After Boot Camp, Mike Marshall Found Himself in a Pickle—Here’s Why it’s Not Always a Bad Thing

Mike Marshall was working as a sales engineer in Washington, D.C. when he realized that he wanted to launch himself into the world of business intelligence. His job had given him experience using measurements and metrics, but he knew that he wanted to move beyond the realm of sales—and into the future.

But Mike didn’t know where to start—until he came across an ad on Reddit for the GW Data Analytics Boot Camp. Mike was intrigued by the program’s comprehensive curriculum and attracted to its convenient location right along his commute. He asked around on LinkedIn to gather testimonials from boot camp alumni and was met with nearly unanimous responses. The consensus was that if you’re willing to put in the effort, the program can change your career—and your life.

The testimonials were enough to encourage Mike to enroll—and it wasn’t long before he had his own life-changing experience. 

Leveling the classroom playing field

Once in the boot camp, Mike found himself surrounded by a diverse crowd of students. In his classroom, there were people from all walks of life: those who held multiple masters degrees and doctorates, and those who never went to college or who didn’t complete their undergrad degree.  

The boot camp provided a level playing field. Mike himself had never completed the college degree he started as a young adult—and he found encouragement knowing that everyone in boot camp faced the same challenges. In fact, his background in IT actually gave him a leg up in the classroom. 

“I felt empowered in the classroom,” Mike said. “After a while, fellow students would make a queue to get my help on homework before class, because I just got it.”

Rising to the challenge

Despite his natural aptitude for tech, Mike still scaled his own learning curve during the program. He had minimal experience with HTML and Java, and little formal instruction in coding—so each lesson represented a new challenge. “I was really new to some of the mathematical concepts, as well as programming and Python, so it was a lot of new information to take in and learn despite feeling an initial leg up,” Mike said. 

But with the help of his instructors and TAs, Mike was able to tackle difficult projects head-on. Inspired by the hectic Washington, D.C. traffic, he made a website that tracked busses as they moved along their routes throughout the city. 

The project ended up being a challenge technically and professionally. Mike had to use trial and error to apply brand-new coding skills like Python and Java—as well as navigate team dynamics that involved planning, communication, and patience. Ultimately, the website became his favorite project. He was able to speak to overcoming these various challenges in interviews during his job search.

Moving beyond what’s familiar

Boot camp didn’t just change Mike’s life by broadening his capabilities; it challenged him to leave his comfort zone and move to a new part of the country. 

Van Holten’s Pickles was founded in 1898 and has never had a tech department—until they hired Mike. He’s paving the way as the company’s first-ever business intelligence analyst. His responsibilities will include measuring factory floor statistics and gathering data interfaces for sales reporting, among other technology feats.

Mike’s circumstances struck him as serendipitous. “I quit my high-stress job in D.C. to go work at a pickle factory in rural Wisconsin,” he said. “You never know where life is going to take you.”

In addition to working in this role, Mike plans on completing his undergraduate degree in computer science; fortunately, his new job offers flexibility and remote work. Armed with new skills and a burgeoning new career, Mike knows there are no limits to what he can accomplish. 

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