More Tools in His Belt: Why One Boot Camp Grad Ditched the Construction Site for the Classroom

Like many people fresh out of college, David Colonia felt some panic after graduation. He’d worked hard to earn his degree in economics and legal studies, but he felt heavy on soft skills and light on technological know-how. 

“I found that reporting was the most useful and interesting aspect of my classes, so I wanted a career focused on that,” David said. “But I needed to have more tech skills under my belt.”

At the time, David happened to be wearing a tool belt; he worked in construction to pay his tuition bills. That’s when he discovered the Berkeley Data Analytics Boot Camp at UC Berkeley Extension. It seemed like exactly the thing he needed to boost his technical skills.

“This program seemed like it covered a lot of bases, and it was very accessible compared to others,” David said. “It also seemed like you could go in with a fairly blank slate and come out prepared.”

David ditched his toolbelt and went back to the classroom—a decision that helped him build the career he had envisioned. 

Putting a college degree to work 

David may have started from square one in data analytics, but the skills and knowledge he gained in college came in handy for one of his team projects. 

David’s senior thesis focused on the effects that misdemeanor crimes like graffiti have on juveniles, adults, and the policing of communities. He was able to put much of that research to work for his final group project, which analyzed crime and its impact on real estate.

“It turns out crime has a minimal effect on property values,” David said. “Using our new skills, we found it has more to do with wages, new development, and other factors.”

David’s report wasn’t just fascinating—it also earned excellent feedback from his instructor. In fact, he intends to use it when he applies to a master’s program.

Nailing a job before graduating 

David is eager to polish up his report and findings, but he hasn’t found the time quite yet.

So what’s been keeping him so busy? For starters, he got a job as a content analyst before he even graduated from the boot camp. 

David’s new employer immediately tapped him to work on an automotive app. The project put all David’s boot camp-learned technical skills to the test, requiring him to find bugs and aggregate user feedback.

He did so well in the position that he was promoted within five months. 

Today, David works as a user support specialist, spending his days aggregating feedback and creating bimonthly reports from eight countries and 16 app locales. He couldn’t be happier.

“Boot camp helped me know how to find useful information,” David said. “Eventually, I’ll be able to use Python for reporting, which will definitely impress the company’s upper management. There aren’t many non-developers who know how to program and code.”

A risk worth taking

Looking back on his first day at the Berkeley Data Analytics Boot Camp, David says he had the same level of panic he felt after graduating college. Fortunately, he was met with a warm welcome. The mix of novices and experienced programmers also helped put his mind at ease.

“The instructors had a lot of patience with the newbies, and the TAs were especially great,” he reflected. “You could go to them with the same question 20 times, and they wouldn’t get impatient at all.”

These days, David’s not so panicky. In fact, those images of failure have turned into visions of greatness. 

“I see myself going back to my path in economics and law, getting my master’s, and taking on a risk analyst role,” David said. “This whole experience really opened up a lot of lanes for my future.” 

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