Making Childhood Dreams a Reality with CWRU Coding Boot Camp

Dana Shelton builds web applications for a medical company that helps change lives—a dream she’d always wanted but never thought she could achieve. 

“From a young age, I was fortunate enough to understand that I wanted to be a designer when I grew up,” she said. 

After earning a visual communications degree in 2008, Shelton enjoyed a successful design career, working primarily in publishing and marketing roles, and even taking her talents to Germany for a while with the U.S. Department of Defense. But she knew needed to shift her focus to coding as the print industry became difficult to continue thriving in. 

As a single mother with two young sons to support, Shelton knew the decision to reskill was not an easy one, but it ended up taking her to an unexpected place of career fulfillment. At a time where she felt most professionally vulnerable, she pinned her hopes on the Case Western Reserve University Coding Boot Camp. The decision to enroll was a game-changer. Here’s how it impacted Shelton’s life. 

Drawing the last straw

As a visual designer, Shelton felt like her luck just kept running out. In 2010, she and her brother tried to start a company—but it fizzled out, as they had trouble communicating their ideas to developers. 

“I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to execute on my own,” said Shelton. “But I couldn’t—it just wasn’t feasible to do everything alone.” 

After taking some time off to care for her younger son, she ended up accepting a job that felt to her as though she were taking steps back instead of forward. The environment was authority-heavy—restroom breaks were clocked; employees were written up for getting a drink of water outside scheduled break times—and the pay was paltry. Shelton finally decided enough was enough.

“I chose to enroll in CWRU Coding Boot Camp because I was looking to change,” she said. “I knew that what was going to be on the other side was more worth it than where I stood.”

Staying at it—even through hard times

Although not completely new to programming, Shelton understood there were definite gaps in her knowledge as the boot camp progressed. 

“There were weeks where I thought I’ve got this! It all makes sense!” she said. “And inevitably, four days later, I would be at a total loss. The pace was always very fast, so I really applied myself to make sure that I stayed on top of it.”

Working full-time with two young children, Shelton was operating 18 to 20 hours a day for six months. “I had to tell my friends and family that I couldn’t attend anything,” she said. “I made the decision to make sacrifices in the short term so that I could eventually benefit from the work.”

Tapping into the benefits of teamwork

Despite her personal hurdles, Shelton pushed through her classes with the support of her classmates. Together, they worked on their final projects for boot camp, in preparation for Demo Day. 

“I’m usually a lone wolf when it comes to working,” said Shelton. “But in this instance, I felt as though we all needed each other—we were all in the same boat.”

Shelton accepted that she couldn’t do everything on her own. Although the team dynamic felt unfamiliar to her, she embraced her work with unbridled determination when creating her favorite project, Muber. The app targets those who need help transporting their items when moving locations. 

“It was very cool,” said Shelton. “We worked extremely hard to get the whole project completed in nine days—and we did! It was an extraordinary experience.”

Stepping into a new phase of life

Shelton began focusing fully on job applications—with full intent to put her new boot camp skills to the test. She used the CWRU boot camp’s vast range of resources to refine her interviewing skills

These resources helped lead her to an interview at software engineering start-up Talis Clinical, LLC. After getting into a heated debate with the CEO over a topic, she thought it had gone all wrong. Despite her fears, the company reached out to her the following Monday, offering her a job. Her passion and extensive portfolio had left a lasting impression on the company, who realized she could be a real asset to the team. 

“In my current job, I now design products that are literally matters of life and death,” she said. “I honestly can’t measure the value of having an impact on humanity. It feels incredible to be making such a difference.” 

Previously, Shelton was tired of constantly feeling like she was screaming ideas into an indifferent void. Now, every day at work, she’s able to have a real say and to help others. 

Shelton has reached and gone beyond her dreams. She has become the designer she always hoped to be; more importantly, she is making a huge impact pioneering change in the healthcare industry.

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