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From Stumbling To Sprinting: An FAQ For Those Starting Their Careers at AND Digital

29 June 2017 | Rebecca Reed | About a 10 minute read
Tags: Analyst, ANDbootcamp, associate, backend, bootcamp, career, Culture, developer, FAQ, frontend, tech


Whenever you join a new company, there are always common misconceptions and a bit of uncertainty as to what kind of environment and culture to truly expect. You can do your own research online, but you are never sure if it is a true representation until you have actually joined.  

In order to give an honest opinion on what it is like to be an Associate (those starting their careers at AND Digital) and to explain the concept of the AND Digital Bootcamp, three Associates from Club Dekker have answered commonly asked questions, each with different backgrounds and experiences

 

What were you up to before joining AND Digital?

Josh: I was studying a Computer Science degree at King’s College London, and came straight into AND Digital as an Associate when I graduated. I had no real internship experience, but I’d spent a lot of time self teaching/engaging with tech communities.

Victor: I was studying for a degree in Computer Science at Coventry University, my time there allowed me to also work as an IT Engineer for Tata Technologies (a large Engineering & Design company for tier 1 OEMs).

Becky:  I studied at the University of Bristol where I gained a MEng in Computer Science.  Since graduating, I have worked at a couple of digital agencies developing websites for corporate and commercial clients, mainly specialising in front end development.

 

What are you working on at the moment?

Josh: Since I’ve started, I’ve worked on projects at TalkTalk as a backend developer mostly, and then on some internal projects (including https://and.digital), working on both the front end and the backend.

Victor: At the moment, I am working as a Product Analyst for a major insurance client, facilitating discussions and developing Wireframes/Prototypes.

Becky: Since completing Bootcamp, I have worked on an internal project called ‘My Academy’ and I am currently a Front End Developer at TalkTalk.

 

Prior to starting, what did you think Bootcamp was about?

Josh: I thought I was going to spend a couple of weeks developing my coding skills, and a couple of weeks making sure I’m capable. I spent a lot of time before starting trying to brush up on coding concepts. It turns out it wasn’t necessary.

Victor: I assumed it would be a type of baptism of fire with weeks of intense coding workshops and lots of aptitude tests.

Becky: Prior to starting, I wasn’t too sure what Bootcamp was. Whenever I think of that word, I automatically think of a military camp where I am going to be put through my paces with press ups and push ups.

 

So, what IS Bootcamp really about?

Josh: It’s fantastic, but exhausting. From the first day, you’re suddenly forming bonds with a group of people who all start the same day as you – meaning you don’t get that ‘new kid’ feeling. You form your own close knit bond with them, and you spend the next few weeks learning together. You learn how AND Digital works and where you fit into the company, you learn how to work as part of a well-oiled Agile team, and so many other weird and wonderful things. It took me a week to really settle into the flow of things, but after that it was easy to settle into a steady rhythm. A lot of places seem to have quite an abrupt, and fairly ‘dull’ introduction – a couple of days ‘orientation’, “here’s your desk, off you pop”, whereas AND Digital take the time and effort to make sure you’re fully prepared before you set to work.

Victor: It is quite long in duration, and was quite overwhelming at first, especially because it was my first time of being involved in a month long training/initiation period before being fully immersed and established in a company. Overall it’s very beneficial as you’re engaged in a lot of group activities and ice breaker sessions with your ‘Squad’. In AND Digital, ANDis like Josh, Rebecca and I are part of smaller teams, which we call Squads. Each Squad has a Squad Lead and a mix of Developers and Analysts, from junior to very experienced. You’ll have a sense of belonging with them and obviously go through the Bootcamp together. You’ll learn about the company core values of share, wonder and delight, meeting the CEO, learning about the different types of jobs role an ANDi does: e.g Product Analyst & Product Developer and key concepts and departments. After going through Bootcamp, you really understand and appreciate the hard work and thought process behind the scenes, that has gone into creating and running it so smoothly multiple times a year!

Becky: Do not let the word ‘Bootcamp’ put you off, it could not be more of a contrast.  Bootcamp is probably the most enjoyable introduction to a job that I have ever had and this is due to Kathy, who helps run Bootcamp as well as the new people you meet. Bootcamp can at times be tiring, especially when the homework kicks in and there is sometimes information overload, but not gruelling at all. Each day you learn something new about the business, such as Marketing, Client Acquisition, the ‘AND Approach’, what a developer / analyst does as well as the knowledge needed to pass your Scrum Master qualification. You have talks, you participate in different activities, you play games (which can get a little competitive at times!) all of which relate to the underlying fundamentals of AND Digital. If you are lucky then you get to participate in Laughing Yoga which is a good laugh and of course have your photo taken with the infamous red chair. The last week is probably the most challenging with Build Week where you start to work on an internal project, however, the end result is that you finish Bootcamp with a close bond with your new Squad and want to start working straight away.

