The Most Important Thing I Learned From a Three-Month Dev Camp

Attending a three-month-long dev bootcamp isn’t for everyone. I wasn’t really sure if it was for me, even after I made the commitment to attend a small code academy in South Carolina called The Iron Yard this past year. I didn’t have much coding experience to speak of and I was about to take a three-month dive into javascript programming. The stakes were high for me. I was leaving my family in Texas and draining our savings to make this happen. Failure, while completely terrifying, just couldn’t be an option. The Most Important Thing I Learned From a Three Month Long Dev CampI had to make it work.

Attending this school was one of the hardest things I have ever done. The pace of the course was intense and the workload often daunting. Every weekday the lecture portion of the course would begin at 9am and last until noon. After lunch we would all work on our homework which was due the following morning. I don’t remember a day that I went to bed before 1am (I took an hour break each night to eat dinner and FaceTime with my family). Weekends were spent on longer homework assignments. It was intense work, but exciting. I came to this program because I was convinced that through it my life would change for the better. As each week passed, that conviction became more of a reality.

Looking back I am amazed at how much we were able to cram into such a short time. The track I attended focused on front end development, in particular javascript/jQuery/backbone, but the gains I made were beyond just programmatic syntax. I took away some really life-altering things from this program.

I Learned to Hustle
Every day we had homework that went beyond what we learned in lecture. Our instructor gave us a push in the right direction, but we had to do the hard work of figuring out how to accomplish the assignment. It felt kind of like learning to swim by being thrown into the deep end of the pool. As time went on I got better at identifying which parts of the assignments were going to be the most challenging. I would start with those and focus my daylight hours on them so that if I got stuck the TA or instructor would be available for questions. Get the coding working during the day, get it working well at night. It didn’t always work out that way, but it was the race I had to run. With practice, I could tell I was getting better at the mental sprinting.

I Learned How To Learn
You learn a lot about yourself when you need to aggressively learn something that you have little to no prior experience dealing with. At some point you are going to come up against something that is beyond your ability. I’ve heard marathon runners describe something similar to this. At some point in the race they hit a mental wall when their own physical capabilities feel lacking. Whether or not they will continue to run becomes a sheer act of persevering willpower. That is what I felt week after week (sometimes even daily). After a while, you begin to expect it and it does’t feel quite so overwhelming. You learn to push through it. As time passes you eventually see what things help you get through that wall faster. For me, it was cramming/researching like crazy and then taking a walk. That gave my brain time to stew on what I had read and find perspective.

I Learned How To Think Like a Problem Solver
Not too long ago I made a list of the top five people who had most influenced my life. I included my instructor from The Iron Yard on this list because he essentially taught me how to think. Yes, he taught me how to think like a programmer, but really the change in my brain feels too profound to define it by a profession. With each new program or framework we learned, he took great care to teach us the problem that that particular language was trying to solve. He wasn’t just teaching programming, he was teaching the philosophy behind programming. Over time, I began thinking like a serial problem solver. The way I was learning to look at programming challenges was changing the way I looked at everything: parenting, design, relationships, etc. I returned to Texas with a newfound perspective.

I Learned That People Can Be Pretty Awesome
I would be doing a disservice not to mention that getting to know my fellow classmates, fellow coding comrades, was as significant to me as any other part of the program. We were in the trenches together, all of us willing our minds to understand the unfamiliar. My skills in programming and design were richly impacted by the people I was learning alongside. Watching them learn, hearing them explain their solutions and sharing with them solutions of my own were all sharpening my own ability to problem solve. Sometimes when you have stared at the same problem for hours a fresh set of eyes is what you need most and an encouraging word can go a long way.

Was Attending A Dev Bootcamp Worth It?
I decided to attend this program because I felt that it would change my life for the better. In terms of my career, I would say that it had a definite impact. After completing the program at The Iron Yard, it took about three months of job searching before I received offers for four different positions. I accepted a junior developer role with an amazing web shop in Allen, TX. I work with some pretty brilliant team members building websites and web applications for really interesting clients. It’s a small team so I get to be a part of both the design and development process which was important to me. While there is still a lot of room for improvement, I’m able to make significant contributions to the team I’m working on. I absolutely love it.

