Programming Courses opened up new opportunities for Lauren to embrace uncomfortable.

Math was not Lauren Nichols’ friend in school. Luckily for Lauren, being good at math isn’t the secret ingredient to her success as a consultant on ATG’s software engineering team.

Lauren’s Career Pivot Started With A New Education

For Lauren, her background in hospitality management and her programming courses with the Montana Code school equipped her with the right mix of skills to make a mid-career pivot.

Originally from Billings, Montana, Lauren moved to Missoula in 2009 to attend the University of Montana as a pre-physical therapy student. Although job prospects and potential salaries were promising, Lauren found that she didn’t have a passion for her classes. She made the decision to step away from college and found herself working in hospitality and restaurant management. In 2015, Lauren hit the ceiling at her job and started looking for new opportunities for growth.

Around the time Lauren found herself looking for a new path, her mom attended a Hellgate Venture Network meeting in Missoula. Paul Gladen, one of the co-founders of Montana Code School, was introducing the newest educational venture in the state, immersive programming courses targeted at folks like Lauren who were looking for the chance to shift careers and add coding skills to their repertoire of marketable talents.

“My mom messaged me right away and said, ‘This is totally what you should be doing,’” Lauren said. “I got really excited. I combed over the website. I had a million questions.”

Lauren connected with MTCS leadership and was accepted for the full-time programming courses during Spring 2016.

programming courses, learn to code

Becoming CodeSavvy Came With Major Changes

Despite her excitement, attending code school was a challenging transition for Lauren. Working only one day each week and spending more money than she was making was tough for someone who was used to working 60 hours each week.

“It was a big shift, kind of mentally preparing myself, like, ‘This is what I’m going to do, and this is how I’m going to dedicate my time to push myself into the next chapter of my career,’” Lauren said.

After graduation, Lauren worked as a teaching assistant in Bozeman to help the Montana Code School get started there. Lauren drew on her experience working in HR — and her own experience as a code school student — to help provide emotional support for students undertaking the challenging transition.

As her time in Bozeman came to an end, Lauren reached out to fellow MTCS alum and friend Cristine Folz for advice on how to get a tech job in Missoula. Cristine, who was three months into a new career at ATG, encouraged Lauren to apply to the tech consulting firm. One visit to ATG’s office and Lauren decided right then and there that it was where she wanted to be.

A New And Exciting Career In Programming

As a consultant at ATG, Lauren is allocated full-time to her client providing platform expertise and guidance around implementation best practices. The platform in question requires a vendor-specific programming language, allowing Lauren to work closely with her team and client to solve complex business requirements with code.

“It’s definitely a nice mesh of technical and soft skills, which is nice because I do enjoy the client aspect, especially building relationships with people that I work with,” Lauren said. “I pretty much solve puzzles for a living.”

Code school is different than lecture-style high school and college classes. Rather than sitting and listening to a professor, code school students learn by doing, which Lauren found more valuable to her learning style.

The immersive nature of MTCS courses can be stressful and intimidating, Lauren said, but she encouraged potential students to persevere and focus on the rewarding careers coding skills can open up for those ready to make a change.

“There are all kinds of avenues that participating in this program can lead you to,” Lauren said. “Trust the process. Not knowing everything is okay. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

For Lauren, “uncomfortable” is now firmly in her comfort zone.


Ready for a career switch of your own? Apply for Full-Time or Part-Time Montana programming courses today!