Q&A with Turing Alum: Aurora Ziobrowski

Aurora and Luis hard at work.

We asked 1708 Back End alumna Aurora Ziobrowski, who graduated in March of 2018, to share why she chose Turing, lessons learned while in the program, and advice she has for anyone considering making the leap.

What Was Your Career Prior to Turing?

I was an educator. I did Teach for America in the DC region, and stayed at my placement school for 5 years. I then became a math instructional specialist for two years, and after I moved to Denver, I was an assistant principal for two more years.

Why Did You Choose Turing?

I liked that the program is longer than almost any other. I was also able to talk to other people who had gone through Turing, and everyone I spoke to was extremely satisfied with their experience. Above all else though, I was really drawn to Turing’s goals and approach — the social justice aspect, the mission to provide the opportunity for people to completely reshape their lives, the commitment to raising the profile of underrepresented groups in tech, and their transparency in terms of reporting student outcomes. I also believe that Turing’s non-profit status puts their money where their mouth is, in a manner of speaking. I think it’s a clear indicator that the school’s purpose is not profit at the expense of people trying to do better for themselves — it really is just to provide the best experience possible for students. And it’s worth noting that there can be a difference between why you’d choose Turing and the reality — but in this case, I really felt that all of those expectations were more than fulfilled.

On that note, while it’s good to talk about why I initially thought Turing might be a good fit, I’d also note that it’s potentially even more meaningful to name the reasons for why, in hindsight, I’m so glad I chose Turing.

1) The curriculum: the curriculum for both programs is really comprehensive, and I actually really like that it’s not “full-stack.” I think Turing could market itself as such, since students learn aspects of the opposite program in the last 6 week mod (e.g. backend learns frontend and frontend learns backend), and it’s pretty cool to see how quickly you can pick up an unfamiliar technology, once you have strong foundations. But it’s really helpful to have a focus on one aspect vs. the other, since there’s so much to learn in either program, and I think that trying to do both equally would sacrifice the quality of learning. Above all else, Turing focuses on teaching strong coding practices and principles that apply to any job — for what it’s worth, plenty of Turing backend grads get jobs in front-end or full-stack positions, and vice versa.

2) The reputation/network: the community is just amazing. The school is completely built around fostering a positive, supportive, and respectful community, and you’ll get that at all layers — your classmates in your cohort will turn into some of your best friends, the staff is outstanding as a whole, and the network is phenomenal. I was so surprised at how kind and helpful practically everyone is. There are hundreds of Turing alumni out there, all over the world, at so many different companies, and the vast majority feel a real sense of loyalty to the program for the opportunities it provided. Everybody’s so willing to help out with questions, mentoring, job opportunities, etc, and you’ll always run into someone you know at a tech meet-up.

Turing also has a very good reputation amongst the tech community in Denver — once a company has hired one grad, they almost always hire more, and you’ll hear from people often how impressed they were with Turing grads. I can attest to that personally — I’ve been granted interviews just by my status as a Turing grad, and able to skip code challenges during interview processes because the employer was so confident that Turing grads have strong foundational skills.

3) On that note, the instruction is exceptional at preparing students for work in the real world. There’s a ton of teaching and tech experience amongst the staff, and you’ll hear that it’s designed to teach you not just how to code, but how to learn to code. You’ll be guided, but there’s not a lot of hand-holding, so you’ll learn the process for how to figure things out on your own, too. I actually got a job and started working before I graduated, and I was able to be immediately productive — literally contributing code on my first day. And several of my classmates are working in other languages, and were able to pick them up quickly, because of the nature of Turing’s teaching style — the “learning how to learn” principle.

4) Turing is not perfect, as of course nothing is, but it is truly dedicated to continuous improvement — there’s a very active Student Advisory Board that meets every week with a staff liaison, there are frequent (arguably, painfully frequent) surveys, designed to elicit students’ feedback, there are weekly retros to reflect with staff and with your cohort-mates, and any feedback that’s given is taken into account and implemented whenever possible. I saw lots of initiatives change/get added/get removed as a result of student feedback, just in the 7 months I was there, and a lot more since then.

I probably sound like I got paid for this, but I promise that my only motivation (in writing this at 11pm on a Friday night) is just that I found taking the leap to start Turing difficult (for any number of financial and lifestyle reasons), and I honestly had a pretty comfortable, stable life before. But deciding to make that leap is among the best things I’ve ever done for myself. Turing has given me the opportunity to completely change my life in a couple major ways: 1) I honestly love the work that I do — I’m legitimately excited to show up on Monday morning. 2) I’ve built some incredible relationships throughout Turing, and will forever be grateful for those. 3) For me, a huge factor in switching careers was work/life balance, and I think software development jobs are awesome for that. Most software jobs provide a really good balance between time/flexibility and getting paid well, so you can finally do the all things you’ve been putting off for years due to a lack of either resource, and that’s been very exciting to see.

What is the #1 Skill You Need to Succeed at Turing?

With transparency, learning to code is challenging, and Turing is intense, so growth mindset is a necessary skill. If you come to Turing, you’ll hear more about this — but it’s the idea that developing skills is kind of like working out at the gym. We rarely start learning something with prodigal skill, so things are usually hard and miserable at first. Growth mindset is recognizing and believing that if you stick with it, it will grow essentially like a muscle — it will be gradual and likely not without some pain, but you are essentially statistically guaranteed to improve. It’s pretty cool, once you get used to thinking that way…

Meet Aurora!

What Advice Would You Provide a Prospective Student?

As with most things, you get out of Turing what you put in. And Turing is a big commitment, so I recommend that if you’re going to go for it, put in your all. That can manifest in a lot of different ways — it can be time spent coding, but it can also mean things like how many questions you ask in class, whether you reach out to classmates/mentors/instructors, whether you provide support to others, how open you are at your weekly retros with your cohort, whether you participate in community groups/events, etc. My advice is to invest yourself in as much of that as you can, because in my experience, the more you commit, the more positivity you come away with.

Whatever a prospective student’s motivation may be, I hope that this short novel helps others to feel comfortable in making the leap as well, because everyone deserves this opportunity.