The tech industry is growing rapidly. But there’s a shortage of skilled talent to match all the new positions being created. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that by 2026, careers in software development will increase by 24%. Which translates to a lot of open career opportunities in tech.
Fortunately, there are many ways for people to learn these skills such as following the traditional path of a college. But for some, going to college isn’t an option – it’s expensive, it takes years and it can be difficult to get a career after graduation. Being self-taught is great, but can sometimes result in a learning plateau and lacks relevant networking and coding portfolios.
On today’s episode of Igniting Startups, our guest is a major advocate of one popular alternative: coding schools and boot camps. Ruben Harris is the co-host of the Breaking Into Startups podcast, he is also the CEO of Career Karma, an organization that matches people who want to learn to code with the right support circle and coding boot camp for their needs.
Throughout this episode, Ruben will explain how learning certain skills in tech can ignite your career. He will also discuss the importance of making and building connections through networking, and choosing the right boot camp for your needs. Tune in for more!
In this episode with Ruben Harris, you’ll learn:
- What people should know about work in startups and how it’s different from a large company
- Ruben’s thoughts on who the best companies are to work for
- Ruben’s advice for people who want to break into tech
- How to approach your tech job search after graduating from a bootcamp
- Why networking is important for your career
- How Career Karma finds the best boot camps
Please enjoy this conversation with Ruben Harris!
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
If you like this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. You can also follow us on Soundcloud or Stitcher. We have an incredible lineup of interviews we’ll be releasing every Tuesday here on the Powderkeg Podcast.
Ruben Harris quotes from this episode of Igniting Startups:
“I’ve been blessed to have a pretty healthy dose of confidence. But I will say on this entrepreneurship journey there have definitely been moments where you know I’ve convinced myself of what I know is right.” — @rubenharris on @PowderkegHQ
“I think a lot about the tech industry and how it’s very similar to the music industry where they’re very accepting of anyone from any background. But at the same time, they aren’t either.”— @rubenharris on @PowderkegHQ
“I think the biggest insight, not just software engineering but across the board with different skill sets is that there’s a minimum barrier of social skills that people need.”— @rubenharris on @PowderkegHQ
Links and resources mentioned in this episode:
Companies and organizations:
Venture capital firms:
Books and publications:
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What stood out most to you about what Ruben share in this podcast?
For me, it’s Ruben’s advice for people who want to break into tech.
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Was consistent between millionaires and billionaires and the people that we’ve met that are on this level. It’s not the fact that they are geniuses or rock stars, or privileged, which are all factors. The main thing is actually that they didn’t quit.
Hey there pattycake fans, I’m your host, Matt Hunckler. And this is episode 90 of powderkeg igniting startups, the show for entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators building remarkable tech companies and careers outside of Silicon Valley. Today, we’re going to be talking to a founder based in Silicon Valley, who developed an amazing platform that’s helping professionals around the world. He was actually featured in Episode 66 of powderkeg igniting startups along with Chuck oil, who’s the founder of Kinsey Academy and one of our live tapings that we did here in Indianapolis. But this one is going to be very interesting because we’re diving into the backstory. And since then, he was accepted into Y Combinator and has made some serious progress with his startup. So without further ado, Reuben Harris is a Bay Area transplant from Atlanta, Georgia, where he served as an advisor for Forge and organized Atlanta’s first health care hackathon. Over the past couple of years, Rubin has worked with academics, organizers, politicians, and union leaders at hustle, honor and AltSchool focused on improving their personalized outreach, health care and education. He began his technology career working in partnerships and sales, soon started a podcast called breaking into startups, which I’m a big fan of. And that’s actually how I first heard of Reuben were featured in the same article a couple of years ago. And it was all about how he moved to San Francisco and broke into the startup and tech world. He did that in just three weeks from landing in San Francisco. After that, he wrote an article that went viral on TechCrunch, and went on to start a company called Career karma, which we’re going to talk a lot about in this episode, and the lessons learned in scaling that company. As I mentioned, Y Combinator, which is amazing boot camp based in the valley, please help me welcome the founder and CEO of career karma. RUBIN Harris, Rubin. Thanks for being here, man.
Thank you, thank you so much for having me. I mean, you’ve been you’ve been busy, I didn’t realize that was 66. You’re always all the way up to 90. That’s what November until now. That’s, that’s, I respect that a lot, man. Thank you for having me.
Yeah, try to be consistent, man.
I respect it, I respect it. And we’re gonna have you on the auto podcast as well. So thank you for having me.
Well, I definitely look forward to that and sharing the story of this awesome community here at powderkeg. But I know this community is going to be very interested in what you’ve been up to these last few months, you know, basically half a year, you’ve made some huge leaps in your business. And I love capturing the founder story like right in the heart of it. And I feel like you’re at that inflection point right now. Before we dive into kind of where you are today, could you maybe give a little bit of context? Maybe for those who haven’t listened to your episode for six months? Or maybe you didn’t hear the first one of you know, how did you decide in the first place that you wanted to be involved in startups and be involved in tech?
