It was June of 2018 when I started my job hunt. At this time, I was a full-time student of Full-Stack web development at The Lambda School, a technical program built on the concept of an ROI for each graduate. While I was confident that the program would work for me, it is safe to say that after seven months out of the workplace, my financial reserves were nearly exhausted, and the pressure to find a job was incredibly crushing. I was terrified; not only was I feeling the ever talked about ‘imposter syndrome’, but my bills just kept coming, and I could not keep up.
My saving grace laid in the community that I built while I was in school. As a creature of habit, I spent the majority of my time studying out of my favorite haunt: Lazarus Brewing Company. Now, Lazarus is not just a brewery. The company roasts their own coffee and serves handmade, to-order tacos all day long (Only in Austin!) Prior to attending Lambda, I worked full-time at Lazarus, so to this day I am close friends with the staff and peripherally know a lot of the regulars that come through. Needless to say, it was a comfortable and safe place to study. During my days behind the counter, I became accustomed to the mornings being occupied by remote workers; MacBooks and lattes filled nearly every table. While the view was a bit different and frankly a bit uncomfortable now sitting as a customer, the change in perspective opened an opportunity for incredible community building that I credit today as the catalyst to my finding a team and a job that I love.
I would be hard-pressed to remember a day when one of Lazarus’ regulars didn’t see me sitting at a table and visibly double-take. In fact, more commonly they’d come to my seat and quickly find a way to joke about not recognizing me because of my change in position. Each of these conversations would turn quickly to what I was up to since my time serving, beer, tacos and coffee. Now, Austin being Austin, the majority of the time the person I was talking to was somehow involved in tech.
Therefore, in true Austin fashion, most of the regulars I spoke to at Lazarus pointed me in the direction of junior developer opportunities and/or were happy to spread the word of my search. By the time I graduated, my roommate, whom I initially met at Lazarus, had been working a side hustle with an architecture firm. They needed some help with their website and my roommate, a DevOps engineer, knew very little about front end development, so they sent them my way. Before I knew it, myself and two other friends from school had our first freelance job.
This gig was instrumental in teaching me how to negotiate and communicate with clients. I learned quickly that more often than not, clients don’t know exactly what they need. So they turn to industry experts and hires to help them solidify what their product should look or behave like. Doing this discovery and inception are the skills they don’t teach you in school; instead, you must learn my doing… I digress.
My friends and I worked on the architectural firm’s project for nearly two months before the work was complete and I was back to my longer term search. I again turned to my community for help. Before I knew it I was assisting the head engineer for SmileBooth, jamming out custom made email campaigns, planning a mobile wallet app, interviewing and weaseling my way into a stock market trading app, among a slew of other gigs. Through all of that work, I was still slinging my resume around and taking interviews with larger companies whenever I could. Fortunately for me, the freelance work kept me afloat long enough so I could take the time to look for the company that felt truly right for me.
My career counselor at Lambda School continued to send me job leads throughout the process, and it was she who sent me the job posting for a position at Tackle.io. By the time I reached the third interview, I could not imagine myself anywhere else and knew instantaneously that my job search journey, albeit at times frustrating, was worth it. I was in love with the culture and opportunity for growth at Tackle. While I was a little uncertain of what the job would actually look like (something that is very common in the bubbling tech industry), I dove in wholeheartedly with the gut feeling that I was doing the right thing.
Now fast-forward three months, and every day brings affirmation to that feeling. My main responsibility at Tackle now is to onboard our clients, configure their listings, and set them up with our reporting tools. So, if you ever find yourself in one of our kick-off calls, you’ll see me at the meeting taking notes, making sure your listing is exactly the way you want it, and that your reporting is configured correctly; the backbone to a very important custom-tailored experience.
If there is any takeaway I hope to lave with this story, it is the one found in the importance of community. It may seem cliche, but spending the time getting to know the people around you; the regular that you see at the coffee shop you love, the nice waiter that works at your favorite lunch spot… Take the time to get to know these people and build a network, because you don’t know what opportunities they can offer you and vice versa.