Oh boy! I had a really tough time writing this, I know I’m about to rattle the hornet’s nest with this one. You may or may not agree with my view; but if you’re still here reading this all I ask from you is to hear me out.
A few days ago I read two incredible news articles that are the basis of this writing. One was from Bloomberg news titled “Want a Job in Silicon Valley? Keep Away From Coding Schools”, and the other was from NPR news titled “What Former Employees Say ITT Tech Did To Scam Its Students”. Now, let me make it very clear that I’m not going to debate if a Coding Bootcamp is a professional or financial scam. But I will give my view as someone who has the authority to make a hire decision within an organization.
Let me begin with for-profit schools, about three years ago I was working for a marketing agency in Huntington Beach, California as a “Creative Technologist”. Our little agency would bid on projects from the bigger ad firms in Orange County or Los Angeles. During big projects we would post job listings on various career sites, mostly for front-end and backend development positions. Our manager gave our team the freedom to scan through potential team members, each team member would select three candidates and we would talk with one another to see if they would be a good fit for our team. To this day I still vividly remember when I selected a candidate that graduated from ITT Tech, and the reason I still remember this candidate is not because of his resume but the response I received from my manager.
Kevin, I see you selected someone that attended ITT Tech. Sorry, but if he didn’t take his education seriously; why should I take him seriously as a candidate?!
I’m not going to lie; his response bothered me! And he was able to see it by my facial expression. I was bothered not because I felt my manager dismissed my candidate, but because I personally felt that my candidate was qualified for the position; and let’s be honest we weren’t Google to be that selective.
Towards the end of the day, my manager called me into his office for a private one on one meeting. During our talk I reminded him that I had attended a Community College and did cross-enrollment at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He stopped me there, and reminded me that I was a bit different because I took “bullshit” courses such as Philosophy, Political Science, Art and Anthropology. I was thinking to myself what does this have to do with my candidate? And he answered my question!
Kevin, let me remind you that when I interviewed you. During the technical session you struggled a bit, I was not generous and did not give you a lifeline. However, I believe you were able to solve the problem by the critical skills that you were taught by those shitty courses!
I was still not sold by his response, and he knew it. So after the brief talk he gave in and told me to bring in my “ITT Tech” guy for an interview. I will not get into detail, but boy my manager was right! My candidate struggled with the most basic technical questions; and let me make it very clear that I did not asked him to invert a binary tree! Ha:
Google: 90% of our engineers use the software you wrote (Homebrew), but you can’t invert a binary tree on a whiteboard so fuck off.
— Max Howell (@mxcl) June 10, 2015
Let me just say that I’m never going to forget that experience, and I’m not talking about interviewing my candidate but the whole conversation I had with my manager about the school choice of a potential candidate.
Two years after that experience, in Spring of 2015 our little agency closed its doors and I embarked in a new ‘adventure’ and experienced another awe moment; ha! I began my professional career in early Spring of 2010 and I spend close to four years in the digital advertising agency environment. You may be wondering why do I need to know his CV? Well here it comes…
I applied for a Software Development Engineer position at Amazon in Irvine, California for the Amazon Fresh team; their grocery delivery service. I applied via a recruiter who reached out to me. I passed the first phone technical screen with the recruiter, about a week later she reached out to schedule another phone screen with an amazon team lead and I agreed. Here’s how the amazon team lead ripped apart my career and experience with just one sentence:
Hi Kevin, can you please talk about what technical challenges did you solve at a scale in the advertising agency environment?
Ouch! Yeah, that one hurt. But I was a trooper, instead of wasting his time I thanked him for the twenty seconds he spend with me on the phone. I got it, he was probably pissed that the “technical recruiter” had selected me and he weed me out! It’s okay I’m a big boy and lessoned learned. Now, I have put myself in his shoes many, many times; any one can setup WordPress blogs right? Trust me, lessoned learned; and this is coming from someone who has a formal Computer Science education.
Let’s be honest interviews suck; and many get nervous which I perfectly understand. What I like to do is schedule an in person interview, and when a candidate arrives I give them a facility tour to break the ice.
Note: If any ladies are reading this please notice I’ve used the word ‘him’ a lot I would like to see a change in that.
After the tour, we then sit at my office and I like to begin with small talk, what are you passionate about, sports, etc. The more you talk the better, this will give me a better sense of your communication skills and vocabulary; let’s not forget that if hired, you will be speaking with upper management as well.
In this particular interview everything was going well until I asked what I believe is a very simple technical question. And, I’m sorry I forgot to mention that this was for a Junior Web Developer position. My interview question was:
Can you please tell me what’s inside a web browser?
Pretty simple and straight forward right? Well here’s the Coding Bootcamp graduate response:
Great question. My favorite web browser is Google Chrome, and to answer your question. There are many things inside a web browser, such as text, images, HTML5 code, CSS3, JS and the ability to bookmark your favorite web pages.
At this point I was waiting for Ashton Kutcher to pop-out from somewhere and say “dude you’re getting punk’d!” After trying to process his answer for a few seconds, I rephrased my question:
I got the deer on headlights look, and this response:
Sure, it’s Angular.JS
At this point the interview was over.
Note: If any Coding Bootcamp Graduates are reading this, here are the answers to both of my questions; use for future reference:
- Q: What’s inside a web browser?
- A: V8
Let me just say this how I quickly remembered my former manager. After this interview experience, I quickly adopted Joel Spolsky recruiting method, which is to have an internship program and bring in candidates with the following:
- P – Passion
- B – Brains (Smart People)
- E – Communication (English)
- C – Creativity
- S – Screening
- J – Junior in College (Computer Science)
Let me end with this. I understand that a traditional education (4 year degree) can be pricy; but not expensive! I was able to achieve it with a family, and going to school at the height of the financial crisis; I’m not in debt with loans I did it with cash and I wrote a blog how you can also do it if you live here in California.
I didn’t write this to offend any one, but this is meant for someone who may be thinking in attending a Coding Bootcamp to think twice; you may say “I don’t want to have Kevin as a manager, he sounds like an asshole!” Which is fine, but here’s a recent article from the horse’s (Google) mouth.