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Why I Recommend Contract-to-Hire after Bootcamp

Why I Recommend Contract-to-Hire after Bootcamp

By Stephanie Shupe
Software Engineer, Lookout
Advisor, Women Who Code

When graduating out of App Academy three years ago, I was stoked about being a software engineer. I did it, and was ready for my first real job as a software engineer! I had learned so much in such a little time, that I felt like I could learn and do anything. Little did I know that others may not quite understand my confidence out of a mere nine week program, and that it would be a little challenging to find a job.

Here’s where I tell you what works to find a job in any industry. Networking. It works across the board, and is better than any cold online interview process. Plus, in the tech industry there are usually referral bonuses and employees are eager to refer people they meet at a chance for extra dough! It’s also in your favor for someone already at a tech company to vouch for you, and personally hand your resume to the hiring manager or recruiting team. You’re more likely to be considered and contacted if you have applicable experience.

I took my own advice and just networked as much as I could handle. Sure, we had a career day and yes, I had some good leads. But how could I know if any of those options were the best for me as my first real software engineering position? The answer for me was that I couldn’t know until I had interviewed a lot of places, seen a lot of offices, and met a lot of potential coworkers and mentors. So, I went to every Meetup event I could go to, made awkward introductions and handed out business cards. I interviewed anywhere that offered to interview me - to gain experience and give every company a shot to show me what they had to offer.

My search lasted about 5 weeks, and I interviewed at companies from as small as two full-time employees to as large as 200 full-time employees. In total, I probably interviewed at 20 places. Yes, that’s an average of 4 places a week - and yes, that means I didn’t have time to work more on my final project (as I totally thought I would). I was exhausted, but it gave me a lot of interview experience and a myriad of options to consider.

I narrowed my options down to my top three choices and took a long hard look at each opportunity. The first was a full-time Ruby backend position at a company with about 30 employees that did pair-programming. This was a cool and familiar option, since my bootcamp included Ruby and did pair-programming throughout. The second was a full-time primarily Ruby and Javascript full-stack position at a company of around 200. The employees were nice, I liked my would-be mentor and boss, and the technology was more interesting than the first. The third option was a 3-month contract-to-hire iOS position at a company of around 130 employees. The interview process was the hardest, I learned something that I applied to my side projects, and I really liked the people I’d be working with.

This was a hard decision. Why after all of my hard work through App Academy would I go to a contract-to-hire position? If it didn’t work out, in three months I’d be back to where I started - needing a job, networking, and interviewing! Ugh, that sounded horrible. But on the contrary, what if it wasn’t a good fit and I had the option to interview somewhere else without having to say I was fired? Since I was unsure about how my first job in the tech industry would go - weighing out the options, the contract-to-hire position is what I chose. It was an easy out if it didn’t go well, and it was a great opportunity to prove myself at a more challenging company where I had already learned from the interview!

I wasn’t alone in this decision. Another grad from my cohort also joined Lookout as a contract-to-hire employee. We both did our three months on different teams, and after our contracts came to term I was stoked about converting to full-time and he just wasn’t. So, he took a different route and got a job at another company shortly after the contract ended and I was offered a full-time position. He’s still with that other company today, and from what I know he is loving it. This is great, in my opinion.

Little did I know I’d be rallying for contract-to-hire, but after my experience I think it’s the best option out of a bootcamp. Not every company is perfect for every person. Moreover, not even every team is a perfect fit within the right company! Having the fluidity to move around is the best thing you can do for the most crucial position out of bootcamp - your first software engineering role. It’s yours and you earned it. Make sure it’s right before you commit long-term. You never fully know until you try it out, and with a contract-to-hire position you get to try before you buy!

Pro-tip: If you do choose the contract-to-hire route, make sure you still negotiate for salary and stock options! You can negotiate at the start of the contract and again if you convert to full-time. This could even give you more than what you would get from a full-time initial offer because you have more leverage if you’ve done a great job through your contract.