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From Psychology Student to Technologist

March 19th, 2021

How Madeline transitioned to her new career as a full stack engineer during the pandemic

The Talener team has only recently gotten to know Madeline Stalter over the past few years. Her story and progression from a psychology student to a full stack engineer (with a tech recruiting stopover at Talener!) is an important one to share.

As we celebrate International Women’s Month, we acknowledge the achievements and visibility of women, particularly in STEM. But it is also a reminder to all of us that women are a minority in technology positions. Women make up half of the workforce, but only occupy a quarter of high-tech jobs. This number diminishes further in a tech-based, executive level job.

Madeline’s transition from a psychology degree to completing her full stack engineering training at the Flatiron School in NYC is important. The traditional four-year computer science degree still dominates the software engineering job market. But the demand for talent outweighs the pool of four-year CS graduates. Madeline sat down with us to talk about her transition, the challenges she’s faced, and some of the decisions she made along the way to change her career path.

My background is diverse. But there are three motifs that have been evident in all facets of my professional trajectory: the desire to be challenged, the ability to act to actively seek out what challenges me, and aligning myself with my passions. I stand by the phrase “you didn’t come this far to only come this far.” My desire for learning is ever present. My path to software engineering may seem curious, but it isn’t.

I studied psychology to focus on discovering the ways of the world; understanding why people behave the way they do. This is not all that different from computer science and engineering. At the end of the day, technology is all built around, for, and by people. We influence buying habits, build visually stimulating websites, and curb security threats from malicious minds.

But learning psychology wasn’t enough. I needed more. I sought out a student research position that relied heavily on statistical analyses using software like R, SAS, and SPSS to test hypotheses, create and maintain databases & publish scholarly articles. I was hooked and I worked harder. My mentor recognized my desire to push for more and promoted me to a paid position running the laboratory. From there, I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 and embarked on a research fellowship at the world-renowned McLean Hospital. Unfortunately, the position didn’t offer a lot in area analysis and I realized that research was likely not my forever career path as I had previously planned.

How could I have already hit my professional ceiling and growth when I had barely left college? It was time for a reevaluation. Not one to remain idle, I started my own pet care business and planned for my future very carefully. I didn’t want a job; I wanted a career.

I looked back at what I loved about psychology and immediately thought about manipulating data and creating databases– my link to software engineering. I wanted to build and maintain applications. But without a technology background, I needed to get as close to technology as possible without previous experience. This was a stepwise process, but I trusted it; knowing that I would put my full weight behind being successful. This led me to technical recruiting. I used my vast network of engineering candidates and tech-talent seeking clients to learn more and ultimately piece together how I could further pursue a career in technology.

I started independently studying open-source languages outside of work. This continued for a year until the pandemic opened an opportunity for me to go back to school and learn full stack web development. The most efficient way was through a fifteen-week software engineering bootcamp. Those fifteen weeks stood between me and the ability to build robust full stack web applications and completely transform my life. I chose the Flatiron School in NYC for its comprehensive program, distinguished staff, and post-graduate outcomes.

This process hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. The initial knowledge acquisition in the bootcamp was difficult. I had to rewire how I approached problems – becoming more creative in my solutions (as there are seemingly infinite ways to approach code). I also had to bolster my self-confidence. The term “imposter syndrome” has become quite colloquial these days, but it is real; especially with my non-traditional background and working in such a male dominated field. To ward off this feeling of inadequacy, I remind myself daily that I am worthy and capable of making significant impacts in tech as I “didn’t come this far to only come this far.”

I advise those who are considering making a career change/shift into technology to do so! However, do so wisely. Take the necessary steps to ensure your success. If you combine this methodological approach with your passion, very little should tangibly get in your way. Love the life you live – work included

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From Transition to Transformation: Remote Work is the Future

March 5th, 2021

Nearly a year ago, companies were put into a position that seemed unfathomable: let your employees work fulltime from home.  Teams that were willing to pivot and invest in a fully remote workforce are thriving. In many IT based positions, deliverables are up and companies are enjoying a more diverse pool of candidates available to them. 

The forced changes over the past year make it clear that most technology positions should be considered remote first.  Thriving employers shouldn’t mandate their employees’ return to on-site work and should continue to hire a remote workforce after the pandemic is over.  

The argument to bring successful, productive employees back to work is impractical. According to Gallup, nearly two thirds of workers in the US who have been working remotely during the pandemic would prefer to continue their new routine. 

Remote Work Doesn’t Hurt Company Culture 

Increasingly, the Talener team is hearing the call from leaders and HR teams to bring employees back-on-site because the company ‘culture’ is hurting.  What is company culture, how is it measured and quantified? And what is the link between the time spent in a physical office and productivity?  

Culture should not be an argument for bringing a successful remote employee back into the office. Using culture to explain lagging company performance due to broader economic factors like changed customer behavior or pandemic related restrictions is not the answer.   

How do you tell an employee whose production and delivery are good that they need to come back on-site because of corporate cultural insecurities?  With so many remote opportunities, forcing good employees back to the office sets them up (particularly in tech) to potentially look elsewhere.  

It would be easy to blame attrition on lack of culture rather than a lack of employee growth or better compensation elsewhere. Not every job has an unlimited ceiling for growth. People change jobs for real personal and professional reasons – not because of physical proximity to their co-workers.   

The Transition is Over. This is Transformation 

Last year, we upset decades of work culture and business standards in the blink of an eye.  We completely altered how we work, when we work, and with whom we work. It was a fast and furious transition that left many organizations and employees behind in its wake. But now, it is time to stop treating the move to remote work as a temporary transition period.   

It is certainly a period where we continue to learn about how to function successfully, but it is not a temporary situation anymore. Changing the fundamental 9 to 5 routine, bookended by a daily commute has not been easy.  There was no roadmap for such a transition.  This was and will continue to be a learning experience where organizations are quite literally rewriting the history of labor, productivity, and business relationships in real time. We are transforming the future of hiring, employing, and retaining talent. 

It does no one any favors to fall back into comfortable norms like curating an on-site culture of standard production hours. In fact, it stifles the very thing that companies are trying to do; innovate and be the best in their industry.  We have the opportunity to use this forced change as a catalyst to expand workforce possibilities, erasing regional borders and tapping into a more diverse (and potentially more talented) candidate base.

The Talener team is ready to help you streamline your remote IT recruiting and hiring process. We can give you the tools to build a remote technology team. For more information, get in touch with us today.

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Posted in News, Talener Blog

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