Chelsea Franz graduated from The Iron Yard as a Front-End Engineering student in December 2014. After several years as a copywriter, she realized her career wasn’t moving forward as quickly as she was hoping. Her ambition led her to make a huge decision to completely change her life. She quit her job, moved back in with her parents and joined The Iron Yard. Today, Chelsea is working as a successful UX/UI Designer and Developer in Atlanta, and she’s found the flexibility and job satisfaction she was looking for.
We recently caught up with Chelsea to learn how she was doing a year after graduation.
What were you up to before joining The Iron Yard?
I was a writer before I went to the Iron Yard. I had always been a writer. I had been a copywriter since I graduated college, so about three years. I never really thought about doing anything else, but I was also super interested in design, which kind of led me down a path to thinking about web development. When I started doing some research, The Iron Yard was really the only code school in Atlanta. The more I looked into it, the more it turned out that it was almost this perfect program for me. Within the span of about two months, I applied, got in to The Iron Yard, quit my job, moved home, and just started over and put everything into the program. Luckily, it paid off.
What is it like to go from writing words to writing code?
It’s insane how big of a jump it was, but I feel like I have a lot more power in what I’m doing now. Before, I could only write the words. But now I can kind of shape everything I’m doing. It was really just a process of learning how to think differently. Thinking like a writer is one way, but thinking like a programmer is definitely different. There’s a different logic to it. It took a little while to get used to that adjustment, but once I was actually learning, it was sort of like a light switch went off.
What are you doing now?
I’m currently working at a start-up software company and I’m doing UX and UI design and development, which is exactly what I wanted to do. I thought it would take a lot longer, but I found a great start-up opportunity. I worked at a small digital marketing agency just after graduation, and got some great experience doing that. I was doing strictly front-end development – 100 percent of what I learned from The Iron Yard. I’m also working on starting a small development agency on the side with two friends I graduated with. In fact, we just recently got our LLC and we’re working on building up clients. All of this is stuff I never, ever would have known how to do without having gone to The Iron Yard.
So how did you find out about The Iron Yard in the first place?
It was actually a family friend of mine who suggested I check out a somewhat similar program – I think it had something to do with Pardot. While I wasn’t interested in that program, researching it did spark my interest in this idea about going in for three months, giving it your all, and coming out the other side with a new career. That all-or-nothing approach really appealed to me because that’s kind of how I am.
As soon as I looked into it and started reading reviews online and reading accounts from students, I couldn’t find a single negative review. Everyone that had been to a coding bootcamp said, “If this is what you’re really, really dedicated to, then go for it. It’s for you.”
Tell us about your experience during the 12 weeks of class.
It was intense for sure. It’s everything they say it’s going to be, but after the first week or two, everyone in my cohort became friends and we started working together a lot and just kind of learning how to learn with each other. The repetition of doing it every single day all day really helped. It wasn’t like college, where you could put it in your brain and then forget about it. We were actively learning all the time, so it was a little exhausting, but it was sort of like I gave up my social life for twelve weeks and said, “alright, these are my new friends now.” That’s how I approached it.
There wasn’t really any one day where I woke up and was like, “I don’t want to go to class today.” I was really excited every day. I was also tired a lot. I drank a lot of coffee, but I was always really excited to do it.
It’s been a year since you graduated. How does your job, living situation, salary and overall picture compare to where you were before you began?
Oh man. It’s a complete 180. I have so many more career opportunities than I could have ever dreamed of having as a writer, especially at this stage of my career. Also just a lot of flexibility. My company is in Atlanta Tech Village, but I still come and go as I please. I can work from home. I don’t think I would have had that flexibility at this stage if I was still a writer. I think it would’ve taken a lot longer to get where I am. Even day-to-day life, salary – I definitely have a much, much higher salary doing this than I would have ever hoped to have with writing.
I could not be happier with my decision to change careers and don’t think I could have done it without The Iron Yard–especially Tim, our instructor , and Sarah, who was our Campus Director.
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Chelsea 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.
Wonman used to work for a Senator on Capitol Hill. After an election loss left him jobless, he attended The Iron Yard and now works as a back-end developer.
Andrew co-founded a startup and realized he could reach his goals faster if he learned to code. He and his partner can now innovate to meet customer demand.
Andrew switched majors several times before finding programming. The Iron Yard helped him make a career out of building medical apps for people in Guatemala.
As a recent college grad, Alex was on a path to a law degree when he realized it wasn't for him. He now works as a developer for an online ticketing company.
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