 

What do you spend most of your time doing as an Associate?

Josh: I spend a lot of my time writing code – the same as any Product Developer would, but I also have a lot more options in terms of training because of how early I am in my career. What I enjoy is that I’ve also had the opportunity to engage with other aspects of the company, from Marketing through to Recruitment. I’m not limited by my role. One of the brilliant things about being an Associate is that you’re not forced to make an ultimate decision on your career path straight away – you’ve got time to figure out what you want to do.

Victor: I decided to opt down the Product Analyst Career route, as an Associate, since we have the opportunity to choose either that or the Product Developer route. I felt that I enjoyed more of the Analysis side especially since doing that role in a handful of group projects while at university. As an Associate Analyst I mostly I am either working on internal company projects from their backlog, working for a client or upskilling myself online or via the AND Academy. I was previously working on the AND Catalogue project (A webapp for ANDi’s to book themselves onto training courses) as a Scrum Master for several sprints. As I write this I’m working for a client in the insurance sector and my work revolves around wireframing prototypes, proof of concepts and also creating user stories which consist of both functional and nonfunctional requirements.

Becky: Being an Associate does not mean that you are treated any different to a Product Developer or a Product Analyst. You work on projects, either internal or on client side in the role that interests you most whilst receiving support from more senior members of the team. I have decided to go down the Product Developer route and therefore spend the majority of my time learning and coding. However because I am still at the early stage of my career, I have the opportunity to also undertake other roles such as an analyst and learn more about them. One of the best things about being an associate is the freedom and time you have to create your own career path.

 

How quickly are you able to progress as an Associate?

Josh: Progression reviews take place every 6 months, and performance reviews every 3 – this isn’t so much for AND, more your own personal development. I felt like the work that I did was very well recognised, but also am glad that I’ve been able to progress at a rate that keeps me comfortable.

Victor: You can progress and go up a level or stage, only once this has been agreed with the progression board. There isn’t necessarily a set time period though. It really depends on how hard you’re working, if you’ve achieved your target goals in terms of personal, business and competency objectives. It’s important to note that everybody is considered on an individual case by case basis. Your squad lead/career development coach will help you prepare your progression case which is presented to the board.

Becky: When it comes to progression, it is treated on a case by case basis. As an Associate, there is lots of support available in order to support you with your development. However, do not think that you have to be an Associate for a set period, progression can happen at any time.

 

How much responsibility do you have?

Josh: A fair bit – in AND Digital, everybody has a seat at the table – this means that I’m encouraged to challenge people if I feel like I have a solution. This also puts the onus on me to justify decisions I do make. Thankfully, as an Associate, you’re not expected to be perfect, but to inspect and adapt, and there’s always people on hand to help.

Victor: Quite a lot to be honest, you are definitely responsible and required to work hard to a high standard and you often know where to delegate work for yourself most of the time. Other times if you’re working alongside a Senior PA/PD and you’re stuck, then they’ll be able to guide you regardless of whatever project you’re on. As associates, we have the opportunity to choose either the Product Analyst or the Product Developer route, although we can dabble in both for a period of time! It’s your responsibility to take charge of your career development in terms of upskilling and progression. As an associate your voice and opinions are just as important as anybody in a senior position. AND Digital is an environment where you can share ideas, delight in teaching people and wonder/learn from your mistakes.

Becky: You can essentially choose how much responsibility you have as an Associate at AND Digital. You are actively encouraged to challenge decisions if you have an alternative solution to offer and consequently reason why you have suggested that solution. One important thing to remember is that as an Associate, you are not expected to always know the answer and the point is for you to practise in a safe environment in order to learn and progress. However, you are never alone, people are always on hand across the company to answer any questions you may have.

 

Describe Bootcamp in one word:

Josh: Intense

Victor: Educational

Becky: Unique

 

Describe AND Digital in one word:

Josh: Community

Victor: Empowering

Becky: Family

 

To end, AND Digital is a pretty fantastic place to work, and all three of us have both enjoyed and benefitted from our time here so far massively – it has a great culture, a wonderful community, and a real investment in enabling the growth and development of its employees. If you’ve got any more questions, then feel free to reach out to any of us, or get in touch with our recruitment team for more information on the roles we’re hiring for at the moment. Here’s hoping we see you around AND Digital some day soon!

 

With much thanks to Josh Simpson and Victor Olasupo for their contribution to this blog.

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