Co-founder and CTO of app demo company AppOnboard, Adam Piechowicz, recently hired a LearningFuze coding bootcamp grad as a multi-disciplinary Creative Engineer. And get this – the grad scored above average on the technical interview, making him a no-brainer hire. Learn about the differences Adam sees between the LearningFuze grad and traditional hires, how AppOnboard supports new hires to learn many new technologies, and why Adam plans to hire more coding bootcampers in future.
What does AppOnboard do and how did you come up with the idea? Describe your day-to-day role.
AppOnboard makes the highest quality, full-fidelity demos of games and apps using patent-pending technology. We also provide next-generation heatmap analytics with the goal of helping developers have an easier time gaining insights into and optimizing key parts of their apps. Our early partners are also finding we have excellent performance as a user acquisition platform.
The idea came about from discussions between our co-founders about the pain points and direction of mobile development, and what we could do to make things easier given our extensive backgrounds in ad tech and game development. AppOnboard is a little over a year old.
As co-founder and CTO of a startup, my day-to-day responsibilities range all across the spectrum. I’m making high-level decisions involving when to integrate a platform or service versus developing our own solution. I’m making hiring decisions. I’m writing or approving every line of code that we ship and I’m even providing direct technical support to our integrated partners.
How many LearningFuze graduates have you hired? How did you get connected with LearningFuze?
We’ve hired one LearningFuze graduate so far, Sloan Tash. We connected with LearningFuze through a previous relationship with one of their employees.
What specific role did you hire the LearningFuze graduate for?
Sloan was hired to fill a dual-purpose role as a “Creative Engineer”, someone who creates our demo experiences using proprietary in-house tools, and as a Junior Programmer.
Other than LearningFuze, how do you usually hire developers? What are you looking for in a new hire? Do you notice differences in hiring from a bootcamp?
We also hire through traditional channels such as LinkedIn, Indeed, etc. Typically we’re looking for passion and continued learning because a lot of our focus is on cutting edge tech whether it’s the newest iOS features or augmented/virtual reality.
We haven’t worked with any other coding bootcamps yet. But in my experience, the most notable difference amongst bootcamp candidates is this feeling of team spirit. They have a camaraderie with the students in their bootcamp program, and it transfers readily to the new team environment.
Did the LearningFuze grad that you hired go through a technical interview? Have you tweaked the application process for non-traditional applicants (like bootcampers) at all?
Yes, all applicants go through a technical interview. Sloan scored above average on the technical interview. The process isn’t tweaked for non-traditional applicants, but I do make sure to give non-traditional applicants a chance to explain how their other experience and skills can potentially benefit us as a company.
Did you have to convince your team (or even yourself!) to hire a bootcamper? Did you have any hesitation?
I did have to convince one of the executives a bit. Personally, I value self-taught/motivated programming skills as much as academic-style ones. They both bring a useful perspective and it’s good to have a mix on your team.
One of the biggest concerns we hear from bootcamp alumni is how they’ll be supported in continuing to learn in their first jobs. How do you ensure that the new hires are supported in that way? Do you have mentoring or apprenticeship programs in place?
Part of the benefit for me in hiring this role through a bootcamp was knowing I’d be getting someone eager to expand his or her skill set and with a proven track record of doing it. I’ve been assigning tasks to Sloan to push him to continue learning, with the understanding that I know he’s not an expert in all of them and that learning is an expected and potentially time-consuming part of the process. Usually for a new skill, I or another expert (if available) will take a couple hours helping get the ball rolling with mentoring, but for the most part I’m counting on that learning to be self-directed.
I do also allow a portion of time per week to be devoted to skills development independent of that task-oriented learning.
Since you started hiring from the bootcamp, has your new hire moved up or been promoted? Or do you anticipate that they will?
We’re small enough at this stage that titles and promotions are still informal but since being hired, Sloan has taken on more responsibilities than I anticipated. One noteworthy example is him taking an important role in creating and maintaining the reporting system that we send out to our clients explaining their financial results, which is some delicate business. I anticipate he will continue to grow!
Do you have a feedback loop with LearningFuze? Are you able to influence their curriculum if you notice your dev hires are underqualified in a certain area?
I do communicate with the management at LearningFuze to give feedback. I like the way they continue to evolve and improve their curriculum.
Will you hire from this bootcamp in the future?
I would hire from LearningFuze again. It’s been a very positive experience. The position was a tricky one to fill and we found a very appropriate candidate who has exceeded expectations.
What is your advice to other employers who are thinking about hiring from a coding bootcamp or LearningFuze in particular?
I’d absolutely recommend looking to bootcamps for candidates for non-traditional roles that need an unusual mix of skills, or an especial commitment to learning. The candidates I interviewed were all exceptionally passionate and generally above-average team players. Many are career-changers who can have surprisingly relevant backgrounds in audio/video, customer service, etc. They can also have weaknesses, typically where they’re less experienced in debugging or higher-level design considerations.
If you’re looking to add a bootcamp candidate in a more traditional role it’s important to make sure they’re a cultural fit with your team, because in a sense your office will become their new bootcamp. They’re going to have instincts to collaborate and learn and in some cases, a balance would have to be struck between quiet focus time and open team time.