“It’s the First Time I Felt That I Was Valuable”: How Coding Boot Camp Helped Gavin Deng Find His Purpose

Gavin Deng

Gavin Deng wanted to make his parents proud.

His mother was a software engineer and his father had managed a bank in China before immigrating to Melbourne, Australia in hopes of giving Gavin better education opportunities and the promise of a happier, simpler life.

Gavin attended the highly regarded University of Melbourne to study architecture, but dropped out to enter the real estate business, which was booming at the time due to overseas investors. 

After seven years in the business, Gavin found himself disillusioned with his career choice. With little room for personal and professional growth, and an unpredictable income, he sought more — more challenges, more fulfillment, and most importantly, more opportunities to make both his parents and himself proud.

Finding something valuable and running with it 

“I regretted not finishing school, and I hated what I did for a living. I often felt insecure about my value and skills,” said Gavin. “Because of that, I’m always seeking ways to learn something new.”

In February of 2020, Gavin found an introductory Python course offered by MIT online and was immediately hooked. Not long after he completed the course, Australia went into its first lockdown due to COVID-19, so Gavin took the opportunity to kick his coding into high gear.

“I found the Monash University Coding Boot Camp from an Instagram ad, and it had everything I was looking for — a part-time, online course that teaches all of the essential skills needed to begin a career in programming,” he said. “And, it was being offered by one of the best universities in Australia.” 

The boot camp began by teaching JavaScript, which inspired Gavin to create a web application offering users a short online quiz about JavaScript concepts.

“I worked on it whenever I had free time, including overnight and on weekends,” he said. “It was the first thing I thought about when I woke up in the morning and the last thing I thought about before falling asleep. When I finally got it to work, it was the first time I felt like I had an actual skill that belonged to me — the first time I felt that I was valuable.”

He found React to be more challenging, but his trainer stressed the importance of this language constantly, referring to it as “the money maker.” When Gavin was having trouble, he reached out to the boot camp staff for help. 

“The first thing I learned in programming is that nothing works on the first try. I often found myself stuck on something complex, like a logical error, or something tiny, like a misspelling,” he said. “The best way to get unstuck was to get a second opinion. My tutors and the support from my peers was extremely helpful in these situations.” 

The learning never stops 

Gavin was still working full time as a business development manager in real estate during the boot camp, and the fast-paced learning environment proved to be challenging. He spent 20 to 30 hours per week studying and tried to focus on completing small tasks to avoid overthinking the challenges ahead.

“Every hour that I wasn’t working, eating, or sleeping, I was studying. It can be physically and emotionally draining but, luckily, I was already mentally prepared for this challenge,” he said. 

He worked with career services as the boot camp came to an end in order to land a new role. His advisor, Nicola, provided him with advice, resources, and emotional support when needed. 

“I got a lot of rejections from companies and started to feel anxious about whether or not I was good enough to find work. She helped me stay positive and motivated, and eventually I got a job.”

Gavin is now a software developer for SmartMeasures, a company that provides businesses with software to measure data. He works directly under the startup’s founder and spends his days learning from experienced mentors.

“Each day, my boss sets out the tasks, some of which I work on with him and others which I complete on my own,” he said. “We have detailed discussions before getting started, and once the prototype is complete, we build unit testing to make sure it works with the entire application before publishing the updates. Then we move on to the next task.” 

Gavin’s education didn’t stop with the boot camp. He’s constantly gaining new skills in his new role and is currently learning about data science for AI, cloud computing, and Salesforce development.

“I feel like I am improving professionally every day. It’s a rare and wonderful experience,” he said. “The most important skill I gained from this boot camp is the mindset I now have to achieve a goal. A positive attitude, perseverance, and focus are qualities I’ll proudly carry throughout my life,” he said. “I’m confident that I will achieve much more.” 

Looking to embark on a career as a developer? Check out Monash University Boot Camps in coding, data analytics, cybersecurity, and more.

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