Becoming a software engineer isn’t always straightforward or the same for each person; careers in the industry can start at any point in your working life, backed by a variety of studied disciplines or work experience. We know that good software engineers don’t always take the traditional path into development, which is why we’ve created Wayfair Labs.
Wayfair Labs helps kick-start the careers of software developers hoping to join our full-stack and mobile software engineering teams. It’s a twelve week onboarding program where new hires get hands-on experience tackling Wayfair Engineering challenges, while building and showcasing their skills through projects of their own design. From learning new technologies to practicing real-world software architecture, Labsters, as we like to call them, get a chance to hone their programming skills and work toward mastery of the Wayfair tech stack.
The Labs Program allows us to hire engineers from a broad range of backgrounds, and place them onto a development team where they’ll make the biggest impact. They've often recently graduated from a Coding Bootcamp, College or University, or have already completed training and work experience as an Engineer. Through this series, you’ll meet Wayfair Engineers who’ve joined us through Labs and who also have a Coding Bootcamp educational background. They’re just a few of the many successful Labsters who have found a home at Wayfair.
My Story of Success
I walked into Wayfair for the first time on March 19, 2018. It was my first day of the Wayfair Labs program, and I was feeling nervous, excited, but also proud. This was my first time achieving a full-time, benefitted, salaried, permanent position in my life after seven years of searching. I spent the month between when I received my offer letter and my start date imagining what it could possibly look like inside the office building, how the desks are set up, who the employees were and how they interacted. I come from a blue-collar family; my parents work in retail and construction, so I didn’t grow up understanding the 9-to-5 corporate life. I went to a liberal arts college and studied environmental studies and international development, but left with thousands of dollars in debt and without a clear idea of how to use my degrees. After seven years trying to find stable employment in the nonprofit world, five of those also spent running a part-time, bike-based business with my sister, I decided something needed to change, and that I wanted a new and more stable path.
I am so grateful that the Wayfair Labs program is a supportive way to enter a new career path and workplace culture. As a coding bootcamp graduate, Wayfair Labs felt like a very smooth and natural next step. Similar to my three month Web Development Immersive Course, the Wayfair Labs program is a training program for newly-hired engineers to get some hands-on experience with the codebase, set up their development environments, and build proficiency in the primary coding languages of Wayfair. Labsters simultaneously follow a similar orientation track as all new hires in the company. I think the model is absolutely brilliant; it gives new engineers time to acclimate, make mistakes on projects that aren’t going to production, build their first peer relationships, and settle into the culture of the workplace itself before taking on the responsibility of working on real production code.
What I Can Bring To The Table
Despite admittedly feeling like an underdog coming in as a bootcamp graduate, I realized that I came with a set of tools that ended up being incredibly helpful during the Labs program. The feeling of getting “thrown in the deep end” felt very familiar; being exposed to a lot of new information before I could grasp most of it and then exploring, self-educating, and experimenting until I could fully understand reminded me of bootcamp itself, when our instructor would say (seemingly every day) “I know it seems entirely confusing and doesn’t make any sense, but I promise you’ll understand more later when you’re building your project”.
I also noticed that I ended up gravitating toward other bootcamp graduates in my Labs cohort, as it felt like we were all used to a culture of “we’re in this together” that tends to characterize intensive programs. You learn to buckle down, grapple with new information, commiserate over challenges, and celebrate together. I remember my fellow bootcamp-graduate desk neighbor and I had days where we would be there to “rubber duck” for each other when we were stuck and had a couple evenings before project deadlines where we stayed late and made our final edits and bug fixes together. Those moments of connection during Labs were so helpful in building up our skill set for collaborative work, countering my imposter syndrome and building some colleague relationships that would end up being helpful throughout my first few months at Wayfair.
Challenging Myself To Be Great
Even though Labs is a supportive atmosphere and a great way to ramp up at Wayfair, I admittedly still faced challenges, which is to be expected with any new workplace or experience. My biggest struggles were learning the so-called rules of a corporate workplace. How do I know when it’s appropriate to post a question in a Slack channel with dozens or hundreds of people in it? Where is that conference room in this massive maze of a building? And where do I want to end up in my placement? There was a lot that felt really overwhelming, and even daunting, since I’d never been in a workplace larger than 30 people before. The most helpful part of this journey was being surrounded by a Labs group who were going through the same sets of questions and challenges.
Now that I’ve moved away from my Labs community and built a new home on the Brand Pages Team, I’m still learning how to find the information and support I will need as I continue to settle into software engineering and corporate office life. It’s definitely a learning curve but I am feeling comforted by the knowledge that now, more than ever, people like me are finding their way into this industry and these innovative workplaces. People like me who previously wouldn’t have had access to training if not for coding bootcamps, who never considered web development or engineering a possibility for themselves, and who hold under-represented identities in the industry. The Wayfair Labs program makes that ever more possible and is an outstanding asset for the company.
Keep An Eye On Us!
Be sure to catch other posts in this series, where we explore how our Bootcamp graduates prospered via Wayfair Labs! Our top tip from Labs Recruiter Jennifer Cosenza: If you’re interested in applying for a role as a full-time Software Engineer, check out our Careers Page and be sure to search for “Wayfair Labs” in the job posting. You can find further job listings at wayfaircareers.com.