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CultureMar 16, 2018

Life After College: 4 Technology Consultant Survival Tips

Zak Ahmed

For a college graduate fresh out of school, life came at me fast. Not only was I rapidly adjusting to my new life as a software developer and consultant, I was learning to handle health and car insurance, a 401(k), and a slew of other adult responsibilities that school didn’t prepare me for. It was overwhelming to finally join society as a full-fledged adult. It was also an exciting opportunity to grow. Nothing was set in stone, which allowed me to find who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do in life.

I’ve had my share of ups and downs since graduating from college and joining Credera. Below are four important lessons I’ve learned so far in my journey as a technology consultant.

1. Nurture the Relationships That Matter

As a kid I thought the friends I made in school would be for life, but in reality once school ended I lost contact with a majority of them. In school I did everything I could to get out of the house. I wanted to stay out late with my friends and come home as little as possible.

Now I have a better sense of which relationships are most important in my life. I find myself spending more time engaging with my parents and siblings than my friends from school, because I know those are the relationships that truly matter. I’m not saying cut every friend from your life, but rather prioritize the people who matter most, especially the people that have been with you since day one. Seriously, just give your loved ones a call. They’ll be happy you did, and you’ll be investing in relationships that will literally last a lifetime.

Leadership at Credera wants us to deliver excellent products and services, but at the same time realizes that we are humans with personal relationships to nurture as well.

Our CEO, Rob Borrego, always tells us, “Be excited to come to work, and at the end of the day be excited to go home and see your family.” 

Credera’s family-oriented culture has also helped me realize the importance of nurturing relationships. 

2. Keep the Textbooks Open After Wearing the Cap and Gown

I thought I was ready when I got my bachelor’s degree. I knew Java. I even learned JavaScript on the side and attended several hackathons. I was prepared for my first professional job, right?

Well, my first project was a micro-service web application written in Spring. I was responsible for analyzing the database’s SQL Stored Procedures and refactoring the logic into the service layer. I also had to build front-end features using AngularJS; not the sexy new Angular 5 framework I learned, but legacy AngularJS from 2011. I forgot to mention I was also in charge of deploying code using Jenkins and AWS so QA could test what I wrote. Was I really prepared?

It’s easy to rag on junior developers since technology evolves so quickly, but this applies to any profession; keep learning or become obsolete. I was complaining to our Senior Architect Jon Pierce about how school didn’t prepare me for a career as a technology consultant, and he enlightened me:

School didn’t teach you what you needed to know for the job. School was only meant to teach you how to learn.

Now is the time to start learning what you need to know to be successful in your career. One of Credera’s partners, Jason Goth, recommends reading or learning about something that interests you for 30 minutes every evening. Eventually, this will become habit and you will learn constantly.

3. Grow In Self-Awareness and Embrace People Not Like You

It’s a unique time to be a young adult. Our country seems more divided than ever with two sides of the same coin refusing to communicate and compromise with one another. You can easily sit inside a bubble with people who share the same opinions and views on life as you do. Don’t.

In the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to work with people of different religious and political views, sexual orientations, races, and backgrounds. I’ve worked alongside people of color, women in technology, college interns, senior citizens, college dropouts, and even a homeless person. Each person brought a fresh perspective. I will always have my own perspectives based on my background, but if I decide to close myself off to the people different from me, I will miss out on countless relationships and learning opportunities.

Don’t just take my opinion on it: A study by McKinsey shows that companies in the top quartile for racial, ethnic, and gender diversity are 15-35% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry means!

You can choose to live in an echo chamber, but I believe this not only disservices yourself and your growth, but our society and country as well.

4. Learn How to Handle Stress

Lastly, don’t take life too seriously. Early on, it was easy for me to become overwhelmed with all the challenges of being an adult. Now, stress is different than pressure; diamonds are made under pressure, and some of my best code has been written under tight deadlines. What I have learned is to eliminate unhelpful stress in my life.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed from work or a demanding project I take a step back. I communicate with my project director when I feel road blocked. Before releasing new code, I ask my teammates and technical lead to review what I’ve written. Their feedback helps me learn best practices, catch bugs, write smarter applications, and overall I feel more confident and less stressed about the product I put out for our client. I’ve also learned how to say no when I’m out of bandwidth or delegate tasks to teammates who can assist me when it gets to crunch time.

To de-stress after an eight-hour day, I’ll take 30 minutes to scroll through Star Wars memes online, walk my dog, eat, and then return to whatever errands or work I have left. Find what works best for you. Being an adult doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems.

I hope some of this content resonated with you. Remember, it’s OK to not have all the answers yet, as long as you can learn from past mistakes and are willing to take the next step forward in your endeavors, be it professional or personal.

What new challenges have you faced as a young adult out of school? I would love to hear about them. Feel free to drop me an email at zahmed@credera.com, and remember to follow Credera on Twitter and Instagram!

my credera

Culture is something that is experienced in a variety of different ways. We’re sharing the many ways Crederians experience our culture in a series called My Credera. The heart behind this series is for our company, employees, clients, and friends to have an inside look at the Credera culture by reading about our employees’ “My Credera” moments. In this series, we are talking about our core values, personal and professional growth, mentorship, community involvement, favorite Credera memories, life after college, and what it looks like to create a career at Credera.

At Credera, we love to celebrate every achievement, milestone, and moments of growth. We are excited to open up and invite you in to experience those celebrations with us. If you’d like to learn more about joining the Credera family, we invite you to visit our careers page.