February 16, 2019
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Luke Stenis graduated from Austin Coding Academy’s Full Stack Web Development program in 2016. Upon graduating, Luke landed a role as an “Implementation Engineer” with Austin-based content production company, Invodo. During his time at Invodo, Luke also worked as an instructor at ACA, teaching the 10-week “Intro to Web Development” course.

Luke currently works in Salt Lake City, Utah, as a “Digital Analytics Implementation Engineer” with PluralSight.

I’ve been involved with Austin Coding Academy since its inception many, many moons ago. I’ve taken the coding bootcamp journey both as a student and as an instructor, and I’ve helped class after class of students go from complete novices to completely job-ready in the course of nine months, with varying degrees of success.

This might surprise you, but in most cases the students with the best coding chops didn’t necessarily land the best gig upon graduating our program. Now don’t get me wrong, all Austin Coding Academy graduates are good hires, but in the dawn of our program, some students lacked a full understanding of what it truly takes to be a successful web developer.

Here at Austin Coding Academy, we practice what we preach: Never stop learning. We analyzed what was helping some students transition more successfully into a junior web development role, and what was causing some to stumble out of the gate.

What we found was that software companies, start-ups, and tech giants also desire candidates with a certain combination of soft skills. We were teaching the hard skills – coding languages, concepts, and techniques – but we needed to put more emphasis on soft skills like collaboration and critical-thinking.

Junior web developers who are proficient in these three soft skills find success and are able to accelerate their coding career faster than even the best technical developers:

Teamwork & Leadership Skills

When I started applying for dev jobs, my mentor gave me sage wisdom: walk through the engineering area - if developers are sitting silently in rows of cubicles with headphones on, turn and walk away. Great software is usually not written by one person, but by a team. A web development team is made up of different types of people in different types of roles, and sometimes collaboration and teamwork is loud… and messy.

Most developers will also collaborate cross-departmentally throughout their project cycles, with needs to sync with designers, marketers, copywriters, or even managers.

From the first day of class, students are placed into learning groups where they collaborate and work together on their first website project outside of class. We have found that students who collaborate and compromise well with others thrive in group work.

Throughout the course of our 10-week classes, students who are successful also have a firm grasp on their time management. While we pride ourselves on a flexible program you can complete without quitting your day job, the coursework is no joke. You will need to hone your time management skills down to a science in order to master this soft skill.

Critical-Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

Most educational resources for coding follows the same process - choose a language to learn, teach you the syntax, and dive into concepts and theories. What it won’t teach you is how to solve problems or design the process for an entire project, which is why most of us learn how to code in the first place.

If you’ve already started learning to code, you know that it’s not easy. Part of the reason is that code is actually a tool, not a goal. To really learn how to code effectively, start by finding a problem to solve.

We’ve designed our coursework and classroom environment to help students develop the skills they need to properly assess a problem, conduct thorough online research, and design logic (and code) that solves the problem.

Branding and Marketing Skills

Want a (better) career in tech? Good, but you are not alone. Folks are flocking to the web development field and competition for jobs can be stiff. The problem I’ve seen is that most junior web developers don’t know how to or don’t even realize they need to be actively marketing themselves.

Before I transitioned into web development, I spent a decade developing and running marketing campaigns. Here are the three soft skills we teach in tandem with code:

Bonus: Build Your Personal Brand

Branding is about establishing a consistent message about yourself that is recognized by some repeated stimulus (online profiles, resume, portfolio) which when seen reminds the reader of the message. You may have a logo of your initials or a “doing business as” name you want to be identified as professionally.

For example, if you are transitioning from a salesperson to web developer, you want to position yourself as a Junior Web Developer transitioning from a sales background. It will be imperative that you spin your past experience to support any soft skills you can gained from sales that are applicable to your new career. Here are a couple quick tips to help you with that:

Create a Consistent Online Presence:

Once you’ve established your branding, positioning, and consistent messaging, make sure it’s used in your online portfolio, social media profiles, and any resumes you have living on the web.

For example, use the same profile picture for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Keep your posts professionally-minded - if you can be found on Facebook by your name, it’s a safe bet every recruiter or hiring manager has seen your photos from Cinco De Mayo.

Build Your Network – Off-line

You’re on LinkedIn and have a great network built-up online. That’s a great start! But now the hard part: Networking in real life!

The best jobs I’ve gotten in my career and every good opportunity has been a result of someone in my network either bringing an opportunity to me or helping me get my foot in the door.

When you are looking for a job, you are essentially trying to sell yourself to someone. That may be great for the student who was a former salesperson, but not for everyone else. The next time you are trying to land a new gig, wouldn’t it be nice if you could just reach out to someone you know rather than sending cold emails or making cold calls?

Building a network isn’t hard but it does take effort. You should have the mindset of always networking. Every new person you meet, every person you interact with online is potentially someone who can become part of your network.

Fortunately, our students already have a head start on the first day of class. Not only do students have a robust network of current students, they also have access to our pool of alumni mentors and a non-stop events calendar of networking events and field trips to startups and tech companies around the city.

We don’t just teach you how to code at Austin Coding Academy, we also teach you the soft skills you need to succeed in the diverse environment of a web development job. If you are interested in learning both the hard and soft skills necessary for a coding career, check out ACA’s course offerings.

If you want to get started learning how to code and much more with Austin Coding Academy, fill out an application to reserve your spot in the next class.