Yeah, yeah. So just like you touched on earlier in the podcast, you know, we moved to the Bay Area without knowing anybody. And then three weeks, we found a job. My co founders, they moved out with me as well. They did coding boot camps on guy jobs. And essentially, we, we had to go through a bunch of hoops to figure out how to get jobs in tech, that didn’t require just training. And so essentially, we built career karma as a product that we wish that we had when we were trying to break into tech. Like you mentioned, I spent some time working at art school focus on personalized education, my focus, a lot of time, focus on vocational training for nurses, and building out two sided marketplaces when I was an honor. I worked a lot with labor union leaders, like you said, and workforce development people when I was at hustle, and my co founder, after they did, coding boot camps, they spent time at funding circle all the way until IPO, really understanding finance, and building credit models. And then my other co founder was in the augmented reality world, bridging the online and the offline worlds. And so during our time working at these different startups, over a matter of three years, we lost break in startups, where we interviewed several people that also broke into tech without going to college, or they had different traditional backgrounds. And after hearing hundreds of stories now, I think we’re over 110 episodes now. We were able to really get a sense of the similarities. And we created a three week process of how to get prepared for these boot camps. And we started calling that the 21 Day Challenge. And that started to go very viral, and people started tweeting about career karma every single day. We applied to Y Combinator and decided to productize that experience and for the people that aren’t familiar with Y Combinator, the first thing that they tell you is focus on getting people 100 people to love you. And we started off was trying to get 100 people to love us to turn into 100 people downloading the app every single day, mothers telling their daughters sisters telling her brothers, people telling their friend and, and hundreds and 1000s of people essentially taking control of their careers, and changing the very fabric of their families. And at the end of the day, I’ll go ahead, I’ll go ahead. And I’m just gonna say our Northstar has always been to empower people to make their most important career decisions, the first decision that we’re helping people make is which bootcamp is best for them, because that’s what helped my brother and my co founders get there. And we essentially want to help a billion people in 10 years. So that’s, that’s how we got to this point.
There’s so much there that I want to back up and dive into a little bit more. Take Take me back to the experience of working at some of these places, or working with some of these places like hustle, honor, and old school. What was kind of your biggest takeaway from those experiences, whether it was like how how careers are shifting, or how education works, or maybe doesn’t work? Based on your experiences there?
Yeah, so I think a lot about the tech industry very similar to the music industry, where they’re very accepting of anyone from any background, but at the same time, they aren’t either. So like, if you think about your experience there, right? Yeah, I’m a professional cellist. I’ve been playing the cello for a long time, I did a lot of student position work. But you can argue that there’s actually way more talented people that aren’t signed to music labels, outside of the music industry, then the people that are actually signed by the people that are outside of the music industry that want to get a shot, have a lot of difficulty playing their record. And so the right person hears it and gives them the contract. Same thing with technology where, you know, there’s a lot of talented people that went to college, some didn’t go to college that are working. And these companies, and they want to be accepting of everyone. But their filters for people still use traditional signals, whether it’s a college degree, or as a two year GMAT. And so the people that have talent, have to go through a bunch of hoops to get in. But the question that you asked wasn’t how to get them. So yes, like, how was it inside?
Yeah. What were the Big Insights, that kind of, maybe you’re even applying today, as you’re building out career karma? Yeah. But you saw all those years ago at old school and honor and some of those other programs?
Yeah, I think the biggest insight, not just with software engineering, but across the board with different skill sets, is that there’s a minimum barrier of social skills that people need. A lot of people were really focused on getting a skill to do their job. And you can break in who graduated from the best school and do a really good job. As a worker, when you break into tech, if you want to get promoted into any leadership role, it starts to become less about the hard technical skills, and more about your soft skills and the way that you communicate your the way that you know how to manage the way you’re organized, how creative you are, how balanced you are. Do people like you a lot of things like that, that are very touchy feely. And so I would say the biggest insights to career come actually come from, you know, just really deeply studying industrial and workplace psychology, and the way in the creating culture and what motivates people what keeps people happy. And we think about ourselves more like psychosocial support for people. And everything’s done in teams and companies, but even in school as well, if you’re going to be working at some of these tops, top companies,
you mentioned kind of the softer skills, what would you say are some of the soft skills that people screw up or don’t understand? If they haven’t had some training or had some experiences under the belt? First,
I think the biggest thing, the biggest first thing that you have to do is developed, develop a certain level of confidence and yourself, you have to convince yourself first that you’re capable.
How do you do that?
