We interviewed Launch Academy graduate Helen Hood, now Senior Developer at Intrepid Pursuits , a digital product, strategy, design, and development firm with locations in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New York City. In this Q&A, Hood shares what Intrepid looks for in new web developer hires, plus how bootcamp graduates can stand out in a competitive job market.
Tell us a little bit about Intrepid Pursuits and your role there.
Intrepid is an end-to-end digital product strategy, design, and development company founded in 2010, with offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New York City. We specialize in mobile and web development and were acquired by Accenture Digital in 2017. I’ve been a developer on our web services team, which builds APIs and full-stack web apps primarily in Rails, React, and Phoenix, since February 2015. Prior to that, I attended and then taught at Launch Academy.
What does Intrepid Pursuits believe makes a strong junior developer?
We look for eagerness to learn, willingness to take feedback and collaborate with others, and methodical attention to detail. We like junior developers who think critically about edge cases, plan out their approach to tasks, and seek feedback from their more senior mentors.
Do you believe a bootcamp can prepare a junior developer at the same level as a computer science degree?
It depends on the bootcamp and on the particulars of the development job. For web
development, I've found that bootcampers can be very well prepared and well versed in the skills we use every day and are able to be productive quite quickly. Applicants with computer science degrees often have less familiarity with the frameworks and tools we use, although they are more well-versed in tackling challenging algorithmic problems and the like.
How has Launch Academy helped with your staffing needs?
We've had great success with Launch Academy candidates in our apprentice program and have several who were hired full time after their apprenticeships. They tend to have a solid foundation in Rails and are already familiar with many of the best practices we follow, including test-driven development and git workflow.
As a former Launcher yourself, do you have any career prep recommendations for potential bootcamp enrollees?
Get yourself a GitHub account and push as much code up as you can! The first thing I do with any applicant is check out how frequently they are coding. Many bootcampers stop coding immediately after their program ends, which is a red flag to me. This doesn't have to be lots of different projects. In fact, I'd rather see that you’re working on one or two things consistently over time. When I was learning Ember, I started making a basic project planning app and worked on it for a month or two until I had a solid foundation.
A few other tips:
1.) When you're working, pay attention to code style. Make sure that you don't have lots of commented code, poor indentation, extra whitespace, or methods that are 20 lines long.
2.) Make professional commit messages that clearly describe what's in the commit. Commit messages with like "@%$!" can be entertaining, but it'll serve you better to be professional.
3.) Add information in your project Readmes.
4.) I like when applicants make pull requests on their own projects. It helps me see how they break up their work, and pull request descriptions can provide insight into how they think.
5.) Don't jump around too much in your learning. Pick a language or framework and commit yourself to learning it for several weeks. I prefer when students learn via their own projects versus via tutorials, plus it's usually more fun anyway.
6.) Find others to work with! You'll have more fun and will spin your wheels less often. Is there anything a bootcamp student can do to make herself more marketable to a hiring company?
7.) Commit every day. :)
8.) Contribute to open source, even if it's just to fix documentation.
Launch Academy teaches Full Stack Web Development in Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. Learn more at Launchacademy.com