Allie Firebaugh: The Teacher Who Became a Student and Learned to Code

Allie Firebaugh decided to pursue a career in teaching after graduating Emory & Henry College with three majors: physics, math, and French. Although she never considered teaching her dream job, inspiring young minds was a rewarding experience. Over time, however, it became clear to her that something was missing in her professional life.

“I’m a perfectionist,” said Allie. “What I came to realize was that the teaching job wasn’t my perfect fit. I wanted to be in a career that would require me to be more analytical and apply my problem-solving skills in a different capacity.”

With that realization, Allie quit teaching. After speaking to a career counselor, she believed that coding could be a potential career path for her. 

A natural extrovert, Allie decided learning alongside other people would be the best fit for her—and she came across the University of Richmond Coding Boot Camp

“The other coding courses I looked into were either online courses or expensive and outdated four-year programs,” she said. “I talked to the admissions staff at the Richmond Coding Boot Camp, and their personal guidance assured me that I was making the right decision.”

Overcoming first-day jitters

While Allie was excited to begin the program, a case of nerves hit her the first day of boot camp. 

“I was anxious that I wasn’t as experienced as everyone else,” she said. “I eventually realized everyone was in the same boat—we were all there to learn, no matter where we came from.”

Allie began to schedule her day around the boot camp. She would wake up, start on the less intimidating coding exercises as a warm-up, and progress to the more difficult subjects. After spending nearly a full day coding, she would start preparing herself for her evening classes.

There were some challenges. The boot camp’s pace was fast, and Allie needed to switch gears nearly every week when moving quickly through topics. 

“It felt like a full-time job,” she said. “It takes real dedication. Without that full commitment, you’re either not going to make it or you’re not going to feel proud of your work.”

Gaining confidence—and independence

Allie took on various projects at the boot camp with excitement. Her first project was an educational page for children to explore topics on outer space, while the second focused on healthcare. Allie and her team designed a site where concerned users could check the side effects of any medications. 

“It was rewarding to create a website that a lot of people would potentially need,” said Allie. “Even through group work I learned how to be more independent when putting together an application—which I think is a critical skill to make yourself stand out to potential employers.”

Allie’s most pivotal moment at the boot camp was on demo night, where participants had an opportunity to demonstrate their final projects to prospective employers.

“We were able to discuss our projects with professionals who’ve been in the tech industry for years,” she said. “It was extremely beneficial for us.”

Finding the perfect job

After completing the program, Allie started job hunting in earnest. With the help of the boot camp’s career services, she improved her resume, received constructive advice, and communicated with the career director through bi-weekly phone calls. Within a month, she secured a job as an automated data collection specialist at CoStar Group, a company that provides data on commercial real estate. 

Allie has now found a career that’s a perfect fit for her. Nothing is missing—she’s working in a role that consistently requires her to be analytical. Boot camp was the stepping stone into a more fulfilling career that Allie envisions herself growing into in the long term.

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