If the first step is like really just telling yourself that you’re good, like if you decide to do something, and it’s very hard to tell yourself that I’m, I’m an artist, like if I just started playing an instrument, but it doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional or not, if you call it if you play an instrument, you’re technically an artist, right? That’s like if you first start learning how to code you’re technically that. And the best way to do it is actually like to repeat that every single day to yourself. If you think about books, like thinking Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, you know, they talked about like, naming your number that you want to make in the future and just like telling that to yourself every single day. So something we talk a lot about is like visualizing to realize it might be reading people’s biographies, putting a picture of someone that inspires you up every day and looking at that reminding yourself about why you’re doing this right so I know that might be for your kids or your family. So whatever it is that you want to do is really telling yourself that. Because what I often see is a lot of people when they’re in the job search or even in companies, they haven’t convinced themselves. And if you can’t convince yourself, you’re not going to convince other people that you’re capable. And I’m not saying that the doubt will never go away, or the imposter syndrome, well will go away. But you have to start with you. And it sounds hard. But that’s actually the easier part. If you can convince yourself, then everything else starts changing, actually,
is there a moment that that happened for you? For instance, did you ever have to convince yourself as you made this transition from? Maybe your primary identity being cellist or primary identity? Being? You know, I think you had a background in the finance world prior to this? Yeah, I was in transitioning your identity to a tech leader?
Yeah. So it’s interesting that you say things about identity. So talking more about psychosocial things, right? A job is way more than income, it’s about identity. Yeah, a lot of people focus on presenting themselves as you know, they define themselves by what they do, and what school that they went to, and things like that. But if we’re embracing a world of lifelong learning, where people work at multiple companies and go to multiple schools in a lifetime, then you can actually live multiple lives. Like if people are living longer than one year, one to three years, you’re an investment banker, another three years, you’re an engineer, another three years, your salesperson, and then blah, blah, blah, your podcast, then you start a company. Now you you’ve learned all the skill sets that you need to start something new. I think, for me, I’ve been blessed to have a pretty healthy dose of confidence. But I will say, on this entrepreneurship journey, there’s definitely been moments where, you know, I’ve convinced myself of what I know is right, I can see the proof in the pudding with the users. But there’s other people that don’t see what I see. And so I have to always remind myself every day that I’m right, by talking to the users, by talking to my team, by iterating on the product and seeing the numbers move up into the right. And so it’s less of a doubting of myself, and more of looking at the the evidence that I’m on the right path. So if you’ve already convinced yourself that you are good, and you believe in yourself, then it’s more about like, making sure that you’re making consistent results to keep yourself motivated. And high because what’s consistent between millionaires and billionaires and the people that we’ve met, that are on this level is not the fact that they are geniuses or rock stars, or privileged, which are all factors. The main things actually they didn’t quit, they persisted, and they kept the light at the focus, they focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.
Yeah, I really liked that. That way to kind of frame it. And you mentioned, this idea of putting a person on the wall like a picture of someone on the wall that inspires you, who inspires you. And it doesn’t have to be somebody necessarily taped to your wall. But yeah,
there’s a few people that I study. I really like masa, who’s the CEO of SoftBank. I really like the way that he thinks so for the people that know don’t know something, but they started the Vision Fund, which essentially is $100 billion fund, they deploy by 2 billion in capital every week. But he, he takes big bets, and it’s very risky with what he does. And he also encourages his companies to work together in order to achieve his vision of the world, or to address the problems that he sees in the world, and enables the people that are experts or that have experienced those problems themselves to have the fuel that they need to pursue their dreams. He has accomplished a lot, but he doesn’t rest. And he he doesn’t have just a big level of thought. He also has a sense of urgency, which I think is very important. So I really like him. He’s also a student of of of, of books, he reads a lot. And I’m fascinated with Japan, because Japan is aware. There’s more companies that are over 100 years old than anywhere else. And they have a really nice culture as well. And so I like myself I’m Anna and I recently met Marcelo Claure, who runs the Latin American Vision Fund, Latin American fund for them as well. And just the both the both the way that they think is very interesting to me. And there’s a lot of other reasons, but those are the main ones. Obviously, I think Elon Musk for similar reasons. I actually think Elon Musk is it’s hard for me to put them on the same level, I will say like they’re on similar levels. I don’t know, I kind of lean more on Marshalls level. And I think he’s like on doing more grander, taking bigger bets in multiple areas. I mean, it’s hard to say who’s making bigger bets. But it’s not about comparison, like, right. So I will just say, it’s another person that inspires me I like, I like that he’s focused on fundamental needs in the world, like, energy, and transportation, and all kinds of other things. So I like that, um, that he puts his capital to work. He’s never like this hoarding cash. He’s always putting it back to work. I like that he has five kids. In the future, I want to have five kids. So I think, you know, to see someone that’s on a, on a powerful level that’s also has five kids is, is inspiring to me. on an organizational level, I’m very inspired by Malcolm X. And I really like Malcolm X’s autobiography. I’m a big fan of Dr. Martin Luther King, I actually have a poster of him in my wall. And he, he actually has been talking about automation, and basic income and the future work for a long time. And there’s a really good article by Dr. Martin Luther King in Playboy magazine, actually 95 talking about automation. And he really focused on getting his message out where people are. And I will say, the last people that I really think about a lot are are Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell, and the wire
So yeah, I would say those are the
guys are slightly slightly more criminal than the other.
