How I Ended Up – and Stayed – at Code School

A transcript of a story told to the Code School team.

Written on November 30, 2015 in Personal.
Adam Fortuna

Hey hey! I'm a developer who lives in Orlando, FL. Right now I work at Code School, listen to a lot of audiobooks, set way too many goals, write at and tweet often.

We start every week at Code School with a Monday morning standup. This is a good way of getting everyone on the same page about events, releases, major events in everyones lives, but also a chance to connect on a culture level.

Sometimes our standup will end with a few words of wisdom from Gregg, but we’ve been trying to have more people at Code School tell their own stories that dive into their backgrounds and what brought them in. These have helped me understand a lot of other peoples motivations, and have humanized people to the entire company.

After a little bit of coaching from Gregg, and quite quite a few trial runs, I gave the following 5 minute talk in front of the team.

This is a transcript a 5 minute talk I gave at Code School on November 9, 2016.

The Talk

So, I talked with Gregg and mentioned that I wanted to tell my story not just about how I came to Code School, but also about how I end up staying here at Code School.

Back a few years ago, I’d fallen into this pattern in the jobs I was I found myself in. My last job before Code School was over at Izea, as a product lead and developer on Sponsored Tweets. It was basically an app where we payed anyone with a lot of Twitter followers to tweet advertisements.

Although I wasn’t passionate about the product, I’d met a number of the developers from there around town at Bar Camp and the Orlando Ruby Users Group and they were the main reason I’d joined.

This is how I’d found my past couple of previous jobs, and in each case it lead to me learning a lot.

But after a few years learning and working there, the team fell apart.

I remember one morning getting in to work and sitting down at my desk with a cup of coffee when I noticed how quiet it was. I looked looked around and just saw empty desks everywhere. It was like that feeling when you get into work at 6am — except this was a normal day during working hours.

In a little over a year, about 7 developers out of 14 left. I think we all felt like the main reason to stay wasn’t the company, but the other people on the development team.

That wasn’t the first time I’d been on a team that had fallen apart either — Russ and I were a part of two other jobs that ended in a similar way.

I remember sipping my coffe and trying to think what these jobs had in common. In each case, the main reason I joined was the development team rather than the mission. I think the growth mindset of the development team is what drew me in.

They were the support structure that encouraged me to be better, to learn and to grow, and when it was pulled out from under me, that’s when I looked for the exit to continue growing.

Fast forward a few year later and I’m 2 years into working at Envy Labs on Code School. It was the first time in my professional career when I was working on a product that I truly believed in, and with a team of talented developers I was constantly learning from.

Unfortunately, it was looking like the same thing was happening again. Now, people weren’t fleeing Code School, it wasn’t that. In this case, Code School was leaving Envy Labs and becoming our own independent company.

During this time, many of the developers I’d joined the company for were sticking with Envy Labs, while I was much more interested in teaching people to code. That meant I would no longer be working closely with them anymore.

Around this time at lunch one day, some of us from Code School and Envy Labs were making our way over to Latin Square — which is an amazing cuban place down town, if you’ve never been it’s worth checking out — when I realized something. For one — always get the morro rice — it’s delicious. It’s black beans, rice and bacon — what’s not to love.

The second thing was that even though I wasn’t working with these people, I didn’t feel like it was going to halt my personal growth, or my job enjoyment. I could still chat them up with questions or just hang out.

The way I was learning from them changed from passive education with others teaching me, to more of an intentional education with me reaching out with questions instead.

This shift in the way I grew as a person actually lead to a bit of an education renaissance for me. I started taking piano lessons, night classes at Valencia, working out with personal trainers and just seeking out new mentors to learn from that interested me.

That change in how I learned from passive to intentional had a huge affect on my overall happiness.

In the case of Code School, it wasn’t just the development team that was encouraging that growth mindset and causing me to stay, it was a company wide attitude of all the people here.

It was a shared passion for the product we were building.

It was the attention to personal growth at a team level.

It was the empathy for helping other people grow that made me want to stay and had caused this mindset shift.

And it was the knowledge that I’d never been a part of a team that supported each other as much that made the decision easy.