I recently had the privilege of leading a workshop for Resilient Coders, a Boston-based coding bootcamp for young, high potential trainees from underprivileged communities. What makes this program extra special is that they learn coding skills AND people skills.
Tech Skills + People Skills = Winning Combo
I was introduced to David Delmar, the Founder of Resilient Coders, through a mutual colleague. He has an easy-going, down-to-earth attitude and his passion for nurturing future tech leaders is palpable. So, I asked him how I could help out. He told me I could share my free online course. “Sure,” I said, “That’s easy. But what more can I do?”
Long story short, I ended up leading a workshop for the Resilient Coders Bootcamp. My objective was to help each of the trainees identify three people skills they should improve to land the job of their dreams. I introduced them to the People Stack — the collection of people processes the make a tech company “go” — told some stories about real tech interview successes and failures, and did a few activities.
The highlight of the session (both for me and for the trainees, based on their feedback), was the job interview role play. They broke into groups and took turns interviewing each other to practice self-promotion — and in this safe space, were able to grapple with the challenge of being an interviewee: how do I adequately, confidently, and humbly demonstrate that you should hire me?
I loved getting back into the classroom to do this workshop. And I loved connecting with this group because it presented many challenges: How do I keep the attention of a group of fidgety 17–24 year-olds for 90 minutes? How do I show them that this white, privileged girl has something meaningful and helpful to offer? How do I address the reality that not all of them will land their dream jobs but, no matter what happens, developing people skills will set them apart?
In the end, it went well. David was there during the workshop, and because the trainees know and trust him, that gave me more credibility. Through his questions, examples, and insights, he added an extra layer of engagement that helped demonstrate the value of my messages.
And I think that at least some of the trainees “got” the message. I had some engaging one-on-one conversations with them during the job interview role plays. One group was having trouble figuring out how to demonstrate non-verbal skills during the interview. This turned into a conversation on the intricacies of a good handshake and eye contact.
Another group was stuck with what the interviewer should ask. “Why do you want this job?” was all they could think of. I encouraged them to think beyond that. “How do you find out if someone can communicate well about coding?” I asked. “Ask them questions about their coding projects?” Bingo.
When I was (getting lost) walking to the bus stop after the session, I ran into one of the trainees. He kindly showed me the way and also apologized for not speaking up more during the workshop because he has trouble communicating. I told him he shouldn’t be sorry for that and if you’re committed to getting better, give it time, and you’ll get there.
…That Can’t Happen Online
I’m an online learning geek. I’ve been bold in suggesting what types of training programs we should put online. But, there are some cases where you have to be there in person. In the flesh. Making eye contact. To the extent that I made some impact at Resilient Coders, it couldn’t have happened if I wasn’t there in person.
I wish David and his trainees nothing but success, and I look forward to connecting with them again soon.
Hey there tech managers! Is leading your team like herding cats? 🐱 🐱🐱Are you sick of making stuff up, without trusted systems to guide you? Are your days filled with useless, time-sucking meetings? Join my Facebook group with other tech geeks who are coming together to build thriving, high-performing teams who don’t need constant hand-holding. No H.R. B.S. Real stories, from real geeks, who understand the nuances of being a techie. Click here to join: https://jenbunk.com/facebook