From Nordstrom to Groupon: How Claire Gibeau Made the Leap from High Fashion to High Tech
Claire Gibeau had been working in project management at fashion giant Nordstrom for several years. Much of her job required her to work with web developers, and their work fascinated her—but it was often out of reach.
“I wrote coding off as something foreign and beyond me,” said Claire. “It was an intimidating topic, as I had no experience in it.”
Little by little, Claire set out to understand the mysteries of technology and began to dip her toes into web development. She completed an online certification at Stanford University and realized that—just maybe—coding was more accessible than she thought.
As Claire began to feel more confident, she began to itch for a career change. She realized she could combine both project management and technology. It was with this mindset that she enrolled in the University of Washington Coding Boot Camp, ready to switch careers.
Keeping up with a new pace
Despite her certification, Claire felt like she was entering the boot camp as a true beginner. “I don’t think I could’ve physically put more time into my studies than I did,” she said. “The pace of boot camp was really challenging—it felt like the second I wrapped my head around one concept, the class had moved five lessons ahead.”
Nevertheless, Claire soon got used to the pace. During the program, she worked on various projects including an app called RecipEasy. The app allows users to easily look up recipes as well as to record notes and preferences. She also worked on an app called Study Buddy that linked individuals interested in studying similar topics with one another.
A favorite project was an app called Freebees, designed for people in the market to give away unwanted items for free. Instead of leaving items on a street corner, users can take pictures, craft descriptions, and share the location—making the hand-me-down treasures more findable.
“It was really great to be able to plan, code, and string together the different features of the project,” said Claire. “We took a great idea and made it tangible. I was able to exercise my passion and see the result.” The app was a success and was launched on Apple’s TestFlight.
Diving into the next career chapter
Throughout the boot camp, Claire received support from career services. She would regularly check-in when refining her LinkedIn profile and résumé. The career services team always provided useful feedback, insights on the job market, and assistance with the application process. “Having a career services advocate 100% made me a stronger job candidate by the end of the boot camp,” Claire says. “The key is to engage with them early. It is ultimately up to you to drive that relationship to get the most out of it.”
By the end, Claire had great connections, ample resources, and a stellar portfolio to show future employers, who were definitely impressed with everything she accomplished.
“Right after graduation, I took some time to solely focus on sending in job applications,” she said. “Within three weeks, I had nonstop interviews.”
The boot camp helped open doors for Claire to receive job offers across the educational, nonprofit, and technology sectors. She ultimately decided to accept a role with Groupon as a technical project manager—a highly competitive job that not just anyone could secure.
Taking advice to heart
If it wouldn’t have been for boot camp, Claire would have never felt so confident making a large switch in careers.
“Aside from the coding, a large part of what you learn in boot camp is networking,” said Claire. “I got to know people from different backgrounds, learn about different opportunities and industries, and gain clarity on my options with this new education.”
Even in her post-boot camp job search, Claire’s classmates were nothing but encouraging and supportive.
In her new role, Claire will be liaising with the engineering team at Groupon to complete projects. The company’s global presence means that Claire will work with engineers around the world to help execute Groupon’s business goals.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I’m confident that the skills I learned from the boot camp have prepared me for the challenging aspects of my work.”
Claire no longer feels like she’s one step behind. With her new job and a deep-rooted sense of accomplishment in coding, she’s achieved everything she could have hoped for.