Written By Liz Eggleston
Insiten is a small financial tech shop in Atlanta, but they’ve integrated innovative hiring, training and upskilling practices that a lot of large companies have yet to adopt. So far, CEO Adam Trien has hired 8 software engineers from Atlanta-based DigitalCrafts and is even funding one of his current employees to upskill at the DigitalCrafts Full Stack Flex Program. See what Insiten is looking for in a new hire, the three qualities that stand out in DigitalCrafts applicants, and why his team chooses to invest in and nurture junior talent.
Tell us about Insiten, your role, and your responsibility for hiring developers.
I am the founder and CEO of Insiten, a software development shop. We help transform companies whose organizations were managed with offline processes and unstructured data (ie. through Excel, PowerPoint, emails, or a shared drive) with online cloud-based solutions focused on collaboration and advanced analytics. We empower our clients to boost their efficiency and make better business decisions.
Insiten is a rapidly growing startup. We celebrated our one-year anniversary in November and have recently hired our eleventh employee.
Tell us about hiring your first DigitalCrafts alum – was there any hesitation hiring a coding bootcamp grad?
Our first engagement was with a large, multi-national client and we needed to staff up quickly. I attempted to hire through my past network of developers but that was falling flat. I approached a local Atlanta-based tech recruiter and one of the first candidates they sent me was Eli, a DigitalCrafts graduate. When I received his resume, I was a little disappointed. Although Eli had a great deal of work experience, he had never held a software development job. I was looking for seasoned developers with at least a few years of real-world experience. But in the end, Eli demonstrated impressive technical capabilities and has been a huge asset to the team. His demonstrated success helped pave the way for future bootcamp hires.
As a Microsoft shop, do the technologies that DigitalCrafts grads learn completely align with what you need from a developer? Or do they have to ramp up?
One thing that makes Insiten unique compared to traditional Microsoft development shops is that we are using leading-edge UI frameworks like Angular and React to develop our solutions. Our engineers spend 90% of their time building the user interface that sits on top of underlying Microsoft cloud technologies. This aligns perfectly with the skills that DigitalCrafts provides their students.
What roles specifically have you hired DigitalCrafts graduates into? Are they doing pure software engineering?
Everyone we've hired has the title of Software Engineer. However, we value candidates with diverse skills and experiences.
So far, we have hired a former lawyer, someone with a master’s degree in Data Visualization, and several Georgia Tech grads. One of our hires had corporate experience with Accenture, Coke, and Disney; others were graphic designers.
Thinking about the eight DigitalCrafts grads that you’ve hired, what stood out about them? Why did they get the job?
We really had to put a lot of thought into hiring nontraditional employees (ie. bootcamp grads) because it's not the same as hiring an experienced developer who has references and past employers.
We don't expect a bootcamp grad to be a senior developer, but they should have a solid understanding of the core technologies that they've learned at DigitalCrafts.
Sometimes, alumni stand out because of their final projects. For example, one woman, Yingrong, programmed Alexa as part of her final project. We love combining different technologies and APIs, so her skills stood out. During the interview, she programmed Alexa to pronounce “Insiten” on the fly. It demonstrated that she had a strong command of the technology.
What really excites me about the candidates from DigitalCrafts is their passion for technology and their desire to continue growing and learning on the job as well as on their own.
Do your new hires go through a technical interview?
We are looking for candidates who think on their feet, work well with others, and respond positively to peer reviews and design decisions.
We do “mob interviewing” where a room full of employees ask questions of the candidate. Some candidates may find this intimidating, but it gives us insights into how well they work on a team.
We give applicants a week to complete a coding challenge and then ask them to demo what they have built. We go under the covers and ask questions about their design decisions. We try to find bugs in the code and then work together on identifying a fix for the issue.
We also give candidates a user interface design to implement and an algorithm question to test their logic skills.
Have you hired from any other coding bootcamps?
We have hired from other bootcamps but DigitalCrafts has definitely been our go to. Other bootcamps are typically three-month programs and broadly cover a wide range of technologies whereas DigitalCrafts is a four-month program that focuses more deeply on a smaller set of technologies. DigitalCrafts stresses smaller class sizes and does more project work than other bootcamps. DigitalCrafts grads are ready to hit the ground running.
The alumni network at DigitalCrafts is strong. DigitalCrafts hosts alumni events to provide ongoing training and networking opportunities. They invite Insiten to demo days and we are often asked to give guest lectures. At one presentation, we talked about a typical day-in-the-life of a developer; at another, I spoke about how to go from being a junior developer to the CEO of a startup.
Can you give us an idea of what projects the DigitalCrafts developers are working on at Insiten?
Right now, we are working with the merger and acquisition team at a Big-4 accounting firm to help them build software for their clients executing transformational acquisitions and divestitures. A lot of planning is involved in these transactions. We are building software to help those companies define their future state and understand the financial implications thereof.
In addition to hiring from DigitalCrafts, how does DigitalCrafts help you keep your current employees learning and growing?
We recently hired someone with a background in analytics who needed additional training to enhance his software development skills. We could not afford to lose this full-time employee for four months of training. I reached out to DigitalCrafts and he is now enrolled in their newly launched night/weekend executive program.
Do you think that he'll be ready to start deploying code when he graduates?
We have already been able to expand his role and he is now responsible for processing QA bugs on one of our projects. Before the class, he would just look at a bug and assign it to a developer. Now he is often able to figure out a solution independently.
He's got a great advantage because he works in a software development shop. After class, he's able to ask us questions, show us what he's working on, and we're able to give him direction. It is really exciting to see him start to pick up these technical skills.
Does Insiten pay for that DigitalCrafts class for him?
We are paying for the class, and that’s an investment we decided to make as a company. We incentivize our employees through various bonuses and benefits, so this class is part of his package.
Hiring a developer is not easy; why retrain a current employee vs just hiring a developer?
We try to hire great people with positive attitudes and strong analytical skills. Sometimes we decide to hire employees to meet some of our immediate needs and then find ways to upskill them.
What advice do you have for other employers who are considering hiring from a coding bootcamp or from DigitalCrafts?
Have a really thorough interview process. Bootcamp grads typically have portfolio sites and project sites that an employer can review before scheduling an interview. Validate that the candidate has a deep understanding of the technology and assess if they will be a good fit for your team.
You should also invest in developing a solid onboarding process. We have detailed documentation of our infrastructure, branching policies, software development life cycle, best practices, code snippets etc. We assign new hires a mentor when they start for however long they need.
We have hired incredibly strong people out of bootcamps, and after a couple of weeks they are ready to work on their own. Having senior developers who can help with code reviews is a big part of how we train by giving new hires continuous feedback to improve their skills and techniques.
We also invest in continued education and provide budgets for attending conferences. We bring in a professional trainer two days a week (he actually used to teach at DigitalCrafts). He performs code reviews and peer coding, and works one-on-one with the team to “level-up” their skills.
Liz Eggleston is co-founder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students choosing a coding bootcamp.
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