on their phones. As they walked around the fair, they could check off interesting things they saw.
“Maybe you see someone with a mohawk, or a stroller for triplets,” Peter said.
Going to boot camp gave Peter the power to transform an incipient tech idea into reality. The opportunity to work creatively was exciting, and he couldn’t wait to apply this skill in a new role.
While getting laid off can be jarring, it may open the door to bigger and better things. Peter can attest to this. Last year he started a new consulting job at Daugherty Business Solutions.
Peter loves the opportunities his new job provides. Not only does it continue to challenge and excite him, but the company also offers regular training and seminars that allow him to continue improving his craft, even though boot camp is over.
“I know I am going to be smarter at the end of this than I was at the beginning,” he said.“I will be using all the skills I learned at boot camp. Without a doubt.”