Austin Coding Academy
January 23, 2019
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Austin Coding Academy recently added a 4-week job placement course to our curriculum which covers everything from resume-building to getting an offer, and is available to all students who complete their full ACA track. In keeping with our mission, the course is taught by a full-time industry professional, Edsel Rivera who is a Technical Recruiter at Dosh by day.

ACA is committed to helping people change their lives, not just by giving them the technical skills needed to become a developer, but to also help them find their next role.

This week, we talked with Edsel Rivera about how he’s leading the course, the importance of developing “soft” skills, and what employers are looking for in a candidate.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I’m 28 years old, and I’m a Technical Recruiter at Dosh. I’m also a Texas Tech University Alumnus and previously worked in recruiting at Indeed and Aerotek. Before that I was a musician and music educator. My biggest passions are climbing, camping, hiking, anything outdoors.

I love spending time with my wife exploring climbing areas and new cities, enjoying good food, and spending time with our fur babies Hobo (dog) and Wellington (cat).

How did you end up as director of Austin Coding Academy’s Job Placement Course?

I started my career in music, but after realizing I couldn’t thrive, I transitioned to recruiting, and honestly stumbled into the role. I started at Aerotek, a recruiting agency, and received incredible training there where I developed my fundamentals. From there, I moved to Indeed and became a Technical Sourcer where I learned more about the experimental side of recruiting and leveraging technology to make something that can be very mundane, (the recruiting process), fun, technical, and exciting. I also really learned what a high-functioning organization looked like and learned about different technology and its use-cases in reaching millions of people. From there I moved to Dosh and have had the opportunity to not only implement a recruiting process, but also see a company more than double in size and implement innovative HR programs and processes.

All of that experience coupled together has culminated in teaching a job placement course with ACA where I can give insights on the tech industry, what it takes to get hired, and doing all of that with the formal training in education to build a sound curriculum, scope, and sequence.

What are you covering during the 4 week course?

We’ll be covering the entire job search process, from building a resume through to getting an offer. We’ll be covering every aspect of the process like reviewing companies’ approach to sourcing/recruiting,  and building Resumes/CVs, cover letters. We’ll learn to use job boards and job search, applying, and networking to more technical things like prepping for recruiter phone screens, technical phone screens, behavioral interviews, white-boarding, and paired programming.

Most ACA students are transitioning from a different career or don’t have experience with the tech job search process. How are you addressing that and preparing them for what to expect when they go out and look for a job?

I believe in differentiated education. Everyone comes with a different background and needs. So first and foremost, I learn about the students, their background, their strengths, their weaknesses and build a plan with them to get them job-ready.

I also believe in transparency. There are a lot of hard truths when going through a career transition and I’m not shy to say that it’s an uphill battle. You almost have to be twice as prepared as someone with a “conventional” background because you’ll have to fight through preconceived notions about your readiness in such a competitive and specialized skill-based job. I also believe that it’s important for students to feel encouraged and know that they have skills that will transfer over to a new industry.

How important is it to develop “soft” skills? Should web development schools be spending more time teaching them in addition to hard coding skills?

Absolutely. At least in my experience, the hard-skills make up anywhere from 50-60% of the picture. The intangibles are extremely important. After all, you’re going to spend MOST of your time working with or for the people you meet when interviewing. You want to make sure the person is pleasant to be around, is a good hang, is teachable, is willing to give information, etc. At the end of the day, we’re trying to help change someone’s life by helping them GET A JOB. I think that it’s of equal importance to work and embed job readiness throughout the curriculum.

What are some of the unique challenges of the tech market in finding people their first jobs?

Risk. I think it all comes down to a company being willing or able to make a calculated risk. This person is unproven and therefore ANY first job is a risk. It’s also an extremely competitive market right now, some people think that means they will be able to land their ideal job or dream job and miss out on great stepping stone opportunities. For instance, I’ve met people that don’t want to do QA Engineering because they want to build software. I don’t understand that thinking because you’ll be digging into code every day and learning what makes software good, meaning when you do step into a developer role, you SHOULD be building the most performant and bug-free code because you’ve taken the time to learn what quality code looks like.

What are companies/recruiters looking for when they’re searching for a candidate?

That’s a tough question. I would say that recruiters are usually armed with a list of keywords as the lowest hanging fruit to find candidates. Set yourself up to be found and be genuine about what you know. I like for candidates to be prepared for the phone call. I consider it a huge red flag if the candidate doesn’t know what we do or if they don’t have a list of questions or criteria that they are looking for.

I want people to understand the business implication of what they’re working on and be able to talk about what they owned in the process. It’s also a red flag if people start throwing out technical jargon right away and they can’t take a step back and just explain their projects at a high level.

What advice do you have for a developer who’s looking for a job and may be struggling?

PERSEVERE and be ACTIVE. Just like attacking a tough coding problem, you have to persevere. You’ll hear a lot of no’s or get a few close calls along the way. That’s ok. It’s important to think outside the box and be active. Don’t just apply and sit back. Go meet people, set meetings, go to meet-ups, put yourself out there.

How do you feel about leading the job placement course and ACA’s approach to job readiness?

I think what separates Austin Coding Academy are the people behind the program and how much they care and are invested in making a difference in the lives of their students. I see so much movement and hear so many conversations around how can we serve better. I can tangibly see servant leadership happening here. This job placement course is yet another example of how they are constantly raising the bar for their students.

I can’t wait for things to come full circle and call some of the students I’m teaching, co-workers someday.

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