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3 Essential Career Questions for Bootcamp Students

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This week Eliot Cohen, cofounder of Pillpack (revolutionary prescription management startup with $4M in VC funding) came to Launch Academy to talk about careers in tech. Chock full of useful career advice, Eliot challenged the Launchers to think about where they see themselves after Launch Academy not only upon graduation, but also in the near and far off future. Below, in expanded form, is a summary of his advice and questions for the audience.

What size company do you want to work at? Each size has advantages and disadvantages.

  • Large Benefits: Given the layers in a large company, there are often opportunities for advancement as you sharpen your technical skills, management style, and business acumen. Larger companies often have nationwide and international presences, which can afford the opportunity for travel as well as relocation to different parts of the country. This is beneficial if you’re balancing the needs of your family. Larger companies also typically offer great benefits packages and retirement plans. Training, whether through courses or on-the-job programs, are typically encouraged while financial incentives and paid time off often make for attractive learning environments. Regarding the specifics of your job, you’ll likely have a well-defined job description and will have a great opportunity to get deep into the technical specifics of whatever you’re working on. That deep knowledge can make you a highly valued (and highly paid) specialist.
  • Small Benefits: Small companies usually have few, if any, layers of management. Formalities are often skipped, allowing for more direct communication with your peers, upper “management”, and people in non-technical roles. This will give you the opportunity to learn about all of the different aspects of the business, which can help you round out your general business knowledge. As such, you’ll also likely be responsible for implementing the needs of everyone at the company, which means you’re going to develop a broad skillset. This in turn will make you valuable to growing organizations who can’t afford specialists. You’ll also likely have a more relaxed work environment and schedule, and special requests like days off or training classes are often just decided over informal conversations.

What motivates you? 

  • Are you drawn to the problems the company is solving? Hiring companies like MeYou Health, Dana Farber, and have pretty noble challenges which can help motivate you with their socially beneficial missions.
  • Maybe its more about the technological problems that need solving, requiring a deep engineering mind. Difficult technical challenges often come with amazing technical stacks, which can create opportunities for endless discovery and mind bogglingly rewarding challenges.
  • For some people, the team is what makes the difference. Whether they’re just cool people, incredibly knowledgeable, amazing teachers, or some combination of the above, a great team can be an awesome reason to join the company.

What’s your trajectory?

  • What do you want to learn in the next three months, six months, and a year?
    Answers to these questions will help identify which job will help you achieve those learning goals. Keep in mind that the best decision for today might not be the best long term place to work, and that’s ok. As long as you and your employer are clear about your expectations, it is not unreasonable to expect a role to end. But that doesn’t mean your relationship has to end. Unless if you completely hit a ceiling, many employers will work with you to make sure you’re continuing to develop your skills.
  • What do you want to put on your resume? You want to highlight successes that show the kinds of problems you’re good at solving, so think about the challenges you want to work on and how you’re going to get those projects.
  • What is your next job title and job description? What is it going to take to get there?
  • Thinking about all of those questions, which company, job title, and responsibilities make the most sense?

We had over 30 Launchers in attendance, plus a few previous Launchers who had graduated from the program. Eliot surprised us a little by making the talk more of an open conversation and Q&A, which added to the conversations Launchers have been having regarding their final projects. The talk also rounded out some of the Launchers’ thoughts about matching with potential hiring companies. “The q&a with Elliot gave me a more specific framework to analyze what my own interests are” said Helen Swanson, a current Launch Academy student. “What I found most useful from the Pill Box talk is stepping out of mindset of ‘how will I get companies interested in hiring me?’ to ‘what type of companies, work, products am I interested in being involved with after Launch?'” 

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