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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State of the Bootcamp

A friend recently considered enrolling in a bootcamp and asked me for some input on my experience. Five months ago I would have raved about the wonderful people I met, the volume of information I digested, and the quality of my portfolio when the program was said and done. Today, after seeing so many bootcamps in the news going through acquisitions and changing their business models, I had to be more careful in how much praise I heap onto bootcamps.

The thoughts below are not well researched, and mostly just a stream of consciousness from media coverage and conversations with recent graduates. The bootcamp was definitely worth it for me and the rest of my cohort; all of us got jobs relatively quickly and we were getting paid well above the advertised average salary. Please research your programs and check employment status of recent graduates to vet your own bootcamps before committing to a substantial amount of debt.

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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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The evolution of our interview process

Interviewing is difficult – maybe even broken. We expect to make a decision that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars on just a few data points: a description of previous positions, a list of skills, and a few short conversations. In just a few hours, we need to not only evaluate a candidate for the position they applied for, but also consider other positions at the company that might be a better fit.

Over my past year at fuboTV, I’ve conducted several dozen interviews. I’ve made many mistakes during the process that probably impacted my review of the candidate, resulting in a pass when they should have failed or vice versa. But over this time we’ve also hired some amazing people who we might have passed on if we strictly followed the strictly objective hiring practices of FAANG companies.

I wanted to use this article to share some of my mistakes and lessons along the way.

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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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Budgeting for a bootcamp

The $15,000 or $18,000 price tag advertised on a bootcamp’s website can be misleading when you’re trying to sort out your finances. Make sure you understand exactly how much you need to save before quitting your job and committing to a new career. Getting this step correct will avoid so much stress, as you’ll know exactly how big of a runway you have.

Most people will calculate living expenses for the 12-week duration of the bootcamp and forget to factor in the job search period which can be just as long.

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Job application flow

This is part 2 in the ‘job hunting’ series. Check out ‘Things to do before starting your job search‘.

Getting a job after graduating from your bootcamp is part luck, part skill, and 100% concentrated power of will mostly a numbers game. You can polish your personal portfolio until it sparkles, but you can’t stop companies from seeing ‘attended coding bootcamp…’ on your resume and instantly place it in the discard pile.

The process is a grind. It can take hundreds of applications and months of waiting before you land a suitable gig at a company worth working for. The monotonous process is magnified tenfold by the fact that you just spent 12 weeks learning exciting and novel things every day, and now you’re copying and pasting the same cover letter into job application templates.

To get through these next few months without losing your mind, I’m sharing the routine that I followed. It involves sending applications, following up on leads, and enhancing your programming skills.

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Things to do before starting your job search

Do these things once, but do them very well. If you knock these out of the park at the beginning, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache later in the process (you’ll probably get a job sooner, too!).

Before you start the process, make sure your tangibles are pristine. Recruiters read hundreds of resumes and cover letters each day, and if you’re the only one with a typo in your ‘experience’ section, guess which resume is going in the trash? Have a few developer friends look over your resume and take their feedback very seriously. It’s important to do this now before you’ve sent 50+ wasted applications.

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