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By Sarah June Fischer July 19, 2018

Meet Amber: From Front-End to Full-Stack with help from the GI Bill

Meet Amber Kim! She was running her own web design and marketing firm while her husband was in the military. When they settled in Seattle, she was able to use his GI Bill funds to expand her skill set at Code Fellows. She shares about her learning journey and her advice for other military spouses who are thinking about a career in tech.

Hi Amber! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. You were able to use your husband’s GI Bill to attend Code Fellows—can you tell us about your decision to learn to code, and using the GI Bill towards your education?

While my husband was in the Marine Corps, I started and ran my own web design and marketing firm. Once my husband left the military and we settled back in the Seattle area, my husband heard about Code Fellows and encouraged me to take my development skills to the next level. I was already building out complex web apps but I wasn’t able to build full-stack apps from scratch yet.

What attracted you to software development as a career?

I always loved working on the computer, troubleshooting puzzles and creating things with it. From editing films, creating graphics, writing and publishing books, software development is another extension of my curiosity over the power you have in your hands when you know how to use a computer.

Most of all, I am very interested in how it can help shape and empower individuals, communities, and businesses.

What made you decide to study at Code Fellows?

Once I started my firm and was exercising my problem-solving, design, and planning muscles, I realized I wanted to know more. I was not learning software development fast enough on my own and I knew that having a supportive environment like Code Fellows would accelerate my learning.

What courses did you take?

I started with Code 201, took Code 301, and then finished with the Code 401: JavaScript nights and weekend tracks.

As a mom and business owner, you were quite busy before enrolling in the program—what did your life look like while you were studying at Code Fellows?

I worked on my client projects and had my meetings during the day while my youngest hung out with me. In the evenings and on Saturdays I went to school. Sometimes it was very hectic, sometimes the days went by smoothly. I could not have done it without help from my husband and my daughter. I also had a lot less stress because my work was very flexible and my clients were awesome to work with.

What made you choose Code Fellows over other programs?

Code Fellows accepts the GI Bill, which was the first time I had ever heard of a code school accepting it!

What was your favorite part of your time on campus?

I loved working with my instructors and fellow students. My favorite part was when, at the end of the day and I had finished my work, I could sit with my classmates and help them with theirs.

What are some qualities that you think served you well in becoming a developer, outside of any code skills?

Google-fu is very important. Showing up and showing effort and grit, communicating, and putting an effort to listen are also very important. Another very useful skill with an accelerated program such as Code Fellows is project management, research, and planning, which I developed from running my business. It helped me a lot to stay on top and ahead of my projects, leading to less stress, more learning, and getting working products out the door in a timely fashion.

You’re now supporting current students as a teaching assistant as you start your job search. How is that going?

I am really enjoying being a teaching assistant at Code Fellows. My job is now basically one of the parts I really enjoyed during my time as a student, which was to help people. I really learn a lot about communication and programming while teaching others.

What’s your advice for other military spouses who are in the place you were not too long ago?

If you want to learn how to be a Software Developer and you can join a good code school like Code Fellows, do it. If you are not in an area close to a school like Code Fellows, there are many online courses and even free resources you can use to start learning how to code. Even if you can learn just a little bit at a time for now, that’s good. Just keep at it. Try to find communities—in person and online—that will support you and help you build your portfolio and keep your GitHub busy. If you can, find mentors. They don’t have to be formal mentors. There are many amazing people willing to give advice and help. The tech community is very enthusiastic about sharing knowledge.

Any advice for someone else starting to learn to code?

Try out some free or paid resources to start. If you get stuck, ask people good, detailed questions. If you have to start over, do it. It’s not a setback. Repetition is good. The more you encounter something, especially in different contexts, the more your understanding will grow.

If someone was considering attending Code Fellows, what would you tell them?

Do it! If you can, especially if you have more flexibility during the day, take the night course. The longer duration will give you more time to process, practice, and repeat what you have learned. If you are working during the day, plan not to have much of a life outside of school until you finish. It’s ok not to have a life for a while because it won’t be forever and it will be well worth it.

Also, if you can learn things or get familiar with things ahead of time before you go over it in class, do it because, again, repetition is good for you.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, learning, and researching all the time. This is what you will still do once you land a developer job. Be at peace with your imposter syndrome as much as you can. There will always be someone who knows more than you. All you can do is learn from those people and be better than you were yesterday.

Is there anything else you’d like to share that we didn’t talk about today?

Yes—a different way of setting goals. Rather than setting big goals and getting discouraged when you don’t reach them or getting overwhelmed during the process and not being able to produce results, start small and take small steps. Make many small, incremental goals for your learning, your career and your code. Eventually you will look back and find that you’ve traveled miles after taking many steps.

For example, when building our your projects, your MVP should really be the minimum viable product, then from there set further milestones for your stretch goals to build more and more robust iterations of your products.


Shortly after this interview, Amber was hired as a Software Engineer at Donnelley Financial Solutions!

If you’d like to explore using GI Bill funds to attend Code Fellows, get in touch today.