The best way to prepare for the Career Journey ahead will be to think through the type of company you want to work for, the roles that they have or that you would enjoy filling, and what you have done before (that you would like to keep doing).
What is a Career?
For the purposes of this journey, I’m defining career satisfaction as the series of jobs that lead you to achieve your ultimate goal. Two keys to this definition are:
- One job is not a career
- You must define your ultimate goal
A goal must be defined and measurable, and for a series of jobs to lead you there, you must have a theme or relationship that ties them together. A series of jobs can be in one industry such as:
- Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
- Computer and Electronic Product Manufacturing
- Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services
If you’re a Career Changer (or Transitioner as some of you have referred to it) you might look at what you love about coding or data science and what you want to create, because your skills can be used in whole other industries such as:
- Education and Health Services or Educational Services
- Professional and Business Services
The series of jobs that make up your career can also be framed as the problem you solve (example: creating applications that public school teachers will use to increase their effectiveness with students), the difference you wish to make(example: enabling micro contributions that have a macro impact in the non-profit and social justice space), or a topic you are passionate about(linguistics). While these are just a few examples, I have chosen them based on my conversations with more than 400 bootcamp graduates.
What is Career Satisfaction?
The key to picking a career that will lead to your satisfaction comes from identifying what you are looking to accomplish or the purpose you’re looking to fulfill. All of these things we will look at in this article, including what you can expect once you invest in a job hunt after graduating from a bootcamp, and how to determine which job or career path will help you accomplish your ultimate goal in a way that you will define as successful and will make you happy.
Factors that contribute to your satisfaction will be the company you work for and how much you love what you do because this is just the beginning! Immersive programs such as bootcamps tend to practice the 80/20 rule which means they focus their curriculum on the 20% you need to know to make things work so that you have a framework with which to build the rest of the 80% on your own through avenues like Meetup, hackathons, and jobs like temporary and contract work.
What Can I Expect Right Out of a Bootcamp?
About 75% of students are looking for a job in the tech industry. The key to fine-tuning your job hunt will be in knowing what you can expect. Usually what is daunting about a career change, transition, or investment is the unknown, so among the most common job titles, according to Course Report, for coding bootcamp grads are:
- Software Engineer – develop, create, and modify computer applications or utilities/research design, develop operating systems-level software.
- Software Developer – develop applications to accomplish tasks or underlying systems that run devices.
- Web Developer – designs and creates websites.
- Front-End Developer – in charge of the user interface and style of a website.
- Junior Web Developer – designs, develops and implements software packages for websites, usually with less than three years of previous experience.
Data Science bootcamp grads, according to the 2016 Course Report Ultimate Guide, can expect job titles such as:
- Data Analyst – draw actionable conclusions out of large datasets.
- Data Scientist – identify opportunities to use data while finding appropriate sources and performing analysis through an entire problem/solution cycle that requires diverse coding skills.
- Database Administrator – use software to store, organize, and secure data so that it is available for users.
- Data Engineer – captures and analyzes data so that they can make recommendations based on their findings.
The way that the industry is right now, there is no standardization with job titles between companies so you will have to do your homework in order to know if the job title is what you expect for the job role. In fact, some cases Software Engineer seems to be used synonymously with Web Developer, and I have seen a Hiring Manager post that they need a Data Scientist when their job description was titled BI Engineer.
How Do You Solve Problems?
To give you a further idea of what roles will be available to you and how they (and you) fit into the industry depends on your approach to problems, according to Google Software Engineer Martin Puryear:
- A Hack or Hacker is not necessarily a great keyword to describe yourself in terms of your skills and abilities because it can imply a lack of expertise through patch work that’s not clean and a lack of understanding of why it may work.
- On the other hand, a Web Developer would have clean code that actually solves problems.
- A Software Engineer solves long-term problems in any number of ways. They will often answer a question with ‘well, it depends,’ because they would choose a solution based on the situation and then measure the results for performance.
- Junior roles, whether a Developer or Test Architect, has more to do with experience and maturity in terms of knowing what to do when something unusual happens. This could even be a Software Engineering role depending on the company, so be sure to do your homework about yourself and the expectations of the Hiring Manager.
Not All About the Skill?
Not everyone who graduates from a bootcamp takes or wants to take on jobs that deal with coding or data every day all day. If you want to talk code or data but you don’t necessarily want to do it for work, here are some paths to consider:
- Dev Ops or Development Operations can be another title for Customer Support but it can also mean full stack expertise in getting all things deployed and knowing what to revise in requirements change. The person in this role should have the mindset of a developer and not just be an operations person. An Ops or Operationsperson thrives on consistency and control in an ideal world where nothing ever changes. This person is about the entire network and getting power to the system. While not change averse, they may also automate as much as possible so as not to wake a Developer in the middle of the night. A Developer always wants to add a feature and will admittedly never get it right the first time so there will always be bug fixes which is where the learning comes in…
- Junior or Senior Tester is someone who can test the front- or back-end, is usually more of a Back-End Developer with good technical sensibilities. Usually, this person loves to work with puzzles and is always on the lookout for the trick that will be a breakthrough to the solution. Often times this prowess comes so easily for the person in this role that they often take it for granted to everyone can do it…
- Business Development is about building a company, most likely to be bought by another company.
