DigitalCrafts alumni have been telling us about the bootcamp’s career prep for years – so what exactly goes into DigitalCrafts’ jobs curriculum? From interview prep to salary negotiation to honing soft skills, Student Success Manager Natalie Cataldo explains how DigitalCrafts students are set up for success post-graduation. We caught up with Natalie to find out what employers are looking for in new hires today plus how DigitalCrafts gets bootcampers job-ready with their comprehensive Career Prep module.
Tell us about your role at DigitalCrafts.
My role as Student Success Manager has two main facets: the first is to lead our team of Student Success Advisors in helping our graduates find their next job or opportunity. The second major aspect of my role is building mutually beneficial relationships with hiring partners in our Employer Network. Our students work hard throughout our program, and we want to make sure they find the right position at the right company using the tools and skills they learned at DigitalCrafts.
At DigitalCrafts, when does the career support program begin?
Our preparation for students in their job search begins the second week of class. We teach students the best practices for creating and maintaining an online presence, and help them get their LinkedIn and GitHub profiles set up.Throughout the cohort, they have opportunities to work on their soft skills as well as technical interviewing.
In the second half of the program, students go through career prep, a dedicated time in the classroom that is devoted to finalizing resumes, building portfolios, and starting job applications.
What types of jobs do DigitalCrafts graduates typically get?
There are lots of exciting opportunities available! Our graduates have received offers from the likes of Slack, The Home Depot, the New York Times, BP, Turner Broadcasting, IBM and Facebook. They have also received offers from startups and other companies like Big Nerd Ranch, Storj, Greater Sum, Narwhal Digital, Ware2Go and many more.
DigitalCrafts graduates expect job titles like software engineer, junior developer, web developer, front-end developer intern, database engineer and more.
How much programming experience do you expect a DigitalCrafts applicant to have? Does that impact the types of jobs they get after graduating?
Our programs are designed for beginners, and we send pre-work to all accepted applicants to get them ready for the first day of class.
Something I love about DigitalCrafts is that our classrooms are full of people coming from different industries: nonprofit, finance, education, food service, you name it. Regardless of where you start, you have the opportunity to change your career—and your life.
One of our mottos is that you get out what you put in. If you take advantage of every opportunity, whether that be in the classroom or outside of it, to enhance your technical and soft skills, then you will see the benefits of your hard work.
How many people are on the Career Prep team at DigitalCrafts? What does DigitalCrafts do to help students find jobs?
Our Student Success team currently consists of two advisors and myself. Our advisors spend a lot of time helping our current students prepare for the job search while they’re in our bootcamp. We review our students’ resumes and portfolios while they are in class and long after they’ve graduated. We set up mock technical interviews for our students to learn from, and help them meet DigitalCrafts grads who are now full-time engineers. We also work to connect students to our Employer Network, as I mentioned earlier.
In your experience, what are employers looking for in junior developers in Atlanta? Have you noticed that employers are looking for proficiency in specific languages or technologies? Specific soft skills?
Something that is valuable (and a skill everyone can work on) is communication. This is an area that always has room for improvement, and junior developers on the job hunt should practice communication by explaining technical concepts to people who aren’t familiar with technical jargon. It’ll be a challenge, but it can make a huge impact later on during an interview. Besides good communication skills, employers want to hire developers that are problem solvers and self-starters. Someone who is fully invested in their career, attends events to build their network, and works on their own side projects stands out. We seek people with these qualities even in our own admissions process, and we advocate for these things during class.
As more immersive coding programs and coding bootcamps are established, there are an increasing number of new graduates in the job pool. How do DigitalCrafts grads set themselves apart from other candidates?
That's a great question! Students choose to partner with DigitalCrafts in their career transition because they see something more than just our curriculum being offered to them. We’re a smaller company that truly cares about each students’ experience in our programs, and we are intentional about constructive feedback bouncing off both parties. Companies know that our students are able, ambitious, and ready to jump in.
How long should somebody wait after graduating from a school like DigitalCrafts until they start to apply for jobs? Is it more important to rebuild your portfolio or to get your first interview?
The majority of our students begin applying for jobs while they are finishing up their time in our bootcamp. If students take advantage of the resources and opportunities available to them, like networking events, mock interviews, and resume and portfolio reviews, they’re well set up for the job search.
That being said, we try to set up the expectation that a student will be applying for many, many jobs. I say this not to create burden or stress, but to instill a sense of purpose, because the next step won’t always come easy. Take every application, interview, and code challenge as a way to improve. Similar to a student's progression in a bootcamp, your skills could improve each day if you take advantage of constructive feedback and hard work.
How do you help with negotiation and compensation? Any advice for a bootcamper who is looking for their first job?
During our career prep, we discuss healthy ways to navigate benefits and compensation conversations, as well as effective negotiation tactics. Graduates can also meet with the Student Success Team and our Campus Directors to talk confidentially about negotiating an offered salary.
I advise graduates to complete extensive research and reflection in determining what is most important to them, whether that is salary or benefits. Prioritize your non-negotiables, communicate your understanding of the competitive market, and hold onto your stretch goals.
What’s your advice for bootcamp grads who are competing with CS graduates in the job market?
Employers aren’t going to ask for a copy of an interviewee’s degree or a certificate of completion from a bootcamp. They’re going to put both applicants through an interview process that tests their understanding of technology, skills, and appreciation for constructive feedback.
My tip for bootcamp grads: Once you have completed your bootcamp, don’t slow down. Keep refining your skills and continue your learning. Employers will recognize your appetite to learn and grow as a developer when you show them how far you’ve come in a short timeline.
In your experience, what do employers like about DigitalCrafts graduates?
Something we really value at DigitalCrafts is making sure that our students are applying the curriculum as soon as they learn it. We’ve incorporated numerous exercises in our schedule as well as projects that students build to create a portfolio.
Employers see that our students not only get a great education, but also that they've developed a strong work ethic that they're able to put to use immediately and creatively.
Lastly, we prepare our students to continue their learning—that willingness and skill is vital for this industry.
Give us your favorite success story (or a couple!)
The first person I’ll talk about is Rebecca Uranga, a DigitalCrafts grad that took a full-time class with us in 2019. Coming from a marketing background and most previously working on a social media team, Rebecca didn’t have any experience with programming and was working towards making a career transition. She joined State Farm as a Software Developer two months after graduating from her program and is still working there today. She loves coding and collaborating with her team members, and she’s currently learning Angular.
Another graduate of DigitalCrafts that I applaud is Nep Orshiso. Nep moved to Atlanta from Kansas City with the goal to leave behind his marketing and finance background. It was a pleasure to watch Nep work hard inside the classroom and be an all-around team player to his classmates as well. His confidence in asking questions in the classroom as well as broadcasting resources he found helpful impacted the environment around him.
He also took our career prep very seriously, and that paid off for him in the end. Nep started as a Junior Software Engineer at Invesco two months after his class ended and is loving the collaborative environment. He’s currently building bots that make use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and tie new data into an API to help the productivity of internal users.