Business School grad and Flatiron alum, Justin Belmont was no stranger to entrepreneurship when he enrolled in Flatiron School’s Web Development Immersive. By the time the company he co-founded, Perkla, was acquired by ID.me, he had the programming chops to continue his career in product management. Justin sat down with us to share why he started learning to program and talk about how technical skills factor into his new role.
Let’s start with your background. What brought you to starting a company, and ultimately to Flatiron School?
I’m a native New Yorker and a graduate of Swarthmore College, where I studied Art History. After college, I started a few businesses including an online art gallery, but I eventually realized that I wanted to contribute to building software products at a larger scale.
So, I applied to business school and landed a job at Merchantry—an eCommerce software startup. Business school at Columbia was an incredible experience because it opened by eyes to all of these different aspects of how an organization grows. However, I knew that I wanted to make my career in technology—and there was one thing missing.
It seems like you were sort of into the swing of starting businesses well before attending Flatiron School—so what made you feel like you had to learn how to program?
At Columbia, I had some awesome chats with current product managers. And in each conversation, I found myself thinking, “DREAM JOB.” The opportunity to spend my days working across the various teams of an organization—development, design, marketing, sales, finance, etc— was clearly perfect for someone like me. But over and over again, when I asked what makes a successful product manager, I was advised to learn to code. Indeed, how could I communicate with technical people if I didn’t speak their language? Enter Flatiron School.
You started a company for college students called Perkla a little while ago–can you tell me a little bit more about how this one came to be?
When I started at business school (after years of being in the working world) I was amazed by how many awesome discounts students get. But, in many cases, there was no way to access these deals online! So, the idea was simple—create an online platform where brands can offer great discounts to verified students. That’s what we did. Huge brands like Reebok, Bonobos, Converse, Express, Nine West, and Cole Haan all came together on Perkla.
After a little over a year, we were acquired by ID.me. I’m so excited about all of the resources and talent they bring to our mission. We’ve got some pretty exciting stuff in the works.
What do your responsibilities look like now that you’re a Director of Product Management at ID.me?
As Director of Product Management, I’m charged with leading all of the company’s product initiatives for its new retail rewards marketplace. This means working across the organization to identify and launch new features.
Have you been using you’re newly acquired programming skills at the new job?
Of course! Our team runs Ruby on Rails so the foundation I got at Flatiron has, without question, enabled me to do a much better job at work. I’m certainly a better product manager because of it—as I’m able to participate at a much more granular level.
Do you have any advice for aspiring technical founders?
Yes! Learn to code! The sooner the better.