As spring approaches and another Alchemy cohort looks ahead to graduation, we virtually sat down with our Career Services expert, Shannon Rasimas.
Shannon strategically and thoughtfully connects Alchemy graduates to lifelong careers in technology. With 86% of Alchemy graduates securing work in the technology field with an average job search time of just 12 weeks and a median salary of $80,000, Shannon truly understands her industry.
Shannon is responsible for ensuring leading tech companies and thriving agencies all around the world not only know about Alchemy graduates but are especially prepared to hire them.
Read more about Shannon and her impact on the success of Alchemy graduates below!
What is your role at Alchemy?
My official title is Director of Career Development and Outreach Director. I’ve been with this rad community for three years.
My role is to guide our students as they become professional software engineers. I get them ready with interviews and career resources and support them pretty much anyway I can until they secure their first role. After they leave the program, I stay on to help with salary negotiations, communications with potential employers, etc.
I also develop and maintain relationships with companies and hiring managers which oftentimes results in the right connections for our graduates.
Where are you from?
I am from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, PA! Yes, home of The Office, and our 46th President, Joe Biden. At one point I worked for Dunder Mifflin (kidding). Scranton is a blue-collar coal-mining town with the best pizza. I lived in the DC Metro area for nearly nine years and have called Portland home since 2008.
What do you do in your free time for fun?
Exercise, outdoors and reading! I’ve been working out forever, it’s a part of my being. I was even a group fitness instructor for a long time before coming to Alchemy.
I recharge by being in nature, so you’ll find me on a trail, in a kayak or in a tent somewhere on the weekends. You’ll find me out there rain or shine!
And, I love to read. I’m always up for a good book. I think I read about 16 books in 2020. Please let me know if you have any book recommendations!
What is most rewarding about your job in Career Services?
There’s so much. Helping people achieve their “Why” is incredibly rewarding to me. I admire the trust people put in me to help get them to the next step in their journey. I love seeing people grow professionally. I’ve seen brilliant women who thought they were incapable of a career in STEM, thrive as software engineers. I’ve received text messages from Alchemy grads saying that they bought their first home.
It’s always special seeing our graduates happy and standing a little bit prouder because they realize they can professionally code! I particularly love seeing those students that were brand new to tech, land good jobs on supportive and cutting-edge teams.
Someone recently told me “You know Alchemy’s talent pool so well that you make better employee matches for my company than any recruiting firm we talk to.”
In my role, part of the reward is all about knowing the right people.
What has been the proudest moment in your position so far?
I don’t have just one proudest moment. Knowing I’ve had an impact on so many graduate lives is beautiful. Seeing that my impact has resulted in Alchemy grads securing jobs, and doing so quickly, is rad.
How does Alchemy Career Services prepare students for the real world in coding and software development?
I tell students all the time that I am a pain-in-the-butt for a lot of the program. The reason is that in a program as intense as ours, the career services part is exhausting and not a big priority, when students are immersed in learning software code. Another reason is that most people don’t like to market themselves. But, similar to learning to code, what they put into Career Services, is what they get out of it.
Some people reach out within the first few weeks, some don’t contact us until the last day of the program, and there’s no right or wrong method to working with Career Services. We are here to help and empower students. We prepare students for the real world by offering personalized support and customized resources because no two students are the same.
The Career Services program is continuously upgraded to help students not only navigate and streamline the latest job seeking processes, but also to advocate for our student’s during the onboarding experience in the first days of their new job.
For future students shopping different code schools, what makes Alchemy unique?
The Alchemy community. It is absolutely humbling how much this community continues to give back to new and prospective students.
Based on Alchemy’s strong alumni community, every new student is set up with an Alchemy alum Zoom date to help get connected to the program. From day one, you are a part of the alumni network and supported by the academy.
We see examples of strong community when current students excitedly welcome new cohorts or when students proudly celebrate a classmate landing their first Dev role in Slack.
A HR manager I talked to recently said, “Alchemy emulates what every alum community should look like.”
Another talent recruiter told me he loves how much the Alchemy engineers he interviews support each other. He laughed, “They literally talk up their Alchemy classmates who they might be interviewing against for the role. Who does this?” Our people do!
I couldn’t be more elated at the feedback we get.
What would you say to someone interested in Alchemy but has zero experience in tech or software development?
Try Alchemy’s free Dev 101 course. It teaches the basics and can help indicate if someone likes to code and if they’re interested in learning more about web development.
If you discover you like code, take our 6-month program!
I have seen so many students with advanced degrees tell me they wish they took our program instead of spending time on an expensive four year college degree that doesn’t have the same ROI as Alchemy’s program.
We have a student set to graduate soon who has a friend earning a Computer Science (CS) degree at a four year college. Our student’s friend is blown away by what an Alchemy student can do after six months compared to being a student studying CS for three years.
