A coworker and good friend of mine, Carlos Bernal, recently published a blog post about his experiences starting his career at Credera. He and I started working at Credera on the same day and have been involved in the same projects throughout our time here. But our careers have developed in different ways. This is the story of the beginnings of my professional career at Credera.
I joined Credera in August of 2012, just three months after receiving my bachelor’s degree in computer science from Texas A&M University. I left college feeling confident in my abilities, but more than a little nervous about embarking on my post-academic career. I spent most of my time in school working with C and C++, but the Credera division that recruited me primarily used Java. This worried me. How much would I be expected to know on day one? Should I spend my summer months studying so I didn’t look unprepared on my first project?
I learned the answers to these questions in the first minutes of my first day on the job. After a surprise photo session, I was ushered into a room to meet several other eager new hires whose demeanors ranged from cool and confident to even cooler and more confident. (At least, that was my perception. I later found out everyone was just as nervous as I had been.) After some brief introductions we were told our first three weeks of work would be spent completing a self-study training program that covered everything from core Java to JPA, Spring, servlets, and JSP.
As I worked through this training it became clear I wasn’t hired for what I knew, but for my passion and capacity for learning and my ability to understand and work through tough problems. I’ve learned in my years since completing this training program that this is the single most important characteristic of a Credera consultant, and working with these types of people is one of the greatest perks of the job.
Thrown Into the Deep End
Shortly after completing training, I was off to my first client engagement. I was told I would be leaving “the mothership” and reporting to our client’s office for work every morning. I would be working directly with two fellow Credera consultants and 10 times as many client developers. I immediately began questioning whether or not I was ready for this.
I wanted to prove to my coworkers, my client, and myself that I was capable of serving my client and my company well. I knew I had a solid academic understanding of the technology stack I would be using, but this was a real enterprise system, and the project had real stakes and affected actual users. So was I ready for this?
To be honest, the answer was no. At least, not if I was alone. As it turns out, my first real gig was only about 40% academic preparation and 60% teamwork and broadening my comfort zone. On my own, I would have been lost, but with one co-developer and a leader to guide me, I quickly became comfortable in my role on the project. This was accomplished by jumping into the deep end every day and tackling tasks I didn’t have the full confidence to complete on my own.
In the beginning, I had to rely on my leader to be my lifeguard. He showed me the ropes, providing guidance in both the technical tasks and the social tasks of developing relationships with our client. Before long, I was handling tasks on my own and had developed strong professional relationships with many of the client’s developers.
My time with my first client wrapped up with a major milestone in my professional career: I spent my final week leading knowledge transfer meetings in front of a large group of the client’s developers and technology leaders. This was my opportunity to practice not only my presentation skills, but also my technical skills since a significant portion of each meeting was a Q&A session to ensure the client developers could maintain all the code I had written during my time on the project.
The week ended with a nice thank-you meal, courtesy of our client. It was the following Monday, however, when I discovered my favorite part about working as a consultant.
Thrown Into the Deep End… Again?
After nine months of becoming comfortable in my first project, it was time to mix things up. That Monday, I received my next project.
My second project at Credera was, at first glance, the exact opposite of my first. I worked with a large team of Credera consultants, senior consultants, and architects. Plus, I was working out of the Credera office for the first time in almost a year. Not only was my client not in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but they were all the way in Mississippi! I felt a familiar discomfort creeping in. How would I develop relationships with my client if I couldn’t interact face-to-face? Would my new team’s synergy rival what my first team developed?
My first day on the project was spent in a room with Carlos (who was also starting on this project the same day) and our new team lead, who was providing us with an overview of the client’s software architecture. The sheer size of the code base was daunting, and I felt like I would never be comfortable navigating through it. Nevertheless, after a quick day or two of set up, I was off to work on my first task.
It was at this point I discovered the value of experience. From a technical standpoint, yes, the code base was new to me. But I quickly learned that the architecture bore a strong similarity to the previous code base I worked on. Just nine months into my professional career, I had become comfortable enough with working on real systems to be able to complete tasks with minimal assistance. Even so, when I did need help, I had an even stronger support system at our home office than I did for my first project. The “veterans” on this project seemed very busy but always took the time to provide direction and assistance whenever I asked. I realized that day my coworkers truly are my team, and whether it is day one or day 1,000 on the job, it is far better to ask for help when you need it than to pretend you know something you don’t, even if you think it’s something you should know.
While I am now on a different project, I am still working for the same client and have become familiar with the intricacies of their code base and business processes. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel to the client offices in Mississippi and develop strong relationships with the client personnel. I love working with this client and have become comfortable here, but I know that one day it will be time to mix things up again. I am equal parts nervous and excited for that day so I can begin this cycle of growth and maturity once again.
During my time at Credera, I’ve found that repeatedly placing myself in uncomfortable situations and learning to become comfortable over time is key to advancing my personal and professional maturity. If I ever feel like things are just a bit too comfortable or easy, there is always some way for me to branch out, drink from the firehose, and become a better consultant and professional as a result.
The Other Side of the Job
While our main goal at Credera is to serve our clients by helping them solve tough challenges, I have found there is an equally fulfilling and important part of working at Credera outside of the client relationship: getting involved internally.
There are countless ways to get involved at Credera, and everyone is able and encouraged to find and do what they enjoy. For me, this is recruiting. Specifically, I enjoy interacting with our college campus recruits and interns, providing a friendly face and casual acquaintance for the recruits to ask questions. In addition to my client work, I help organize the airport transportation for our visitors from other states and host a breakfast on the morning of interview day to help calm the nerves of those participating. At heart, I love to teach, and participating in this part of recruiting allows me to stretch my teaching muscles by answering questions about work and life at Credera. In fact, if you’re reading this and are interested in joining us, I would be happy to answer any questions you may have!
As I move on to start my fourth year at Credera, I see no indications of a stagnating career. There is no better way to improve yourself than by surrounding yourself with people who will challenge you, and I am constantly surrounded by peers and leaders who drive me to be a better consultant, programmer, public speaker, and person.