How to Jumpstart a Coding Career

Note: this post originally appeared in VentureBeat

As the world continues to topple tech breakthroughs over and over, the demand for qualified programmers to fuel the industry grows exponentially. Not a shocking discovery — after all, those time-saving (or time-consuming) apps didn’t manifest on their own. However, what is shocking is that despite the high demand for tech jobs, there are still people who despite keen desire, are stumped on how to get a leg up in the business.

Either intimidated by the perceived difficulty in learning to code, or financially stretched to support full-time college enrollment after a certain age, would-be programmers are missing out on following their dreams. And learning to code solo isn’t a viable option — it just doesn’t prepare you for the everyday challenges that arise from programming. So, what’s the solution? The answer is actually pretty simple: Coding bootcamps.

Across the nation, coding bootcamps are popping up and providing young tech lovers with the education necessary to mature their skills at a professional level. With a determined focus on programming and seasoned pros assigned for one-to-one mentoring, coding bootcamps are far more beneficial to students than universities that pass the craft off as a general elective. Furthermore, some coding bootcamps provide low-paying alternatives and offer discounts for minorities and women. Not to mention, 75 percent of those who graduated from coding bootcamps found full-time employment with an average salary increase of 44 percent.

Coding bootcamps aren’t just a leg-up for students, but valuable for entrepreneurs as well. It helps educate them on how to build the products they want in a timely fashion, along with introducing them to promising coders to join their company. What’s a better opportunity to find fresh and diverse minds in the industry than the training programs they’re emerging from?

In this webinar hosted by Dave Paola, Cofounder and CTO of Bloc, and Prasid Pathak, Bloc’s Director of Marketing, you’ll learn more about the benefits of enrolling in coding bootcamps — benefits that range from financial gain for you or your start-up company, to bettering your skills as a programmer — and the differences between them. It will also show you how to work on your raw ideas after graduation and successfully promote them to your employers. The coveted life of a programmer is actually within reach.

Watch the recorded webinar here

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What I learned building a sales org from the ground up

I had a decade of experience in growth marketing. In 2013, I became the first sales person at an early stage startup. Here’s what I learned in my first three months.

Finding the Right CRM for the job

I started out keeping track of students or “leads” on a spreadsheet, but soon realized I ought to find a CRM tool. We’d used Zoho at SoFi (much to the dismay of every person at SoFi who came in contact with Zoho), so I knew to stay away from that.

I had been introduced through a friend to the co-founder of Pipedrive, so I spent a day testing that out. I was really drawn to the visual way of managing a pipeline — dragging-and-dropping leads from one stage to the next. And as someone who wasn’t coming from a sales background, this struck me as easy and intuitive.

The obvious choice would have been Salesforce. Everyone was doing it. I’d worked with the Salesforce before, and (hindsight being what it is), I now know that a year later we did eventually embrace Salesforce.

But as an early stage sales lead — with a team of just me and one college hire — I realized that getting Salesforce up and running would be a tremendous burden — a steep learning curve I didn’t have time for.

Instead we chose Close.io — and it was one of the smartest decisions I’ve made. Close is a little less intuitive than Pipedrive, but very well designed, powerfully simple, and integrates mail-merge. In some ways it strikes me as the Apple of CRM tools — it strips CRM away to it’s core and leaves out a world of functionality that bloats Salesforce (and makes Salesforce so powerful in larger organizations).

Thanks to that decision, we had a CRM tool up-and-running with days rather than weeks, and we could get down to the business of closing deals.

Give yourself over to the machine

In my first month as a sales guy, I would grind every night, working my way down to that elusive inbox zero. And I would manually keep track of who needed following-up with. It was starting to drive me crazy, and I realized I would lose my mind trying to remember each lead before they fell through the cracks.

There’s a famous productivity author named Sally McGhee — she worked with David Allen (author of the Getting Things Done). McGhee’s productivity methodology talks about the simple idea — that tasks out to be organized in order of importance, and yet millions of us spend our day living out of our inbox — a list that is instead sorted in reverse-chronological order. It’s a tiny but powerful insight that’s stayed with me.

Eventually it hit me: there was no way to stay on top of all the correspondence. I had to give myself over to the CRM. We developed a system of buckets. A bucket for new leads. A bucket for leads that we’ve reached out to once. Twice. Three times. A bucket for after we have a good conversation. And my goal became to just move leads from bucket 1 to bucket 2. Rather than a top-down approach of trying to follow-up with individual people, my day became a bottoms-up approach of emptying each bucket at some regular cadence, and trusting the system to prevent leads from falling through the cracks.

Conclusions

Two years later, I have a team of four inside sales folks and three marketers. After a year using Close.io, we finally began bumping up against it’s limitations, and transitioned over to a much more robust (though cantankerous) sales stack using Salesforce, Marketo, and Outreach.io. Our bucket theory is still very much alive, and it’s still how we think about keeping leads moving through our sales funnel.

If you have a sales team of 1–2, and no one can articulate a strong reason you must have Salesforce, I strongly recommend Close.io. You can have it up and running in a few hours, it replaces both Salesforce as well as a sales automation tool like YesWare, and at an early stage startup, driving bookings quickly is likely more valuable to you than spending two weeks configuring a complex Salesforce instance and overcoming that steep learning curve.

Keep your sales process as simple as possible. As few stages as possible. As few fields as possible. You can always make it more complex later. Once you have the bookings to justify investing in better tools, you can easily migrate data out of Close.io into Salesforce. Just get something up and running. And start closing.