What You Can Learn at DevBuild: An Interview with Curtis Cooper

Software developers are in demand — especially in Detroit, the “Silicon Valley of the Midwest.” Despite this, many aspiring developers find themselves employed in other fields, not believing they have the time and money to pursue an education and follow their passion.

Rocket Companies®, a Detroit-based organization, designed the 19-week DevBuild boot camp to cultivate talent in budding software developers. The boot camp is open to team members of Rocket Companies who are interested in computer science. This free, on-the-job training program offers team members a chance to hone their development skills in a realistic environment.

Participants divide their time at DevBuild between Rock Central and partner Grand Circus. A typical week involves three days of training at Grand Circus and two days of review at Rock Central. Interested staff can attend additional pre-workshops, using CodePen.io and Zoom to collaborate remotely with instructors.

DevBuild emphasizes essential software development skills, such as programming, database management, and front-end development. To better understand what participants can expect to learn at DevBuild, we asked a recent graduate of the 2021 program to share details of his DevBuild experience.

Meet Curtis Cooper, Aspiring Software Developer

Curtis Cooper began working at Rock Connections five years before attending DevBuild. His original job involved accepting calls from clients and connecting them to a banker. Though not working in an information technology (IT) position, Curtis maintained an active interest in IT, inspiring him to pursue a degree in the field.

“I went back to school at Walsh College to get my master’s degree in Info Tech,” Curtis explains. “I’ve always enjoyed problem-solving and how to solve marketing challenges, so that might be why I like software development so much.”

Despite having a degree in IT, Curtis emphasizes that the DevBuild program doesn’t require a background in IT or programming: “Honestly, you do NOT need any degree. The IT degree helped me to understand the theory behind coding and software development, but DevBuild was the practical application of that learning and education, which was great.”

Though DevBuild is beginner-friendly, the primary audience is team members who already have basic proficiencies in coding, whether self-taught or learned in the classroom. If in applying, consider brushing up on your basic programming skills first — potentially through Rocket’s pre-workshops.

As a result of his efforts to study IT and his participation in programs such as DevBuild, Curtis has successfully switched careers without leaving Rocket Companies. “It’s been great to make the leap into the Technology Team at Rocket Mortgage from Rock Connections,” Curtis states. “I feel like I’ve turned my hobby into my career, which is so cool.”

Curtis found his direction in the IT industry through DevBuild 2021. “I’ve always been interested in technology and curious about how to build my own apps. I took a at Grand Circus in 2017, and it got me excited about the prospects for a tech career,” says Curtis. “But I was really not sure how to navigate a tech career here at the company at the time.”

Ready to take his tech aspirations to the next level, Curtis began his DevBuild journey in March 2021 and graduated in July 2021. “Everything I learned in DevBuild, I apply to my work every day, so that’s pretty incredible,” Curtis observes. “JavaScript on the front-end and C# on the back-end. It was so valuable.”

Upskilling His Career

DevBuild emphasizes the foundational skills necessary to become a well-rounded software developer. With a mixture of front- and back-end development concepts taught in a hands-on manner, DevBuild enables participants to get a real taste of the life and work of a software developer.

In addition to C# and JavaScript, DevBuild introduces participants to a diverse assortment of popular technologies and programming languages, including:

  • ASP .NET MVC framework
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Angular framework
  • Databases

One of DevBuild’s strengths is its ability to contextualize these technology skills alongside modern software development practices. The program covers continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), object-oriented programming (OOP), and unit testing. These insights help aspiring software developers understand how to apply their programming skills in real-world development environments.

With an emphasis on practical skills, DevBuild showcases what developers can do with these technologies in a hands-on manner: “When you think about all the great apps or apps that you interface with daily, all that software has to start somewhere,” Curtis reasons. “The awesome thing about DevBuild is learning so many languages and getting a strong idea of the tech that I can build with it.”

Participating in DevBuild

Over the course of the DevBuild program, participants are dedicated to the program full time, attending from 9 AM to 6 PM Monday through Friday. The opportunity to exchange his regular work schedule for an immersive learning program was a key element that enabled Curtis to make his career change into software development. “Coding and software development can be tough at times. It can be really difficult to find enough time to develop new skills when having a family and working full time,” says Curtis. “But keep working at it and pushing through, and you will get there and learn so much,” he emphasizes.

Curtis is living proof that DevBuild can help participants break into IT, regardless of their background. Though he didn’t expect to find himself employed as a developer when he began working at Rock Connections, he now sees parallels between his two professions.

“When I think about attributes that make a good banker, you need someone who is passionate. Similarly, those who are successful in software engineering are those who are really passionate about the process of solving a tough challenge,” explains Curtis. “You need someone who can commit to it. You really have to just commit to learning the skill and having an all-in mentality about software engineering.”

When asked if he has any advice for those hoping to participate in DevBuild, Curtis had this to say: “Practice as much as you possibly can. You want to become more proficient every time you open your laptop. For me, that meant committing to 60-minutes per day. And the more I did it, the more I learned that I really enjoyed it. If you make it a habit, you’d be amazed at how quickly you can learn and upskill yourself.”

Is DevBuild Right for You?

Any Rocket Companies team member with basic coding proficiency who wants to improve their coding and IT skills is welcome to apply to DevBuild.

If you’re looking for a way to get on the fast track to a career in technology, DevBuild is an exceptional opportunity for growth. Over the 19-week course, you’ll get hands-on experience working with front- and back-end programming, understanding fundamental system infrastructure, and working with relevant modern technologies. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the career opportunities available to software developers and a practical sense of what it’s like to collaborate on a software development project.

DevBuild is all about growth opportunities. And Rocket Companies prides itself on a strong culture that is fueled by its company philosophies, ISMs (pronounced IZ-EMS). As Curtis reveals: “My favorite ISM is ‘We’ll Figure It Out.’ Because that is what we do so many times in technology. We work on something until we figure it out.”

Are you a Rocket Companies team member interested in improving your coding skills? Learn more about DevBuild and be ready to pursue your passion for technology.

Curtis’s feedback: “This paragraph was pertaining to preparing for DevBuild, and not as much of augment to the training in the program. There is a coding challenge exam in HackerRank to test the team member’s coding proficiency, it is important to be able to display your logic when taking the exam and have some exposure to programming before entering DevBuild.”

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