"I liked that I would be able to work on existing software and make it better."

Graduate Spotlight

Cheng Thao, 27, began tinkering with software while working at a biotech company, but he wasn’t in a position to make the three-year commitment that going back to a traditional school for computer science would require.

“I was working in the database management system and noticed there were a ton of bugs,” he said. “I decided to take it upon myself to test and do validation, and my interest in software was sparked at that point.”

Pursuing a Passion

When Cheng joined The Software Guild, the only experience he had in coding was a C++ course he had taken in college 10 years prior when he earned his bachelor’s degree in biotech from Minnesota State University in Mankato. One of the most difficult parts about starting in The Software Guild was being thrown into a whole new environment, Cheng explained. However, it was easy to catch on and understand the steps he needed to take to get where he needed to be.

As with many of The Software Guild apprentices, Cheng really enjoyed the battleship project in the .NET/C# bootcamp because there was more involved with understanding code, as well as the opportunity to work with someone else.

Cheng also found out he was more interested in software engineering than software development. “I liked that I would be able to work on existing software and make it better,” he said. “If something goes wrong, we are able to fix it.”

Joining a Community

“Different instructors have different approaches,” he said. “Giving you the answer doesn’t teach you how to problem solve, and hearing from two different instructors you’d think about the problem in a new way.”

According to Cheng, his relationship with his instructors felt like a mentorship. He said he especially appreciated Employer Network Manager Kipp Graham for answering questions about finding a job.

Lab work was also a favorite. “I found it exciting and challenging to create code that solved a problem in lab work because you could use your own creativity,” Cheng said. In the classroom, while the atmosphere was laid-back, everyone was working very hard. Talking to your neighbor about any questions you had was commonplace, as was being able to communicate with the lead and mentor instructors.

A New Career

Since his graduation from The Software Guild, Cheng feels he is more able to relate in his new job. As an associate software engineer at KrolLDiscovery, he uses tools to help proprietary software and does a lot of troubleshooting and debugging.

Cheng has also begun using Xamarin, an app for mobile development. “The possibilities for creating apps are endless,” he said. “There are so many things you want to try out, it’s hard to pick one and stick with it.” He’s looking forward to creating different mobile apps that he’s wished existed, but for right now, he wants to focus on his new company and enhancing himself as a software engineer.

“I’m kind of sad that it’s over,” he said. “I saw these people every day, and now everyone’s doing so great in their own lives.” Cheng still sees some of his Guild peers, even after graduation. “I still hang out with some of the Guildies and play video games, and we text each other to see how things are going,” he said.

“With finishing the program, it really goes to show that putting in the work and being able to code will make employers consider you. The Software Guild has very strong credibility, and I am proud of that,” Cheng added. “As long as you’re hardworking and dedicated, it will pay for itself.”