When Palm Beach-based startup Cloud Logistics was ready to build their in-house development team, they connected with Ruby on Rails bootcamp Wyncode to hire fresh technical talent (they've now hired 4 Wyncode graduates). We talk to Ben Williams, a key executive at Cloud Logistics, about building a supportive environment for new hires, participating in "Wynterviews," and what his team looks for in a junior developer.
Tell us about Cloud Logistics and your role there.
Cloud Logistics is a transportation management software company for logistics and supply chain industries. The software is a business to business software solution that provides tracking and booking of shipments on various types of transportation.
I wear a lot of different hats at Cloud Logistics. I do HR, accounting, and office management.
How large is the development team right now?
In-house, we have six developers. We have used some offshore development for the past couple of years for financial reasons. And while they are great developers, there are various little things that add up to a lot of strategic business issues, which is why we started building our in-house team.
How do you find in-house talent in Florida?
We had a serious problem doing that because we could not locate talent. That’s not to say that we couldn’t go to a headhunter and pay an astronomical sum of money, but as a startup, that is a last resort.
Even if money were not an issue, the level of talent that you get from recruiters is still sort of a crapshoot. You don’t really know what you’re going to get until the talent is in-house and you’ve spent time training them on your software and your system. By working with Wyncode, we get developers who start with a significant amount of training and raw talent.
How did you get connected with Wyncode?
One of our developers heard about “a bootcamp in Miami” and told me to look into it in February. We knew about bootcamps in San Francisco, Chicago and New York, but those seemed out of reach geographically. I did some research online and I talked to Juha and Johanna (Wyncode’s founders), and they were exactly what we needed when we needed it. The timing was impeccable. It could not have turned out better for us.
Had you ever worked with other bootcamps to hire developers?
We did reach out to others, but they had lot of hiring partners in their area. I had two bootcamps in particular, one in San Francisco and one in Chicago, tell me point blank, “Look our students are not going to leave the area. Everyone here is very committed to being here. They’re not going to want to make the leap and move to the Miami area.”
What is the employer agreement that you have with Wyncode? Do you pay to be part of the network?
We pay nothing. Wyncode is thrilled to have a hiring partner because their goal is placement.
How many developers have you hired from Wyncode?
We hired three immediately. I went through a process called ‘Wynterviews,’ which is really great. About 6 weeks into the program, I got to sit down with students, ask questions, and based on that, I kept track of certain students. When their cohort was over, I attended their Pitch Day, where they develop a product and pitch it to the community. I followed up with students that I had been tracking and we hired one of those students, who was just outstanding.
Were you looking for hard technical skills, or a good culture fit for Cloud?
I was really trying to see if there would be a good culture fit. But at the same time, the students had just completed their first big project when we did Wynterviews, so they could show off their skills. A lot of my questions were focused on teamwork because in software, teamwork is everything.
Did their teamwork and collaboration skills fit well with the way that Cloud already operates?
Yes. Our team at the time was small, and we were just getting into Agile Methodology. For us, we wanted them to bring Agile culture and mindset into our in-house team, and Wyncode teaches that.
What are the roles that you’ve hired Wyncode graduates for?
We hire them as junior developers with the understanding that the sky is the limit. Depending on how they adapt to our environment and the product itself, there is room to be promoted. Once they’re hired and they come on the job, after two or three weeks the true colors come out and you can see who really steps up their game and who really dives in and adapts. That’s part of the natural process.
What technology stack is Cloud built on?
It is built on Ruby on Rails, which was important when we were looking at Wyncode.
Have you noticed with the Wyncode students that you’ve hired that they’ve been able to adapt and been strong additions to the team, or what have you noticed?
I can say honestly that they’re all strong additions to the team. There are stronger additions, and some of them are stronger additions than others. I would say out of four, two of them are simply amazing rockstars, and the other two struggled a little bit to keep up, but we expect that.
How do you help those hires who are struggling to ramp up?
We have senior developers, one in particular, who is mentoring all of them and spending a lot of time working with them. Our tech lead is also sort of a senior senior developer. He spends an extraordinary amount of time with them as well.
When we see them struggling, we pull them aside and give them reassurance and support- it’s going to take some time to adapt and gain the confidence that we know is there underneath the surface. It’s a process and we’re on the journey with them too.
Has there been a good feedback loop with Wyncode?
Yes. When we first started working with Wyncode, there was one employee who I was really on the fence about. This person wasn’t extremely prepared in the interview, but I could tell based on our conversation that the work and the quality would be really good. I met with Johanna and even with Ed Toro, who is the head instructor. He said, “Give it time and let’s see how it works out and trust that you made the right decision.” He was absolutely right. The employee rose to the top very fast, came in with his head down, learned as much as possible and built skills overnight. It was pretty amazing.
I like that you pointed out getting to talk to Ed and Johanna as a contrast to using recruiting firms who might have the person’s resume vs. having access to Wyncode who has worked with them for several months.
That was huge because Ed worked with these students on their projects and their decision making and how they went about solving problems. They were able to confide in him and he could steer them. It was a huge opportunity to talk to him and get his feedback from behind the scenes. That was tremendously helpful.
From your perspective as a hiring manager, has it ever been a concern to you that these students don’t have a traditional computer science degree?
I interviewed people with Computer Science degrees who I was not as impressed as I was with some Wyncoders who had no or little work experience and no education directly in computer science. I think it’s the way society is evolving and I love that we’re changing in that direction. Welcome to the future!