MakerSquare Day 1

It’s finally here. After weeks of anticipation, the first day of MakerSquare has arrived. I’m feeling a lot of different emotions – anticipation, nervousness, anxiety, but most of all excitement. Going through the first day, I’m getting a clearer sense of the types of things I’m expecting at the end of the course.

While preparing for class there were a few ups and downs as I completed the prework and gained a basic understanding of Ruby, JavaScript, jQuery, HTML and CSS. The most difficult part of completing the prework process was not having someone to bounce ideas/thoughts/questions off of immediately when those arose. Because of that, I’m really excited about class starting and being in this immersive environment. I believe I’ll learn much more effectively in an environment surrounded by other students and instructors and I’m looking forward to working with the different people in class. I also think I’ll pick up more than a few techniques on learning new material or reinforcing concepts I’m struggling with. For example, today one of the instructors Shehzan Devani shared with us his thoughts about how writing a technical blog post helps to gain a better understanding of material since you’re trying to explain it yourself. Hearing that made me think “that makes a lot of sense, I’ll take extra steps to make sure I’m clear about something if I’m writing about it”. I hope I can post on this blog frequently throughout the course about both technical and non-technical material.

In preparation for class, my favorites parts of the prework were when the exercises called for building small applications, such as a Ruby application in which both people and banks could be created and deposits, withdrawals, and transfers of funds could be made. The instructors shared us with that the upcoming curriculum calls for a lot of project-based work. I’m very excited about building out more complete applications that are fully functional and having them in my portfolio to both showcase to potential employers and to have for inspiration for future projects. 

Finally, a common theme throughout the day has been that us students should constantly ask questions and we should provide as much feedback as possible. Everyone at MakerSquare genuinely conveys the feeling that they want us to become great developers and that they want us to learn as much as possible. Because of this, I’m even more excited about the upcoming 12 weeks than I was at the beginning of the day and I can’t wait for Day 2.

Working for a Smaller Company

I’ve spent my career working at big organizations. Deloitte is the largest professional services network in the world with over 200,000 employees. CNA’s size pales in comparison, but 7,000 employees is still a substantial figure. With my upcoming change in career fields, I’m hoping for my next job to be at a much smaller company, potentially even at a startup. Given my previous experiences in corporate America, I believe I’d find greater satisfaction working for a smaller company. Shaan Shah’s thoughts about the tech and startup scene is a great first-hand account about the positive aspects of those areas and was one of the contributing factors in my desire to change careers. While there are indeed many advantages to working for such large companies (benefits, stability, brand recognition, etc.), there are also distinct drawbacks, especially early in your career when you have to spend time moving up the chain to a position with greater responsibility. Granted, working at a bigger company in the tech field may be completely different from my experience, but I’d still like to work at a small company for a few reasons.

When I reenter the workforce after gaining invaluable skills at MakerSquare, I want to have a role that affects multiple parts of the company, not just one specific area. When working at a large company, your group is likely to have a relatively narrow focus. Big companies means there’s plenty of people to work in different groups focusing solely on specific business areas. Inevitably, your exposure will be limited in scope. At CNA, I worked in the statutory reporting group. There were other small projects I worked on, but the vast majority of my time was spent on one specific area: putting together the financial results of CNA’s insurance companies. Because of this, I didn’t have the opportunity to influence areas outside of that group.

I also want to be an integral part of a team that has a positive influence on the business. I want my contributions to be valued and unique, not the same as what another person would have brought to the table. One of the downsides I experienced at a big company is that you are eminently replaceable, especially at a firm like Deloitte. If somebody leaves the company, they just plug another body in. There’s always someone who can take on your roles and responsibilities and, at a minimum, perform at roughly the same level. It really doesn’t make you feel as if you’re valuable to your employer knowing you could be gone tomorrow and the machine would keep on humming along.

Going hand in hand with being integral, I want the opportunity to be innovative (granted, my previous career field of accounting is definitely not one associated with innovation). Most large, well-established companies are big for a reason. What they’re doing usually works so they don’t need to be at the forefront of innovation. They look for improvements to their current processes, not wholesale changes. In accounting, you often have to follow certain established procedures in order to complete a task. There usually isn’t a role for creativity which isn’t the case for coding. Startups often need fresh ideas and approaches to become successful. That’s a major reason I want to work in the tech field. Having the chance to shape the course of a business or a significant aspect of the business is really appealing.

The combination of these reasons leads to what I believe is the biggest negative of working for a large company – not having the opportunity to have an immense impact. In my last two jobs, even when working on small project teams, I felt like what I was doing would not have a notable impact within the context of the organization as a whole. For example, even if you’re working on a minor project at a company with 25 employees, what you do in all likelihood is going to have a relatively greater effect than if you’re one of a thousand. I want to be able to look back and reflect on what I’m doing at work and truly believe that I’m having a significant impact. Without that, I’ll continue to feel like I’m not getting what I want out of my career. However, I believe that working at a small company will give me that satisfaction.