A True Course Correction: How Boot Camp Landed Dan Gross His Dream Job at Vanguard

Not many people close out a highly successful year at their job and then decide to jump ship. But that’s exactly what Dan Gross did.

“I came out of a pretty successful 2017 and was on track for a great 2018. But I wasn’t really satisfied and certainly wasn’t being challenged,” Dan said. “There was room for growth, but I realized that the next level wasn’t something I wanted to accomplish.

So in a leap of faith, Dan dove into the Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp, a decision that changed his career—and his life—for the better.

Paving a new path

For about 15 years, Dan had been climbing the corporate ladder in area operations management positions, first at GameStop and then at Family Dollar, something that he fell into by accident.

“I went to Penn State University for Information Sciences and Technology, which is what I originally wanted to do,” he said. “But my career took me elsewhere. I wasn’t working with a computer at all—I just kept going further and further away.”

So he decided to course correct. Dan started by trying to teach himself how to code with online programs, but he found that it was difficult to stay motivated and impossible to get support if he was stuck.

“I was talking casually to a friend of mine about making a change and exploring better options, and he told me about an ad he’d seen for the UPenn Coding Boot Camp,” Dan said. “Within two weeks I was in the program.”

Overcoming jitters—and learning to thrive

Walking into class on the first day, Dan was intimidated as an adult learner who had been out of the classroom for so long. “I assumed I would be the dumbest person in the room,” he laughed. “I thought everyone would come in way ahead of me, and that this wouldn’t work out and I was going to fail.”

But within the first 15 minutes, he quickly realized that though everyone came from different backgrounds (some with more dramatic shifts than his own), they were all in the same boat. “It was refreshing,” he said. “The jitters I walked in with were gone by the end of the day.”

Diving into the course, Dan was amazed by everything he learned—and the supportive environment of the boot camp. “The resources were tremendous,” he said. “Our instructor especially had a vested interest in us, responding to messages at any time of day.”

He was particularly excited about his final group project, where he was able to choose his group. “I was able to work with people who I grew really close to in the course,” he said. “We were already meeting in coffee shops and talking on Slack. To this day, I still meet up with them and continue to connect with them about our experiences.”

For their final project, they decided to build an employee management system, storing records, metrics, and all sorts of information, making it easier for small business employees to understand where they stood performance-wise.

Though completing the project in just 30 days was a whirlwind, when the time came to present, Dan and his team were ready.

A day of fanfare and opportunity

At the end of each course, students present their projects at a Demo Day that brings together local industry leaders, tech lovers, and potential employers. It’s an exciting event that gives students the opportunity to pitch their ideas and share their experiences.

“We went big. We may have gone a little overboard with our signs, collateral, giveaways, etc.” he laughed. “But we came and put our best foot forward.”

This effort paid off. Nearing the end of the day, two representatives from Vanguard stopped by Dan’s booth, resulting in a “lightning, in-depth conversation” and, even better, a job. The conversation opened the door for Dan to reach out and explore a developer position. After a long application process where Dan had to show his newfound skills, he was hired.

The whirlwind that worked out

Since graduating and landing a new developer job at Vanguard, it’s been a whirlwind for Dan. But just two days into his new job, Dan is excited. “Even in these first two days, it’s really easy to see that I’ve certainly made a good choice,” he said. “It’s clear that it’s going to be a challenging, learning-focused environment, which is what I was looking for when I left my old job.”

His boot camp experience wasn’t completely over, though. Driven to give back, Dan signed on to be a TA and substitute instructor for the same program he had just completed.

“I know what it feels like to be in a position where you’re unhappy with what you’re doing,” Dan said. “Going through the boot camp was really rewarding. If I can find a way to make a positive impact on at least one person, that’s the least I can do.”

Overall, the boot camp gave Dan the opportunity to learn from his peers (both from their successes and their mistakes) and have the support he needed to really triumph.

“If I were to teach myself the exact same content it would have taken me a lot longer and I would have learned a lot less,” Dan said. “If anyone was considering the boot camp, I’d definitely tell them to go for it.”

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