But my affinity for my time at hack school is not due solely to the career benefits I’m enjoying as a result. I know it sounds like I’ve taken a sip of the coder camp Kool Aid, but it really was a life-altering experience. What I gained most was confidence. I didn’t just learn about coding, I was writing code. I had proof that I could do this, I could become a hacker because for three months I was hacking. That proof was of utmost importance, because the person who needed it most was me.

About the Author: 

Daniel Donaldson is a front end developer for LifeBlue Media, a digital media agency in Dallas, TX. After years of experience in non-profit project management roles, Daniel made the career jump into the tech field by attending an intensive dev bootcamp. Having a passion for technology, design and human behavior, he felt that the world of web design was a perfect fit for him. You can read more about his experience at his blog or find him on Twitter @Color_Turtle.

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The Best (And Most Rewarding) Way to Bond Your Team

MATRIX has been annually volunteering with HouseProud Atlanta since 2012. This organization provides no-cost repairs to low-income, senior homeowners living in the greater downtown Atlanta neighborhoods. Their mission is to keep these homeowners “warm, safe, and dry” in their existing homes. MATRIX volunteered with HouseProud for the first time several years ago and we recently decided to return in 2012. Everyone has enjoyed it so much that we continue to go back every year. We’ve done everything from painting to planting, and the families are always so friendly and appreciative. It’s nice that we get to meet and interact with the people we are helping.

Last week we worked at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Smalls. Mr. Smalls is a veteran who has terminal kidney cancer and his wife, Mrs. Smalls, has a very bad lung disease. The couple wanted their house to look nice so that they can enjoy it as long as possible. We were lucky enough to get to know Mr. Smalls as he stayed outside with us the whole time and made it a point to talk to and thank everyone! It was a very rewarding experience for everyone involved.

I personally think it’s great that MATRIX has such an active community service committee. We do multiple donation drives throughout the year for various organizations such as the Salvation Army, the Atlanta Humane Society, Partnership Against Domestic Violence and many more. While partnering with these organizations is important, it’s even more valuable when we get to do something hands-on like volunteering with HouseProud or in the Fun Zone at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. It brings coworkers closer together, acts as a team-building experience and gives us the ability to help others in need…win, win, win! I hope that the community service involvement at MATRIX continues to grow year after year.

HouseProud

Here is what some other MATRIX team members had to say about their experience with HouseProud:

“HouseProud is always a great way to spend an afternoon with your coworkers, helping people in need. It’s nice to feel like you are making a difference in someone’s life! I’m glad that MATRIX continues to volunteer with HouseProud, and I’m excited to keep coming back each year!” – Catherine Mootz

“HouseProud is awesome! It gives us a great opportunity to help the Atlanta community in a very hands-on way (literally!). The homeowners are always so appreciative and grateful. It’s definitely rewarding to see our small repairs come together to keep them warm, safe & dry.” – Kara Ritter

“For me, it was just great to be part of something that helps people in our community who are in need of a little assistance, especially people going through a difficult time in their lives, and put a smile on their faces. It really stood out to me how kind, appreciative, and hospitable Mr. Smalls was to all of us. You could tell that he takes pride in his home. I learned that he served in both the Korean and Vietnam War! It’s always nice to be able to help someone out who has given so much to his country.” – Michelle Spears

“This was my first year in volunteering at HouseProud and it was a very fun and rewarding experience. I had a great time with my co-workers and the fact that we were able to help a family in need made the time we spent together that much more fulfilling. I think HouseProud is a wonderful program that helps many families in need and I hope we continue our support of this worthy cause.” – Savannah Dortch

“What a fun afternoon! It was great spending time with my MATRIX teammates and most importantly, being able to participate in such a wonderful activity. I feel honored that we could help out the Smalls family and hope we can do it again.” – Sage Kroell

“This is the one event I look forward to each year. It’s just the most fun. It’s hard work, but it’s very rewarding.” – Legend Wilcox

“The homeowner was so appreciative and grateful. He was outside with us the whole time, encouraging us and thanking us. It felt good to help someone and feel like we were making a difference.” – Heather Folkers

“This year was my third time participating in the HouseProud volunteer event with MATRIX. It's a great way to spend time with your coworkers while helping out a family in need and it’s a very rewarding experience. “ – Christine Geiger

Check out more pictures on our Facebook page.

