From Coding Dojo, Microsoft, and Boeing: How Programming Became Matthew Shim’s Passport to Working at The World’s Best Companies

Engineer in Manufacturing
He struggled to learn how to code on his terms

After Dojo:
A lifelong learning adventure
Contributed to open-source projects and worked for Microsoft
Currently, works as a Fullstack Software Development engineer at Boeing

Program: Three bootcamps in Bellevue (WA)
“Just persevere, believe in yourself, get rid of any mentality or limiting beliefs that may be holding you back, regardless of what they are. You’ve come this far, so you can take this step.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. What were you doing professionally before you started bootcamp?
I turned 32 recently and was very interested in rock climbing even younger. I love music and have a passion for guitar. I also grew up playing the piano. I have taken up cooking since COVID and quarantine. I have learned how to make sushi, and I have tried many cheese-based recipes. Right now, I am passionate about self-growth. I also enjoy evaluating new technologies to find easy ways to explain them for people who are not tech-savvy. I was there once, and I still need to find new ways to learn. Before bootcamp, I was an engineer in manufacturing. One that was just recently laid off. It was a small company based in Redmond, WA that did contract design and engineering work as well as manufacturing for various aircraft programs.
Why did you choose to enroll in a bootcamp for coding?
Bootcamps were not something I knew existed back then. I knew a coworker who was laid off six months earlier than me and he invited us to his orientation. I was going to a different bootcamp, and this orientation was my first introduction into the space. I learned a lot, and I thought, “Oh, this would have been cool if I had the time.” Six months later, I was laid off. I was then able to have all the time in this world. So I thought, “You know what, it only takes three months, so why not just see what happens?” I had my first experience with coding in high school, and it was horrible. It was easier when I did it again in college, because I had previous exposure. It was very competitive at the University of Washington, where I was originally. I was afraid I wouldn’t make it so I didn’t try. I then put the idea on hold for a while. I tried to learn by myself, but I felt lost and that I wasn’t getting anywhere. It’s not uncommon for people to feel this way. It is rare to have the discipline to learn it by yourself.
How was your bootcamp experience? What parts were easy and what did you struggle with?
Coding Dojo was founded in August 2016. We finished the winter in November or December 2016. It was both exciting and scary. Many of us were in the exact same boat, leaving our jobs and taking a chance on this program. Tech jobs are in high demand. We all worked 16-hour days and really went “all in”. We all believed that the program was only three months long, so we should get the most out of it. At first, it was difficult to understand how the pieces fit together and what our goals were. The first week was HTML & CSS. It went well. Then we moved on to whiteboard problems, which was okay. I was then introduced to the various technologies and how they work. The languages were difficult to understand at first because they looked like gibberish. It became easier once I understood the abstractions. Or, “Oh, this is just installing something to use.” Or, “Oh this is just a tool that does what?”
What were your strategies for overcoming the difficulties you faced?
People initially believe that computer science and software engineering are mathematically precise and mathematical. This is why it can be so difficult to learn. It’s almost the reverse, in that you need to be able look at it from a high level, see the “big picture,” without worrying about the binary sequence of blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blahhh. This analogy is something I use a lot.
It’s almost as if you’re learning code from the beginning. The first few weeks of class will be all about learning how to use the alphabet for building words. It’s easy to take this for granted, but consider how many weeks it took you to master the alphabet. Slowly, you will be able to write more complex programs. It’s almost like writing a three-paragraph report. As you gain more understanding, you will be able to read it faster and produce more. This means that you can now write news articles, short stories, or other similar things.
Do you have any funny stories to share about bootcamp? Make friends! Do you have fond memories?
I am still friends with some of my cohort mates, and we keep in touch. One of them was alread