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One of the main questions we get asked when interviewing students for our Bristol based Coding Bootcamp is ‘Will I find a job in tech as soon as I graduate?’.
Develop Me has a wide pool of hiring partners who interview and hire our Bootcamp Students on graduation. Goram and Vincent have employed 3 of our graduates so far and they explain exactly why they love hiring our Bootcamp Grads.
What does your company do?
Goram and Vincent is a Bristol-based digital agency specialising in enterprise-level ecommerce, offering design, build and optimisation services. We work mainly with direct-to-consumer lifestyle brands selling via Magento and Shopify.
What has been your experience hiring Develop Me Coding Bootcamp graduates?
Despite some initial skepticism we’ve gone on to hire three Develop Me Coding Bootcamp graduates in the last 18 months and we haven’t looked back. We now see the course as a critical part of our long-term recruitment strategy and we plan to work ever more closely with the Develop Me team going forward.
The course is very bold in its aims and as such it seems to attract brave, ambitious individuals who are brimming with ingenuity and a fresh outlook – which is exactly what we look for when recruiting for new G&Vers. More often than not we meet candidates who are career changers who in turn bring a wealth of experience from other roles and sectors they’ve previously worked in. They bring so much to the culture of the company as a result and it helps prevent us from becoming too inward looking and keeps our perspective fresh.
We pride ourselves on the nurturing atmosphere we have within the team and we’ve found the Develop Me Coding Bootcamp graduates seem to flourish within the setup we have – and we’re really proud of that.
What have you learnt about hiring / supporting Coding Bootcamp graduates?
We give the graduates a proper role from the off (no internships), with real/significant tasks to work on, but with the time, space and the safety net of the wider team behind them who’re committed to supporting their progression. This creates an environment where they can grow rapidly, enjoy and take full credit for their successes, while also being allowed to fail (and thus learn) in relative safety – basically owning the whole process. What we end up with in return are new developers who, within 6-9 months, are contributing at a level, and with a confidence, that utterly belies their time in the industry.
If you’re thinking of hiring from the Coding Bootcamp for the first time, it’s absolutely key that you have an established team in place already who are fully onboard and committed to helping develop junior talent – you owe the graduates that much. And if you just think of this as a source of cheap development resource, that’s absolutely the wrong attitude to have.
We’ve taken an organic approach so far, but after the success we’ve had with our graduates to date, we are now in the process of putting together a more structured induction programme specifically tailored to the Coding Bootcamp students.
What the course delivers for us is bright individuals who have proven they can learn at pace and adapt to coding principles quickly, but it’s our job as employers to continue that development and nurture the potential. If you can manage that, the graduates will pay you back in spades.
Did you have any reservations before hiring your first bootcamp graduate (did you think they could really learn to code in such a short space of time)?
Absolutely. As someone who has done the traditional degree route myself, with a placement year in industry, and having over 16 years experience to date, I was utterly cynical of the whole thing.
But Pete the recruitment specialist at Develop Me caught me at a time when I was struggling to fill a mid-weight frontend position and convinced me to see a few graduates from the cohort at the time. Liz who graduated in Autumn 2017 walked in the door and within minutes blew us away with her confidence, attitude and positivity, plus a great piece of final coursework, and a WordPress portfolio done in her own time. We as good as hired her on the spot and she’s been a key member of the team for over 18 months now.
Since then it’s totally redefined how we recruit and build our team going forward. It’s driven us to focus on bringing new/fresh talent into the business more often and to commit to developing them further within the business. Culturally it’s been an absolute joy to work here as a result and the vibe is fantastic. It also has the knock on effect of giving the more senior team members bags of personal development opportunity as a result of building the team this way.
Any tips for companies hiring junior developers / bootcamp graduates for the first time?
You need an established development team in place who are all aligned and on board with this approach as it needs to be a team effort. Doing this right is a commitment and an investment but the developers we’re getting out of this are a joy to work with.
Get your development house in order first. The cleaner your process and the more robust your tech stack and documentation is, the more frictionless the whole process will be. If you’ve got a backlog of maintenance and improvements you’ve been dying to make but haven’t got round to, do them first. You’ll find onboarding Bootcamp graduates far easier and more productive (and less stressful for them) if your ways of working are concise and slick.
Have a development plan in place. When mentoring Bootcamp graduates (and when they start with us), the most common thing they want to know is, “what is it like working in the real world?”, and “how well should I be doing after a week, a month, 6 months, a year, etc?”. We try to keep things relaxed but we give the grads clear things to aim for such as, “deploy something to production in your first week”, “complete a support/change ticket and get it into a release within your first month”, and “ship your first complete small feature/module within 3 months”. We’re planning to take this further and create a more formal roadmap for them to follow, but please just have a plan (beyond a few days) for what you want them to achieve.
There’s nothing worse than turning up to your first development job and finding there’s no computer, your desk isn’t properly setup, nobody has any time for you and everyone is too frightened/busy to give you anything to do apart from “read documentation”. Don’t be that company!
Is there anything you would tell students at the start of the coding bootcamp that you think would help them on the course?
Don’t panic! You’re going to cover a lot of new things at real pace, and in a very short space of time. There’s going to be an inevitable amount of anxiety and an urge to rush in order to keep pace, but in development sometimes you really do need to slow down in order to go faster.
Listen to the instructors, don’t be afraid to ask for help (again and again) and don’t suffer in silence.
If you’re having a good/easy week, help someone else. It’ll be credit in the bank when you have a tough week and you’ll learn far more from explaining something to someone else than you did by doing it in the first place!
Any advice you would give current bootcamp students about how to prepare for their first developer job in the industry?
When it comes to finding a job and doing interviews, there’s probably a lot of personal pressure to just find a job. But don’t accept anything that doesn’t feel right – listen to your gut.
Don’t be afraid to push the interviewer on their approach to hiring junior development talent. Ask – do they have a plan/proper induction programme? What does the established team look like? Can someone demonstrate what the dev stack and code base looks like? What will my first week, month, year look like? Do they have any previous graduates/junior developers that they’d be happy for you to meet/talk to? An inability to answer any of the above satisfactorily could be a red flag.
When I mentor students I normally advise them not to accept too specialised a role unless they’re 100% sure it’s what they want to do. You’re so early in your career and you have plenty of time to specialise later on if you want to. But for your first role, taking on something broad will allow you to explore a wider piece of the development stack and will only help in the long run.
Do draw on previous career experience in the interview and absolutely sell your story of how you ended up doing this. While we naturally try to choose the strongest graduates from a given cohort, it’s normally the graduate’s previous career/life experience and how passionately they told their story that influences our final decision.
Finally, please try to hit some stretch goals and do a really great README on your project!
In your experience how quickly do bootcamp graduates start making a genuine and valuable impact?
We always aim to get graduates working on building releases and doing production deploys within in their first month, which builds confidence and gives a real feeling of contribution very early on.
We typically see a ‘net contribution’ (where the amount of work a graduate produces outweighs the amount of support they need from other team members, or training time they’re being allocated) in the first 2-3 months. There’s generally a huge leap in confidence/ability around the 6-9 month mark where they even have the confidence to help new graduates. After a year we start to see a graduate’s confidence reach the point where they start contributing to process and decision making within the development team.
Our Coding Bootcamp is a 12 week immersive classroom course with a 4 week part time online course as preparation. 98% of our graduates now work in Tech roles most of which we placed in their first position straight after completing the Bootcamp – we are very proud of our students love watching each of them move into Tech from a huge variety of different backgrounds!