Yeah, yeah. But it’s like, it’s like, bad people wanting to do good, good people supposed to be wanting to do good, but actually doing bad. And there’s just like people in the shows all aspects. There’s the criminal side, there’s the political side, there’s the education side, there’s the where the product comes from. There’s market dynamics. And so I think, like, studying a show like that, from all the different angles is, there’s a lot of lessons there. Because the world, I mean, there’s a lot of corruption there too. And so you really got to understand how all those pieces are evolving. Think about what we’re focused on with workforce development, there’s education, there’s companies that have government that’s providing lot of financing. There’s corporations that are providing financing this individuals going to the school, and way more people that come from low income backgrounds that are trying to get in here that are unaware of what’s going on in the dynamics, and then there’s players in the quote unquote, good and bad side that are essentially trying to figure out how to navigate this new world. So yeah, yes.
I like that. It’s inspiring for me to go back I obviously the people you mentioned, I’m familiar with and have have some general awareness of it makes me want to go and dive a little deeper into some of the autobiographies and biographies. Speaking of stories, you know, you kind of broke into this career karma opportunity, based on these conversations you were having on your podcast breaking into startups, talking to people from with untraditional backgrounds getting into tech. Was there sort of a common denominator there of some qualities that all of them had? Or? Well, maybe not all, but like some of the patterns that you started to hear after, you know, your 12th? One, your 25th? One? There’s a lot of people there. And I imagine you see some of those things that smart people are doing to break into the tech world?
Yeah, I think after doing hundreds of interviews with people on the podcast, on the education side, it’s clear that something’s going to happen related to student loans. And that more and more innovation is going to be coming from colleges and from individuals in order to address challenges. So like, you know, after Clay Christensen talks about half of the colleges going bankrupt in the US over the next five to 10 years, you know, you start seeing, you know, colleges themselves launching boot camps, you see, you know, and in the beginning boot camps, charging tuition upfront, realizing that there’s only a few people that can afford that, and then launching, you know, a better version of student loans. That helps some other people but then for the people that didn’t have Due to loans, like they had to do something for them. And then the income share agreement came about, we could talk about all these things later. And then there’s people that had scholarships and employers peer model innovating on this, giving people access to pursue an education or what they love without going into debt. But I think, in addition to the income share agreement, which I think is the most innovative out of all of these things, in addition to employers payer, you saw schools, launching part time, full time, self paced versions of their programs online and offline, I think the online aspect of things actually has changed dynamics a lot. Because you can see, not just boot camps increasingly going online, but also, more and more, more and more colleges, launching online versions of their education. The problem with online education is that there’s a lot of people that enroll and get excited about it, when the completion rates are low. Right. So if you send some since massive open online courses have existed, or MOOCs, um, over the last seven years, it’s been over 100 million learners with, you know, five to 15% completion rates. And so it’s very, you could want to do something, but you need discipline, and so that I just explained everything kind of like, on the education side, not everything, but just kind of high level on the education side, on the individual side, what was clear is that you can have all the desire to want to become a software engineer, salesperson, or product manager, and the world. But if you don’t have the discipline to make it all the way through, it’s going to be hard. And only in the there are some people that we’ve interviewed on the podcast that are self discipline, and practice, have have mindsets of there’s this concept called deliberate practice, and they know how to negotiate, they know how to tell their story. But the majority of people need a support system. And a support system is not just a group of individuals, to mentor you, it might be peers, that are just like you say, you have hope that is possible. Because if you hear from a man, that is possible in your mom, it’s hard to believe that sometimes. And you might have a support system and people but you might not have a laptop, or you might not have a house, or you might not have food, and understanding how to address all those needs are what we started seeing is like a lot of gaps. And what was key is more school started to providing started providing different things in that regard. And we started to see a fundamental shift. And individuals increasingly wanting to seek for alternatives outside of college, and an opportunity to to give them essentially a career GPS system that would guide them to the right schools, but more importantly, the right people. That would be an accountability buddy system to help them not just made the decisions, but stay in the program, finish the program and get a job after. And that’s essentially the main the main themes that we saw there.
How hard is it to stand out as a software developer today? Like, how crowded is the space? And you know, if you’re graduating from one of these boot camps? What are some of the statistics that you found interesting, as you’ve been, I’m sure studying this space like crazy as you’re launching growing this startup and coming out of the Y Combinator program, talking to investors probably. What are some of those bigger shifts happening right now?
Yeah, the numbers are definitely fresh in my mind. So like, today, there’s over I mean, let’s talk about the iPhone, right? The iPhone didn’t exist. It came out the iphone four came out 2007, the App Store came out 2008 software developers haven’t been around for the last 10 years, little over 10 years. And so today, there’s over half a million open jobs available.
