Ask Albert’s List: Should I Attend a Coding Bootcamp?

Look around Silicon Valley these days and you’ll learn that the skillful art of coding is chic. Whether it’s as simple as HTML or as complicated as learning the MEAN or MERN stack, there are numerous classes that promise to help you become a part of the Silicon Valley elite. Even courses on sites like Udemy go for $20 at a time.

As expected, the interest in taking up coding courses has made its way to Albert’s List, with members asking if they should attend. One asks:

I’ve been thinking about signing up for a coding boot camp because I would like to learn how to code. But I have no previous experience in coding and don’t where to start. Could anyone offer any suggestions or advice?

We’ve got a lot of members in our community who learned how to code in their own ways. This particular question has received numerous answers.

One member encouraged the original poster to teach themselves before going:

Before I did a coding bootcamp, I actually taught myself a lot about coding, but then I wasn’t going anywhere after a year of studying, so I did some cheaper online courses like Coursera. I think yes save money first by learning as much as you can from free resources, then move on to a coding bootcamp if you need to solidify your skills, but then you will realize afterwards you still need to continue studying and that’s the point of programming.

Another focused on the personality of the individual

– If you’re self-motivated and self-driven: Coursera/EdX

– If you’re self-motivated and self-driven, and like a comprehensive course: Udacity (get their nanodegree)

– If you need mentors, and want to code to find a job, and want intensity: Any bootcamp in SF (focus on JavaScript/iOS/Android based bootcamps)

– If you have time to spare, want more classroom feel, and want to take it nice and slow: Community College C++/Java paths

One recent graduate of a boot camp offered his frank experience:

Just finished Hack Reactor and I can say I learned way more in 3 months than I could have taught myself in a year. Being surrounded by loads of people talking the same language helps immensely. I had very little code experience before, did some codecademy (read: not code academy) before starting and think it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. Many schools (including Hack Reactor) offer scholarships and many banks/financial institutions will give you a short term loan. One of my peers has 18 months to pay back his loan with 0% interest (after that though, it’s killer).

Another saw the arduous road ahead:

Some bootcamps (app academy, I believe) give you the option of paying a portion of your first year, post-grad salary as tuition. Something to look into.

But before you take the plunge, code everyday, make projects, and be sure that this is what you want to do. Bootcamps are intense, and job search can be a long and arduous road.

The Albert’s List Take

Coding is not everyone’s cup of tea and it’s a challenge to stand out in the Bay Area where so many others are coders too. At the end of the day, we believe that it’s equally (if not more) important to find out how you can deliver value in any role you take on.

If you’re apt to coding, do your research and do your due diligence. While a fruitful career is definitely possible, there are also numerous other considerations to keep in mind.

For more questions like this, join us on Albert’s List today.

Ask Albert’s List: How Do I Negotiate a Layoff?

Many times, a layoff means that larger companies will allow employees to apply for other roles. Some employees will find ways to stay at the company, avoiding the chaos of job loss. For some, that also sparks the fear of loss of negotiating power as one of our members saw:

So here’s my situation, my company laid off a large number of people including myself. In the same breath, they invited us to apply for any open positions, which I did. They made me an offer yesterday. Here are my questions for the group:

1) Have I lost a lot of negotiating power since they essentially know that if I don’t accept their offer, I will be unemployed? Although they don’t know what other opportunities I have in the works.

2) When they made the offer, they told me they couldn’t offer me more because I currently make more than the incumbent. I’m not sure if they meant the other candidate or someone else in the same role who is already with the company.

This seems weird that they would use this as their reason. I’m confused because how is someone else’s worth dictating mine and why would they tell me that? I know behind the scenes they may consider that, but seems odd to tell the candidate that. I would love to hear opinions on their rationale for not coming in higher and what, if anything, I should do next. I don’t want to push too hard since I am interested in the position, and hope things work out so I can accept.

Negotiation is a wary area for many professionals and garners numerous opinions, as this thread did.

Some urged caution and provided the potential that another offer could provide:

Internal parity is a real thing for some companies, i.e. if someone has been in the role for 10 years and they are making $50k, the company isn’t going to risk offering a new person more or much more than that because eventually talk happens and the incumbent will become dissatisfied when they learn they are underpaid. Usually this means the company is okay with paying its employees lower than market rate, which in my opinion is a bad practice (but of course not all companies have abundant resources to pay above market). You may be able to negotiate with using another offer, or if you don’t have anything lined up, it may be worth it to take it and then keep looking for a new job.

