Pursuing a Software Career via Capital One Developer Academy

Hi, I’m Leira! I’m a software engineer in Capital One’s Technology Development Program. I joined Capital One through CODA - Capital One Developer Academy. While CODA is a six-month software engineering program, this isn't your average bootcamp. CODA associates are full-time Capital One employees that are expected to master full-stack development principles. This program is aimed at ramping up the coding skills of recent STEM grads who have an interest, but not a background, in software engineering. With my mechanical engineering degree and strong interest in coding, I was a perfect match for CODA! 

From Automobiles to Software

All I ever wanted to do since I was 13 years old was to become an automotive engineer. In school, I was part of the Solar Car and Baja (an all-terrain vehicle) projects from the Society of Automotive Engineers. I had the opportunity to work at two large automakers where I did engine calibration, body engineering, and research & development. Now, I have a patent-pending for a method of manufacturing thermoplastic filament. 

My internship sparked my interest in innovation and led me to join the Human-Centered Design R&D Lab at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez as an undergraduate researcher. My experiments with virtual reality involved coding, which prompted me to pursue an MS in Computer Science. These experiences led me to my dream job offer as an automotive engineer. However, my interest in coding soon outgrew my desire to become an automotive engineer.

While I was thinking over this offer, I received an email from a Capital One recruiter who wanted to interview me for the Capital One Developer Academy (CODA) program. CODA is a fully insourced six-month software engineering bootcamp targeting analytical non-Computer Science majors. Graduates of the program transition to the Technology Development Program (TDP), a two-year rotational program, where associates work in two different roles across our tech LOBs. I didn’t know this kind of program existed, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity!

Joining Capital One Developer Academy

In February of 2019 I moved to DC to join CODA, which had 30 associates from different backgrounds. Our majors were Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Music, Linguistics, Information Systems, Math, Biology, and many others. Most of us spoke multiple languages like Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Russian, and Arabic. A third of us were women.

My days in the CODA program alternated between instructor-led and individually-paced lessons. Half the afternoons were spent doing hands-on labs that challenged my learning. Fridays were spent on all-day projects covering everything taught that week. Then, at the end of each unit, there was a week-long project.

Unit 1 got us started with front end development with HTML, CSS, JavaScript basics, and some JQuery. For the unit project we built a game that was then showcased to our mentors. Games ranged from text-based to full on Guitar Hero copycats.

Unit 2 covered RESTful APIs with Node.js, Express, PostgreSQL & Sequelize, MongoDB & Mongoose. The unit project had us working in pairs to create a website of our choice that used a database. My partner and I made a tutorial website where users could post tutorials and interact with each other by posting comments.

Unit 3 introduced front end frameworks with React and Redux, as well as an intro to Typescript. This time, we were tasked with forming teams of four or five to create a website that incorporated the framework. My team and I built a website for sharing and liking images, commenting, and communicating in real-time through direct messages.

Unit 4 involved picking a technology we wanted to learn. In my case, I chose iOS development, but others studied topics such as GraphQL, Angular, Docker, Java, etc. We were also introduced to AWS and Jenkins. In this solo project, I created a War card game for iPhones.

After completing our technical curriculum we had the opportunity to work with stakeholders to build products tackling business problems across the enterprise. During the five week mini-internship, referred to as “Dojo,” we applied the knowledge we gained throughout the program while learning the process of building products at Capital One in an Agile environment.

One team built a mobile app to help Capital One associates migrate collaboration and productivity tools, another built a web scraper with machine learning, and my team built a full-stack website to house coding challenges for our Software Engineering Summit.

Capital One Developer Academy logo

My Career After CODA

Graduation came faster than any of us expected; it was hard to believe that just six months earlier all I knew about web development was some basic styling I learned during the MySpace era. Now I can build dynamic applications, APIs, and collaborate within teams using the Agile methodology.

As a full stack web developer in the TDP, I now have firsthand experience writing code that thousands of people at Capital One use in their day to day. My primary work supports an enterprise communications platform that was developed by my team and is widely used by associates.

Although I still feel passionate about mechanical engineering and the idea of working in the automotive industry continues to appeal to me, I have discovered a new passion of which I still have a lot to learn. I am thankful to Capital One, not only for the bootcamp, but for promoting a culture of self-development which gives me the space to continue growing as a software engineer.

Leira Sanchez, Associate Software Engineer

I develop internal fullstack applications using PostgreSQL, Express, React, Node.js, socket.io, and redis.

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