About the Author: 

Hanna is the Proposal Analyst for MATRIX. She manages the RFP/RFI process for all MATRIX offices and provides sales support for client-facing presentations, proposals and required client documentation. Learn more about Hanna and connect with her on LinkedIn.  

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Making the Most of Your Internship

Three years ago we faced a unique challenge. We knew emerging social platforms were presenting unprecedented opportunities to build meaningful and lasting relationships with our customers. But no one in our industry, including MATRIX, was doing it well. So, on a limb, we hired a socially savvy intern to help us create a solution. Today, with a focus on engagement and content, I would argue that no one in our business is better at building relationships through social platforms. If it was not for the intern’s fresh ideas and new outlook, we would not be the market leader we are. Oh, and that intern, she is already a leader at MATRIX and undoubtedly one of our most valuable employees.

Fast-forward to 2014 and you will see I have never been more bullish on the mutual value an intern program can create. Today, we have twelve interns from nine universities working across three different states. They are driving real growth and adding tremendous value to our organization. In return, they are getting some sweet, real business experience. Each day they are entrenched in emerging technology, data & financial analysis, marketing and sales. All while being paid well and having fun.

Making the Most of Your Internship

That said, not every intern is the same and some will not work out. Often, what makes us successful are intrinsic skills that you did nothing to earn or learn. Sure, they can be sharpened, but you were either born with it or not. However, every semester a few always rise to the top and really stand out. And those few consistently demonstrate behaviors that can be learned. Lucky enough to land a paid internship? Keep reading. Below are a few consistent characteristics of interns who put their careers on the fast track.

Take Initiative
They ask for work instead of waiting to be assigned tasks. They spot patterns and complete repetitive duties without having to be told each time.

Communicate
They tell you what has been accomplished before leaving and let you know when an assigned task has been completed. They ask good questions and are not afraid to ask others for help.

Punctuality
They show up on time, consistently. When we give them the freedom to create their own schedule, they stick to it.

Relationships
They build trust by doing what they say they are going to do and taking pride in their work. They get over their fear and talk to other employees.

Work Ethic
They accomplish things. They understand what their expectations are and exceed them. They ask for more to do. There is no slacking and you will not see them on Facebook or sending snapchats.

Has your company benefited from an internship program? Tweet your thoughts to @MATRIXResources.

About the Author: 

Justin Thomason is the Regional Director of Recruiting at MATRIX. His expertise includes hiring, training, and leading world class recruiting organizations. With a focus on innovative delivery strategies, Justin's recruiting teams specialize in leveraging social media to develop lasting relationships with talented IT professionals.

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How to Focus Your Job Search for Success

I speak with overwhelmed job seekers every week who can't seem to gain any traction in their job search. They tell me, "I'm applying for just about anything that will pay me". This, my friends, will get you nowhere. My suggestion to the job seeker is to stop the scatter-shooting and laser focus your search.How to Focus Your Job Search for Success

FOCUS
Here is a great way to start narrowing your focus. Make some lists. Start with a list of things you have recently been paid to do. Your next list is of things you like to do. Then make a list of things that you have been paid to do that you like to do. Finally make a list of things that you like to do and are most likely to get paid to do. This last list is where you should focus your job search.

If you are applying for jobs that you are not really interested in just to see if you can get an interview and possibly a pay check, that probably won't pan out well. But if you really target jobs that are specific to what you do and what you like, your chances of success go way up. Your attitude towards these jobs will be better and your enthusiasm will show in the interview process.

IDENTIFY
Once you have your narrowed list, try to identify some companies who might hire someone to do the things that meet your focus. Find people on Linkedin who work for those companies. Look at the Linkedin groups those people participate in and join them. Participate in those groups a couple of times a week by posting interesting and relevant links to articles or new items and by asking or answering questions.