Others saw the job offer as a way for the company to buy more time:

It is the company’s way of buying more time. Take the severance and get another job. If they did not consider keeping you on board this time round, what is the guarantee that they will next time.

Another member felt like opportunities could be found in other parts of the offer, including benefits:

I would say that it would be good for you to ask some clarifying questions / get more info as to what is possible on the employer’s end. Sounds like they’re trying to pay lower than market rate, which, if so, you’ll have to think about should you really want the job. I always say that there is room for negotiation. So try to find out what that room looks like. Even if it’s not monetary, see if there are other things (more vacation / sick time, 401k, etc.) that you can obtain.

One of our career coaches felt like being at the upper bounds of the budget was reason enough not to budge:

They essentially told you that you are already above their normal budget. Unless you are OK with them potentially pulling the offer, I wouldn’t try to negotiate in this situation. I’m professionally trained in negotiating and have been a hiring manager for several large teams. I’m a big believer in always negotiating, but not in your case due to the details you described.

The Albert’s List Take

When it comes to the topic of negotiation, we often defer to our experts in the area, and our thoughts lie with them here:

  1. See what you can do to negotiate for benefits if salary is no longer an option.
  2. If you feel like salary is no longer an area to work with and the company wants you, take the offer (or keep looking).

In all, our original poster took our advice to heart and made it clear what she wanted. She’ll let us know what happens.

For more groundbreaking questions, join us on Albert’s List today.

Career Reflections of a Cross-Country Roadtrip

A few weeks ago, I embarked on a roadtrip across the United States from New York to Phoenix. I traveled to help friends move from one side of the country to the other and offered time behind the wheel to see the scenery of America.

I’m a West Coast resident, so we naturally live under a variety of stereotypes in the Midwest. We’re accused of being elitist, out of touch, and generally ambivalent to the challenges faced by those between the oceans, which recently consists of an opioid addiction, the fear of automation, jobs lost to trade, and immigration.

As I drove along the landscape of America, humming America The Beautiful, I began to think about these issues in details. Driving past the dotted landscape of farm houses, truck stops, endless farms, and small towns, I saw the greatness of America that already existed. I also wondered how we could become more united, particularly in a time of division, as the onslaught of technology and ideology consume the fiber of our every being.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. How do we seriously address automation (around truck drivers, fast food workers)? 

Our car drove behind two trucks taking up the two lanes on the I-70 as we crossed from Ohio into Indiana. It compelled me to ask on Instagram about the future of this profession and if America is ready for the self-driving truck , currently being developed by the likes of Google and Uber. With truck driving as the most common profession in America and so many truck stops, diners, hotels, and service stations built around the culture, the impact of the self-driving truck will be wide-ranging and hit numerous communities hard.

The onslaught of automation brings about the other question about why we want automation at all. Depending on who you speak to, it comes down to the meaning of humanity, the hatred towards human error (crashes, sleeping at the wheel), and the almighty dollar. Since we’re already a country that champions pulling ourselves up by our boot straps — if there are no bootstraps to pull, then what do we really have left? I’m a believer that just because we can, it doesn’t necessarily mean we should, which puts me at my next question…

2. Does the Midwest really care about what Silicon Valley has to offer? 

I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to Silicon Valley. I loved my upbringing and wouldn’t trade the experience of living in one of the most innovative spots in the world for anything else. There’s a pride to knowing that driving down Kifer Road in Santa Clara is exactly where the earliest pieces of technology were built and that you can literally see Google, Apple, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Cisco from the freeway if you squinted hard enough. There’s a sense of ego too that what is built here has literally transformed the world into the Information Age.

But does the post office worker in Joplin, Missouri care that they can potentially get their groceries delivered to them via Postmates?

Does the bookkeeper in small-town Indiana care that their mail can be picked up on their behalf through Task Rabbit?

Would the elementary school instructor in Southern Illinois entertain the idea of renting her (usually unlocked) home out on Airbnb?

The best answer I give here after speaking to locals and looking at the overall landscape is a maybe. Midwesterners live simpler and happier lives because their cost footprint is lower (and we Californians pay more for that weather too) and Silicon Valley also lives in their own bubble. At the end of the day, many folks on both coasts have to admit that much of the conveniences we opt into are resources created by the wealthy to serve the wealthy, and not much more. When it comes to real Midwestern problems, true innovation will solve how citizens find their next paycheck, fight drug abuse, and build closer-knit communities.

