After graduating college with a business degree, Bernard was on the management fast-track with a major retailer for three years before he realized his desire for more was not going to disappear. He had a good job and a wonderful fiance, but he couldn’t stop thinking about his interest in entrepreneurship and whether there was something more for him and his family.
Bernard moved to Durham, N.C. to help with a church plant and immerse himself in the startup scene. He took a few months off of work and dedicated himself to meeting people within the industry, talking to entrepreneurs and testing whether the life of an entrepreneur was for him.
He came up with ideas and worked through every area of entrepreneurship, from understanding VC to working with attorneys, understanding formations, etc. He soon realized that if he was to be successful, he needed to be right in the “nitty gritty” of development. “Why don’t I just learn how to do it?” he thought.
He started working through some coding tutorials and doing a bit of freelance graphic design work on the side. He even decided to build an app. “You can do tutorials until you are blue in the face, but until you go through whole cycle of building software, you don’t really understand how it all works together,” he said. He wanted to find out whether he really wanted to do this work daily.
It was just a lot of fun, to kind of have the idea, work the business model and plan, and then actually start to tackle development myself.
During those few months, Bernard and his wife considered whether a full-time code school was the logical next step. They thought about moving to a larger city, but landed on staying in Durham to attend The Iron Yard. “Because The Iron Yard was one of the leaders in the space, I had no reason to go to California, or New York, or DC to get the same experience,” he said.
I really understood the power of what a network can do for you, and I think that going to the school where you want to live is not just as important, but the biggest thing that you should be deciding, I think right up there with the instructor. The instructor is probably most important, but then you go into a school where you most want to have your career.
Within three weeks of starting his cohort, Bernard knew it was the right choice for him. “I knew this would the kind of the school that would get me into this network that I have been trying to dive into.”
Coming into the course, Bernard’s main concern was that he wanted it to be rigorous enough. Since he had some experience, he was looking for a real challenge. “I wanted to be able to really work with a development company immediately. That was my biggest concern: How rigorous the curriculum would be and the pace of the class.” He had many conversations with his instructor Chris before class began about how he could adjust the curriculum to meet his individual needs. “Chris provided me with opportunities and modified some assignments so that those of us who were more accelerated had that challenge,” he said.
One of the companies Bernard first connected with when he moved to Durham was a well-known development consultancy called CrossComm. Bernard had pitched them a startup idea and they struck up a relationship, often bumping into one another at American Underground while Bernard was freelancing. When he told a few of them that he was joining The Iron Yard, they told him to keep in touch about opportunities for a development job. After he graduated, Bernard officially joined the CrossComm team. “It has been awesome so far. On my very first day, I was working on an app for Forbes. We are building their “Thirty Under Thirty” app this year, which is really, really cool,” he said.
The very first day I was doing something I did not learn at The Iron Yard, but because of The Iron Yard I felt comfortable enough to tackle it. It was a cool thing, because I came into The Iron Yard with a lot of other skills, so then it really equipped me with the programming acumen to be able to tackle the kind of jobs that I wanted to be in.
Bernard is continuing to work on his entrepreneurial ventures on the side. He plans to launch Hackstarter, a crowdfunding site for students to raise money for coding bootcamps, in January 2016. “As a software developer, you fail everyday, hundreds of times. Especially when you are learning, and that was really hard for me. The cool part is, you see growth pretty quickly in software development. You are learning new stuff all the time, and once you kind of understand the core concepts, you can pick up new things pretty quickly.”
Bernard followed the footsteps of hundreds and hundreds of students who have forged their own path by attending The Iron Yard. The graduates below have their own unique stories to tell as well. Whether you're looking to find a more fulfilling career or fulfill your love of technology, there are alumni who have walked your path.