NETWORK FOR REFERRALS
After you have participated in these groups for 2 or three weeks, and shown yourself to be an active and valuable resource, ask the members who work for the companies you have identified to join your network. Let them know you are in job search mode are interested in learning more about their experience with their company. Continue to build rapport and finally ask these new members of your network if they would feel comfortable referring you in to their employer. Maybe even invite them to coffee to make the request.

When you have a focus and a target for your job search, you give yourself direction and a better chance for success. A huge percentage of corporate placements happen by referral. So focus, identify, network and get referred in. Happy job hunting!

To read the original post on TalentNet, please click here.

About the Author: 

Craig Fisher is a recruitment consultant, social media strategist and trainer, and serial entrepreneur. He consults with some of the world’s top companies on using social media for sales, marketing, recruiting, employer branding, and talent attraction. He is a featured author and speaker in industry publications and at conference events internationally. Craig created and hosts the original social recruiting forum on Twitter, TalentNet Live (#talentnet), and the TalentNet Live Social Recruiting/HR conferences. Follow Craig on Twitter @fishdogs and @TalentNet.

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Job Seeker

The Three Cs of Recruiting Successfully

As an IT professional, how do you prefer to be recruited? You’re in high demand right now, and are likely being contacted by recruiters on a weekly basis. You might be thinking, “I don’t want to be recruited.”The Three Cs of Recruiting Successfully Or maybe you don’t mind an email here and there as long as it’s perfectly aligned with your skillset.

Last Friday, I attended TalentNet Live Dallas, a strategic recruiting conference featuring leaders from some of the biggest brands in the world including Capital One, Yum! Brands, AT&T, Pepsico and many more.

Now, I’m not a recruiter, but I do work for a company that specializes in recruiting. My job, ultimately, is to discover how to engage with candidates in a way they actually want to be engaged. Below are my key takeaways from TalentNet. I’m curious if they are what you would expect HR buffs to talk about at a conference – and if they ring true to what you are looking for in a company.

Culture

“Beer Friday doesn’t make your company unique…people do.” – Craig Fisher, CEO at TalentNet

Culture has become more and more of a deciding factor in whether or not a company is considered appealing. But when it comes down to it, is a stocked bar or arcade room in an office really going to make you a happy employee? Craig Fisher emphasized that it’s the people in the office that define a great culture – not the foosball table. Another big point the speakers stressed was how often you recognize the people in your company. Appreciating and celebrating your employees is essential for good morale. As Tiffany Harvey from Southwest pointed out, happy employees = happy customers.
How do you define culture? And how much of a factor is it for you when choosing a place of employment?

Content

“If you’re not listening, you’re operating blind.” – Tommy Blanchard, Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Capital One

As a Content Specialist, I was happy to find that content was an overarching theme at TalentNet. Authenticity and engagement were big buzzwords as far as what companies should focus on when creating content. Tommy said the above quote as he discussed the most important factors when speaking with potential candidates. In the same way, I don’t want to blindly post content to our audience – I want to post the things that people are interested in seeing.
What kind of content do you want to see from employers?

Customer Service

“Our business is customer service, we just happen to fly airplanes.” – Tiffany Harvey, Employment Lead at Southwest Airlines

This quote is one of the founding principles at Southwest Airlines. Many are familiar with the fun culture promoted at Southwest – they even have a culture department! But the real reason they are so adored by customers is the level of service they provide. On the agency side of customer service, the speakers reminded us that we are a business of humans working with humans, not placements. At MATRIX, our focus is building and nurturing relationships so that we can fulfill the needs of our customers. We would be nothing without our relationships.
What companies have stood out to you with their customer service? Why?

I’d love to get your feedback on these points. Leave a comment below or tweet your thoughts at @MATRIXResources.

About the Author: 

Jennifer is the Digital Content Specialist for MATRIX. Her primary mission is to understand what information our various communities want and need from MATRIX, and to deliver it to them in ways that are enlightening, engaging and in sync with who we are as a company. She loves pop culture, Oklahoma football and the great state of Texas. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Fun