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Since 2012, Flatiron School has worked with a lot of hungry software engineering students – and almost as many companies who come to Flatiron to hire technical talent. In our Career Advice series, companies pull back the curtain and demystify their hiring practices. Today, we share our conversation with Eric Chung, Director at CKM Advisors. Read on to see what qualities Eric looks for in candidates as well as his advice for students hoping to work at CKM Advisors.
Thanks for talking with us! First, can you tell us a little bit about what you do at CKM Advisors?
CKM Advisors applies data science to solving operational business problems of Fortune 500 companies through data science applications (including algorithms, visualizations and AI) linking data to decisions.
My responsibility as a Director is to lead the project team in a data science engagement and drive the day-to-day execution of a project. I’m accountable for delivering a project to completion, so I try to fill whichever role is most needed to enable my team to help our clients overcome their unique business challenges. On some days, that means I am guiding and structuring the overall problem solving approach with the team, while on others I may be working alongside our clients to ensure that we are aligned with their primary concerns.
At other times I am deep in the data to produce analysis or working with individual team members to provide the environment they need to accelerate their professional growth.
When I’m not assigned to a specific client project, I like to spend my time experimenting with the latest data science techniques and seeing how I can incorporate these into our toolbox.
What do you look for in candidates when hiring developers?
My ideal candidate is someone who is intellectually curious, can function in ambiguous situations that may lack clear answers, and has demonstrated technical and logical aptitude. We are slightly unconventional in that we come to Flatiron looking for candidates to join our team as data scientists, rather than traditional web developers. That means we’re not only looking for those with technical skills but also skills in taking data and relating it to real world applications relevant to our clients’ businesses.
Where do you tend to look for that sort of talent?
We balance our recruiting efforts between on-campus recruiting at universities and year-round recruiting at various coding bootcamps around NYC. We don’t focus on a particular type of bootcamp and have found success recruiting across broad range of programs that specialize in either web development, data science, or programming.
Throughout the various events we attend there is always a common understanding among the sponsoring organizations that the most important purpose is to facilitate a candid experience with employers and grads. I’ve seen various arrangements designed to create an environment where employers can interact with potential hires, whether it is through a mixer, poster session, or a presentation to showcase their accomplishments.
Bootcamps generally stand out with greater time and attention invested in creating a environment where we can have meaningful interactions with the candidates. There is usually a big difference with the universities which tend to follow a traditional interviewing model. A key lesson for us has been to adapt our approach to strengths of each program and avoid forcing all candidates into single system.
What’s your experience been like with Flatiron’s recruiting events?
Flatiron’s recruiting process is really exceptional. It’s clear that the career services team places great care in curating the list of candidates we speak with during the campus draft to ensure that there is the right fit. The campus draft has also evolved over time so it is constantly improving. The most valuable part is that it offers a nice change of pace from more formal job interviews and allows us to see a different side of the candidates.
Flatiron grads have consistently demonstrated that they bring the right mix of skills and aptitudes to our firm. They have the technical foundation to rapidly expand their knowledge to new areas, while their pre-Flatiron experiences allow them to share a variety of perspectives.
What’s your impression of the Flatiron grads you’ve hired?
It might seem unusual that we’re hiring data scientists from a web development bootcamp, but Flatiron grads have consistently demonstrated that they bring the right mix of skills and aptitudes to our firm. They have the technical foundation to rapidly expand their knowledge to new areas, while their pre-Flatiron experiences allow them to share a variety of perspectives. We regularly find that they are hybrid thinkers who can combine technical proficiency with an appreciation of the human side of data. This is crucial because succeeding in our environment often takes someone with the ability to look at both sides of a problem and find the right balance between data and people.
Finally, can you share any advice to prospective CKM Advisors applicants on how to stand out in the interview process?
My best piece of advice is to be yourself. I’m not the first person to say this, but hopefully I can explain why it is so important.
The interview process is an opportunity for us to understand your strengths, weaknesses, thought process, and motivation. It allows the firm to get to know you, while allowing you to get to know us. Every recruiting cycle I see people who sabotage their candidacies by trying to present the version of themselves that they think I want to see, or by holding back because they’re uncomfortable with who they are. This conveys a lack of authenticity and leaves a shadow of doubt in the interviewer’s mind.
The best strategy is not to focus on distinguishing yourself from other candidates, or crafting the best version of you – it’s about presenting your authentic self to the interviewers so there can be a meaningful exchange.
Students: Interested in more advice on starting your career in tech? Download our new eBook, How to Be a No-Brainer Tech Hire, for more advice from Flatiron School and our network of employers. Employers: Interested in attending our next campus recruiting event? We’ve got another series of them running from February 27 through March 2. Click here for details!
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