The following is part 1 of a guest post series by Rob Gonzalez. You can find part 2 here and part 3 here. Rob is the co-founder of Salsify, a leading cloud-based product content management and syndication solution that I invested in in 2013 and where I currently serve on the board. Prior to founding Salsify, Rob was at IBM, Endeca and Cambridge Semantics in senior product management roles.
I frequently write about recruiting and onboarding best practices because I strongly believe that finding the right talent and setting them up for success is one of the top priorities for a founder and their early team. With competition for technical talent so fierce, Salsify has developed a process to hire new coding bootcamp grads and make them successful. I’ve invited Rob to share the details of their program to help other entrepreneurs who may be struggling to scale their teams, but have the management resources to tap into this relatively new talent pool.
At Matrix Partners, we’re big supporters of coding bootcamps. We’re investors in the Flatiron School in New York and are proud of their success and the opportunities they are creating for a whole new population of coders. Hiring a coding bootcamp grad is very different from hiring a new CS grad. While they have less technical knowledge and experience, you will generally be hiring someone extremely committed to learning and growth–important qualities in any long-term hire. But, as Rob will explain, you must have the structure and people to mentor and support these new grads if they and your company are to succeed together.
This is the first in a multi-part series Rob is publishing with TechCrunch. We’ll be publishing the series here for our forEntrepreneurs readers over the next few weeks.
I hope you enjoy,
Anyone hiring engineers in tech knows how much competition there is for talent; there just aren’t enough good engineers to go around.
As a result of the incredibly high demand for talent, the supply side has responded by launching coding bootcamps all over the country and, indeed, the world. Thousands of post-college adults are dropping their careers and spending months and many thousands of dollars in these bootcamps to become engineers.
Do Bootcamps Work?
I’ve heard quite a lot of skepticism about the coding bootcamps and, frankly, wouldn’t have considered hiring tech talent from them myself if the folks over at Cogo Labs hadn’t had success with it first.
To date, we’ve hired eight employees from Launch Academy and General Assembly and have been very happy with what they’ve been able to achieve since joining. In fact, they’ve meaningfully accelerated our development timelines in more than a dozen key initiatives.
Projects they’ve built (with guidance) include:
- A review application enabling a multi-billion dollar distributor to review, approve and reject content refreshes from their supplier base. It’s currently in production, and we’re rolling it out to several other customers.
- A micro-service that integrates with our core application to enable companies to share more information between accounts in real time.
- An application that inspects data in extremely complicated, macro-heavy spreadsheets and fills out tens of thousands of cells for customers.
- A micro-service that takes data from Salsify and posts it to Jet.com’s new API.
- …many others.
These successes haven’t been without cost. We’ve invested a great deal of thought and work into designing a continuing education program with significant active mentorship to build on the (very basic) foundation from the bootcamps and help ensure each employee’s success from their first week on the job.
The remainder of this post details our experience working with code bootcamp graduates. We’ll share the program we put together, along with the types of projects we have them work on, to help you make them successful. Other posts in this series will focus on hiring lessons for employers, as well as tips for bootcamp grads themselves on where to work and how to succeed once in the door.
Develop A Farm System
We’ve seen some employers hire code bootcamp graduates and simply put them to work assembly line style on web app development. They’ll build basic Rails app after Rails app, or work on a small, constrained part of a larger Rails app where they can’t do much damage, and are basically expected to work with the skills they bring to the job — which aren’t many. Many of these are small consultancies that basically build simple apps for small businesses; these jobs pay the bills, but offer very limited professional growth and very limited skill development. This is a terrible shame.
Instead, we view our bootcamp graduate program as a farm system. Not all bootcampers will become full-on engineers, but by investing in them and — this is key — expecting more of them than basic web app development, we believe we can grow significant talent from within while having them accomplish increasingly complicated (and valuable) tasks over time.
What They Bring To The Table
To understand how we’ve made bootcamp graduates productive, it’s important to understand how we view them.
We see code bootcamp graduates as:
- Motivated. Remember, these are people who dropped everything, including whatever they studied in college, to pursue a programming career.
- Hungry. They’ve already jumped off the plane and done more in three months than any of them ever thought possible. They typically will dive in with abandon to any task given them.
- Coachable. This is in contrast to a recent graduate from MIT or Harvard, who often thinks she/he knows everything from reading some blog posts (“Ruby is stupid; you should use Node”… sigh) and can be somewhat difficult to coach into true engineering.
- Raw. Extremely raw. Three months of bootcamp is basically zero in the grand scheme of things.
There are so many smart, enthusiastic, coachable people graduating from code bootcamps these days that, if you can find a way to utilize them productively in your company, you’ll have a competitive advantage versus simply having to compete with Google, Facebook, Apple and others for the scarce resources that are computer science majors.
Conversely, if you are graduating and can find a great mentorship situation, your new career will be off to a very strong start. The more people we can create who can effectively program and master technology, the better off the world will be in the long run.
Part 2: Hiring Lessons For Employers
Part 3: Where To Work As A Bootcamp Grad