The Viking Method for Getting Hired

The no bullsh*t method for turning your non-traditional background into a software engineering job.

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Getting hired isn't easy but, as you progress through the Viking curriculum, you will gain everything you need to make it happen. That includes both the core programming skills that make up the backbone of your value AND the ability to market yourself effectively enough to land a developer job. You've already begun developing the first set of skills during the advanced prep work and we're about to kick start the second.

The Viking Method for Getting Hired is an approach that has evolved over years of working with hundreds of students from non-traditional backgrounds as they engage The Hunt for a new career. This hunt starts NOW and continues both during and after you've completed the core Viking coursework.

A "Non-Traditional Background"

First, let's clarify what we mean by a "non-traditional background." In the upcoming sections, this means that you do not have a Computer Science degree or prior professional experience as a developer. If you don't fit into this narrowly defined bucket of "traditional" backgrounds, your job search will look quite a bit different than someone who does.

The good news is that, regardless of your background, software engineering is a field where anyone has the opportunity to get started due to a forgiving philosophy that "anyone good" should get a chance to build things. On the downside, it still favors "traditional" backgrounds as a way of validating candidates and fast-tracking them through that process.

Coming from a non-traditional background, this means you have to hustle harder than someone from a traditional background but it's not all bad. You have the advantage of opting into this because you absolutely love it, not because you felt like you were "supposed" to go down the 4-year CS degree track. You can demonstrate a rapid learning curve and you have built a significant number of real projects while the typical CS student in today's universities has had a more limited exposure to practical coding. After progressing through the Viking curriculum, you will also be comfortable with current industry tools and best practices which make you far more valuable day 1 than someone who needs to figure them out from scratch.

If you do come from a "traditional" software background, great! The approach we're about to lay out will help you turbo-charge your job search as well.

The Viking Method for Getting Hired is designed to help you leverage your strengths while circumventing the weaknesses in the system which still undervalues your potential. We don't promise that it will be easy, but we do promise that it has worked for a significant number of students just like you and that you have the potential to make it work too.

Beating the Hiring System

Where to Get Hired

The Viking Method is designed to help you turn a non-traditional background into a lucrative full-time job offer but we need to be clear about the kinds of positions and companies that it will work with.

Companies

The "traditional" system involves a large number of commodity jobs at giant corporations who have lengthy and established procedures for weeding out anyone who doesn't fit their narrow set of requirements. While the elements of this method can be used to target these kinds of positions, it is not optimized to do so.

Instead, we are targeting jobs at high growth tech companies, consultancies, and startups. These are companies where real humans still make decisions about the hiring process, where our technology stack is most relevant, and where you are likely to get the strongest learning experience anyway.

Roles

We are specifically targeting full-time software engineering and web development roles. Again, the method can be applied to a number of different opportunities, but the best roles for you to start your new career will be these.

We strongly recommend against seeking freelancing roles or taking contract gigs when you should be optimizing for learning in a fast-paced professional environment. Again, if that is your goal, the lessons here will certainly help you, but we will focus specifically on cracking open the door to full-time employment.

It is also worth noting that the specifics of your technology or position in the stack are basically irrelevant. You might apply to front-end roles or back-end roles and it won't matter. You might use Ruby on Rails or AngularJS or NodeJS or Python... the process is 99% the same.

While we're targeting full-time software engineering positions, you can also take this and branch out into related disciplines like product management, project management or systems administration. As with everything we do, the emphasis is on building a strong and transferable understanding of the fundamentals of the underlying system. That can be applied to pretty much anything!

Principles of the Viking Method

The Viking Method is based around a set of three fundamental concepts which may seem obvious but which are rarely embraced:

  1. You must understand the system you are a part of.
  2. You must understand yourself.
  3. You must connect 1-on-1 with real people.

Let's break down each of these.

1. Understand The System

You can't succeed at the game unless you know what game you are actually playing. Sounds obvious? An unbelievable number of people still persistently waste their time doing things which have little to no value to their ultimate objective. They throw applications at job boards, send form letters, and fail to adequately prepare for each of the steps in the process. They are essentially leaving their progression through the hiring funnel up to raw talent and dumb luck.

You do not have this luxury. You need to be more calculated and efficient with your time because you're the underdog.

Hackers and Systems

In startup and tech circles, there is great value placed on the idea of a "hacker", or someone who finds a way to burrow through the system and achieve an unexpected result. We tend to focus on the results and treat the hacker like some sort of genius.

Technical hacking earns most of the headlines. They hacked the phone lines to get free long distance. They hacked into a Wifi network. They hacked the radio station to become the winning caller of the fancy sports car. They hacked the twitter accounts of famous people... and so on.

The hacking of non-technical systems is fascinating stuff as well. They hacked the energy markets by exploiting loopholes to route power through California and collect massive fees along the way. They hacked the housing market by posting all listings directly to Craigslist while growing. They hacked frequent flier credit card promotions to earn free first class flights to Dubai. They hacked the rules of Blackjack to earn millions of dollars counting cards.

The key here isn't that these people are some kind of geniuses but that they succeeded because they understood the system. Once you have a ground-level understanding of how a system works, the ways to exploit it are almost obvious. So acquiring the understanding necessary to build a strong model of a system is far more valuable than investing in quick-shot tactics.

The Hiring System

Hiring is also a system. It's distributed across millions of people and operated in a million slightly different ways, but it is also essentially the same behind the scenes. The processes used by different companies are generally very similar. The decisions being made are quite similar. And the outcomes are quite similar.

