Written By Jess Feldman
Parker went from being interested in coding to attending Codesmith and becoming a software engineer in less than a year! He shares what it was like landing his first tech role after graduating from a bootcamp and what he learned going into his second tech role with more experience and confidence in what he wanted from a job. Interviews are as much about you determining if the company is a good fit for you as they are about the company determining if you are a good fit for them! Plus, Parker lists questions you should ask in your job interviews and a tried-and-true job search strategy that landed him a full stack Software Engineer role at MUFG.
Tell us your career change timeline! How long did it take you to go from Codesmith student to your second tech role?
When you were starting your job search in 2022, how did you feel about the job market?
In early 2022, the job market was still really hot and I had a lot of inbounds coming in, which are recruiters that reach out about positions you may be qualified for. It gave me many opportunities to practice technical interviewing. I cycled through studying and interviewing until I landed my first role.
What types of jobs were you applying for after initially graduating from Codesmith?
The majority of the roles I applied for were mid- or senior-level. The first role I got was a senior position and the role I have now is more mid-level. I rarely applied for junior-level roles.
How did the Codesmith team help you navigate that first job search?
During the first job search, Codesmith offered a lot of support: group meetups for our cohort where we shared job updates, a career search group that each graduate was placed in, plus they hosted regular standups and check-ins to make sure we were submitting applications. They also have an alumni network equipped with Career Support Engineers to answer any questions we had about the process.
What were those first rounds of interviews like for you?
Codesmith gave as much information as they could to prepare us for the technical interviews, which lined up with the real world.
It’s impossible to learn every piece of knowledge needed for a job, and there were times when I’d never seen a particular algorithm before or I was applying for a job that focused on different coding languages than what I learned, but Codesmith still prepared me for that uncertainty.
I knew there would be system design, algorithms, coding challenges, conversations about large scale technical questions, and that I’d have to constantly continue my own learning.
Were employers interested in your bootcamp experience?
In my experience, most companies didn’t ask questions about it. Most employers were interested in the actual work I produced — they were looking for contributions to open source products and experiences in previous roles where technical decisions were made. Interviewers are really interested in knowing if you’ll be successful there.
What did you learn from your first tech job after graduating from Codesmith?
How did you know it was time to look for that second position?
I got some weird signals that maybe the company culture was not the best fit. They also interviewed extremely quickly — it was like a three-day turnaround from phone screen to offer, which included a great salary and great benefits!
On one hand I was excited: I’d worked hard and thought I should just be happy, but the weird culture vibe stuck out and I didn’t feel comfortable with the workflow of the team. We also did not have as many engineers as I had anticipated. Lots of people were working completely offshore in different time zones, so it was really hard for me to get to work with a team. After graduating from Codesmith, teamwork was important to me and I didn’t want to solo develop. From a technical standpoint, I saw the benefits to working there: I could learn on my own and push myself, but, to me, having a team there building alongside you is a better experience to grow in.
How did you approach the job search for your second tech job?
After that first job, I focused on asking specific questions about the company culture and team dynamics:
Of course it’s not always possible to get an honest answer to every question, but I think that transparency has helped me approach the job search process.
At what point did you go back to Codesmith and enlist their help in your search for a second tech job?
Immediately after I left my first tech job, I reached out and scheduled a time with the Career Support Engineer to go over my resume and help me work on my narrative and interview questions. I also worked with someone from the alumni team that checked in every few weeks to see how things were going. Codesmith was responsive to my feedback if something didn’t work in an interview.
One of the biggest factors of attending Codesmith was the alumni community of other cohort mates and people who had gone through the program. Many of us worked together in our job search and we met for daily stand ups to talk about how things were going in the job search and interview process. The Codesmith community was a major factor in me getting my next role as quickly as I did.
In your experience, was it easier to land your second tech job versus your first tech job after Codesmith?
I felt more confident in my worth going into my second job — I knew I could do it! So much of the job search process is finding a good company fit. Because I was more confident in myself, I came off stronger in interviews. Even when I signed my offer with MUFG, I had three other offers come in that month! That allowed me to negotiate and make sure I was making the right choice.
In your second tech job search, how did you update your online presence?
I changed my resume when I got feedback on it and I would check in with other alums and the Career Support Engineers to make sure my resume still looked good. I made edits when multiple people said similar things, like this is too wordy. The main difference I made on online profiles like LinkedIn was setting my status to Open to Work!
Being active on platforms like LinkedIn is really important. Make sure you're checking every day. If you get a message from somebody (a recruiter or someone interested in employing you), respond quickly, be excited, and schedule time to meet. I utilize Calendly and other scheduling tools so that my calendar is nice and organized and it reads professionally to others. I would stack multiple phone screens in a day to make the most of my time.
How did you land your current job at the international bank, MUFG?
My strategy when I’m running out of places to apply is to write down 50 companies I can think of and go directly to their website and apply.
MUFG was one of those companies I listed using this strategy! I cold-applied directly on their website and got a call back! I only had to go through a couple rounds of interviews and completed the process within 2-3 weeks.
What are you doing on the job now at MUFG?
Are you getting the team dynamics and mentorship you were looking for at MUFG?
I asked a lot of better questions during the MUFG interview process, which has made me feel a lot more comfortable speaking with my manager or other teammates. Since they have such a large company structure, mentorship is already instilled as a company value that’s expected and not something that has to be sought out. Still, I recommend not to be afraid to be assertive and ask to have coffee chats to get to know people better.
It’s 2023 and we’re all reading the headlines about layoffs in tech. As a bootcamp grad, what do you think of these recent tech layoffs?
While there have definitely been tech layoffs in banking and large FAANG companies as well as small startups, software engineers are usually necessary members on the team. It’s been 40 years and the internet is still going strong. There will always be industries and companies that need software engineers.
If you are in the unfortunate situation of going through a layoff, there are still positions out there. There might be more competition than in 2022, but it's still going to be a needed career. It might not be at your dream company right now, but there might be another bank that's looking to take on more people to build out a security suite or maybe a non-tech company like Kleenex needs to redo their website and make a new brand or online experience. Even within OpenAI and ChatGPT, there are still plenty of opportunities within the software space that are getting a lot of funding.
What are your tips for future-proofing your tech career?
I enjoy working on different projects in my free time and will usually choose something that I haven't worked with before. For instance, if I feel rusty with TypeScript, I'll build something small with TypeScript in a day or two. I’m learning Scala and Elixir right now, which are popular back end languages. I think that is a great way to keep your skills up, especially if you are working with a company with an older tech stack. You want to make sure you are keeping your skills up to date.
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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