Marty Nelson, CEO and Chief Alchemist at Alchemy Code Lab modeled their careers curriculum based on what graduates can expect from today’s tech industry. Marty shares what the careers curriculum covers and how students can apply their past “career capital” to their new tech career. Find out the typical job titles and salaries of today’s Alchemy grads, and how Alchemy’s free Developer 101 course gives students a leg up in the immersive coding bootcamp.
Meet Our Expert: Marty Nelson, Co-Founder, CEO, and Chief Alchemist at Alchemy
We've found that job attainment is a skill that students need to practice over time, and so our career team breaks that preparation down into a series of manageable tasks. Career services start at the beginning and are woven throughout — students typically attend a career development class every week.
As a member of our career team Ruthie Ditzler explains, “By exploring their intrinsic motivation for becoming software developers, understanding their natural strengths, and practicing how to articulate the ways in which their past professional experience would benefit a dev team, students integrate how they're growing as technologists into a holistic view of how they'll contribute as employees.”
What does it mean to be “job ready” at Alchemy?
For us, "job ready" is being able to make production-quality contributions to the work that needs to be done, with a high degree of professionalism and value-oriented focus. Job ready also means being able use that first job to acclimate to the industry and launch a career. Our goal is not just to get students any job, but to help them launch a really successful career. We aim for students to be moving into senior or leadership roles within 2-3 years of attaining their first tech job.
The career curriculum at Alchemy is rooted in empowering students to have agency in selecting the type of companies that they would like to work for and seeking the types of roles they want. We teach students how to apply for any open developer roles, rather than limiting themselves to only entry-level internship or or apprenticeship options.
The career curriculum is geared towards managing the full arc of networking, applying, interviewing, and job negotiation. Since students evolve throughout the program, the curriculum is tailored to where they are on their journey.
What can students expect from Alchemy’s Tech Talks?
On most Fridays, Alchemy has an industry expert speak with our students on a variety of topics, typically with a heavy technical bent. From a career development perspective, it's our way of bringing networking connection points to students, giving them an opportunity to interact with and get to know people in the industry.
We also find that the Tech Talks are a real confidence boost for our students, especially when they are following the content presented during the talk. The Tech Talks foster a sense of belonging that they are peers with those giving the talks and acclimates them to those peers. It helps people overcome imposter syndrome and embrace being a technologist.
How did Alchemy update the career prep resources since 2020 in order to meet the demands of the current tech market?
Since 2020, tech companies are embracing remote work, so students need to be versed in online tools like Zoom, Slack, and those used for whiteboard and code collaboration. They also need to be able to project an engaged, capable presence online. A real-time online coding bootcamp requires people to be comfortable and able to work online with others. Even a hybrid model can offer these critical professional skills, like being comfortable on video, and screen sharing your code and technical projects. It can be painfully obvious to interviewers when the interviewee has never used Zoom in this way, and can raise doubts about an otherwise great candidate.
We also realized that students need to be able to network in communities beyond their geographical location. As the pandemic shifted work online, it opened up possibilities for where that perfect company could be.
Did the pandemic affect the job search of Alchemy grads?
Our 2022 grads have placement times in line with or better than Alchemy’s pre-pandemic hiring and salary outcomes.
Our decision to embrace real-time, virtual learning early in 2020 actually gave our students an edge when applying for roles because they knew how to code and collaborate professionally using virtual tools before other people were comfortable interviewing and working remotely. We did see average time job seeking fluctuate as companies went through waves of delayed hiring or holding off to see how the economy reacted to the pandemic.
Alchemy focuses on students who want to be software engineers and developers, particularly those who want to create solutions for human- and business-centered problems, using a modern tech stack. Our typical grads want to be makers and doers, which is reflected in the fact that over 90% of our graduates land roles where writing code is an essential day-to-day part of their job.
The vast majority of Alchemy grads don't have “junior” in their title. They land roles as:
We credit this to the “walk in the front door” philosophy at Alchemy which imbues graduates with the confidence to go in and get the job they want.
What is the typical median salary for Alchemy graduates?
Since 2019, Alchemy grads have maintained a median first salary of $80,000.
How much time should Alchemy students expect to be on the job search?
Historically, more than half (nearly 60%) of our employed grads spend three months or less job seeking. Another 25% spend three to six months job seeking, and for the remainder it’s six to twelve months.
So many of our students have made incredible changes by enrolling at Alchemy, and we support them through whatever that time frame is for them. We’ve supported the career goals of a single mom who went from couch surfing to buying a home for her children after bootcamp. We’ve seen our grads quickly move into leadership roles and/or land a six-figure job.
One of the first students I ever taught at Alchemytook over a year to get their first tech job because they were suffering through severe depression and mental health issues. We kept in touch, helped them with code reviews and gave them a job recommendation, and around a year after bootcamp graduation, they landed a job and went on to become a lead at that company! I'm still super proud of this individual and what they overcame to get into that first job.
