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Jacob Fromm
Jacob Fromm

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Finding the Solutions

As bootcamps flood the market with junior devs from a wide variety of backgrounds, many recent grads find themselves feeling unqualified for dev jobs. Is solutions engineering the answer?

I'm a job-seeking bootcamp graduate with a completely tech-irrelevant background. I'm thirty. I'm worried I'm in over my head.

My story is similar to many others who, motivated by covid--either in the form of a wake-up call or an economic necessity--turned to coding bootcamps in pursuit of a stable future. Bootcamps in the time of covid (what a phrase) represent a reprieve from the vertigo-inducing uncertainty of These Unprecedented Times™ with a one-two punch of intensely-focused work (productivity! routine!) and entrée into a growing and respected field insulated from the worst economic impacts of covid. (stability! security!) It's a no-brainer.

One of the reasons I was so drawn to software engineering was the professional importance of hard skills. That, and the relative accessibility of those skills: if I had the time (read: financial safety net), I could achieve something my liberal arts-educated-ass was desperate to do: put some hard skills on the resume.

Backstory: for five years, right up until covid descended upon New York City, I was pursuing a standup comedy career. I did all the side hustles: dog walking, production assisting, barista-ing. I decided to quit comedy just a few days before getting a text from my dad imploring my girlfriend and me to flee the city. I wound up home in Pennsylvania with no idea what I was going to do and a patchwork of professional experiences that wasn't exactly pointing in any sort of career-ward direction. I was tired of trying to convince people that I was valuable. I wanted to show them a list of my skills and prove I was.

Nine months later, on December 4, 2020, I graduated from Flatiron School's software engineering program with a Certificate of Completion, a slew of projects built and several deployed, and a brand-new set of skills. I'm having conversations I never would've been able to have, solving problems I wouldn't even know where to begin to start, and thinking in ways I couldn't possibly imagine if I hadn't done a coding bootcamp. I've got an internship and even a couple freelance clients! But as I trudge through LinkedIn, Indeed, and All the Job Sites looking for a full-time job as a software engineer, I'm starting to realize that from the perspective of a hiring manager, I've actually transformed my resumé into software-engineer-with-less-experience-than-like-every-other-software-engineer. My coding skills make me better; they don't make me different. They won't make me stand out to a recruiter.

I'm starting to realize, ironically, that what does make me different are all the skills, experiences, and qualities I already had. And the more time I spend poring over developer-related jobs, the more postings I see for a type of role that actually sounds like me--not just my most recently-acquired skillset. And most of those jobs have the word "solutions" in the title.

As a former comedian, I've spent a lot of time considering the perspectives of others. Comics have to understand how the audience thinks to make them laugh; you can't land a punchline if you're not on the same page as the audience. So I think I'd be good at understanding translating client needs and to engineering deliverables.

As a former production assistant and tour manager, I have a wealth of experience solving problems for others. Whether it's getting a caramel macchiato for a stressed-out producer or finding a replacement synthesizer at the last minute before showtime, I get a real thrill out of making things happen for others. If that's the core M.O. of a solutions engineer, count me in!

I realize this is starting to sound like a cover letter, but if you're a junior dev reading this, you probably relate to the relief that I feel reading a job description under the Software Engineering umbrella for which I'm not only really qualified, but also genuinely excited!

I think that's the sordid truth about a lot of bootcamp graduates: they they don't necessarily care how much time they spend coding, really.

Listen, I love to code. I really do. I wouldn't have done a whole-ass bootcamp if I didn't. And it's not like I didn't, ya know, ask myself these questions before committing to this path. But if the knock on solutions engineering is that you don't spend all your time coding, well--fine. I spent the thirty years of my life not spending all my time coding. I'd love a job that was half coding and half interpersonal communication, even if it's just emailing.

And I never would have known about this position, nor be remotely qualified for it, if I hadn't gone through Flatiron's software engineering bootcamp in the first place! So as rough as the job search can be, and as deep as I sink into Dunning-Kruger's Pit of Despair, I'm actually feeling quite hopeful. Because up until recently, I didn't even know that there was a position in my newly chosen field that really felt like me. And now that I do, it's just a matter of finding one.

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