Brad Garropy didn’t start his career thinking he’d work for some of the biggest names in technology.
He didn’t even develop a taste for coding until he got to the University of Texas and took two classes on programming while earning his degree in electrical engineering. As a teenager, he was more interested in using computers for cruising the internet than writing software applications.
Once out of college, he knew he wanted to get into coding, and luckily his university had a recruitment pipeline with Dell that allowed him to land a job there writing firmware in C. But it wasn’t long before he was itching to work his way “up the language stack.”
That’s when he started to pursue web development by teaching himself the fundamentals of the front-end. Once he built up his portfolio, he started applying for web dev jobs and eventually landed a role with Adobe, where he worked on their Magento e-commerce platform.
After his stint at Adobe, he now finds himself as a web platform engineer for Trello, owned by the software giant Atlassian.
Quite a path for someone who started writing firmware in C and now uses React to grow one of the world’s most famous project management applications.
So how did he do it?
If you go to a school that has a recruitment partnership with a company that even vaguely interests you, then jump on it!
Brad said that the process for getting the job was pretty straightforward, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that it’s an established company with an established recruitment program with the university.
It may not necessarily be something you want to do long-term, but it’s an excellent way to get some experience. Brad was able to get some programming experience – even if it was in C – and it helped motivate him to learn more about more advanced programming languages.
It’s worth noting that even if you don’t go through the university path to become a developer or engineer there are similar options available. A lot of coding bootcamps also partner with companies to funnel students into software careers.
And if neither one of those options work for you – if you’re self-taught, for example – following tip #2 will help push you to the front of the pack when it comes to getting an interview.
When Brad was teaching himself web development, he started creating and maintaining open source libraries to have a portfolio of projects to show to prospective employers.
While that number is now hovering around 20-30 open source projects he’s working on, he credits his initial portfolio with helping him get his job at Adobe. Portfolios can make a big difference for people who are coming to a role from a non-traditional background – like in Brad’s case where he was self-taught and switching from firmware to web development.
But he didn’t just throw everything on GitHub and then through the link to every interviewer.
He wanted to prove he could do web development. So first, he made his own website. Then he started creating open source projects to solve problems he was running into. As he began developing these solutions or discovered these problems, he would blog about them.
So not only did Adobe and other interviewers get to see what he was capable of technically, but they also got an insight into how he thinks and his communication skills.
“It’s great for show-and-tell,” as he puts it.
When asked about how the interview process went with Dell, Adobe, and Atlassian, Brad commented that it was a little different for each one.
While he calls his job with Adobe a “stroke of luck,” he mentioned a couple of things he did to make himself the ideal candidate. Keep in mind that this role was for a brand new team working with newer tech.
- As an external candidate, he could bring a new perspective to the project.
- He regularly read up on new technologies to show that he grasped the tools available to the team.
- A lot of his interview was conducted by backend engineers who were less familiar with front-end tech, so he could position himself as a knowledgeable resource on front-end matters – even though he was wholly self-taught and new to the job field.
His next job search would take him through 60 applications and 20 interviews, so by the time he wound up interviewing with Atlassian, he had a good idea of what interviewers were looking for. But just as importantly, after over a decade in tech, he knew what kinds of questions the interviewers should be asking.
So when he was asked about algorithms as a senior developer, he pushed back – these weren’t relevant questions to the position. He focused on the role’s needs and positioned himself as someone who could fill those needs.
Brad readily admitted to using Github Copilot during some of the algorithm questions – and he didn’t feel bad about it. Copilot allowed him to focus on the higher-level business tasks that his role would generally be working on rather than something that a simple AI can solve.
Of course, Brad didn’t just stick to talking about his career path.
He and CoderPad Developer Advocate Corbin Crutchley also went deep into content creation and how to get started talking about the problems you’re solving. If you are interested in creating a podcast, blog, or Youtube/Twitch channel, you’ll want to watch the entire live stream right here.