Making the Most of 8th Light’s Interview Process

Making the Most of 8th Light’s Interview Process

Camille Shrouder-Henry
Camille Shrouder-Henry

December 09, 2022

Recently our Talent Acquisition Team hosted a panel on Linkedin for those considering an application to our upcoming apprenticeship cohorts. Juan Santana and I were joined by a few phenomenal current and former 8th Light apprentices in the US and UK: Nadia Collado, Will Peake, Taylor Keazirian, and Karen Olson. The program leaders of 8th Light’s apprenticeship, Stacey Boeke and Ryan Verner were on hand as well to answer questions from our LinkedIn participants.

Although this open session was catered to those considering an application, the discussion served as a valuable reminder that finding opportunities for a variety of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences adds to the quality of the code we develop. In this article, I’ve compiled some informative and inspiring anecdotes from Will, Nadia, Taylor, and Karen, who shared lessons from their journeys as applicants, apprentices, and software crafters.

Will attended a tech conference that 8th Light sponsored, signed up to the 8th Light Talent Community, and completed the application process. He had previous consulting experience with consultants and boards of directors. It was a stringent process, but he came through it with a clear idea of the program and started his apprenticeship with his eyes open.

Nadia previously worked in music and film, and had a change of heart professionally around the time of the pandemic. She saw a friend leave the arts, attend a bootcamp, and get a job afterward, and she wondered whether she wanted to stay in film. She took a few JavaScript courses online, and then a bootcamp. After hearing about 8th Light’s apprenticeship, she found the curriculum to be well-rounded and appreciated that we invested and took the time to teach new engineers.

What attracted you to the 8th light apprenticeship program, and what experience did you have coming into the program?

Taylor was focused on early childhood development and Spanish in college, and then spent the bulk of her career working in hospitality and restaurant management. Right around the pandemic, enough was enough; the timing was right and she left her job.

Much like Will and Nadia, Taylor started with an online course and felt intellectually challenged in a way she hadn’t experienced recently. She had a friend who’d gone through a bootcamp and landed a volunteer apprenticeship, and the feeling that “you don’t know what you don’t know” is what attracted her to an apprenticeship instead of a junior developer role. She wanted to build on the foundation she’d developed on her own, and like Nadia, she was drawn to 8th Light’s investment in improving the team.

Karen had a nontechnical background in special education as a speech language therapist. With an indecisive career path that started in engineering, she wanted to get back to coding. Her students at the time were learning these concepts as early as first grade, so she got a paperback book and started learning herself. It was similar to her previous career, but with different transferable skills in consulting and analytical thinking.

Karen wanted a structured learning program, so she joined a bootcamp. She learned a ton and felt she knew React/Rails pretty well, but her sister was earning an Associates Degree and Karen knew there was a lot more to learn on top of the bootcamp topics. It was a huge culture shift going from education to tech, so she looked for a tech company with a diverse and inclusive culture, and a bootcamp instructor steered her to 8th Light.

How were you supported in your first few days and weeks in the program?

Will was surprised at how often he was asked about how he likes to learn. Before he had even started, his mentors asked about his learning style and offered open-ended advice that left room for exploration. A mentor would say, “This is the way it has been done before, and what works best for you?” His mentors also held retrospectives and checked in regularly to make sure they’re supporting him in the most effective way — “Is it working for you? Are there changes needed? Do you need more dialogue?” This gave him confidence coming in, and it’s allowed him to take more ownership over the process now that he is halfway through.

Karen has a mentor team of four, and she agrees there is a lot of checking in. In addition to an apprentice’s team of two to four mentors, Stacey and Ryan also are available and frequently check in. Each apprentice is sent a questionnaire that asks what they want out of the program, and Karen’s mentors were very supportive and attentive to what she asked for. When they met each other, they laid out all of her hopes and fears about the apprenticeship, and they’ve followed up on those things to ensure her needs are met.

What interested you about consulting as a career path?

Taylor likes working with people, and coming from the restaurant industry, the bootcamp’s hybrid work environment made her feel isolated. She says getting to 8th Light was a breath of fresh air. She loves being surrounded by collaborative and creative people, and the ever-growing and changing environment of consulting is all very refreshing. “Consulting gives you the strongest way to build a solid skill set,” Taylor said. “In another environment, working with one product, with one language, it is harder to get the opportunity to build the same breadth.” The opportunity to learn more and grow more is what drew her in, and is what she’s experiencing now as a software crafter.

Nadia was drawn similarly by the collaborative nature of consulting. She honed her communication and collaboration skills while working in music and film, and she enjoys working collaboratively in teams and not feeling siloed.

What was the application process like for you?

Karen said the transparency of the application helped her know what to expect, and the evaluators and interviewers made her feel valued and supported in showing her best self. Even though Karen had experience pair programming during her bootcamp, it was the portion of the process she was most nervous about. However, the interviewer’s friendly demeanor was instantly calming.

“For the take home coding challenge and pair programming session, a lot of it was about the ability to incorporate feedback,” Karen explained. “I believe it is about your baseline skills and just showing your ability to learn, collaborate, problem solve, and ideate. You are not in the hot seat.” The aspect she expected to be scariest ended up being the most rewarding in the end.

Will said the setup and expectations were clear, and he liked that the take-home project allowed the time for those working at another job to give it a go. He was able to gather feedback, take time to improve his work, and then go back to the reviewers and see how well he incorporated their suggestions. “This was a good opportunity to get in front of others and get their opinions,” Will said. This feedback gave him confidence and allowed him to get more comfortable with the process, even if he went on to interview elsewhere. Will was also nervous for the interview, as it can be intimidating to work with great people you’ve never met before on a call. Even if he was unsure, his interviewers helped him settle down and make good progress. His advice to other applicants is to try to make the most of each stage in the process, and that 8th Light’s team will be there to ensure you get as much support and feedback as possible.

How have you grown your skills and knowledge base since being at 8th Light?

Nadia acknowledged that at times computer programming can feel like an information firehose. “It seems that you have times when you are excited because you have learned this cool new thing — but there are then also a hundred other things within that thing to learn more about,” she explained. Since she started her apprenticeship, Nadia has been learning JavaScript, TypeScript, Swift, and Java; and she has been introduced to other aspects of web development such as AWS, infrastructure, subnets, and more. “There is so much to cover, and what is great is that you get to cover a lot of ground and then later projects can be tailored toward certain preferences or goals,” she added, saying it is just a matter of talking with the mentor team about it.

How can you stand out with your application?

Taylor recommended identifying the areas that make you unique. “I managed bars and restaurants, and you might think, ‘What do I know?’ But there are so many transferable skills related to this industry, and focusing on those transferable skills will help you stand out,” she said. Taylor suggested writing down a list of transferable skills (you can find inspiration by Googling), what you gained from previous roles, and what’s important to you. Practicing interviewing with friends or family also can be very beneficial if you haven’t interviewed in a while.

Karen once had a career coach who said you’re telling a story of past, present, and future. You are taking all those transferable skills and communicating how they align to 8th Light’s mission, vision, and values. Try to communicate to the interviewers how you can support the mission.

Other Anecdotes from Apprentices

Nadia said there are defined outcomes and objectives. There are also some self assessments and mentor evaluations. You get inputs from clients and other mentors and self to get a sense on how you are feeling about these concepts- it is not academic, it is not a test- it is code, it is writing code, working on it and refining it. Working with it and refining it at the core.

Will regularly discusses our Learning Outcomes Matrix with his mentors, and is actively working on projects related to these outcomes. You can self-certify your competency, and you can start from having never heard about this competency, starting to learn about it, getting confidence, until finally you’re ready to go and do this on a client project.