Razorfish is a digital marketing agency with a 120-person technical team, which means they’re always scoping out technical talent. We spoke to Razorfish Talent Acquisitions Manager Nick Easlick about hiring General Assembly grads as Front End developers across the US. Having hired 7 General Assembly grads so far (and hoping to hire more in the future), Nick tells us about his experience with motivated bootcamp grads, the success he’s seen with GA employees so far, and why a CS degree is not always essential in web development roles.
Tell us about Razorfish and your role there.
Razorfish is digital marketing agency, and I am a manager of Talent Acquisition. I manage a team of recruiters who are specifically recruiting across central US and West Coast; my particular domain is for technology roles. Razorfish has carved out a niche in the technical and digital space.
How large is the technical team at Razorfish?
If you're looking at the tech landscape as a whole, the team is 120 to 130 people across the country.
What types of roles does Razorfish hire coding bootcamp graduates into?
How many General Assembly graduates have you hired so far?
Somewhere between five and seven.
How did you get connected with General Assembly?
I work with GA’s Outcomes Managers, who are responsible for connecting students with employers like me, in each of their different offices at Austin, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, LA, and obviously Chicago. Whenever we have a need in a specific market, General Assembly is one of the first organizations I reach out to.
Oftentimes, the big challenge with hiring a coding bootcamper is that they’re career transitioners, so a company has to take a chance on them. Once we took a chance with the first General Assembly grad we hired, and they turned out to be fantastic, it became easier and easier to justify hiring more GA grads, even though they may not have a lot of experience. The quality of that one employee really springboarded our relationship.
Do you notice differences between hiring from a coding bootcamp versus hiring grads of a CS degree program?
There are two differences. The first difference, which is pretty critical, is that these students have just invested the last 12+ weeks of their lives (financially and time-wise) fully diving into a new skill that they love, and they’re pumped to graduate and start their first jobs. Your mentality is so much different coming out of a bootcamp like that than it is coming out of a four-year university, in my humble opinion.
Of course you have students who are equally as motivated to start their career after graduating college, but coding bootcamp grads have so much more skin in the game than those who are coming out of a four-year CS degree.
The second difference between CS grads and coding bootcamp grads is that a coding bootcamp is able to turn over their curriculum quickly as the tech landscape changes. I hate to be crushing four-year universities because they definitely have their place in the tech space, of course, but it's hard for a four-year university with a very solid locked-in curriculum to change at that same pace.
So it’s never been a concern for you that those new hires from General Assembly don't have that traditional computer science degree?
No. We may list a CS degree as a “plus.” But in reality, a lot of General Assembly grads come to us with some post-secondary education. Maybe they didn't complete that degree, or the degree isn’t in CS or Information Sciences, or maybe they're using GA to transition careers. So no, it's not a concern.
I'm a huge fan of these web development immersive courses, in particular at GA, because we've probably had the most success with them. Bootcamps are teaching things that are more applicable, more emerging, more innovative than someone out of a four-year university.
There are a lot of coding bootcamp grads these days, and there's a lot of competition to get a job. What made you hire the General Assembly grads that you've hired?
How does Razorfish support new hires and ensure that they keep learning even after Day One?
First, we hire junior level developers relatively sparingly, which means they're going to be working with mid-level to senior-level developers on a daily basis, and learning a lot from them organically. Some of that mentorship happens organically, and some of it is more structured. Especially at that beginner level, you need that mentorship from other developers. Someone may ask you to head up a technology team with a nice price tag, but that’s not going to be a great learning experience. Even at the mid-level and senior level, there's still a lot to be learned.
We also offer a tuition reimbursement of $5,500/year towards advancing any area or subject that you're interested in. That could mean an improv class, or it could be more relatable to your job- like a class on Ember or Angular.
We host a lot of meetups at Razorfish, and not only do we want to encourage hosting and fostering that community locally, but we also encourage our employees to attend meetups across the cities that they're in as well.
When did you hire the first GA grad? Has it been long enough for someone to get promoted?
Promotions at Razorfish take anywhere between one to two years, but they’re on that track. One of our best hires, Gaby Ruiz-Funes, is from the General Assembly Chicago campus. She was hired last year in a class of developers as an Associate Presentation Layer Engineer. That class of junior developers was really successful, and I wish we would do it year over year, honestly. Gabby is a total rockstar.
We also have an internship program that we have actually hired a few GA students into; they work with us for 10 weeks, get the opportunity to get their feet wet beyond the bootcamp program, and hopefully get hired at the end.
Are you able to influence the General Assembly curriculum or give feedback if you want applicants to know a certain language?
I would feel comfortable doing that, but we haven't had a case in which we've discovered a really significant skills gap.
We’ve hosted three or four GA visits where the WDI and UX Design students come to our office and we host a panel. That panel of Razorfish employees answer questions like, "What would you want the students to know coming out of GA that would set them up for a job in the "real world?" Hint: we always want applicants to know how to turn a .psd file into a website, and know how to communicate with a developer or with a designer to troubleshoot any issues that you run into along the way, and understand their line of thinking.
Will you hire from General Assembly in the future?
Yeah, absolutely. I am a huge, huge fan of General Assembly. I love the whole mindset around coding bootcamps,
Unfortunately, it's not up to me to make the final hiring decision, but I will continue presenting them as long as the quality of candidates and the quality of work continues to impress us. A lot of our hiring is dictated based on business needs, but if it was up to me, I’d use GA as our feeder school and hire all of their graduates. I hope that comes across as genuine, because I really do love them!