Jessie Sholler Went From Coding Boot Camp Student to a Role in Retail Analytics — in a Matter of Weeks

Jessie Sholler grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Boston, but she always knew she wanted to see the world. As soon as she turned 18, she moved to Los Angeles. There, Jessie got her associate’s degree in graphic design, discovered her love of photography, and then set her sights on London to earn a bachelor’s degree in creative direction for fashion.

Fast-forward to age 25, and she was back in California working at a handbag design company. In two and a half years, she had designed a new collection for the VP of the company, worked on accounts like Nordstrom, Sole Society, and Belk, and managed production teams in China — even working in the factories herself. In short, she had seen the world. 

After this role, Jessie landed in Raleigh, North Carolina, knowing she was ready for a new chapter, but not yet quite sure what that would entail. She started speaking with contacts in the technology space. A couple of user interface (UI) developers recommended she look into The Coding Boot Camp at UNC-Chapel Hill. She decided to give it a shot.

Making the transition and committing full-force

Jessie continued freelancing for Belk for the first part of the boot camp, but after that, she committed to treating the course like a full-time job. “There was definitely a learning curve,” she said. “My biggest concern going into the course was that I have dyslexia, and I was nervous about making spelling errors in my code. It actually turned into one of my strengths, since I was so overly cautious about my spelling.”

Despite the challenging material, Jessie found the boot camp to be a highly collaborative environment. Everyone from the instructors to the TAs to her fellow students was willing to help. She reached out to her Career Director early on and met with her consistently for months. “I had a really supportive network,” said Jessie. “I still stay in touch with many of my classmates through LinkedIn.” 

Discovering her dream role in an unexpected way

For her final project, Jessie and three other students started building an application called AppBeware. The app was designed to be a crowdsourced resource hub and search engine for parents. Members could share their experiences with apps their children use and potentially protect other kids from engaging with problematic or predatory apps. Jessie’s team developed a rating system based on user research and identified 5 badge options for apps — all based on a rating scale correlating with the risk level the app posed.

Toward the end of the program, Jessie and her team presented AppBeware at the boot camp’s Demo Day, and it changed everything for her. “Our Demo Day merged with The Data Analytics Boot Camp at UNC-Chapel Hill,” said Jessie. “Because of that, the recruiters there were looking for all different types of candidates. A woman there for the data analytics course came over and asked for a demo. We had a great interaction. I messaged her after to thank her for the conversation, and she asked if she could pass along my resume. Two days later, I had an in-person interview, a day after that I received an offer letter, and less than a week after that I started the new role.”

Taking it all in and finally catching her breath 

Jessie’s new role is at Quantworks, one of the only retail analytics companies in North Carolina. On the side, she has continued working on AppBeware, and her employer has been infinitely supportive of her personal pursuits.

Over the past couple of weeks, Jessie has been developing the UI for Quantwork’s retail management applications. “It’s all happened really fast, and I’m definitely still catching my breath,” said Jessie. “But I’m really enjoying the work and learning from my amazing team. I’m focused on keeping up the momentum.”

Jessie can’t rave enough about the boot camp and the industry connections it gave her. The people she met, the collaborative culture, and the challenging — but creative and rewarding — nature of the work have paid off. 

“People in this field are willing to listen to new ideas, it’s not saturated. It’s constantly changing, evolving, and growing,” said Jessie. “In addition to dyslexia, I have something called Irlen Syndrome — a disorder of the way the brain interprets light signals. This causes me to see text in motion rather than static text. My main, driving goal is to use my neuro-diversities to enhance user experiences — regardless of the type of media I’m working with — and this field is the perfect place to apply that goal.”

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