Instagram filters and on-demand cat food? Pass.

3. How do we really ‘think local, act global’?

On the first night out, my friends and I ate at a diner in rural Pennsylvania. It was along one of those two-lane roads just a few hundred feet off the freeway, nestled among trees. As I set to order my dinner, I asked the waitress what made living in the state awesome.

“I’ve never left this town”, she told me.

This is a story repeated across America, with many looking at the world from their small towns. Meanwhile, there is also the pervasive message that citizens of America ought to “think local, act global” — even though many have never even wandered beyond county lines.

As America looks more inward with the current presidency, does this message sustain? Do we find ways for Americans in all regions to think about their place in the world, or do we look elsewhere to open our minds?

Closing Thoughts

I’m now back home in California, continuing to reflect on the changes that I viewed in the world. I want to do more cross country roadtrips and have more conversations with people who are interested in sharing their experiences. I know that moving this country forward starts with one thing – listening and having conversations with others, which is also something that we can gain through our careers.

Anything else and progress is moot.

Ask Albert’s List: Do I Accept an Offer I’m Wary Of?

Re-entering the workforce is a challenge for those who have left for health or family reasons. However, taking any job may also not be the best decision either, given the skills and pressure on the job. Recently, one of our Albert’s List members asked this question in our Facebook community:

I received an offer from a firm for a role that wasn’t in my scope of roles I was considering (they reached out to me), below the level (in pay and responsibility) that I would prefer, and in an industry I am unfamiliar with. I have until tomorrow to make a decision.

The team seems to be a good cultural fit, but I am wary because I do not feel they have done a strong examination of my skills/what I bring to the table. When I asked about growth prospects the tone was positive and encouraging but undefined. I have also had to go back-and-forth with them on multiple previously agreed on line-items in the offer letter, which worries me.

I have been out of the workforce for 5+ years and am ready to be employed again – hence I am a bit in a tough situation here as the general consensus I hear is that it is better to be employed than unemployed. Any thoughts from recruiters/hiring managers?

As usual, Albert’s List members had their share of opinions.

One said not to take it unless paying rent was immediate:

Unless you need to pay rent right now, I would skip it. I don’t see the upside for you. It pays less and you’re not doing what you want to do. Those jobs are easy to get.

Another remarked that this could be a red flag for the resume:

Will this role hurt you on your resume when you are looking for your next job?

Others asked if there was a chance to take this role in a another manner:

How about taking it on in a contractor capacity until you find something that’s a better fit?

The Albert’s List Take

Ultimately, our original poster ended up passing on the job. We agree with the sentiment: If there are too many things that worry about any role, it’s always best to pass.

Look for this advice and much more on Albert’s List today.

Ask Albert’s List: Do Name Brands Count on My Resume?

The shiny glimmer of big name brands beckons all of us when we go to the mall. In similar fashion, big names also compel hiring managers to talk to prospective employees, either because of the difficulty to work in those companies or because of potential achievements.

This was a discussion on Albert’s List recently, with Aung asking:

How important is having a big name company (ie: Google, Facebook) on your resume, if the role you are doing is mostly admin/clerical/entry-level work and is contract (to hire… no guarantee obviously)?

Do I take the contract role for the reputation (for my resume)? Or, do continue the job hunt for a FTE?

Members had a variety of answers.

One recounted her experience at the world’s largest search engine, but also mentioned the added pressure:

But you still have to back your work up with solid stats. Be a top performer in the contract role. Network with people internally if you do want to be hired full-time. Figure out how company politics work. All the “classmates” in my hiring class who got offers either were top performers or else insanely good at playing the office game.

One reflected on how their first job has offered a lifetime of credibility:

I did marketing for a few months after graduation on a contract basis for TripAdvisor as well as took just one class at Harvard. I think both have enough brand equity to last a lifetime for me. Some people’s are interested before I even explain what I did no matter how rote it seemed at the time.

Others stressed the importance of now as opposed to “potentially”:

If you don’t have any hot leads on your plate then I recommend taking the contract role. It’s better than sitting at home waiting for the perfect opportunity to come by which can take months. Also, who know what you’ll get out of the contract role; it’s a good opportunity to network with those at the big name org and maybe you’ll get hired permanently.

