Making Learning Accessible: How a Loan-Financed Boot Camp Enabled Nathan Schmidt to Tap into His Creative Side
Nathan Schmidt’s professional experience is nothing if not diverse. He has worked in a warehouse for UPS, served the U.S. Army as a cryptologic linguist, and today, synthesizes his coding and military backgrounds as a software developer for defense contracts at Booz Allen Hamilton—a Fortune 500 company based in McLean, Virginia.
After graduating from college with degrees in linguistics and political science, Nathan took his first postgraduate position at UPS. After only six months, he worked his way up to a supervisor role—but he couldn’t help but feel his natural leadership skills would be more effective in a career that leveraged his aptitude for analytics.
Nathan had a passion for coding, sparked during his time studying linguistics in college. When he wasn’t at work, he began teaching himself the basics of code any chance he got. However, this method could only get him so far.
Nathan’s job responsibilities shifted from part-time to full-time—and even required extensive overtime. He soon realized that following the coding path would require a larger commitment than he was able to grasp on his own. Fortunately, Nathan came across the Penn LPS Coding Boot Camp and without hesitation, he decided to enroll.
Choosing the right program
Inundated with coding boot camp options, Nathan wanted to ensure he picked the right one for his learning style and goals. Many programs throughout his search focused on one coding language or another, but he was looking for a more comprehensive approach.
The program at Penn did exactly this. A Pennsylvania native, Nathan couldn’t pass up this boot camp’s curriculum—and the school’s Ivy League credentials didn’t hurt, either.
When it came time to seal the deal, Nathan only had one thing left to figure out: funding the program. “I had just graduated and wasn’t ready to pay for the program yet,” he said. “But I was determined to enroll, so when admissions counselors suggested a loan, I felt even more confident in my decision.”
With little paperwork and notable efficiency, Nathan was able to obtain a loan from Climb Credit. With the loan in tow, he was headed back to school and ready to code.
Reentering the classroom
Nathan enrolled in an online boot camp program, but he felt like he had all the resources that one would normally get from an in-person program—maybe even more.
“The instructors were all understanding of my situation—I had just begun a new job as the course started,” Nathan said. He was empowered to communicate this with fellow participants, who were accommodating of his schedule throughout when delegating roles for group projects.
Still, the program was accelerated and had its hurdles. Nathan was learning multiple languages of code quickly—but it wasn’t always easy. “There was definitely an aha moment—I would struggle at the beginning, and one day the solution would hit me,” Nathan said. “It’s so fast-paced that there are a lot of those moments. The second you understand something, you’re able to build on that knowledge. Ultimately, everything will fall into place.”
Finding boot camp favorites
Nathan’s highlight was putting his new coding skills to use building apps. His previous jobs instilled a sense of teamwork, and the mission-driven, goal-oriented mindset he had from the army translated nicely to boot camp.
For his first project, Nathan flexed his creativity by building a “food roulette” app designed for people who are hungry but don’t know what they want to eat. The app pulled data from nearby establishments and placed them on a wheel at random, allowing users to spin and let fate decide their next meal.
“I’m not a very artsy person,” Nathan said. “I’ve never been able to go and draw a picture, but this took the abilities I do have to create something somewhat tangible. That was a big thing for me, and something I’ve never really done before.”
For the final project, Nathan’s team created an app for people interested in working with charitable organizations. With only two weeks to complete the app, the team put together a functioning platform, geo-located nearby charities, and directed users to volunteer and donation sites. The final app included a database on the back end and a clean, sleek design the group was proud of.
Building code, learning skills, and looking forward
Nathan’s role as a software developer at Booz Allen Hamilton synthesizes all his professional experiences. Working in a department that handles defense contracts, he is presented with learning opportunities every day.
Nathan plans to keep coding and learning. Eventually, he would like to work at a nonprofit—or even experiment with video game development. Ultimately, he wants to merge his computer skills and one of his many passions to create change.
“I’m looking to do something with a global or communal impact,” Nathan said. “I want to use my skills to do something good for the world around me—something that brings entertainment or joy to others.”