I’m talking about developers in general. Okay. Yeah. So that could be a mobile developer that could be, you know, website developer, it could be all kinds of things. Because there’s different types of developers front end back end, you know, blah, blah, blah. So there’s over half a million open jobs for software engineers, and only 50,000 people graduating with computer science degrees every year from four year universities, and about 30 to 40,000 people graduating from coding boot camps every year. And so in total, let’s say 100,000 People are graduating a year in over a half million open jobs right. And by 2020 for the next five years, there’s 1.4 million open jobs and only about four 100,000 people that are going to be graduating for universities, which means a million people are going to have to get trained from some alternative form of college. On the flip side, there’s about 300,000 people applying to coding boot camps every single year. But the majority of them aren’t getting in, not because they are incompetent, it’s because they aren’t ready. They don’t know how to prepare. Because if you think about what a boot camp is, a boot camp essentially takes what normally requires two to four years to learn, and condenses it into about three to 12 months, sometimes longer. Some Boot Camps are a little longer, they might do like a year or two program for people. But you can leave earlier if you want to. But overall, it’s a condensed version of college that focuses on practical skills that are relevant in the workplace. And if the majority of people are doing an income share agreement, the main difference between a bootcamp and college is that they measure their success on your getting a job. And so if the only way that teachers get paid is if you get a job, then the schools need to be selective about who comes in to make sure that they start and finish because they don’t finish none of this works. Yep, yep. So there’s this big opportunity to the jobs aren’t going away. There was something that came out this morning. That said, for the first time in history, our history, there are 7.4 million open jobs versus 5.8 million job seekers in the US economy today. That’s not all software engineering jobs. But it’s an issue across the world, this 3530 to 50% of the world’s workforce is working part time, inactive, or like unemployed. And if
I was just gonna say I, you mentioned people who are unemployed, obviously, getting into software development is a great place to go because you’ve got more demand and supply. It’s a great, great pay, especially compared to no salary No, no income at all. It seems to me like in order to really solve this gap, the tech world is going to need to bring not just people who are unemployed or underemployed into tech, or, you know, people whose maybe jobs are being automated, like truck drivers, other other industries, like factory workers, but even people in other professional settings, you know, people in, in sales who sell widgets, or people in finance, you know, bankers at Bank chains, but more and more people are using mobile apps and nothing against those those roles. But if someone in those roles were considering getting into software development, why would why would they want to consider taking the leap to go into a coding Academy? What’s on the other side of that for them, that maybe doesn’t exist in a role as a banker at Chase, for instance?
Yeah, I’ll talk about the bank example, because I was an investment banker before to share. And before getting into that, I will say, even software developers themselves are needing to rescale and a lot of people that come to career karma wanting to do a bootcamp, they sometimes get into this paralysis by analysis, deciding which language to learn, not realizing that by the time you’re in the workforce, and you’ve been working for maybe one to three years, maybe five, what you’ve learned is outdated, and you gotta learn something new. Yeah, constantly learning something new. So it’s like, you can’t just be like, I’m gonna learn this, and I’m gonna be good forever anymore. You have to always adapt even salespeople, because, like you said, like, the way you sold historically, just with the phone like now you, you need to know how to use Salesforce, you got to learn how to use outreach, you got to learn how to use all these different texts. That’s
the best software developers are constantly upskilling not just by working on new projects by but literally taking more curriculum.
The best people in general, are constantly learning and assessing their skills to the job market and trying to grow. There’s a really good concept called tours of duty by Reed Hoffman, where he talks a lot about this type of stuff. There’s a book called alliances, that breaks this type of stuff down. And even employers themselves being comfortable where with an employee that’s only going to be there for three years or four years and then leaving somewhere else. But going to your point about like what, what was on the other side for an individual, like a truck driver that’s trying to see what’s going on. You know, technology, people keep referring to the technology industry like a separate industry, but it’s not anymore. Essentially, in Tired trillion dollar categories are going to be recreated. Like before, no technology made a lot of really nice things to have that were fun to use, like, Instagram or Facebook and the important companies. But increasingly, technology is moving into these like, really fundamental, high GDP categories like food, transportation, housing, finance, like with open door, Uber, Lyft, Zillow, things like that. Beyond Meat that’s going crazy right now, right with vegetarian food. And so if you think about that, if you’re a company, and you don’t have technology at your core, then you’re not going to survive. I don’t know if this that is perfectly accurate. But I’ll just say one of my friends who works at Goldman told me that today, one in four employees at Goldman now has to know technology. There’s some reports that did come out from JP Morgan, and some other people that are like, requiring Python for certain departments for people. banks themselves, like really, I think JP Morgan has put in like over $300 million towards future work and alternative forms of training. More and more companies are dropping the college requirement to apply for a job like like Google and IBM, I think Home Depot, Glassdoor, a bunch of other companies as well dropping the requirement to have a college degree. But if you didn’t go to college, and you have the skill set, it’s still difficult to stand out. So to your point. This is something that I think is one of the biggest challenges for people when they graduate from boot camps. Because what’s nice about boot camps is that they are aligned with the workforce. And if you believe in yourself, and you know that you have the skills, that’s a great step, but the job search is a completely different skill. And the best way that we’ve seen to get a job with and stand out is actually not applying to the website, because applying to the website is gonna get you to a recruiter, that’s not that has a very important job, but is not in a decision making position and optimizes for people with traditional backgrounds because their time is limited. And what you need to focus on is either hiring managers that have similar backgrounds to you on a personal level, and figure out a way to get in touch with them. So you can connect with them and get them to vouch for you and skip the normal recruiting process, sell yourself past technical challenges and get an offer on the table. And we plan on doing those things to career calm as well. But essentially, that’s what’s worked for us and for other people in this. Even today, even at Google and Facebook, most of their jobs are often uncomfortable for or even with their extremely sophisticated recruiting systems. Because there’s so much talent that exists out there that it’s hard for them to identify. So they rely on their internal networks to get them there people.
