December 2022 Student of the Month: Chris Conway
Many of our students know Chris Conway because of his active engagement in helping others overcome challenges involved with learning to code. Chris has become a pillar in the Promineo Tech community, and we are thrilled to name him our December 2022 Student of the Month!
Before the pandemic, Chris earned a bachelor’s degree in music/vocal performance and was teaching music. 2020 impacted a lot of things in the world, and the music industry was not different. During this time, Chris was fortunate enough to have some money saved up and was able to take a break. He started streaming on Twitch and giving voice lessons. Many of the individuals that made up his streaming audience were software developers that spoke highly of the industry and how it was booming. “I’m pretty sure Google was listening to our conversations because it started showing ads for coding bootcamps”, Chris mentioned.
One night, on his way back from singing in an opera, Chris was waiting for the ferry and saw an ad for Central Washington University’s coding bootcamp in partnership with Promineo Tech. He decided to take the assessment while he waited to see if the program would be a good fit, got a call from an enrollment advisor, and asked his Twitch community what they thought about him taking the coding bootcamp. After receiving positive feedback, he decided to start learning to code. Before enrolling in the program, he utilized some free, online resources, but felt like he needed more structure and decided to enroll in the CWU/Promineo Tech Front End Software Development bootcamp.
When asked about how his experience in music related to his coding journey, Chris said that “if someone has any music experience, they can pick up any job faster”. He then shared how the traits honed throughout his musical education could be directly attributed to him leading a Dairy Queen team to become the #1 DQ in the entire world, an accomplishment that he is very proud of. “There are lots of puzzles to solve in music theory. You have to be able to think of so many things at the same time like breathing, vowel position, reading music, being in time, right pitch, etc. lots of that transfers over to software development. You have so much to keep track of, so many puzzles to solve, and there are also a lot of weird symbols just like in music!”
While enrolled in the program, Chris quickly became a resource for other classmates by helping them better understand the coding constructs they were learning. “I learned a long time ago that I learn best through teaching others,” Chris shared. With a passion for mentorship, Chris regularly jumped in to help students find answers. Instead of giving them the answer, he said that “sometimes the issue isn’t as straightforward as someone might think. They could be struggling with functions, but the underlying issue is they are unclear how to use an array. I like to help them understand the fundamentals so they can come to an answer on their own. With teaching vocals and coding, it’s all about focusing on the fundamentals.”
When asked about the most difficult part of the program, Chris said that when things didn’t work exactly how the way they did for the instructor he would get flustered. However, learning that there are less noticeable nuances that can impact output became a challenge for him to overcome, leading to a real learning experience that is common in the industry. Also, once he figured out something for himself, it made it that much easier to help others figure out the same problem.
“I think a lot of people don’t expect the struggle. Coding is like running into a massive wall and then you have to climb over the wall. The only way it gets smaller is when you’ve seen part of the wall before and are used to it,” Chris mentioned in regard to why learning to code is difficult for so many. “Some people get to the answer and don’t understand why and then just move on without understanding what the code is doing. Everyone is guilty of it at some point – just trying to get through a course and just wanting the answers.”
To overcome these struggles, Chris says that mentorship is extremely important. “You need someone to bounce stuff off of.” And fortunately, there are mentors everywhere if one looks hard enough. The program staff has mentors dedicated to help students, friends or colleagues who may code can be valuable mentors, and as Chris has proven, fellow students can be strong mentors to help others progress through the journey of learning to code.
Adding on to the value of great mentors, Chris said his favorite thing about the program was the community. “I’m really big on community, so working with other students in the community was great. I loved the community and mentorship that came from the student body and on our Discord channel.”
Chris’s dream is to become self-reliant, and he would love to do that in a role that combines his music, education, and coding skills and passions.
When asked what advice he’d give to others starting their coding journey, he said “Just slow down. Take your time and really understand every line of what you’re typing. Just be patient with yourself – coding is a marathon, not a sprint.”
We’re grateful to have Chris as part of our community and know so many others are thankful for the mentorship and kindness he has shown them. Way to go, Chris!