Newly-Minted American Express Employee Reflects on the Career Pivot Boot Camp Provided
The year before she started college, Alexis Schaetzle was diagnosed with an exhausting autoimmune disease. It made regular college life incredibly difficult for her.
“Getting diagnosed really threw my whole college experience for a loop,” Alexa remembers. “It was hard to navigate full semesters at a time, and on top of that, to be a young person who wasn’t really sure of themselves yet.”
But Alexis’ story isn’t about her illness. It’s about the perseverance, dedication, and commitment that helped her discover success—with a little help from the University of Arizona Coding Boot Camp.
Breaking from routine
Toward the end of her college career, Alexis was working in a retail job that eventually led to a management position. She stayed on this retail path for six years.
Finally, she built up the courage to make a change in her life. She knew that if she really wanted to switch career paths, she’d probably need to pick up some new skills—but going to an expensive university for a year or two was simply out of the question.
Her uncle was the one who suggested boot camp as a possible solution. A little research proved that it was exactly the thing Alexis needed.
“I was looking for boot camps online and saw there was one at the University of Arizona that had just opened up,” Alexis said. “I liked their program, and I liked that it was through an accredited university. I also appreciated that they offered a part-time option that allowed me to keep my job even while boot camp was in session.”
After discussing the program with her husband, Alexis decided to enroll. What followed was a six-month whirlwind that would change her life forever.
Merging coding and camaraderie
Looking back, Alexis views all her boot camp coding assignments as great learning opportunities that truly deepened her subject area knowledge. Going into the first assignment, though, she had some mixed emotions.
“By the time you start the first project, nobody is entirely sure what they’re doing yet,” Alexis said. “They throw you into a group with a bunch of strangers and ask you to complete something you’ve never done before. It was fun and challenging and terrifying all at the same time—and extremely rewarding.”
By the time the first project was over, Alexis was confident that boot camp was the best decision she’d ever made.
“The feeling of validation after we completed that first project was so amazing,” she said. “It really confirmed for me that this was why I was here.”
The final project Alexis completed in boot camp was a drink randomizer called Mixtly that randomized the drink menu of Dutch Bros Coffee. Users could access the site through their smartphone while waiting in line and enjoy a new drink combination each visit. During testing, the randomizer prompted Alexis and her roommates to try a cold brew coffee with coconut and macadamia nut flavoring; it’s been a household favorite ever since.
“The class had such a positive reaction to it as well,” Alexis said. “It’s rewarding when people find utility in something you created.”
Rebooting her career
Throughout boot camp, Alexis’ instructors kept the students on track—teaching them everything they needed to know for their projects and being motivational cheerleaders when necessary.
Alexis felt strongly that her program’s instructors were some of the best she could have asked for.
“They chose people who really care—not just about us, but about helping us get into the industry,” she said.
Sure enough, thanks to her boot camp experience and the support of her instructors, Alexis now has a career in tech. She works as a junior software engineer at American Express, working on a team that manages all global credit card applications. A family friend passed her resume along after hearing about Alexis’ boot camp journey on social media.
Today, Alexis works alongside a director of engineering who has taken her under their wing as a mentee.
“Being able to work side by side with a lot of different people is so important,” Alexis said. “Sometimes at school, you can get bogged down with the homework and assignments. It’s important to remember it’s not just about the code, but also the relationships.”