If you’re considering being a software developer, or even upskilling, it seemed occurs to me that you kind of want to skate to where the puck is going a little bit, right? You want to kind of like know, what is the role of software developer going to be 510 years out? So you’re upping your skills with that in mind? What is the future role of software development? How is the role of software developer changing?
I think that, um, when I think about software engineers, that are increasingly getting involved in more departments, right? So it’s not just like building a product, you’re starting to actually see like, marketing teams be engineers, right? It’s not like madmen anymore. Right? It’s like growth hackers, right? Like growth hackers, you got to understand the difference between SEO and SEM, you got to understand a B testing, you got to understand the way websites are built site. They’re formatted, so they’re optimized for search search, you have to understand sales, even to create really good drip campaigns for your newsletters and your follow up and things like that, like my co founder, Archer Meister. He does more for me than my entire sales and marketing teams that I had historically, when I was working at those other companies honor and hustle and AltSchool by himself, because he knows the game and he understands how to do that. So you’ll see, engineer, like we did an interview with John maida, who’s automatic. And he talks a lot about engineering is learning more about design, and designers learning more about how to code Yeah, And because it’s not enough to build something for people, if you’re doing things that are solving problems for the now, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is increasingly important for them to know how to use the product. And design is very good for that. And it’s really important for it to take into account emotions as well. One of our friends ever talked about how one reason startups suck at recruiting is because it’s actually a lot of emotional labor. And juggling a lot of details. And reading people situations, creating space for deep combos and aligning goals, driving decisions, like tech doesn’t know how to value emotional labor. So what I’ll say is, engineers are starting to think deeper about the soft things that users deal with, that people deal with. And I think that’s going to be more and more of a factor. I think the other thing that’s happening with engineers is the growth of remote work, to remote work is a huge, huge, huge thing. Stripe just launched its fifth engineering hub, as a remote office hiring 100 engineers completely remotely, which is great news for people. It’s interesting, because we think about the gig economy, the gig economy has taken off like and for the people that don’t know the gig economy that’s like Uber and Lyft, and TaskRabbit. And all these temporary jobs, we’ll know blue collar jobs, they’re they’re good jobs that are flexible for people. But most people that are in those jobs actually don’t want to do them forever. And so figuring out how to get to the next phase, and level up out of that is key. But the remote jobs actually give you that type of flexibility, and the benefits and the permanent job. But some people do like to get a job. So it’s not a this is not a shot fired at gig economy is just a parallel to remote work that gives you the benefit of a full time job, and flexibility, and freedom and benefits. What Yeah, exactly.
So what, what let’s say you’re you want to find the right job for you. But you’re kind of starting from scratch, you’re, you’re going to be done with your boot camp here. And let’s say 90 days, how should you approach your tech job search.
I like that I’m actually think even before you get into your job search, you should start listening to the powderkeg podcasts. And identify the people that are engineers or that are like you that are working at companies that don’t have to be engineers, people that are like you on a personal level that you would love to work for, or that are connected to people that you want to work for in the future, and grab tea with them, grab coffee with them and get to know them on a personal level first, that way, and the easy way to connect is like, Hey, I heard the powder keg podcast. And this thing really jumped out to me about you, I would love to, like, meet you and talk to you more about that. Because, you know, I’m doing this for these types of people in Indiana today, right? And that is going to be way more powerful than being like, hey, I want a job and like I’m like you I went to your school that is too robotic. And so whenever you do get to the 90 day phase, and you’re in the job search, you’re gonna be like, hey, remember me. And of course, they’re gonna have a great feeling remembering you, and you’re gonna let him know that you’re in the job search, and they’re gonna help you. And if you don’t get a job at that company, they will vouch for you for other companies. So you really want to be building those personal relationships earlier. But if you are 90 days out, start 90 days out three months is a good amount of time. And you can do the same type of thing, but really emphasize who they are like if you play basketball, and they play basketball. And you know what they play, pull up and choose a wholesome, kick that behind they’ll respect you. So yeah,
in your opinion, who are the best companies to work for? I know, you’ve probably worked with a ton of companies, you’ve interviewed people who work at dozens, if not hundreds of companies across the country, who are the best companies to work for?
