With a job market in flux, coding bootcamps like Tech Elevator have rapidly adjusted to ensure their bootcamp students still receive the career preparation they need to land their first tech role. Kelly Brucker, the Lead Pathway Program Director at Tech Elevator, explains what’s included in their career services, the jobs and starting salaries Tech Elevator grads land, and what employers are looking for in new tech hires.
Keep ready to find out how Tech Elevator is creating a supportive online community for bootcamp alumni, and what makes Tech Elevator hires so unique in the tech workforce.
Kelly, what is your role at Tech Elevator?
As the Lead Pathway Program Director, I oversee Tech Elevator’s Pathway Program. I work behind the scenes, creating the content and curriculum for our career development program. I also focus on the onboarding and training of new Pathway Program Directors. I’m currently working on getting our Pathway curriculum into our new learning management system.
Tell us more about the Pathway Program! What will students learn in the Pathway Program?
The Pathway Program is Tech Elevtor’s career development program, and students participate in the Pathway Program alongside the technical curriculum they’re learning in the classroom. Each Tech Elevator campus has at least one Pathway Director who leads the program for their location and is the go-to career coach for students. The Pathway Directors lead all career development sessions, have one-on-ones with students to go over their resumes, interview best practices, their LinkedIn profiles, and more. Additionally, Pathway Directors coach students through their job search, connect them with potential employers, and talk through job offers with students..
Pathway is broken into three phases:
What is Tech Elevator’s goal for your bootcamp graduates?
For the majority of our students, the goal is to get a job after graduating. Since most of our students enroll with a certain level of transferable skills, but not necessarily the tech industry, our graduates end up in junior tech roles. The majority of our students end up in a coding role, whether it’s a front end, back end, or full stack position. The other portion of our students land jobs in more functional technology roles, such as QA testing, business analysis, project management, DevOps, tech support, and everything in between.
When does the career prep process start at Tech Elevator?
Tech Elevator’s Pathway Program actually starts when a student is going through our admissions process. We don’t want to wait until the end of the program to start addressing career prep. At Tech Elevator, we want to focus on those soft skills and career development skills as soon as possible.
During our admissions process, they go through a behavioral interview in addition to completing and passing an aptitude test. During the behavioral interview, we dive into specific situational and behavioral questions because we want to make sure they have the personality traits that we’re looking for that have proven to be successful for our students.
Once a student enters the bootcamp, they have pre-work they must complete prior to Day 1. Most of that pre-work is related to coding, but there is also pre-work for the Pathway Program. Students begin working on their resumes and building LinkedIn profiles so they can have some foundational items ready to go before day one of the bootcamp.
Once the bootcamp starts, students have weekly career development sessions with their Pathway Program team. We’ve seen that honing those soft skills is just as important as learning technical skills because even if a student is a coding superstar, they won’t get a chance to show off those skills until they can make it into an interview, or ensure their resume is seen by a hiring manager.
Related read >> An Inside Look: Week One at Tech Elevator’s Coding Bootcamp
What do you think is the most important thing Tech Elevator does to help students find jobs?
We instill our students with the confidence to talk about themselves as software developers. Many of our students are making career changes, so they often start their elevator pitch by talking about their former career and why they are becoming a software developer; we want them to get to the point where they identify first as a software developer. In order to help them get to this point, we help them recreate themselves by working on their resume and elevator pitch.
We also boster their confidence by focusing on their communication skills and teamwork skills through group assignments and capstone projects. Over the course of the bootcamp, students learn how to be comfortable working in a group, and they have the opportunity to polish their leadership skills.
Has your team updated your career prep resources in response to the job market post-COVID-19?
The Pathway Program hosts a big hiring event, which prior to March 2020, was always held in person. We have since shifted this event to fully remote, and we’ve continued to see a a good turnout from potential employers. We actually see more companies and volunteers wanting to participate in our panels and events since we transitioned them to online.
Moving online, we updated our Pathway presentations to focus on remote interaction because we’ve seen fewer students going to on-site interviews in the last year. More students are having remote interviews which requires a different level of career prep. We’ve been able to adjust quite a bit of our Pathway Program and we’ve been able to add to it as well.
What sort of advice do you give your students for creating their online presence?
Creating an online presence is incredibly important when looking for a job in the tech industry, especially creating and updating a LinkedIn profile. Most hiring managers look at a LinkedIn profile before an interview, so it’s crucial our students each have one. Additionally, we talk with students about the importance of utilizing a lot of those tech-specific items to showcase their digital portfolios, like Github to showcase their code and projects they’ve worked on.
How do you recommend students incorporate their past work and education experiences into their elevator pitch, cover letter, or resume?
Transferable skills are one of the biggest reasons that hiring managers continue to hire graduates from Tech Elevator. Hiring managers understand that by hiring career changers, they are not getting someone right out of college who hasn’t been in the workforce. Instead, they’re getting someone who’s more mature and has a certain level of professional experience.
Transferable skills, whether communication skills from working in the food industry or leadership skills from working as an office manager, make a difference when becoming a software engineer. This makes our graduates not run-of-the-mill software developers with CS degrees, but developers with unique skillsets.
How does the Pathway Program help students narrow down which jobs to apply for?
Pathway Directors at each campus meet with students biweekly after graduation to go through the jobs they’re applying to, where to look, which search terms to use, and which companies they’re interested in. We also have conversations early in the program to help students figure out the difference between working at big and small companies, how far are they willing to relocate, and what their preference is for remote work vs in-person. Behind the scenes, our directors make relationships with companies nationwide who are interested in hiring our graduates. We set up interview days for our students in order to introduce them to these interested companies.