Alchemy proudly maintains strong relationships with local and national employers, built both by our own initiatives and those of our extremely active alumni community. We are constantly building new employer connections in different states, oftentimes prompted by where our graduates land.
We've also had the luxury of companies reaching out to us solely based on our reputation. It's always a welcome surprise to get a call from someone you don't directly know, but they know someone at another company who's hired our grads and knows they’re qualified tech contributors.
A couple of standouts in our employer network are:
We’re currently developing strategic employer partnerships, which will allow us to have more explicit relationships with employers.
Our technical interview prep takes into account what employers are looking for, what stands out as red flags, and how graduates can remove any cause for an employer to doubt their ability as a technologist. We feature non-technical behavioral interview practice and star methodology, and each student does both technical and non-technical mock interviews with industry professionals.
Our technical interviewing prep includes data structures, algorithms, and whiteboarding. From there, we build awareness of syntactic and semantic coding, as well as idiomatic (eg. how do people in the industry write code). We also focus on small-scale problem-solving, including online code challenges, and think of those like the daily crossword for your technical interview skills.
A common misconception with technical interviews is that it's usually not about getting the right answer. Employers want to see how someone works through what they don’t know and how they explain their thought process. While there are companies that pride themselves on being highly technical and might assign a complex algorithm question in an interview, we mostly see employers that don't want to gatekeep through artificially hard problems.
Employers are looking for exhibited coding sensibilities, which we prepare students for through practice.
Employers are looking for technologists who can use a modern tech stack to build things; have strong coding sensibilities and are able to write maintainable code that is clean and consistent; can code for humans, not just computers; who are thoughtful and intentional in how they write and edit code.
For new folks entering the tech industry, it’s helpful to know that code is updated far more than it's written, so most of your work will be expanding existing projects. Beyond the technical skills, I think employers are really looking for people who aren't just coders — they're looking for technologists, creators, and independent problem-solvers. They want people who can engage collaboratively with their development and business peers in crafting meaningful software solutions to the problems that the company is trying to address.
What do employers like about Alchemy Code Lab graduates?
One of my favorite compliments I receive from employers is how much they appreciate Alchemy grads as humans. Our graduates are real people and employers get to see that because we teach them to present not only their technical skills, but all of their strengths and transferable skills. Many of our grads have a high level of career capital, familiarity with navigating different professional spaces, industry-specific experience or different business skills, which, in combination with strong baseline technical skills, is appealing to employers.
We've also heard that employers like the diversity of our students. For employers that are used to hiring computer science college grads, they find the diversity of our students refreshing.
How can bootcamp grads assess if a company is the right fit for them?
It really depends on the individual, but there are two main factors:
Alchemy students graduate with a minimum of four full-stack projects that they build entirely from scratch. These projects are well coded; use architectures and designs that are more indicative of larger production projects; and are clean, consistent, and have a good flow and rhythm to their code.
A graduate told me that they received an interview over other engineers simply because they were so disciplined about how they coded their project. We also make sure to help students with their professional online presence on GitHub because it’s an opportunity to showcase their most important pieces to potential employers.
For those grads on the tech job hunt, what is your advice for incorporating their past work and education experiences into their elevator pitch, cover letter, or resume?
Most of our incoming students have accumulated what we call "career capital" in their prior jobs. They don't want to feel like they're starting over by transitioning into tech. They want to be valued in roles doing meaningful work that challenges them.
With that in mind, these are our three top tips:
Absolutely! Our alumni are part of a supportive community for life, and our recent graduates receive an especially high level of support. That may include accountability check-ins, referring someone to an interesting company, reviewing a cover letter, strategizing for a particular job, or code reviews. We'll even proactively reach out to people we haven't heard from in a while.
Classes may end after graduation, but our active support from the staff and Alchemy’s community doesn't ever end. We really want every graduate to be successful.
Are there career benefits for students who complete Alchemy’s Developer 101 course?
Developer 101 gives people an understanding of basic software development activities, and helps them determine if software development is actually something they want to do as a career. Developer 101 covers Git, GitHub, and VS code. More than just teaching the tools, it showcases how tools work together to fit into the bigger picture of developing web solutions.
Starting a new career is a big decision and as any of Alchemy’s grads will tell you, takes a lot of hard work before it begins to pay off. Completing Developer 101 before enrolling in the bootcamp is a good gut check and gives you a leg up to get started. It’s also an opportunity to meet our career advocates and ask questions about this career or what kind of career support you want in a coding bootcamp.
What advice do you have for incoming students on making the most of the bootcamp experience?
Since starting Alchemy, I’ve seen many grads put a lot of pressure on themselves. To anybody out there doing an immersive boot camp program: You are so brave. It takes a lot of courage to change your life in this way! The reality of enrolling at a bootcamp and making a career change is that you will fail at coding sometimes and you won’t get every job you apply for. What helps is having a community to support you through that process. At Alchemy, we are here to stick by our students and be there when they need help picking themselves up and move forward.
Find out more and read Alchemy reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Alchemy.
Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps.
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