In my opinion, this is my personal opinion. I think the best types of companies to work for are companies that are midsize with momentum. So these are like Series C or below. For people that don’t know what Series C is that’s usually your third or fourth round of funding after a seed round from a venture capitalist, which essentially gives money to people to build companies. So they tend to be anywhere from 10 to 200 plus employees. And they they aren’t going to run out of money anytime soon. They have product market fit, which essentially means that their product is working and they’re making money. But it’s small enough to where you will be able to make an impact. And you will be surrounded by people that can mentor you. And you can build a network, you can get to know every single person at the company and take those relationships with you somewhere else. Talking about Y Combinator Michael Seibel, who’s the CEO Y Combinator, recently put out a video talking about how working at big companies can be a trap. Because it’s not a startup, right? It’s a corporation, you know, and like part of the part of the value of working at a startup is like, the intimate environment in the accelerated level of learning that you’re getting. And that’s nothing wrong with going to those big companies. But if I were you listening to the particular podcast today, I will go to the breakout list. And look at those companies that are there, I will look at what puts out a list of companies with momentum midsize companies with momentum every year, look at those companies. And then just go to your favorite venture capitalists, and click portfolio and just look at those companies and find the ones that are series year below that are aligned with your personal background. Because another way to stand out as a junior developer is picking companies that are aligned with your personal background. So if you grew up on a farm, find a food company that is aligned with what you’ve grown on your farm. And now you’re applying as a senior, like pharma that happens to know how to code and it’s way better position than anybody else on the team that understands food. Yep.
I like that. I I think it’s a good perspective, especially for someone who doesn’t really know the world of startups, it’s pretty safe bet going to like a serious seed stage company that you know, has product market fit, you know, they got traction and cash. But at the same time, there’s a lot of startups out there, there’s probably more startups than series seed stage companies. Career karma as a startup right now, unless you made some serious progress since we talked last week, you haven’t raised your Series C yet? Yeah. So what should people know about working on a startup? What do you tell people? When you recruiting people to join career karma? You know, not only what are the benefits, but what are some of the things the realities of working at a startup?
That’s a great question. So there are trade offs. Like if you’re working at a company that’s like our size or service you’re below, and your size is how big? I see, we’ve raised the seed round. So we were I mean, team team size teams as though about 13 people. Okay, yeah. So if you’re working at a company, that’s 10, plus people 10 to 100 people even, I’ll say the biggest change for most people is having to embrace ambiguity, having to embrace change, like you might be hired as an engineer. But they might ask you to fold envelopes, they may ask you to, like sweep the floor. And you can’t say, that’s not my job. Right? Like you can if you want to, but that’s not the environment for you. I did not, they may not want to hire you. Right. So like, there’s like, you’re gonna wear multiple hats. And if it’s a remote worker, then obviously there’s no force to be swept, you just gotta sleep your own because you’re working from home. But the point is, is that, like, you’re going to be doing multiple things at a startup. And you have to be comfortable with that. And that’s also what’s very exciting. That’s what’s going to put you on an accelerated growth path. You never want to be in a comfortable position, you actually want to be growing, you always want to be in an uncomfortable position, while still be uncomfortable, like, because like you can’t build muscle without resistance, like so you’ve got to have a little bit of like, breakthrough and push as you’re going through.
So if you’re not, if you’re not challenging yourself at your job, you’re not growing. You’re not reaching your full potential.
Yeah, exactly. Like you always want to be setting a stretch goal. Take yourself to the next level. So I say like, if you are someone that doesn’t do well with change, and wants, just like structure, and balance and stuff like that, like a startup that’s earliest age, and may not be the best thing for you. Straight up and down, you know, because, you know, startups are trying to achieve billion dollar goals and recreate categories. And the biggest thing, there’s a great article by Paul Graham called startups equal growth. And if today you have 10,000 users, and tomorrow you have 100,000 users, and then in six months, you have a million users. The entire structure of the company is going to change like 10 times during that time period and it If you don’t know how to adapt with all those changes, as soon as you get settled into one way of doing things is going to change. And if you’re not cool with that, it’s hard, it’s going to be hard for you, I’m gonna say it’s possible, but you got to prepare yourself psychologically for that.
So what makes a good startup culture?
