From Coffee, Tea, or Me to Ruby: A flight attendant’s journey to becoming a software engineer.

Danira Cortez
6 min readOct 26, 2020


21 weeks. 21 weeks, that’s how long I was a part of Flatiron’s Software Engineering Bootcamp. Granted the in-person (aka online due to Covid) program is 15 weeks long but we’ll get there. Also, Coffee, Tea or Me is the title of a fictitious book about flight attendants, however the title stuck in the industry….but just in case I have to make it clear…I have never sold or offered myself to passengers (no shame in it but just not my style). Now that that is out of the way…my journey.

I was celebrating Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, worked a couple weeks, and then the world shut down! The airline industry was one of the first to feel the impact of Covid, and still does with thousands of flight attendants and pilots being furloughed on October 1st. At the time, I had no idea what the timeline on furloughs would be or if they would happen at all. I, however, did not like that my future was out of my control. In the back of my mind I always knew that if another terrorist attack involving planes happened I’d be out of the job but a global pandemic had never crossed my mind. Once I realized that it would last more than a couple months I started to look for other options. Questions raced through my head, ‘What am I good at?’, ‘What would I enjoy doing?’, ‘What industry isn’t being impacted?’, ‘If I am unemployed who would hire me?’. I had always been in customer service and anything customer service related was out of the question.

I was constantly bouncing ideas off of other flight attendants, when one mentioned that she was about to start a software engineering bootcamp. I was immediately intrigued! After bombarding her with questions for an hour I started to look into it myself. The best advice I was given at the time was to try a free online program to see if I actually liked coding. I had never done anything even close to it and on paper a flight attendant and a software engineer seem to be complete opposites! I have learned that there are many qualities that transition between these two job titles. For starters, a self starter, being able to get up (regardless of the time) and be able to not just do your job, but do it well is important. Especially now with the WFH situation, working under little to no supervision is a must! Flight attendants are the most adaptable people I know! Time zones, mechanical/weather delays, reroute, emergencies? You name it, we adjust. What can I say, handling stress (whether our own or other’s) is our forte!

Speaking of others, we are great at interacting with a wide range of people. Actually we thrive on it! So whether it’s involves working with your team or another department, we’re ready! Communication, communication, communication. I don’t even know if I can explain how important this is in both roles! Being able to express an idea or vision, describe a problem, relay information correctly, and how you communicate it, may be one of the most important qualities both professions share. Without proper communication projects may not come out the way they’re expected, pilots may not realize there is a medical emergency that requires a diversion, words may get misinterpreted, and other situations that may have very costly consequences. Finally, problem solving. Both in coding and flying you encounter problems everyday, whether it is a bug or seating a family that is split up on a full flight together. Being able to come up with practical solutions is necessary! Many times it requires thinking outside the box, or viewing the problem from a different perspective.

After submitting my application I had a personal interview, in which Flatiron determined if I would be a ‘good fit’ for their program. Following the personal interview, a technical interview was scheduled. For the technical interview I had to work on their Bootcamp Prep until I completed the Deli Counter lab, which is what they use for the technical interview. During the interview the tech coach and I went over my code, talked about what I had struggled with, how I came to my solution, and she answered any questions I had about coding and their program. Once I had successfully completed my technical interview I was enrolled in the program and assigned their Pre-Course Homework. The minimum that has to be completed before starting the program is Hashketball, since that lab is reviewed on the first day of class. I highly recommend that you take the time to learn the material as you go through it, as Mod 1 will start where the labs end.

The course consists of 5 mods, each 3 weeks long. The first week can be very overwhelming as a ton of information is dumped on you and you’re working hard to get through the labs. The second week is more lectures and labs, but you also have a code challenge to complete. If you are successful, you can focus on learning and labs. If, however, you do not pass you have a second attempt at the code challenge. If you still do not pass after the second attempt you are given the option to either retake the mod or do a solo project. Third week is project week. Each mod you are paired with new people (unless you are doing a solo project) and together you build your project, presenting it on Friday. This is for all mods except mod5, in which you have 3 weeks to build your own application.

Once you get the hang of this cycle, learning the information is a little bit more manageable. The first thing I would recommend is starting the labs as soon as possible! With all the workload and lectures it is very easy to start to fall behind. Between starting the labs early, using your time in class wisely, and spending a couple hours after class working on labs you can keep up with the speed of the bootcamp. I also found it very beneficial to work with those in my cohort. It is interesting to see how others write their code, have them explain their thought process, and provides another learning opportunity. In addition, helping others with an area they’re struggling with and you know helps reinforce your understanding. By doing all this I was able to pass all of my mods.

Flatiron does offer the option to repeat, whether it is because you do not pass or because you choose to. Although I passed mod3, which is where we learned Java Script, I didn’t feel like I had enough practice with it. I understood the concept and my instructor thought that I knew enough to continue, but I didn’t want to continue if I didn’t feel confident in the language. To be fair, if you are new to this, you may never feel completely confident as it is fast-paced and you only have 3 weeks to practice what you learn. When you repeat a mod by choice you have to take into consideration the fact that you will be extending the bootcamp by 6 weeks, whether or not this will add or take away from your learning experience, and how you will use this time to build on your knowledge.

How do you know a bootcamp is for you? How much time are you willing to invest? I didn’t have the luxury of going back to school for computer science. I needed something that would teach me a new skill and fast. What is your learning style? Can you handle a heavy workload that involves some lectures, many labs you do on your own, and that is mostly self-driven? How committed will you be? 15 weeks, 9 to 6, Monday through Friday, with some time outside of class is a lot! Realistically is that something you can handle? Then there is the cost. At the time I took the course it was $15,000, which in my opinion is a lot of money. Is that an amount you’re willing to pay? How does that compare to paying for a 4 year college? What other options are there? Taking all these into consideration and being honest with yourself will give you your answer. For me, deciding to do a bootcamp was the best choice I could have made!



Danira Cortez

Software Engineer | React, JavaScript, Ruby on Rails | Seeking job opportunities