What is culture?

Stay in the tech sphere for any trivial amount of time and you start to hear about the importance of culture. Ask anyone what culture is and you won’t get a definition, but will instead receive various examples ranging from free food to mandatory hack weeks. One of the largest tech companies even coined the term ‘Googleyness’ to describe an employee’s alignment with its culture.

Even though no one really understands it, companies emphasize culture so much that there’s a good chance one or more sections of an onsite interview are reserved for “Culture Fit” questions. How can something so ephemeral and hard to describe be considered such a cornerstone of modern tech workplaces?

Culture is a conglomeration of tangibles and intangibles that – if done right – can solve turnover and improve productivity.

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Interviewing while working full-time

It’s difficult to interview while working full-time. Scheduling is a nightmare, studying is tedious, and it feels dishonest hiding from your colleagues. Recruiters only want to talk during bank hours, but you still have a full calendar of meetings and a full week of tickets to complete.

Unless you have a very good relationship with your supervisor, you don’t want to make your job search too obvious until much later in the process. Keeping a secret from your peers is easy, but keeping a secret from someone whose job is to make you more productive can be impossible.

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Your progress will stall after the bootcamp

The value of your bootcamp came in its carefully curated curriculum. Instructors spend hours planning every aspect of the course: deliberating why webpack is easier to setup and understand than gulp, choosing the handful of node modules and ruby gems you’ll need, teaching a database that plays well with the data you’ll be storing.

As a result, you spend very little time on configuration and dedicate all of your precious time to creating. You can still namedrop webpack and babel and es-2015-presets, but a few months later when you decide to start a new project from scratch, you realize you have no idea where to begin (unless you choose your bootcamp’s MERN stack again).

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You’ve got the job – now what?

You’ve spent the past 4 – 6 months studying a very carefully curated curriculum: first you learned how to ‘hello world’ in Ruby, then you learned how to template that message in Rails, finally you learned how to make the letters change colors when you clicked on them using JavaScript.

You’ve learned so much in the past few months that you’ve managed to trick a company into paying you a crazy amount of money each week because they believe you can take their product to the next level.

You show up on day 1, go through a brief orientation, and install Atom. Now what? You’ve only ever worked on small codebases where you were intimately familiar with every line of code. Your new company’s project is thousands of times bigger and growing each day. It feels like a new pull request is merged into the repository every time you reload the page. How are you going to become familiar with something this fluid?

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Bridging the gap of CS skills as a bootcamp grad

If you ask hiring managers why they refuse to interview bootcamp grads, they’ll say “computer science fundamentals like data structures and algorithms.” If you ask them what else, they’ll stumble around for words and say something like “four years of immersion.”

It’s not feasible to self-study four years of unrelated coursework and heavy drinking, but it’s not impossible to supplement your bootcamp education with a very strong understanding of computer science fundamentals.

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