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
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.
Over the past year, companies have scrambled and adapted to the chaos of the pandemic. Even software engineers, who are typically in high demand (and often insulated from layoffs) have found themselves looking for new jobs. But looking for a new job and committing to your job search are two very different paths.
This year, we break up with the casual job search. Maybe not forever, but for now. We move into 2021 with the prospect of an effective vaccine, traveling, and seeing friends & family again. We’re also looking forward to more stability in the job market. And for some industries, 2020 has catapulted businesses into rapid growth. This year we expect that the fintech, online gaming and health tech industries will continue to grow and hire.
The way businesses are hiring and how they are deciding to expand their teams is undeniably linked to what has happened over the past year. Casual job seekers who are not motivated to make a move or aren’t dedicated to the jobs they are applying for will be overlooked.
Take it Seriously: It’s expensive and time consuming to hire a new employee. Some TA or HR teams may be short staffed as furloughed employees have not returned. Hiring managers are stretched thin; trying to rebuild and reorganize teams to meet demand. Just as your time is valuable, so is theirs. Take your application and interviews seriously.
The First Impression is More Important than Ever: Not only do you have to get off to the right start in the interviewing process, but you also need to show that you are an employee capable of transitioning to your new job. This is particularly important if you are working remotely or partially remotely. You are asking a new employer to trust you without them ever having seen you interact in-person with clients or co-workers. Your first impression isn’t contained to the first video interview. It is extended into your first days or weeks of work, where you must build their trust in your abilities as you meet (or e-meet) your team one-by-one. You will be making a first impression over and over again. Even living room video meetings need to exude professionalism.
Ask the Right Questions: It has always been important to ask useful questions in an interview. But now, more than ever, you need to research and prepare your questions (with follow up questions & researched responses) prior to your interviews. Time is a premium – your ability to ask insightful questions will start a conversation in lieu of a back-and-forth Q&A. This is the time to show your investment in the job and the company.
Know the History & the Market: You know the company and the job inside and out. But do you know what their hiring looked like pre-pandemic? How have they adapted or changed their structure over the past year? Know their pain points and show them how you can concretely contribute to solving their business needs.
Be Ready: Your resume, or at minimum, a strong foundation for a resume should be ready to edit and send on-demand. While many companies are abandoning cover letters all together, it is important to have bullet points and a general format prepared. Expect potential technical tests and think about how you will need to plan your time – especially if you are home with children or other distractions.
If you’re not sure how to get your technical job search started, the Talener team can help to guide you as you consider whether a change in position is right for you.
From pandemic layoff to Director of Technology, a Talener candidate recounts his journey.
The Search Begins
As a result of the pandemic, and for the first time in my career, I was out of work and looking for a job. I know that I am respected in my industry and I’ve developed many wonderful relationships. I was confident that I would find something soon. Little did I know…
I started educating myself in job hunting, 2020 edition. Long gone are the days of the NY Times classifieds. Armed with 1500+ curated LinkedIn connections, I tweaked my profile to alert the market that I was available. I hit the major job-hunting sites: LinkedIn, Dice & Indeed. I also hit some of the lesser known (and likely sketchy) ones too.
I was bombarded with daily emails, of which 95% of the roles from my keyword searches were irrelevant. I will never understand how my career as a technology leader could generate a match for an Amazon delivery driver. I doubled down on malware and anti-virus protection for my PC.
I’ll be honest, after initially reaching out to many peers, it became slow going. My initial contacts were all saying, “of course we’ll keep an eye open, but the world is changing, and everyone is adjusting to the new paradigm.” Every day, I would scour the sites for jobs; look at LinkedIn for relevant announcements from my contacts – anything that would allow me to start another conversation.
I applied online to a very wide net. I hid tags in my resume that were specific to each role and this allowed the ATS (applicant tracking systems) to pick me up. I got pretty good at this over time, and I highly recommend it. I kept at it. I told myself that it only takes on interview to get me a job, and today might be the day that something happens.
During the search, there were flashes of hope. A connection would reach back out or I’d be scheduled for an interview. I’d prepare by learning what I could about the job and the company – which isn’t always easy. I’d feel that I had aced it. And then the news: “they’re looking for someone else” or “you’re overqualified.” Or worse, I would get ghosted.
As the months passed, I became more and more frustrated dealing with recruiters. I have worked with recruiters on the hiring side for decades. I have my favorites, but over the years I have met some with questionable skills and worse yet, questionable ethics. My biggest gripe was that they didn’t effectively market the position to me, and more importantly, didn’t market me to the prospective employer.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I saw an ad come in from a recruiting firm I was unaware of called Talener. As I read it, it became evident that the role was extremely well suited for me – in my industry, and in a similar environment in which I had worked previously. My bike ride would have to wait, I needed to apply. Within an hour, I received a response back. I assumed it was an acknowledgement of my application from an automated system. But it was actually a personal email from Henry Boulos. His email told me more about the job and asked some additional questions. I took the time to answer the questions individually and tie them back to my resume. We both got excited. Henry could see that I was a highly viable candidate for a role that I was confident that I would be well-suited for. He arranged for a Microsoft Teams interview with the firm, along with other candidates.