Not all recruiters though, are impressed:

Also, in terms of clerical and admin work, big names only impress me by the fact you got through the interview process, which is not an easy feat.

The Albert’s List Take

There were many more opinions offered on this post, but the point was made: Having the big name on your resume does count because it helps you stand out in a crowded field of applicants. Obviously, you must also continue to communicate and execute upon your value once you get into the job.

Above all, if you do have an opportunity, take it. Sometimes a job no matter the company can make all the difference.

Search these questions and more on Albert’s List.

Ask Albert’s List: Should I Leave a Contract Early?

In recent years, contract jobs have become the norm, especially in the Bay Area. Without the promise of full-time and the benefits that come with it, employees are sometimes faced with a question of leaving a contract early or waiting until it expires. Albert’s List community member Theresa asks:

Would like to get the group’s thoughts on leaving a contract role early to take an amazing opportunity. Contract came through a recruiter, it’s fairly long term (6 mos) covering a personal absence of a team member. Is it considered rude to back out of a contract role? Would especially like to hear from recruiters.

A few members offered their opinions.

One focused on the future:

I’ve been in that situation. I have two weeks notice, although the recruiter said could leave sooner. It seems like it’s early enough in the contract that you can leave in a decent spot, but I’m sure it’s stressful for the employer. Ultimately, what matters is your future.

Another looked at the job from a pure contract:

It’s not rude to back out of a contract job. It’s not permanent by definition. Contracting is finite with no job security. If you have a full time job, by all means, take it. Look out for yourself first.

And a recruiter focused on the positive:

I’m a recruiter and I’m always really happy for any contract candidates that find an amazing permanent opportunity – I just always ask for two week notice so that we can backfill the role and everyone is happy. 

The Albert’s List Take

We tend to agree with the thoughts above. When it comes to your career, what you want to do comes first. Ultimately, a better opportunity is just that, and we encourage the erasure of any doubt. Take the job and go!

For more questions, join our Facebook community today.

Video: How to Stay Present In Your Career

Staying present in our lives is always a difficult challenge, especially with so many things to do. In our careers, the pressure of promotions, getting stuff done, and nagging co-workers can also get in the way.

In this video, Tatum Cohen of Uniquely Tatum discusses some simple tips and tricks for how any professional can maximize their self-awareness. Just hit play on the video to start watching.

Conscious Of Your Career? Take the Next Step

If you know what’s next for your career, join Albert’s List today and gain access to new resources. We look forward to helping you!

Ask Albert’s List: Am I Committing Career Suicide?

Sometimes life takes us off the beaten path, causing us to consider whether we are making the right decision. Consider the following question from an Albert’s List HR professional, named Jane, who took an administrative assistant job to make ends meet:

I am currently on a contract on my 4th week to keep busy that is not in the realm of my career while I look for full-time work in Recruiting Coordinator, HR Admin, HR Coordinator roles. The company is interested in converting me into full-time. I am not sure if I accept the role, my question is will I be committing career suicide? I have been interviewing on the side and I have not received an offer as of yet. The company would like to know an answer if I wish to stay with them and accept the opportunity by this week.

A few members decided to offer their opinion, with the prevailing thought being that the poster should take the job. After all, she still has bills to pay to survive.

The Albert’s List Take

There are two ways to look at this:

  1. Silicon Valley is Expensive: In cost-heavy Silicon Valley, any work is a blessing. While going off the beaten path is a risk, having a job is always better than not being able to pay rent. Additionally, the modern work life means that employees more than ever are able to continue pursuit of their intended career path on the side while building wealth.
  2. A Job is a Job: In a world where work is hard to come by, work of any sort is work nonetheless. Even if you go off the beaten path, it presents some adventurous intentions. After all, if Steve Jobs wasn’t fired from Apple in the ’80s, Pixar would never have come to fruition.

What do you think?

Video: How to Network Your Way to a Job

Networking is something a lot of us are afraid of. After all, going up to strangers to ask for things is something our parents warned us against.

Fear as we might, it doesn’t have to be that way. In this video, Albert’s List founder Albert Qian speaks with Tam Pham, author of How to Network on what mindsets, strategies, and approaches one needs to have to succeed.

Just hit play above and let us know what you think in the comments above.

Learn More

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