Finding a job after graduating any schooling — bootcamps included — can be an intimidating process. It’s especially difficult to go through the job search alone.
Unique to App Academy, our Career Coaches work with students one-on-one to help them prepare for, interview for, and formally accept their first job offer after graduating from one of our full-time programs.
Mark Rodriguez manages the Placements team, including those Career Coaches, for our 24-week immersive bootcamp. Learn more about his job, the role he plays in our graduates’ success, and what his advice is for the next generation of students:
Mark, can you tell us who you are and what you do here at App Academy?
I’m the Manager of the Placements team for our online students, so I manage the team that guides folks from the day they graduate all the way through until the day they sign an offer as software engineer at, hopefully, a company that they love!
So, yeah, that’s been my role for the past two years a little more than that now, and I love it. It’s great.
Super cool! So walk us through when a student graduates: How does it work with them getting assigned to a career coach and working with you more closely?
Just before graduation, every student is assigned a career coach. This is their primary point of contact. This is someone who will walk them through the process of preparing for interviews, applying for jobs, getting those final round interviews, negotiations, and what happens when you get an offer letter. That includes reading through contracts, making sure that salaries look good, and getting grads ready to start their job as a software engineer!
On top of having that individual coach guide you through your one-on-one needs, we also have all of our coaches provide hours of workshops, continuing education, computer science fundamentals, interview prep skills, and stress management skills — that’s a huge part of it, too. You know, the job search can be difficult, so we make sure that everyone is taken care of in that way, as well.
So, in addition to meeting with your coach, you have all the coaches (myself included) available to walk you through the process. If there are individual needs that a student needs or that a job seeker needs, they can come to one of our workshops and get that support there, as well.
So you mentioned stress management being a large part of finding that perfect first job. We have actually two different types of career coaches. Some are more on the behavioral side and others more are on the technical side. Can you kind of walk us through the differences there and how you wind up being on one side or the other?
You know, the job search process really is kind of two-pronged in tech.
One is there are obviously the technical skills that you need, but you also have the behavioral part. Can you speak about tech in way that makes sense? You’re going to be meeting with people who may not be technical but are gonna be asking you questions much more along the lines of what you’d expect.
For anyone who is coming into App Academy from a different career, you would expect this type of sit-down interview where you would speak with a hiring manager about what the role is. Meanwhile, they’re trying to get an idea of whether or not you’re an overall good fit for the role in every other way but technically, so our behavioral coaches are experts in that side of things.
They have either worked in education, life coaching, career coaching, or they’ve worked in admissions at universities or in career opportunity or career placements in other fields and have found their way to us. They’ve done this for years and are fantastic at getting you or getting a job seeker set for that stage of the interview.
But then our technical career coaches come in and help guide you through the technical aspects of the interview. So that includes any coding challenges (like pieces of code that you have to write on your own then submit back to an interviewer for them to review) or for on-sites where you code live in front of, perhaps, the team that you’re gonna be working with. Something like that.
All of our technical career coaches are software engineers, again myself included, and that’s what we do, that’s what we love, and so when we’re not coding, we’re spending our time guiding job seekers through that process because we’ve experienced it before.
We know it’s a tough process for sure, but it’s a lot of fun. You learn a lot, and the learning really doesn’t stop after kind of graduation because of all of these other things that you need to do to really gear up for that interview process.
How do you interact with students on a daily basis? Are you having one-on-one conversations or phone calls?
So, for the most part, when an individual or any student job seeker kind of needs support, our workshops provide opportunities for them to pop in and say, “Hey, I just have a quick question,” or “I’ve got this technical coding challenge and I just need someone to look it over before I submit it.”
I have a workshop where that’s all we talk about: Bringing your coding challenges, bringing your work, and showing it to not only myself but the group, and we can kind of talk about it in a group setting like that. The same goes with behavioral coaches and their behavior workshops.
Now, when a job seeker has a particular interview they’re really excited for it, we get on a call, and work through the coding challenges and the behavioral aspects of that interview for an hour and talk about it one-on-one. So there are individualized needs. It’s a very collaborative experience, and we keep it open for whatever the specific need is. We can address it at a workshop, through continuing education, or in our one-on-one check-ins.
You mentioned you’re a technical career coach. Being a software engineer yourself, how did you transition now into this career coaching position?
I went through App academy myself! I’m an alum, and most of our technical coaches are. Of course, they do have experience outside of App Academy and management experience and other things, as well. But most of us have gone through the program, which is honestly the best thing. We understand exactly where job seekers are coming from when they entered the job search. It is stressful! We’ve all been through it, we’ve all applied for jobs, we’ve all had interviews and received competing offers.
Personally, it was between coming to App Academy and working for a startup as a one of six engineers on the team. At the end of the day, when I got that offer and compared it to what I could be doing here at App Academy in this particular role, I decided on staying here.. I love the mission, I love the people, and I want to stick around. It’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.
Being able to not only work in an engineering capacity — all of our technical coaches are still engineers. We still build things, we still work on our internal tools and other things like that — but, you know it’s nice to be able to have that one-on-one time with folks that are just like us, helping students across the finish line in that way. That’s truly exciting.
Do you have a teaching philosophy?
So I can start with my teaching philosophy. Honestly, again, I’m a software engineer. I love building things. When it comes to trying to find out if there are gaps in knowledge or if there are areas where a job seeker really wants to strengthen their knowledge prior to an interview, my whole thing around this is “let’s build something together”. Let’s just jump in a room with a group, let’s throw up some code and let’s just hack our way through a new technology or a new idea within the code that we’re writing.
You have a feature you wanna add to a project you’ve built but you don’t quite know how? Let’s read through the documentation for that tool. Pull up some code and let’s just go. I think that’s really where I’m most comfortable. Anyone coming to App academy whose goal is to be a software engineer has that hacker mentality in their own way.
By learning while doing — which App’s Academy’s entire philosophy, too — you learn while you do because that’s how it is in the real world. That’s how it will be for an entire career of a software engineer; learning as they’re doing.
Let’s wrap this up. Is there anything students who are looking at App Academy should know prior to coming in?
It’s a bootcamp, right? The process is tough. Expect to put in the work and expect to be challenged in a way that you probably have never been challenged before.
For me, this is the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, including going through college. But at the end of the day, it’s also the most rewarding. Come at it with an open mind, come at it ready to learn and ready to just absorb as much as you possibly can. It’s rough, but it’s absolutely worth it.
It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve personally ever done, and I know that amongst the Placements team and the Coaching team, we all agree that it’s a life-changing experience.