In The Cohort: An Interview with App Academy Student Nick Halloran

nick holloran app academy

Nick Halloran went around the world to find himself before learning that he wanted to be a software developer. In his post-college years, the native Bostonian worked as both a restaurant manager and as a worker at seasonal recreational resorts, taking him to places as far away as Bratislava, Slovakia. But Nick always had an itch to do something more technical.

In one of the several interviews with Nick before attending App Academy’s bootcamp, he said that after initial hesitation about his ability to start a new career in his 30s, he had an important “epiphany.” And that was that he could literally do anything he wanted as long as it meant being able to provide for his family.

“I knew I would enjoy coding,” he said, and decided going to a bootcamp would accelerate getting experience. So he applied to several and got into most of them. He ended up choosing App Academy because he had read that it was the top ranked school and enrolled in the Summer ‘18 cohort.

We sat down with Nick for a Q&A interview about his experience as a student in the San Francisco campus. Read more below on why Nick chose App Academy over Hack Reactor and learn about how he became a software developer in twelve short weeks.

As a current student, what do you think of App Academy?

It’s a lot of work, there’s no way to pussy-foot around it. But having said that, there is a lot of support and everyone is in the same boat. When everyone is doing the same thing it makes it easier [to learn] since it’s enjoyable.

I said, “If I can do this for fifty hours and still want to do this again next week that’s a sign that I can keep on doing this out into infinity.” At week four, I was fine, you know, I’m doing ok, so I belong here.

I [also] thought that the calibre of the instructors overall was really really high. There was definitely an appropriate support structure, and that was something that I was thinking about [when researching bootcamps]. They had a passion, [and] they were happy to help. I thought that my experience with the teaching staff was really positive.

They’re also very patient. When you’re really missing something, they don’t make you feel like “you’re missing something.” They’re like “I get it. It’s hard. Have you thought about this? Have you thought about that?” [They never say] “you’re stupid!”

Why did you choose App Academy?

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With App Academy, for one thing, it didn’t feel like a sales pitch. I felt like I had to work to get in. I applied to another school, and they’re like, “Great! When can you start?” and I said, “But I didn’t even do a coding challenge yet…” And the prices are all similar. So I thought, I didn’t want to be sold on coming to a bootcamp. I already knew I wanted to go to a [coding] bootcamp.

I [also] thought it would be better to have the interactive experience. Learning coding at your kitchen table, after a month or two months of that, you start to go a little stir crazy. So I thought that it would be better to be around other people that are also learning.

I did a lot of research and the important thing was that I wanted to make sure I was going to a good school. So it was sort of between App Academy and Hack Reactor. App Academy’s ratings were a little bit better, and I flew out [to San Francisco] from Boston and did a tour [of App Academy] and talked to some people, and I just got a good feeling when I showed up. That really tipped the scales for my final decision.

What are you working on at App Academy?

I’m doing a data visualization of a Yelp search. So a user will put in a Yelp search and they’ll get a quick glimpse of circles that represent the restaurants in the search. The size [of the circles] will be the most reviewed restaurants and they’ll also be sorted by color based on the rating.

So instead of having to scroll down you can see really fast; “Oh this is the most popular restaurant. This is the highest rated restaurant” in one second,

Now that I am halfway through the project, I thought it would be fairly easy. I was [initially] concerned about the rendering, because we were learning Canvas and D3.js but it turns out that manipulating [Yelp’s] web API and getting [restaurant] data from Express.js was the big challenge. Canvas was actually quite enjoyable to work with and designing things, making pretty things move around the screen, was a lot of fun.

As you are starting your fullstack project, what are you confident in and what are you scared of?

I now have a pretty good feel for Ruby and Rails. There’s still some things with new technologies this week, and the timeframe was really truncated. So I realized that I needed to speed up my ability to learn new technologies and maybe do better research on what’s required for something before you jump head-on into it. That is something [App Academy] has been teaching us.

But, you still head dead ends and when the pace is really fast you go “oh, I just spent six hours on this thing, which is cool, but it doesn’t actually apply [to what you’re trying to do].” The time is always something that is in the back of your mind.    

How did you manage the workload at App Academy?

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It’s not harder than other hard things, if that makes sense. But, if you can’t work for sixty to seventy hours a week, then it might not be for you. I would say, definitely take care of yourself. Don’t drink. Go out Friday if you have to. Make sure you are eating well. Make sure you’re getting sleep. You have to do these things.

Have you thought of where you want to work after App Academy?

What I’m looking forward to in the career portion is of course starting. Looking for a job and ultimately getting a job is the whole point of why we’re here [at App Academy]. I would like to work for a company that sort of aligns with things I enjoy doing. Like a company that is involved in food, or travelling, or languages, or finance (I have a finance degree).

When you’re done with your [fullstack] projects as a student, you’ll have more time to actually start looking at companies and seeing what’s available. I don’t know what’s out there right now and I want to stay in San Francisco.

Want to see and hear from Nick directly? Check out the video below.

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