More importantly, Henry spent time preparing me. It wasn’t just about the role, the skills I should emphasize or the people I’d be meeting. More importantly, he prepared my by giving me some frank pointers that he had picked up on my presentation, which I wasn’t used to. I studied the notes I had taken with Henry, reviewed the company website in detail, and set up Google Alerts for current news about the company and its principals.
I felt the first Teams interview went well with the COO. I listened to his questions. I sent a thank you note. And in the hopes of continuing the conversation, the timing worked out that I was able to attend a virtual user conference for the company’s ERP system. Henry updated me on the process moving forward. I had made the first cut. Another Teams interview was scheduled with a larger audience. I put together some notes gleaned from the conference.
Henry and I reviewed in detail what I should further be prepared to discuss. I think we get very focused on telling our story during an interview, and Henry reminded me the importance of listening. I came away again feeling good, that I had “strutted my stuff” well. I also asked about pain points in the role and challenges that leadership saw. I again followed up with a thank you note, including discussing some proposed solutions to the issues discussed during the interview. I made it to a third interview, this one would be on-site. Henry ensured that I was fully prepared, and the meeting went well. Another thank you note sent. The next morning, Henry followed up with the wonderful news that I had gotten the job, and I began the onboarding process. It was less than three weeks from first contact to a signed offer.
Again, I cannot say enough about the professionalism that Henry exhibited throughout the process. I plan to use Henry again and refer him and his firm to my peers.
Yes, there’s a pandemic. But I got a senior-level job. Here are a few things I learned along the way:
Don’t give up. No matter how discouraged you get, you are one person who needs only one job. This can happen at any time.
LinkedIn and your resume are a significant part of your personal brand. It’s the first thing people see. Think of it from that perspective.
Network, network, network. The time to start networking is NOT when you need a job. Do it throughout your career.
Prepare. Look in detail at the company’s website. Look for current news about the company and its principals. Make sure you check Glassdoor. Find out what products they use and learn about them. Bring it up on the interview when appropriate. Everyone always likes to hear about themselves.
Listen. I realized that providing answers to a prospective employers’ challenges are more important than talking about an extensive skillset or describing a list of successful projects.
Always send a thank you note. My wife taught me that.
Layoffs from the pandemic caught many career employees off-guard. We could see the immediate impact in industries like travel or restaurants. However, many employees across industries faced layoffs for the first time in their careers. Even with years of experience, being at the top of your field, and having excellent connections – it’s jarring and overwhelming to pivot quickly.
If it has been years (or decades!) since you’ve written a resume, have had to call up connections, or apply for a job— it can be daunting to start over again. Let the Talener team help you out or provide you with guidance on where to get started.
Attracting talent is a competition. Over the past decade, some companies have ‘reinvented’ their employees’ workday. From nap pods to game rooms, spa treatments to an in-house chef, companies pushed the boundaries of traditional benefits and perks. These became the gold standard for coaxing talent (especially in technology) to join the ranks of unlimited vacation and free healthcare programs.
But for most of the working population, these types of benefits are a pipe dream. Most SMEs can’t provide elaborate benefits – I’m looking at you Microsoft Treehouses. For the rest of us, gym membership reimbursements & in-office snacks are a great addition to health and retirement benefits.
In March, when many office workers were sent home, many of these ancillary benefits were left behind. Employees didn’t quit their jobs en masse without their company-provided extra hot triple foam latte.
Gyms closed, restaurants shuttered, and our commutes started and ended in a hallway. Concern for the safety, health, and financial stability of family and friends became front-of-mind.
What does this mean for 2021? Many companies have shifted their benefit offerings; taking a step back to address what has become important to employees.
Health Insurance – Employees are seeking quality affordable coverage that is comprehensive and inclusive. Attractive plans have lower premiums, reasonable out-of-pocket costs, and provide inclusive coverage for things like reproductive healthcare (i.e. IVF) or gender re-assignment surgery.
Increased Mental Health & Wellness Programs – The demand for mental health services has risen sharply over the past year.Whether employees have access through their health insurance or an EAP, companies are ramping up programs for employee mental health and wellness.
Paid Family Leave – Several states are implementing some form of paid family leave for the birth of a child, adoption, or care of a sick family member. Companies that provide paid leave will be more attractive to new talent and help to retain current employees.
PTO: Mental Health & Recharge – In additional to better access to mental health programs, 2021 may bring more time-off options for mental health and recharge days. The fatigue from the pandemic has left many people in need of time off after daycares have closed, schools have gone virtual, or partners have lost their jobs.
Personalized Benefits Packages – Tailored benefits packages are on the rise. Benefits and perks have relative importance based on the life stage of the employee. Offering tuition reimbursement may not resonate with employees who are closer to retirement than college. Companies have an opportunity to offer optional equivalent perks that make sense to the individual.
Even as we (hopefully) move towards a vaccine and the end of the pandemic, many things have changed over this past year. Some may continue to work from home permanently, while others will be back in the office sooner rather than later. But it’s unlikely that a communal room of nap pods and in-office buffet lunches are coming back any time soon. HR is re-reinventing benefits packages that are in-line with the changing employee needs. If you are looking for a new job and want to better understand how benefits will affect you (and what they’re worth!), please reach out to the Talener Team today.