Attending a coding bootcamp can be a ticket to a fulfilling new career as a software engineer. But while demand for developers is high, jobs aren’t just handed out at bootcamp graduations. As the Flatiron School's Career Services Commitment emphasizes: job placement is a team effort, but you need to treat getting a job like a job – keep learning; put yourself out there; you get out of it what you put into the process. Find out how four Flatiron School alumni successfully launched their new tech careers – and how you can use their tactics in your own job search.
With over a thousand students going through Flatiron School’s programs and starting new careers, we’ve had a front-row seat to how our alumni take the Commitment to heart. Time and time again, they go above and beyond, putting the creativity and outside-the-box thinking they demonstrated during our programs into the job search.
Here’s how Lucas, Kavan, Kristin, and Anna launched their new careers using a little creativity and a lot of dedication.
1. Git in there.
Lucas Moore graduated from Flatiron’s Online Web Developer Program in Denver – a city with a glut of bootcamp grads seeking jobs as junior developers. But Lucas employed a creative tactic to stand out to companies.
“The first thing I did for each company I was interested in was check out their GitHub account,” Lucas says. “I examined all their repos to see what technologies they use. The information is out there – this meant in interviews, I could ask highly specific questions about their tech stack instead of inquiring generally. Getting specific like this shows intense interest and allows you to use your limited time in an interview more wisely.”
When Lucas came across consumer tech company Ibotta’s GitHub account, he found an opportunity: a comment left within a test for a specific gem they use which said: “To do: Rewrite this test.” As Lucas describes it, “the test was basically empty and would automatically pass without truly testing anything. I did some research into what the gem accomplished; it was all about Geohashing. There turned out to be an issue with the bounding boxes on Geohashes and the limitations of an algorithm, which had been breaking down around the edges of the map.”
After taking the time to understand what he was looking at, Lucas spent a few hours writing tests that worked, published an updated version of the gem, and opened a well-articulated pull request. That was at around 3pm. As it turned out, that night Lucas was heading to a networking event hosted at Ibotta headquarters.
“I strolled into the party at 5:30 and struck up a conversation with a few employees – one of whom is now my boss. I mentioned that I had just submitted a pull request to one of their repos. He said, ‘That was you?!’ It seemed the whole dev team knew about it. I spent the night chatting with the team and, before I left, I asked them to introduce me to the internal recruiter (whose name I had already looked up). I got her card and promised her I’d be applying to an open position that night.”
In the end, Ibotta carved out a position (Platform Engineer) on their dev team for Lucas: “They said they weren’t actively hiring for that team, but they made space for me because I had so strongly demonstrated one of their company values: boldness.”
2. Research a company’s technology – then build something.
Flatiron iOS Developer Program alum Kavan Brandon had applied for a position at KeyMe, a robotics company that helps people copy keys and solve lockouts through key-copying kiosks and a mobile app. The kiosks and app utilize cutting-edge computer vision and machine learning technology to decipher what kind of key its customers need duplicated.
As Kavan says, “The concept of computer vision sounded incredibly interesting but seemed foreign to me as a beginning developer.” He had, however, interacted with applications using computer vision technology for analyzing roads and image enhancement, which provided a valuable foundation for learning more. “I decided to follow a few computer vision tutorials I found online and create a basic facial recognition app that detected the faces of my friends in a group photo I had on my phone.”
Kavan then gave a short demo of his app to his interviewers at KeyMe, explaining some of the new topics he learned during the development process. “Creating an application using technology I'd potentially be interacting with on the job displayed my capability to learn and ability to pick up concepts I was unfamiliar with. It was also fun learning something new!”
It also got Kavan the job – he now works as an iOS Developer for KeyMe.
3. Go beyond technical on your blog.
An important requirement in Flatiron’s Career Services Commitment to maintain a presence on your technical blog to show employers you’re adept at learning new concepts and communicating them. But there are also more creative ways to utilize your blog to impress a company. Take Kristin Donovan, an alumna of Flatiron's NYC Web Developer Program, who sought a job at Rochester’s creative agency Makeway after graduation.
“The last stage of the interview process was a freelance project and by the end of the project, I knew that I would really enjoy the job,” says Kristin. “They let me know that they were ready to make a decision and that it was down to me and two other people.” But Makeway had a concern: would Kristin be happy relocating from NYC to Rochester?
“The idea of relocating to a new city is pretty scary for a lot of people,” she said. “On top of that, there's a pretty huge difference between NYC and Rochester in terms of lifestyles.” But Kristin knew she was serious about the move – she just had to convince Makeway of that. After a quick brainstorming session with her Flatiron career counselor, Kristin realized she had a powerful tool at her disposal: her blog.
“I did some research into the Rochester area and wrote a blog post about some of things I was excited to do/try/experience once I moved up there,” Kristin says. “I wrote the owner a quick follow up email that addressed the concern about me being unhappy relocating and linked to my blog post. They called and offered me the job about two hours later.”
Kristin thinks that the blog post showed Makeway that she wasn’t just excited about the job, but the whole idea of living in Rochester, noting that Makeway puts “a huge focus on work/life balance.” She reflects, “Before the blog post, all of our interactions had been in interview settings, and, therefore, more formal. This was my opportunity to show a little bit more of my personality and the things I'm super passionate about outside of work. I think it helped to let them get to know me as a person, not just an employee.”
Kristin is now Lead Developer at Makeway.
4. Always Be Revising.
NYC Web Developer Program alumna Anna Rasshivkina undertook a code challenge when applying for (and ultimately accepting) an internship at Razorfish: “Choose two website elements (like a chart, a navigation menu, a user widget with numbers of likes and comments, etc.) from a PDF and create them from scratch. They didn't give any guidelines on how to build them, but I decided to use React, since I'd recently done a tutorial on it, and I wanted an opportunity to practice,” Anna says.
As her internship came to an end, a front-end developer role opened up at Razorfish for a rebuild of the Hyundai Canada website using React. According to Anna, “I'd learned a lot about styling during my internship, and I knew I could now take better advantage of the React framework.” So she took what she had learned and went back to refactor and improve upon her original code challenge.
They clearly liked what Anna built because they hired her for the job. So why not just build something from scratch? As Anna says, “I think revising past work is one of the best things you can do to impress an employer – it's more efficient than starting something from scratch, it shows off your skills, and maybe most importantly, it shows your commitment to growth and your ability to learn.”
So, if you’re a coding bootcamp grad beginning to approach the job search, just remember: the hard work isn’t over. But if you keep up the creative thinking you put into your studies, there’s an amazing career in store for you.
Find out more and read Flatiron School reviews on Course Report. Check out Flatiron School’s free online Bootcamp Course course, or apply to the NYC Web Developer or Online Web Developer Programs.
What Is An Apprenticeship?
Should you get paid? How do I turn this into a "real" job? Answers inside...
Are Coding Bootcamps Worth It?
The data says...
Employers' Attitudes to Coding Bootcamps
Fullstack Academy's David Yang looks at employers' evolving attitudes to coding bootcamp grads.