That's why the first component of our system involves you understanding how the hiring system actually works. We want you to see behind the curtain at all of its intricacies and imperfections. Only when you've developed a clear understanding of the lay of the land ahead can you chart a clear path through it.

To do this, we'll break down the hiring process into its component pieces and show you the thought processes of each person along that chain. You should be able to take this understanding and use it as the base for successfully hacking your way into the side doors which would otherwise remain closed due to your non-traditional background.

2. Understand Yourself

"Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination." — Fitzhugh Dodson

Once you understand the system, you need to understand both your place within that system and what your goals are. It may not be your style, but that means doing a bit of introspection.

As mentioned previously, we will assume that you are coming at this from a non-traditional background and that tells us a lot about your place in this system. But it isn't everything.

You need to understand what you bring to the table so you can highlight your strengths. You need to understand your weaknesses so you can address them, exorcise them, or de-emphasize them. Most importantly, you need to understand what you are actually looking for.

Our approach requires you to have an uncommon degree of focus on your goals. If you say something like "But I want a job working as a software engineer, isn't that enough?", our answer is "Not exactly." The Viking Method requires that you clarify and focus exactly what matters to you and what you are seeking. This allows you to identify the specific opportunities we'll be targeting and rate them against each other.

3. Connect 1-on-1 With Real People

We've all received the emails. Maybe you run a website or maybe you just put your email into the wrong mailing list. In any case, you get something like this in your inbox:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am very pleased to announce that XYZ Systems would like to offer you a chance to optimize your website http://www.foobar.com for the greatest of results to your business bottom line. We are the finest purveyor of such services across the web and have received many glowing client reviews from the most distinguished customers. At your earliest convenience, it would be the honor of my life to receive your telephone call at the number XXX.XXX.XXXX.

Sincerely Yours, Foo Bar

Has anyone in history ever responded to something like this?

Think about the feeling you get when you receive a message like this. Someone has bothered to send it to you but there isn't even the shadow of a real human connection. You are being "marketed at" and you can sense it. This person has no understanding of who you are as a human being.

Hiring is the same way. You have to imagine the human being sitting on the other side of the Web and looking at your application. Why should they care about you? Do they even take the time to read what you've written? What is going to make them actually take their incredibly valuable time to bother talking to you?

The fundamental fact of hiring is that hiring is a human-driven act. If you were hoping to throw some applications at a job board and magically end up with an offer, you have some re-education to do. In particular, when you come from a non-traditional background, you aren't going to succeed by putting yourself in the same herd of cattle as everyone else. You need a side door.

Luckily, the human-driven nature of hiring can work in your favor precisely because most people don't bother to take advantage of it. Our method is fanatically focused on real human beings and real human connections. You need to cut through the noise, and the way to do that is to develop real 1-on-1 connections with the people on the other side.

Don't worry, we aren't going to just pat you on the back and say "go network!" While that advice may be conceptually sound, it's not practically useful and we know that. That's why the upcoming lessons will focus both on the strategic approach to leveraging personal connections and the tactics of how exactly to do so.

Focuses of The Viking Method

In order to take advantage of the principles laid out above, you will need to excel in three key areas:

  1. Preparation for the process by laying significant ground work ahead of time.
  2. Skills which cover both technical and "soft" areas of hiring, from coding to algorithms to interviewing.
  3. Hustle your butt off to make this happen. This is the most important thing you can possess.

A typical, uninformed, candidate will focus on maximizing their development skills and expect jobs to fall out of the sky. Or they might over-prepare without actually "pulling the trigger" on submitting applications. Or they might be a consummate networker who trusts their ability to hustle up a job without needing to focus on technical skills.

All three of these areas are critical and that is why the upcoming lessons will typically address one of them specifically at a time. By the end, they will be combined into a clear path forward.

The Hiring Cycle

Once you have entered "Hiring Mode", your sole focus will be on identifying opportunities and pursuing them. Given the 1-on-1 nature of our approach, this cycle looks like the following:

  1. Discover companies and jobs that fit your criteria and break down their organizations.
  2. Connect with specific teams and individuals at those companies.
  3. Apply to the job only after you have secured side-door access to it.

We will cover the strategy and tactics for each of these steps in depth later in this course.

The Viking Method Works

You should now understand the operating philosophy of our approach to getting hired and the basics of how it might look. Just like the other elements of our curriculum, we do not claim that it will be easy. It will certainly require you to do a level of critical analysis, self-thinking, and reaching out which will push you beyond your comfort zone.

But, if you truly want this and are willing to embrace that discomfort and use it to help you grow, our approach will work for you.

The Road Ahead

This unit, which is the final in our Advanced Prep work, is intended to give you a robust set of tools for getting started on your hiring journey. It is the first of several hiring-related units which are located later on in the Core Curriculum. Thus, it isn't intended to complete your journey, only to give you the critical knowledge you need to get started NOW while you continue to build up your coding skills during the rest of the curriculum.

And there's plenty to cover now -- upcoming lessons will pull back the curtain on how the hiring process works, what companies want and exactly what you should do in order to become the strongest possible candidate later on. The projects give you a practical set of steps you should complete before you get back into the good stuff (coding) so you can take advantage of them later on.

The hiring units in the Core Curriculum pick things up from there, focusing on how you can master the tactical aspects of the process like getting noticed, acing the phone screen, beating the technical interview and negotiate for a strong starting salary. By the end, you will have everything you need to hustle your way to a great developer job.

So strap in and enjoy the ride... our destination hasn't been reached until you are leaning back in your new chair and thinking about how lucky you are to be getting paid to solve fascinating problems as part of such a great team.

Liz Lemon says Let's Do This



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