What makes a good startup culture, I think, a very clear mission, and a very strong company values that aren’t just marketing, right? Because like, because we are entering into a world where companies are solving problems for the down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. And because CEOs understand that these are multibillion dollar categories, sometimes trillion dollar categories, they understand that the best marketing is a mission. But if it’s not understood by the entire company, and it’s not something that’s lived, and it’s not even felt by the users, then that’s an issue because I’ve, I’ve worked for companies that I won’t name, where the mission was strong, the product and the service was good, the users loved it. But internally, it was toxic. And it did not reflect what was felt on the outside. Yeah. It’s one of those things where you’ll know it when you feel it. And why I think it actually, you should actually take time, during your job search, and treat each interview, like a blind date, where you actually had some information beforehand, so you could do some research before you got there. So it’s not completely blind, right? And you are evaluating them, just like they’re evaluating you. And then you’re deciding who you want to date. Right? I mean, you don’t always want to take the first offer. And sometimes you want to negotiate. And so I really, I really think that um, the culture, like assessing someone’s interview process, also reflects culture. I think assessing people’s language, reflects culture. Assess, like seeing whether how they prioritize different things, whether it’s technical, non technical, whether it’s things to balance, whether they do things as a group, or as an individual, it’s really hard to define. But I would just say, look at how many people start with the company and leave the company. And that says a lot, because breaking into tech is one thing staying and in tech is another. And so very similar with like getting admitted into boot camps. That’s a challenge for a lot of schools. But dropout rate is big, not just for boot camps, but also for colleges. Same thing, if somebody breaks into a company, how many people stay? Right? That is not always a reflection of an individual wanting to leave? A lot of times it’s a reflection of like, not feeling heard. And I will say, I think that right there is I think, making sure your workers feel heard and feel empowered, and supported, and that they have growth. And agency, I think that’s probably one of the biggest, the biggest things like I’ve CEO, I like to say, CEO stands for create every opportunity. And yeah, really focused on I got that from to change manager. But I like to think about, about, you know, me doing all the work that people don’t want to do. And then like, figuring out how to do it and then delegating that to someone and then taking the next task and essentially like I serve everyone, so we want to as leaders, we want to serve everyone and empowering empower them to be leaders themselves. If you feel like there’s always a foot on your neck and you can’t arrive, you can’t rise above who’s in charge of you, then that’s usually a problem. My opinion.
Yeah, like that. Well, before we wrap up here, what is career comas mission?
Yeah, so our mission, we haven’t actually defined our mission, but we want to help a billion people in 10 years. And I’ll say that, um, you know, our Northstar is to empower people to make their most important career decisions. And like I said before, today, we want to help people decide which coding bootcamp is best for them. But tomorrow, we want to help them make the most important criticisms of their life, not just for software engineering, or for anything else. So if you think about career paths, like flights and everybody’s always on a flight, the destination is the company. The schools are like the airlines, and the plane with their friends that they get on are like the squads inside of career karma. And so career comm was essentially the air traffic controller that helps people find the routes that get them to wherever they want to go the fastest. And we’re gonna stay laser focused on matching people with the right coding boot camps, helping schools To admit students without interviews, because we’ve done all the pre qualifying and nurturing beforehand. And once we master that on the marketplace side of things, then we’ll get the attendance side right at the outcomes right? And essentially, not just become the world’s largest community of people with in demand skills, but also the world’s most powerful staffing firm. So
if there’s one people you want people on this listening to this podcast to do, what’s, what would that be?
I will, I want them to download the app. I think, even if you don’t want to become a software engineer, I think downloading the app to really understand what we’re building, and how powerful it is, I think is a very big deal. So download career karma, send me a message and career karma that you heard this podcast, I think that’d be awesome. And then whether you are someone trying to code or you want to tell your friends about code, or you just want to, you’re an educator, you want to figure out or entrepreneur that want to start showing on school, like, I love speaking with people, I think about myself, like a social engineer, a social entrepreneur. So I really, I really want to connect with you. So yes, I mean, messaging the app.
I love it. Ruben, thanks so much for for sharing your perspective, your story, what you’re building, and thanks for doing it while we’re in Chicago, jersey. That makes us Midwesterners feel so good.
Yeah, man. Likewise, likewise. Yeah, man. Yeah, me Chicago is my favorite team. So
you must be a 90s child as well.
So Jordan Jordan era was a good time. That’s the
golden age of hip hop. For the things I used to live in Chicago, I started my career in Chicago. It’s live on Ohio and Franklin the soul. You know, I plan on being in the Midwest a lot.
So I love it. Well, thank you very much for being here. We’ll make sure we link up your your bio and all the links to your social profiles there. That’s it for today’s show. Thanks so much for listening. Also, obviously, huge thanks, Reuben Harris, check them out career karma.com or career karma in the App Store, show notes email@example.com. And also, if you’re looking for a job in tech, to ignite your career, or maybe just to make a shift, see what else is out there. Go to powder keg.com To get started. It’s super simple, but a powder keg.com/jobs You fill out the form we do the rest of the work, you’ll just get offers. To go out for coffee hop on a zoom call with some awesome CEOs and hiring managers in the powderkeg community. And to be among the first to hear the stories about entrepreneurs, investors and other tech leaders outside of Silicon Valley and inside of Silicon Valley, subscribe to us on iTunes at powderkeg.com/itunes. We’ll catch you next time on powderkeg igniting startups