Climb Credit Student Interview: General Assembly Graduate Zarela Graves
Zarela Graves, a Front End Developer at Politech, made her way from Peru to Florida, and then from a digital content job to a web development career. Her journey was made possible with an education from General Assembly, financed by Climb. We chatted with Zarela to get her perspective on taking out a loan to go back to school and change her career. To learn from her, check out the transcript below!
What made you originally start thinking about attending your program?
I’d been working with web content for a while with my previous job, and I was very curious about programming. I have computer information systems as my minor, so I was always very interested in programming and I wanted to do it as my career.
How did you originally find out about Climb?
Through General Assembly. And when I did my review of the loan process—I tend to do reviews on everything before I commit—Climb had very good reviews. So I decided to do it!
What were the most important factors you considered before applying for a loan?
One was to have a fair interest rate. I know it’s a private loan, so I knew it was going to be a little high, but I didn’t want it to be crazy. The other one, and actually to me the most important factor, was to be able to go through the paperwork very quickly, because I applied two weeks before starting class, and the steps were very quick, so that was a big factor for me.
Do you think if you hadn’t been able to get financing you would have attended the course?
Probably not. I didn’t have any money saved, and I knew I would have to quit my job to be able to go to school.
Once you decided to move forward with Climb, how would you describe the process?
I would say very smooth and very quick. Everybody was very responsive.
Would you recommend Climb to a friend?
Yes, definitely. Like I said, you guys are very quick, and I think the interest rate is fair. So definitely.
What is one of the most valuable skills or lessons you learned from your program?
Well I learned a lot. [laughs] I didn’t know I was going to be able to learn so much in a few months. But one of the things I loved so much about the course was the coaching program they have; they call it Outcomes. It’s a program that trains you in what you need to do once you’re done with school. Because it’s not really just the skills alone—it’s the process of getting the job and all that. That was awesome.
What was one standout experience from your time at school?
Being able to create a fully working application within a week. Also, creating something that would provide a solution for a need I was going to have.
For example: creating an application to help me keep track of jobs. I figured I was going to finish the program soon, and I was going to need something that allowed me to keep track of those jobs.
What did your new job search look like?
Well we graduated kind of at a hard time to get a job because we graduated the week of Thanksgiving. So they already told us it was going to be hard, and we were probably more likely to start seeing some activity at the beginning of the year. Which was true—I got a job in January. It was not necessarily something I was crazy about, but I did it to gain experience. I wasn’t getting paid a lot, so I went there for a little bit and didn’t stay. Then I was freelancing for a while until I finally got a full time job with a company that absolutely love.
What kind of projects are you working on at your current job?
The company that I work for is involved in politics—so they work with political campaigns and nonprofit organizations—and right now they have their own platform, so we basically maintain control for that platform. And I like it; it’s very interesting, the company’s awesome, everybody over there is very good, and I’m learning a lot of new stuff.
How does your current job compare to the one you had before you attended your program?
Oh it’s completely different. Different approaches, and I do get paid better than my previous job—much more. I work from home now and I love my office. Even though our team is in different time zones, we all communicate very well. I never thought I would like to work from home so much, but taking the class online helped me appreciate there can still be a lot of human connection through the internet. During the program, even though we were all over the country, we developed very good friendships and communicated a lot. We still do, and it's the same with my job.
If you could go back and give yourself any advice while applying, what would you say?
To do just do it and do it earlier. I had a whole year where I wasn't sure, just thinking “Do I do it? Do I not? Which one would be smart?” My biggest concern was quitting a job, being unemployed while I was in the program, and taking out a loan. It seemed like so many risks at the time, but now I can see it was totally worth it.
Is there anything else you’d like to include in this piece?
Just that, for anybody who’s looking to do this, just do it! It's all about learning to "trust the process." Trust your school. General Assembly has an awesome coaching program, and they truly care about their students. I don't know where I’d be if it weren’t for my coach. We still meet even now just to check in, and our coach is always there for us.
My other advice will be to start connecting with your local tech community; it will go very far. Start working with with them and volunteering, so people start noticing you. It's hard to get a job right away, but sometimes it makes a difference if people see how much you are willing to learn or help others.