If you’re researching coding bootcamps, then you’ve probably thought about job placement; so we sat down with Rebekah Rombom, head of Flatiron School’s Career Services team to learn about how Flatiron School’s online students are landing jobs. We dive into how the online job search compares to the in-classroom experience and how Flatiron School sets clear expectations to guide students towards a job that fits their needs with their Career Services Commitment.
What does Career Services at Flatiron School do for students?
Career Services at Flatiron School is divided into two functions: employer partnerships and career coaching. The Partnerships team is constantly engaged with companies to educate them about Flatiron School and to find opportunities for companies to engage with our students and graduates. They may organize end-of-semester interviewing, networking opportunities, meetups, or employer talks to the class.
The other part of Career Services is the Career Coaching team. Every student who graduates from Flatiron School and plans to engage in job search, gets paired up with a career coach. Together, you do a really robust set of activities to get you ready for your job search. We help you run a job search based on best practices. Not many people have spent a ton of time job-searching, but our team has seen this nearly a thousand times. Your coach helps guide you through that process.
How large is the career placement team at Flatiron?
With everyone on coaching, partnerships, and administration, we are around 20 people. We invest a lot in career services.
What's the difference between job placement for online students and in-person students?
Part of the exciting thing about the way that our career services department works, is that you get the same content as an online student or an in-person student. For an in-person student, a guest speaker will walk into your classroom and do a lecture. In online classes, the students might get that lecture via a video conference or with their coach.
We've identified the key steps that it takes to successfully get a job after Flatiron School, and we've made those location-agnostic. As an online student or an in-person student, you're creating a resume, sending it to your coach, and your coach is giving you feedback. You're retooling your resume based on that feedback, and then, you and the coach both do a final sign off. As an in-person student, you might do the first feedback session in-person versus over Skype, but the experience should yield the same results.
How do Career Coaches help guide you through Flatiron’s Career Services Commitment?
Part of your time with your coach is spent following up on a regular basis about what you've done to adhere to those commitments – contacting a certain number of people relevant to your job search each week, continuing to code, blogging about what you're learning, and meeting people in the community.
Your coach is there to talk about how those activities are going, keep you on task and accountable, as well as make suggestions about how you can get more leverage out of those activities based on the results that you're seeing.
Does an online Flatiron School applicant or student need to be job seeking? How selective is the admissions process?
You certainly don't have to be job seeking. Around 75% to 85% of our in-person students are job seeking, and we’re seeing similar numbers for online. You can certainly do the program if you're not job seeking.
For example, I’ve spoken with college students or incoming freshmen who want these skills, or entrepreneurs who want to have a better understanding of technology they're launching their startup with so that they can interact with their team in more valuable ways, and recruit more effectively. Other non-job-seekers are product managers or marketers who want to add these skills to their tool set so that they can be more effective at their job, but they aren't planning to become a developer.
For our Online Web Developer Program, we admit people who are going to be successful in the program. One of the key indicators that we use is that you've completed some of our content on Learn.co, our online campus, or other learn-to-code content already. You have a familiarity with the platform, and feel that you can be successful independently, online, remotely.
When are Flatiron’s online students introduced to that career coach?
Around 3/4th of the way through the course, once a student has passed their third code review in the online program.
Do you recommend that students wait to start the job search? Or should they be thinking about their dream job from Day One?
There's so much learning that happens so quickly, so your best bet as a student is to focus on learning as much as you can for as long as you can. In our Online Web Developer Program, we've timed the curriculum so that you start thinking about jobs as late as possible.
When you’re about three-quarters through the course, you'll start connecting with your coach, talking about goals, reviewing your resume and LinkedIn, and getting your materials ready so that when you do graduate, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running and start interviews.
If you think about your most successful online students, did they do something specific throughout the course that made them stand out?
I think it's about the craft. If you're only driven by a specific job, whether that's a sexy company or a salary number, that's not going to be as effective. What works is knowing that you want to do this craft and are passionate about this work. Our Online Web Developer Program is 800-1000 hours of independent, self-driven, bang-your-head-against-a-wall work, and when you graduate, you’re embarking on your first job search in a new discipline.
Finding your first job after Flatiron School is like looking for an internship as a college student. You're looking for a company where you can contribute, get paid, and continue to learn. That won't always be available at your dream company the second you graduate. Students who are open to doing this work, continuing to learn and hone their craft, and contributing to a team of people who also are passionate about this work–those are the most successful students.
We hear a lot that "anyone can learn to code.” Do you believe that or do you think that it's problematic to sell a dream that everyone can change careers and achieve upward mobility through coding?
I think everyone can learn to code and that everyone should learn to code. Whether you should be a software developer with that knowledge, I think, is dependent upon how much you enjoy it and how passionate you are. Knowing the basic concepts makes me better at my job and makes it easier to interact with the rest of our teams, but at the end of the day, I get more excited about other kinds of work.