- A Tech Writer, Tech Evangelist, Data Journalist are all about getting other companies to be excited about some technology the company creates.
- Program / Project / or Product Managers are connectors which means they connect all the pieces for the development lifecycle so that deadlines can be met.
- Field and Sales Engineers work with larger companies in order to get them to buy software-as-a-service (SaaS) and then help them to integrate the software into their current workflow.
What Makes a Good Fit?
You are reading this article because you want to have and build a better future. With research that engineers, developers and other IT specialists are less happy than those who work in non-tech sectors, the key to your success is owning your own professional development so that:
- Your opportunities for growth are clear
- There are opportunities for growth
This goes for your professional growth and development within one company as well as within the tech industry. As a way to keep us focused on what impacts your career satisfaction, let’s look at Careerealism’s four essential P’s of your dream job:
People: Because “you are most productive with teammates you can relate to and rely on” who you work with and who you work for matters. How do you like to be managed? Mentored? Who do you do your best brainstorming with? The more you know upfront, the better you’ll be able to make a decision when opportunities start rolling in.
Purpose: Have a focus for your motivation so that those around you better understand who you are as a professional, and who you are striving to be. The key to your purpose is working for a company that aligns with your values so that you’re both happy to go to work as well as happy tell others where you work.
Product: Especially if you are looking for work, you are selling a product (ex: websites) or a service/skill (ex: data science), so it’s important to have everything you put into your applications reflect what you’re ‘selling,’ just as the companies you are applying to need to be your ideal target ‘customer.’ Just as a company must align with your values, you must also believe in the product or service you are contributing to because that is key to your career satisfaction.
Potential: In order for you to have a “shot at something bigger,” you have to know where you want to be or what you want to be doing in the years ahead. Look at how to leverage what you’re doing right now so that you can see and be seen for future opportunities.
Where You Work Matters
It’s great to know what kind of work you could do after you graduate from an immersive training program, but how can you tell if a role will be a good fit for you? The key to this is to know what you like (or don’t like). You can focus on a role but you can also set your sights on a specific company.
Where you work will impact what kinds of things you could be doing for your first job after graduation. A smaller company or startup will give you the chance to do all kinds of different things – utilizing your full-stack capabilities. Startups move so quickly with deadlines and opportunities that you will get the chance to take on work beyond the scope of your role so your potential for growth is great. I would say that one week with a startup can equate to one-month of work somewhere else, so you would need to move quickly according to the needs of the company. If this excites you, there are a couple of things to consider:
- Size of the team. If you’re the only one, then everything relies on what you can do. If there are others, you can brainstorm or debug together, and if they have more experience, you could even be mentored.
- Years in business. The first five years is a make or break time for a business to know if they will succeed. The more years they’ve been around the more likely they have figured out how to keep their employees paid. There are no guarantees, as large companies have failed, but it is important for you to realize that there is a risk.
Larger companies give you a chance to specialize. While your experience may not be broad on a large team or within a large company, it will be deep. The key to taking on this opportunity is to stay current regarding industry and technology trends so that you don’t find yourself in a niche that becomes outdated. Two things that can help is picking a company focused on innovation and picking one that values continuing education so that you are immersed in a culture that supports your need to keep evolving with the rest of the industry.
Determining What You Need
In determining which roles will be your career satisfaction mecca or mirage, consider your answers to the following questions:
Can you work remotely? If not, then you should steer clear of jobs where you will have to find and harvest self-motivation, independent work habits, and virtual team-building. What is also important to consider is that Hiring Managers such as Jeff Rodenburg from Valassis Digital sees remote work as requiring the ability to learn and listen. Because comradery can be important, companies like Amazon and Facebook are opening satellite locations in order to broaden their access to talent like you.
Are you willing to travel? If you are working remotely you will likely need to travel in order to meet with other members of your team. As an example, the Senior Director of Technology at A Place for Mom, Justin Saul’s role evolved, he had to travel more in order to connect with his team and handle deployment challenges.
What are your work/life balance requirements? If you have a family or are planning extensive travel that might open your eyes to remote opportunities. If you prefer stable, predictable schedules, a larger company might be more your speed. If you want to go for a startup but you’re not sure what they would require, and they’re not yet listed on Glassdoor, take the interview opportunity and ask questions. You don’t want to come right out and ask about work/life balance because that can appear as though you are unwilling or unable to do what they need you to do. There are certain questions that you can ask in order to find this out including:
o What does your sprint cycle look like?
o How frequently do you push to production?
o What does a day-in-the-life of someone in this role or this team look like?
o I put in 70-90 hours a week during an immersive bootcamp, what would you say is the average work week expectations for this role?