Talk a little bit about the 6 month transformation from brand new Alchemy student to career ready graduate student.
When someone begins at Alchemy, there are many unknowns about what working in tech is like and how their past experiences will contribute to them becoming a great developer.
In Career Development, we empower students to network and grow their community, meet new people and get curious! Discover new industries and agencies, talk to working developers to demystify the tech world, and start to harness their journey towards becoming kickass developers.
The student’s own work combined with one-on-one support, industry talks, interview practice, and thought leaders as guest speakers, Alchemy students quickly develop new skills that help them navigate a successful career path.
Our goal is to instill confidence in our students and the growth of our students is beautiful to witness.
But, the job search takes work and a strong community of resources. We have teachers preparing students for technical interviewing, Alchemy CEO Marty Nelson hosts weekly workshops on data structures and algorithms (commonly used in technical interviewing). There are many resources in place to help folks succeed!
What are students most excited about during their time in the program?
It’s the program! If you ask a student in the middle of the program, they might be more tired than excited. However, after about four months, once students get to the Career Week lectures they’re sad the program is almost over and don’t want it to end.
Our students are committed and remain excited to code every day. Our alums say over and over again they would happily go through the program again in a heartbeat and that they are jealous of the students who are starting day one of the Alchemy program.
Does Career Services support students after graduation?
If students keep in touch with Career Services, then we will keep in touch with and support students, even after graduation. If a student lands their first role, we will still be there for them, if they need us. I always say, “If you keep in touch with Career Services, Career Services will always support you.”
After being in this role for three years, I strongly believe everyone has their own path to their first job and to achieving their “Why”. Career Services is here to help students navigate the waters, support and encourage them, and oftentimes be their biggest cheerleader.
How has COVID impacted your role and the lives of graduates? And how are you preparing students to overcome obstacles?
The pandemic was hard at first. There were a lot of unknowns. Looking back, I’m so proud of our team for transitioning this program to an online format and keeping the energy of the community alive.
For working graduates, it was a mixed bag at first. Almost every working graduate safely kept their job. And while seven lost their job in the first six months of the pandemic, they have all since landed new positions.
For our most recent graduates it was tough, but the outcomes have been incredible. Many began contract work that lead to full-time roles, others took a break to recharge and came back and immediately got their first jobs, and others landed roles during the pandemic.
For me, I had to figure out how to connect and deliver Career Services content from behind a screen. Everyday I pay attention to how hiring strategies are shifting as a result of the pandemic and then strategically coach our grads to find jobs throughout the world. Since companies are increasingly hiring remotely now, I’m looking at more international tech companies to join the Alchemy network.
What trends if any have you seen over the past year in the technology field?
Because of the pandemic, way more companies are hiring remotely, which means more of our students are working for companies located all around the country.
Another trend I’ve noticed recently is that more graduates start out in contract roles. This gives them great experience and a little extra free time to land their first full-time role while making good money in the meantime.
Nationwide companies are finding that their engineering teams are not only thriving, but are more efficient in the work-from-home model. I’ve learned that dozens of offices ended their leases and will continue to stay remote for the foreseeable future.
The way we work in tech will be forever changed from this pandemic, and, it’s up to our students and grads to determine their goals and target their networking efforts based on that. Keep your options open but consider if you want to be working in-person with a team or if you want the freedom of being remote.
What kinds of companies and networks are looking to hire Alchemy grads?
The sky's the limit. We have companies that span all industries, sized small to large that love to hire Alchemy grads.
We teach people one stack, very modern web technologies, and how to be great, collaborative teammates. Employers find a lot of value in that!
I continuously encourage our grads to find out where they want to exist in tech and make those connections within those spaces. With their knowledge for code and the passion for the places they want to work, they can do anything they want!
How often do you keep in touch with Alchemy alumni?
The question really is: when don’t I?
When our Alchemy grads are ready for their second, third jobs, or maybe they lost a job, I’m often the first person they come to for guidance. I love to help our graduates update and pivot their resume to prepare for the next position.
I also love checking-in on our graduates to see how they’re enjoying their first roles. For me, it’s not just about the outcome, but knowing people chose the right career path and have found their calling, makes me truly happy.
People thrive after they leave Alchemy. It’s beautiful and amazing.
When you think of an Alchemy graduate, what adjectives come to mind?
Amazing, bold, brave, smart, tenacious, incredible.
The folks that take our program are entering into something challenging but rewarding.
They learn this incredible skill and immediately contribute to the tech world, many having no experience in coding at all. These students, with different backgrounds and lived experiences, are changing what the tech industry looks like. Not to mention the change an increase in salary brings.
I often talk about how our students are learning the superpower that is code. They can use it to solve a human-centered problem or have the financial freedom to live life differently. There are so many good stories about this in our community, but at the end of the day, it's just an amazing group of humans.