You should choose a career that you're excited about, and do work that is sustainable for you. The students that I've spoken to who've graduated described the experience of learning on Learn.co as really, really challenging, but extremely gratifying - even thrilling. If that’s how you feel when you’re coding, then this might be the right career for you.
Flatiron School was the first bootcamp to release an audited, transparent Jobs Report. Will the next Jobs Report include Learn.co graduates in those numbers?
Of course! Our Online Web Developer Program is built with the same curriculum and the same outcomes goals, so we’ll certainly include online students. We are seeing pretty spectacular results from the online students who have already graduated, and we know that this data is important to applicants and to employers in the industry.
I'm working with our team and our auditors now to identify some data that we can get audited before the end of 2016, and we plan to release that data in January.
What are the biggest lessons that your team has learned about job placement?
Before Flatiron School launched Learn.co, we said, "If you don't get a job offer within six months, we’ll give you a full tuition refund." So when we launched Learn.co, we wanted to make it really clear to students what they needed to do in order to get a job. We thought really hard about all of the things that go into a successful job search. We took all of the learnings that we've seen over the previous three years, and put that into our Career Services Commitment, which students agree to before they launch a job search with us. As of today - over a year since we put the Commitment into place - nobody has followed all those steps for six months and has not gotten an offer.
What goes into that Career Services Commitment for the Job Guarantee?
Our Career Services Commitment outlines our responsibilities to you as well as what you’re empowered to do to make your job search more successful. You can see the full list of responsibilities and eligibility factors here. We set really clear expectations with students about the importance of these commitments for our Job Guarantee. You’ll need to complete all of your assignments. You need to create your resume and you need to read through all of our content about how to run a good job search. You need to be available for your coach when you both have scheduled conversations. You need to continue to code and attend your interviews.
The Career Services Commitment is a way to communicate to students again exactly what you need to be doing in order to get a job. As you start the job search, your career coach will help you refine the activities that you're doing to get you more aligned with the way you're going to be successful.
What's different about a developer resume versus your average resume? What do you recommend that people are emphasizing on a developer resume?
This may be a little bit more of a philosophical question to me than you intended, but I think that even more than the technicalities of what your resume should or shouldn't say, you want your whole application and your whole communication with a hiring manager or recruiter to convey the well-rounded value you can bring as a human and as an executor to this organization. Sure, a developer resume should have things like your GitHub links to projects. But if you're a career changer, maybe that means including one to two sentences about your path and why coding is important to you so that a recruiter can easily make the leap from your past career into your engineering resume. More than that, I think it's about finding touch points that are compelling to the reader that allow you to tell your story effectively.
If you can do that on your resume by having a very short bio and links to technical projects, and some bullet points about relevant transferable experience from your previous life, that’s awesome. But you should also have a cover note in an email that talks about that specific company and how your previous experience would benefit them.
Ideally, you're able to convey a more well-rounded communications strategy than just a one-page PDF that lists your past jobs and your Github.
Imposter Syndrome is a huge buzzword for bootcamp grads. How do Flatiron School students approach compensation, negotiation, and how can career coaches help navigate?
Your career coach is with you up to the point where you sign on the dotted line. That can mean help with negotiation, or figuring out if the offer is even reasonable, or taking a look at a benefits package or perks. Oftentimes early in your career, it's about finding your leverage, whatever that is. But your career coach won’t let you back out of an interview you’ve earned or a connection you’ve nurtured for fear of failing - and that can go a very long way.
Is there an employer network specifically for your online graduates?
It didn't really make sense for us to separate our employer network, because we want to put the best students for a given job in front of that opportunity and vice versa for the employers. For example, we have students from the in-person program who move back home to Denver. If we’re working with a Denver-based hiring manager, she’ll see good-fit online grads in the area, as well as that in-person student. So when we’re able to make connections, we base them on location and culture match, and employer needs.
Can you tell us about the success that you've seen amongst online students so far? Where are they getting jobs? Are they taking remote jobs?
Our grads are working primarily in full-time roles all over the US, and even internationally: San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Denver, Chicago and more. From what I’ve seen, the “Junior Full-Time Remote Developer” job is a unicorn, though. We do have some students who have a bunch of freelancing contract gigs that they're doing remotely, and have built a full-time schedule of work out of those. We're seeing a similar split between internships and full-time jobs among our online alums as we do for our in-person grads: about 40% going into internships and about 60% taking full time salaried jobs straight out of the gate.
Is there anything about learning online that is actually an advantage in terms of getting a job?
No matter what coding bootcamp you choose or where you are or what period of life you're in, a job search is always hard.
We've seen online students really embrace the hustle of the job search and go out in the community, make connections, keep at it, and continue to follow up until they land that job. That's a really important skill in the job search. Going through this really challenging and rigorous program by yourself, as opposed to in a classroom, our online students get a lot of practice in extreme resiliency.