What are your location requirements? Consider where you would work on a regular basis if you need to be onsite. You might have to take the cost of living, commuting, and parking into consideration. Another key component of this in the Greater Seattle Area is time, so consider the traffic patterns around stadiums, bridges, and tunnels.
All of these factors will and should influence your decision. Answer these questions before you begin your job hunt so that you know how much money you would need to make in order to be comfortable.
Money, Money, Money.
In order to know if a role is worth your investment, you should first find out how much it pays. If this isn’t your highest priority, I recommend you at least know the numbers before your first interview – especially with a recruiter – so that you both know the value of the position, what you offer, and whether or not the situation in front of you could even work for you. Besides asking your peers and mentors what you can expect to make as a Web Developer or Data Scientist, there are at least two places I recommend for finding out what the going rate is for a role: Salary.com and Glassdoor.com. While you can also look at PayScale.com and LinkedIn.com, I do recommend you pick sitesthat take more than self-reporting into account and you are consistent with the 1-2 you choose so you have a consistent context to work from.
Salary is great because you can both get a job description – so that you know you’re qualified – and a salary range – so that you know your value. For example, the national median for an entry-level Web Applications Developer is more than $58K. With full benefits – did you forget you may want those too? – that role is valued at $84K+. This is an increase of $3K from a year ago. For a Data Scientist, the national average is $122K as a base and $176K with benefits.
These numbers will vary according to location:
When you look on Glassdoor you can get information on the culture of a workplace, interview questions, and salary information. For example, the national average for a Web Applications Developer is $77.3K, slightly down from the $77.5K that was reported a year ago.
Your Decision Is….
All of this is great, but when faced with multiple opportunities, how do you know what to choose? You can take the emotion out of the choice with a decision grid. I find this to be a useful to quantify my client’s priorities. Many times I don’t need the grid because I can tell which way someone is leaning by how they talk about a role and what they say. If you want to work this out on your own or with an accountability partner, here is what you need to do:
Pick your top 2-3 roles based on the work involved and technology used. Go through the list I offered you here, based on roles taken by other graduates, or you can go through job titles listed at sites like BLS.gov or SkillCrush.
Pick the top 5-7 criteria that will impact your satisfaction in that role, based on everything we have covered including:
- Size of the company/team
- Work / Life Balance
- Potential for your growth
Any criteria you might get from an assessment such as:
- VIA which assesses your key strengths and values
- MBTI which is the Myers-Briggs personality assessment
- CVI which assesses your core values
Create a grid where your ideal roles are listed along the left-hand side and the criteria are along the right:
Give each determining factor a value on a scale of 1-9 using only odd numbers for each job. You can use the same number twice.
Notice this graduate used even numbers. They had to justify it to me as to why those categories were neither a 9 nor a 7. This whole exercise also ended in a numerical tie. Without me having to point out the excitement in their voice for one job over another, they realized which job they wanted just by talking it through. I also had them decide, of all the criteria, which was the key one or the deal-breaker in terms of what they needed from their next job. The answer was potential to grow.
This exercise can be used for any decision. While I’m using it here to help you realize which path you would be happier pursuing, the example grid is actually from a decision between two job offers. Because potential to grow was the most important key factor for a next role, the graduate chose that job and is living…er…working happily ever after.
Test and Learn
If you still feel uncertain about which direction to go, handle it like you would any bug fix: test and learn. Go to events put on by your school, Careers Team, or Meetups to talk to people who already work or are active in the industry and ask them questions. Research the role on the BLS website so you know more about what that role does, what the work environment is like, and the job outlook. These are all great ways to gather information, the next thing to do is act. Take a step in one direction and see what happens. Keep going in that direction until you know for sure that you can work happily ever after.
Once you pick a role you should continue to learn about technology, trends, and innovations in that area. Your projects – whether they are bootcamp assignments or ones of passion – should reflect your interest. Publish at least two profession-relevant projects from your bootcamp experience, and then continue to produce portfolio pieces until, during, and even after you’ve gotten a job.
What We Learned
What we learned in this article is what that a career is a series of jobs leading you to your ultimate goal. Satisfaction in that path has a lot to do with how you define success and what you are looking to create. While bootcamp graduates tend toward being a Web Developer, Software Engineer, or Data Scientist, there are also roles that you can take where you can talk the talk and not necessarily have to walk the walk.
To know if a role or career path is right for you, you must first determine what you need or want from your next role. If you can’t decide, you can test and learn but you must, above all else, act! Once you step out in the direction you believe is right for you, pursue it with all your mind, heart, and soul and do the work you’ve always imagined.