The tide is changing, but some job postings still require a CS Degree or equivalent. Do you suggest that graduates of Tech Elevator still submit their resumes?
We tell our students and graduates to apply every time, even if it says 3-4 years of experience or CS degree required. Even when companies have these requirements, we continue to see our students hired time and time again. Many companies now look at a coding bootcamp certificate as an equivalent to a CS degree. Some companies may not write that in the job description, but we’ve seen plenty of companies that we have good relationships with update their job descriptions, or hire students despite not having a CS degree. We’ve even had companies who were sticklers for a CS degree waive it because they value Tech Elevator graduates!
Women are still underrepresented in the tech workforce. Do you have any advice for your Tech Elevator graduates looking for their software developer role?
We need more women and individuals from underrepresented groups in technology roles - it’s something we’re particularly passionate about at Tech Elevator. One stat that I share with students is that women will historically only apply to a role if they meet 100% of the requirements where men will apply if they meet 60-70% of the requirements. We tell our students to apply if they meet half of the requirements; the worst that can happen is that the company says no.
In the current job market, are Tech Elevator students getting hired?
Despite the chaos of 2020, Tech Elevator maintains a 90% job placement rate within 180 days. During 2020, job placement took longer than usual, but our students were still able to find jobs within 180 days. In the last six months, we’re finally getting back to students finding jobs at the pace that they were pre-COVID-19.
What types of jobs do Tech Elevator students land?
Our students land jobs as software developers, business analysts, DevOps engineers, and a variety of roles in technology.
We offer two different learning tracks at Tech Elevator: Java and C#/.NET. That said, I’ve seen Java students get jobs in .NET and .NET students get jobs in Java. We’ve also had students get jobs in languages we don’t teach at Tech Elevator because our students know how to get up-to-speed on new languages because of the fast-paced they’re used to learning in during their time at Tech Elevator.
What kinds of salaries do Tech Elevator graduates see in their first tech role?
Starting salaries for our graduates are increasing, even in the Midwest job market — our average salary is currently $60k. However, this year, we’re seeing students receive job offers from across the country, in bigger markets; we’ve seen students get offers between $70k-$80k!
We love student success stories! Do you have a student who benefited from the Pathway Program?
I had a student in my first cohort in 2017 who just got an offer for her second job. This student moved here from Thailand with her husband just before the bootcamp, and they were in the same cohort. She was very bright but introverted, and I helped her come out of her shell when she was crafting her elevator pitch. Even though she had never worked before, she was one of the first students in her cohort to get a job. She had a job offer a week before graduation, and it was her first pick, too. She worked there for three years before getting this new offer. She called me to talk through the offer and I helped her negotiate a larger salary, which was exciting. She’s now working remotely for a company in New York as a senior software engineer, which is incredible when you think that just three years ago, she had no experience in coding. It’s been great to see her career trajectory over the last couple of years!
Does the Pathway Program help students with negotiation and job offer consideration?
Around week 9 of the bootcamp, our students begin applying for jobs, plus we have our big hiring event, which results in several of our students receiving job offers by graduation. As students begin to receive offers, they work closely with their Pathway Program team to discuss salary expectations and how to approach negotiating an offer. We want to make sure our students are getting good offers and are happy with them.
Our students also often end up with multiple offers, and we assure them that it’s a good problem to have! The Pathway team helps them talk through the offer to figure out the best one for them.
What do employers particularly like about Tech Elevator graduates?
Employers like that our students are polished and prepared. Tech Elevator students go through a fast-paced program, so they have the ability to learn at a quick pace and they want to continue to learn. If they’re hired in a language we don't teach at Tech Elevator, they’ll be prepared to hit the ground running and get up to speed. Employers also appreciate that we’ve already vetted our students during the admissions process to ensure they’d be successful in careers as software developers.
Employers also like that they’re getting someone with a certain level of transferable skills instead of someone who is only a strong software developer. They’re getting a software developer with strong communication, organizational, or planning skills because they’re carrying over skills from a different career.
We currently have a network of over 500 hiring partners! When we say a “hiring partner,” we mean a company who has made an offer to a student. Our partners don’t pay to work with us; everything we do with partners is 100% free. We just want to help facilitate those connections between our students and hiring partners to ensure our students are ending up at companies they’re going to be happy at.
Have you noticed if employers are looking for specific languages or skills this year?
Communication skills are more important than ever since everyone is working remotely. Having strong communication skills and conveying passion in a virtual interview instead of in-person is more important than ever. Some new programming languages have popped up over the years, but they haven’t hindered our students from getting jobs now. Java and .NET/C# are still two of the most common languages and we’ve seen our hiring partners continue to look for candidates with experience in those languages.
Do employer partners have influence over the Tech Elevator curriculum?
Our curriculum is always evolving and changing. Our alumni answer an annual survey about what technology they are using on the job, and our curriculum team uses that to keep an eye on trends.
How long do bootcamp graduates continue to receive career support from Tech Elevator?
We offer 180 days of career support to help students find their first job. We love hearing from our alumni, though, and we are here to talk them through their next career move. It’s cool to see our students end up in team lead or management roles four or five years out of Tech Elevator.
We host virtual and in-person alumni membership nights and happy hours. We also have an alumni newsletter and we encourage our alumni to stay in touch with us, their classmates, and their Pathway Program team.
Find out more and read Tech Elevator reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Tech Elevator. To see if a career in coding could be a fit for you, visit Tech Elevator’s free Aptitude Test.
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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