CD Baby is one of the largest music distribution companies for independent artists. As they’ve built out their technical team to support the 21st-century music industry with digital and streaming services, CD Baby has hired several bootcamp graduates from Epicodus. We spoke with VP of People, Gretchen Boster, about how their new hires are performing on the job, why they participate in Epicodus’ internship program which facilitates internships for all Epicodus students, and her advice for other employers considering hiring new developers from a coding bootcamp.
What is CD Baby and how large is the technical team these days?
Over the past 21 years, CD Baby has evolved to become one of the largest independent music distribution companies in the world. We help independent artists get their music out there and share it with the world, helping them both make money and accomplish their dreams. It’s a fun company to work for – we’re fortunate to be in the music industry which is always interesting and evolving. We have a really positive work environment, our employees really like the CD Baby culture. We have about 150 employees and are continuing to grow in our technology division. As the music industry landscape has evolved into more digital and streaming services, we’ve continued to grow our technical team to be a competitive resource for our artists. We now have around 35-40 technical team members.
Which roles have you hired Epicodus graduates for at CD Baby?
We’ve hired a few different Epicodus alumni primarily on our web development team, specifically .NET developers. One of them was actually recently promoted. We’ve also hired a hybrid UI Designer/UX Analyst on our product development team.
What stood out about the Epicodus grads you chose to hire?
Some of their value comes from having had other careers – they’ve demonstrated professional experience in a different field and then pursued the bootcamp because they were really passionate about it. They have a balance of previous workplace experience with the very recent knowledge and skill sets they acquired at Epicodus. New college grads definitely bring talent to the table, but there’s a level of maturity and experience and culture fit from the bootcamp students – that’s been a nice benefit.
Did you have to convince anyone at CD Baby to hire someone from a less traditional background?
Not at all. The leaders on our technical team and I attend the Epicodus Demo Days, meet with the students, see the projects they’re working on during the program, and get them to speak about what they’re passionate about and are interested in. So we’ve had the opportunity to interact and build a network with their students prior to them joining CD Baby, which has been a really valuable experience. Epicodus seems to be very strong at building relationships between their students, alumni, and local businesses. And recently, we’ve started partnering with Epicodus in their Internship program.
Tell us about that internship partnership with Epicodus – how does it work?
Epicodus involves the prospective employers and companies in the program itself, whether that’s relationship building and being part of Demo Days to the internship program. That’s what makes them valuable.
We just had our first two Epicodus interns over the past few weeks – it’s been a new experience but it’s already been a success. They’ve been able to work on a couple of projects with CD Baby and gain some of that real-life work experience.
Epicodus interns are hired as temporary employees because we want them to have the employment experience as well as the internship. They come to the office every day, work on our systems, train with our team, and learn about our services – it’s fairly intensive. They’re doing about 40 hours a week to get that real-world employment experience in addition to the internship and project they’re working on. And of course, we pay them! It’s valuable for both sides.
What types of projects are interns working on?
They are mainly building integration tools for our application.
Do the interns have opportunity to be hired at CD Baby?
At this point we don’t have positions available that match their skillsets, but there are definitely opportunities for that in the future and we plan to continue hiring from Epicodus. We’re focused on building that relationship with the school and the students so that when opportunities open up, we have a pool of candidates that have been sourced through Epicodus.
As an employer, what’s the difference between hiring from a bootcamp versus other traditional channels?
It’s always nice to have a balanced pool of candidates from different backgrounds. Epicodus has been valuable because its program is so immersive and intense – we’re impressed that graduates are able to successfully complete the program. They all seem eager to dig in and get into our system. They have a strong work ethic – perhaps as a result of going through the bootcamp! This is not to say that those who go through a traditional CS degree program aren’t committed, but traditional programs tend to be a bit more broad and they might not have learned some of the in-depth knowledge or skill demonstration that bootcamp grads receive.
Also, Epicodus doesn’t charge us referral/hiring fees fees, and if you look at that in comparison to a recruiting agency that charges 25-30% of the salary as a recruitment fee – it’s not even comparable.
Are your new hires from Epicodus prepared for the role or did they need to learn a lot on the job?
How do you ensure that new hires are supported in their first job after a bootcamp?
Current interns have been paired up with one of our Epicodus graduate team members – he’s already been promoted to a lead position within the first year of working. It’s cool for him to grow in his own development by taking on interns and growing his mentorship leadership skills as well as providing them the supporting tools and resources. That’s what’s great about this internship program – we currently have employees who have been through Epicodus and can relate to what the students are going through and can support them along the way.
Do you have advice for other employers who are thinking of hiring bootcamp grads?
My advice is to take the time to build a relationship with the school. Epicodus has proven to be a valuable resource for training these students and giving them real world experience. If you’re going to offer internships to bootcamp graduates, remember that you’ll need to invest time – they need a mentor and they need to get trained on certain aspects of your business. Likewise, attending Demo Days takes an afternoon out of your week but they’re worth it and are offered free of charge for you to build relationships with the school, the students, and the alumni. To me, and for our experience here at CD Baby, the time that it takes for that investment far outweighs the 30% recruiter fee and candidate unpredictability.
I definitely think it’s been mutually beneficial for both of our companies as well as for the students! Epicodus is really focused on setting their students up for success, rather than throwing students into a really intense program and not giving them the resources and tools after graduation.
Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students researching coding bootcamps. Her research has been cited in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and more. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube!
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