Upgrading Your Personal UX: Dispatches from the Nashville Software School

What do you do when you find out there are an alarming number of open tech jobs in Nashville?

Start a software school, of course. That’s exactly what the founders of the Nashville Software School did in 2012.

The Nashville Software School, actually a Tennessee nonprofit corporation, self-describes as “a collection of committed Nashville technology professionals who love what we do and want to give back to our community and our profession by helping others to get a start in the technology industry.”

The school’s programs cover everything from basic web developer languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for beginners to more advanced topics like UI, UX, and iOS for students who are already trained, professional programmers.

After speaking with several alumni of the Nashville Software School, what started as the intention to write an article profiling the school evolved into an opportunity to share a few unique stories of career changes, personal goals and the ability to acquire new knowledge at any stage of life.

But first, the details:  

The school offers flexible options for busy adults:

  • Bootcamps: six-month, full-time programs that’ll turn you into a full-stack software developer
  • Evening classes: twelve-month, part-time programs with the same goal, but held during the evening so you can keep your day job
  • Professional development: three-month programs offered to current developers in order to learn new skills and understand new technologies

Each Nashville Software School cohort contains 24 students. Pricing options for the school vary from paying full tuition up front, paying an initial deposit and monthly payments, and participating in a “tech apprentice” plan in which graduates who are hired by a partner company will have their tuition covered by their employer.

Now, the stories (a.k.a. this could be you!):

Chad Cates, who came from the music world:

Chad Cates.

Chad Cates.

Prior to starting class [at the Nashville Software School] I was in the music business. I was on the touring side, traveling with different artists, and had held several different jobs over the course of 17 years of doing that. My reason for enrolling in the program was made up of two things, the first being that I have two kids and wasn’t interested in missing out on part of their lives because of being gone on the road. I had decided that after I was forced to miss out on things that I would never get back, I knew that if I stayed on the path that I was on, it would become a regular thing. The second reason was because my wife works in staffing in the IT industry and through her I was able to learn about different roles and all the opportunity and growth that was available, especially in Nashville. It was definitely the right decision. I had no prior experience in the tech world but was always a good problem solver and was excited about the challenge.

I actually had an interview with Premise Health in Brentwood about a week before we were to graduate and ending up getting the official offer from them on our demo day as I was walking out of the door from school. Talk about instant payoff. I have just completed 90 days there as of today and was hired as a Automation Test Engineer working on the QA team. My greatest takeaway from the school was that I learned that I was smarter than I thought I was and was able to completely change careers at 38 years old.

Rebecca Cronin-Dixon, who came from another country:

Rebecca Cronin-Dixon.

Rebecca Cronin-Dixon.

Before attending NSS I was an event manager by profession, but was not able to work for 8 months as I was waiting for citizenship (I’m originally from Australia). As I was unable to work in America, I taught myself HTML, CSS and WordPress so I could create websites for small companies in Australia. I decided to apply for NSS after going to a Girl Geek Dinner where I met a number of NSS alumni who recommended the school.

NSS was an amazing experience that prepared me for the role as a junior developer. It taught me the basics of frontend and backend development and that you will never know everything in this field. It reprogrammed me for a life as a developer. I really enjoyed their teaching style of giving you just enough information and letting you find the answers yourself. I am now a software engineer at Eventbrite focusing on SEO. [NSS] prepared me for my position in Eventbrite as a lot of my job is searching for possible solutions to problems rather than having all the answers in front of me.

Evan Roane, who came from the education world:

Evan Roane.

Evan Roane.

I was enrolled in the 6 month full-time bootcamp from October 2014 to April 2015. Before I enrolled at NSS I taught philosophy for a few different community colleges. Since community colleges pay in the neighborhood of $1200 per class per semester it was difficult to make ends meet. I then taught English at the high school level. I was successful in this role (97% of my 2014 AP English students got college credit), but I found that my heart was not really in it. I had fiddled with PHP and JavaScript in high school and knew that I enjoyed programming, so I got to a point in my life where I was looking for a clear path from one career to another around the time I found NSS. NSS was that clear path that I was looking for. One thing that made me feel safe with NSS is that it is the only nonprofit coding school in the U.S. This fact makes the tuition cost at NSS the best deal in town. Now, I work for Emma, a cloud-based email marketing platform. Working at Emma is absolutely my favorite job that I have ever had.

I chose NSS because it gave me a chance to learn the craft of building software from experienced professionals. The greatest benefit that I received at NSS was watching incredibly talented individuals get stumped by software problems and then figure out how to overcome those problems. Seeing a master at work showed me what solutions to look for and which to avoid. Imitating the mental habits of my mentors has saved me from many a blunder in my work as a software engineer.

Sonda Sengupta, who came from the tech world:

Sonda Sengupta.

Sonda Sengupta.

I had graduated with a degree in neuroscience and was a student researcher through college. I was set on going to graduate school, but during the interview process, I realized that my interests were a lot broader than the places I was applying. I spent a year with AmeriCorps as I pondered my next career choice and decided that I definitely wanted a technology career. Before NSS, I worked as a Best Buy Geek Squad agent, a tech phone specialist at Asurion, and even freelanced articles about upcoming Apple products. Even though all of those jobs were sectors in the technology industry, my true goal was to build and design technology myself.

Like the stories you’ve heard of musicians traveling to Nashville to make it big, I heard that Nashville had a booming technology industry, and so I packed my bags and moved here to be a software developer. I was saving money for college coursework when I found out about Nashville Software School from a meetup I attended. It turned out that I had moved to the one city in the South that had a non-profit software bootcamp without even knowing it. The decision to enroll was very easy since it was everything I was looking for—a fast-track intensive program that gave me immediate job skills for being a developer, a well-laid out curriculum with knowledgeable teachers, and a good introduction to the software community in Nashville.

Now, I’m a developer working in a part of HCA called HealthTrust. My day to day job is to build applications that make hospital and healthcare management a smooth, cost-effective process. I have a career that I love and I’m part of a community of people that I love, too. The Nashville tech community is a wonderful group of people and as a developer, I can be part of any industry I choose since technology touches all fields. NSS has taught me that you can reinvent yourself and forge your own path. Who knows? Maybe I can put my love of neuroscience and software development together to help the world in a new way.

Sound like the tech training you’ve always wanted? Go for it.

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