How I Ended Up (And Stayed) at Code School
We started 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, and major events in everyone’s lives, but also a chance to connect on a cultural level.
Sometimes our standup will end with a few words of wisdom from Gregg, our CEO. As time went on, more people at Code School started to tell their own stories that dive into their backgrounds and what brought them in. These have helped me understand a lot of other people’s motivations, and have humanized people to the entire company.
After a little bit of coaching from Gregg, and quite a few trial runs, I gave the following 5-minute talk in front of the team. This is a transcript of the 5-minute talk I gave at Code School on November 9, 2016.
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 ended 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 a social media marketing computer as a product owner and developer. It was basically an app where we paid anyone with a lot of Twitter followers to tweet advertisements.
Although I wasn’t passionate about the product, I’d met a number of developers from the company around town at Bar Camp Orlando and the Orlando Ruby Users Group. The opportunity to work with this talented team was the main reason I joined.
This is how I’d found my past couple of previous jobs, and in each case, it led to me learning a lot.
But after a few years of learning and working at each job, the team fell apart.
I remember one morning getting to work and sitting down at my desk with a cup of coffee when I noticed how quiet it was. I looked around and just saw empty desks everywhere. It was like that feeling when you get to work at 6 am — except this was a typical 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 —[another developer at Code School] and I was a part of two other jobs that ended in a similar way.
I remember sipping my coffee and trying to think about 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 years later and I’m 2 years into working at Envy Labs on Code School. It was the first time in my professional career that I was working on a product that I truly believed in, and with a team of talented developers, I was constantly learning from it.
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 downtown, 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 (local community college), 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 effect 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 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.