After graduating from our Beginner Full-Time Coding Bootcamp, Kyle Merckx started applying for jobs. Things were slow at first, but when his Career Services Manager suggested he do a round of outreach to people in his network, he did so. And it paid off, helping him land his current role as a Software Developer at the Independent Pharmacy Cooperative (IPC).
In this Q&A, learn how he approached that outreach, about the projects he’s working on at IPC, and the advice he has for incoming students.
What drew you to software engineering?
I’ve always had a connection to computers. I’ve always been interested in them. I grew up playing video games and being on the computer, and those are some of my earliest memories. When I was in college, I got a little more interested in how computers worked. It was just a hobby, and I would learn a couple of things having to do with coding here and there. Nothing really went anywhere, and I didn’t even really retain any of the knowledge I gained during that time because I did it so infrequently.
But it was always something I was interested in and wanted to explore more. As I got older, I went through some different jobs and finally decided it might be a good idea to actually pursue this as a career.
What did you get out of your time in the coding bootcamp?
Aside from all the technical stuff I learned, which was great, an important thing I learned was how I can best work as a software engineer. I learned about my own limitations, in terms of the amount of information I can take in at once and when I need to take breaks.
I think an important thing is to learn your own process for writing programs and learning new languages. I learned how you go about solving problems and how you conceptualize the kind of things that you might run into, especially things you didn’t expect like errors and tracking down bugs. The program really got me used to the feel of doing the actual work.
What is your current role? And what types of projects are you working on?
My position is Software Developer at the Independent Pharmacy Cooperative (IPC). I work on a variety of different things at the moment. The code base is pretty complex here, and there are a lot of different systems working together, so they started me off with simpler projects to get me used to how things run. I’m still in the process of learning everything because it’s quite a lot.
We have a big warehouse here that holds all the inventory, and I built an app to track end-of-day summaries, which feed into our database so we can track trends. Right now, I’m working on an app for when we receive product and we need to scan it, get it into inventory, and get it stored in the proper place.
What are you enjoying about your new role so far? And what challenges have you faced?
I’m working in a language that I didn’t know prior to working here. We work mostly in C# and .NET. So when I started, they gave me a lot of time to learn how to code in that language before I started writing programs or anything like that – and I really like working with this language.
Another thing I enjoy is working with the team. They all have a lot of knowledge that they share with me, so I get to learn from experienced developers who’ve been doing this for quite a while. It’s been nice, just learning and honing my skills. Everyone here is great.
As far as challenges go, I’d say it’s in the smaller things, like the quirks of some of the frameworks we’re using, and troubleshooting and finding workarounds for some things we want to do. A big challenge is just learning the overall business logic of the company. There are so many moving parts and I’m getting an understanding of how it all works together.
Do you work remotely, on-site, etc.?
It’s a combination for me. I’m mostly in the office, but we get two days a week where we can work remotely. Some weeks I do that, and some weeks I don’t. It just sort of depends on what’s going on, and if I just feel like not commuting that day. But it’s really useful to be in the office. I like to be here.
How was the job search process for you? Were you able to use any strategies you picked up from the Career Services team?
When my job search started, I was sending applications to all open positions, and I was not getting any responses. It was rough, and it could feel a little demoralizing.
But I was talking to my Career Services Manager, and she told me I should consider doing more outreach. It was one of those things that just felt a little bit unnatural to me – to just reach out to someone on LinkedIn, or something like that. But I happened to know someone through Twitter who worked as a software engineer. We communicated on Twitter every once in a while, and I just decided to reach out for information about their day-to-day.
As it turned out, her company was hiring, so I sent her my application and had an interview the next week. I got hired after that. So the big takeaway for me was definitely to focus on doing outreach. I lucked out, and it worked out for me.
You studied music and had a variety of jobs prior to software engineering. Is there anything from those areas of career or study that you’ve been able to use as a software engineer?
I’m not quite sure of the connection between music and coding, but I feel like there’s some sort of strong connection there. There’s a level of creativity when you’re putting together a program, and it’s similar to when you’re writing music. There’s a creative process for both, though the outcome’s quite different. I still haven’t figured out the exact connection, but it feels like there’s a strong one.
Also, I previously worked at a bookstore, which was nice because I got access to a lot of information. The projects we worked on there carry over to some of the stuff I’m designing at IPC, as far as scanners for inventory. The systems that we used at the bookstore were similar in some ways to what’s needed at IPC, and my experience using them at the bookstore – especially in terms of what I thought could have been better – has informed some of the decisions I make now, in terms of designing user interfaces.
Do you have any advice for incoming students? How can they get the most out of their time in the program?
I think the best advice I have is to know when you need a break and to step away when you do. You’re going to be getting a lot of information really quickly and it’ll take a while for it all to sink in.
There were times when I was stuck on a problem. I couldn’t figure out what to do, and it was really upsetting and I was getting stressed out. Then I took a break, and I’d come back in maybe an hour or so, and then I was able to approach the problem in a different way or was just able to focus on it better. In one particular situation, I stepped away for an hour and came back and figured out what the issue was in five minutes. It’s important to realize that what you’ll be learning is going to seem very strange at times because computers can work in very strange ways. It’s good to give yourself time to let the information you’re receiving absorb totally in your mind.
Want another beginner coder’s perspective? Read how Cise Babatasi’s interest in the intersection of art and technology led her to the coding bootcamp, what she got out of her time in the beginner program, and what she’s up to now as a Software Developer at Thryv.