Bradley Brecher earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from New York University in May of 2019. Like many new grads, he was eager to stay in the Big Apple, and looked around at New York-based companies that could use his newly acquired skills, and quickly settled on Something Digital. Upon joining the SD team in mid-June, Bradley was selected to participate in SD’s Jumpstart program as well as SD’s [BRIDGE] SOMETHING mentorship program.
[BRIDGE] SOMETHING is a 6 month program that brings together newly hired, recent grads with seasoned employees to help ease the transition from school-life to SD-life through thoughtful guidance and structured support.
Bradley was paired with Phillip Jackson, SD’s Ecommerce Evangelist and Magento Master. Eager to know if the program delivered tangible benefits, Phillip sat down with Bradley for a debriefing.
Phillip Jackson: When you graduated in May, you interviewed at a lot of companies, including some big names in this business. Why did you choose SD out of all the opportunities?
Bradley Brecher: First, Something Digital is a multi-faceted agency, so the work will always be interesting. I was also keenly interested in a smaller company, one that would allow me to have an impact from day one.
When I applied to SD, a director, an owner, and a tech lead interviewed me, and frankly, I was impressed. All three are very valuable to the company’s day-to-day operations, yet they took an hour out of their day to speak with me.
I also liked the Something Digital end product. The somethingdigital.com website is very modern-looking and 21st-century focused, as are all the sites the team builds for clients, which I looked at prior to interviewing. From a UI perspective, they’re quite beautiful and I thought: this is the level of quality I want to deliver.
PJ: You were also part of the jumpstart program which is an 8-week program focused on equipping engineers and employees with the skills and knowledge required to excel in their day-to-day responsibilities and careers. What were your thoughts coming into this program, and did it match your expectations?
BB: The Magento platform has a big learning curve, and when I first started five months ago I thought: How am I going to learn this complex platform in just eight weeks? Something Digitals’ jumpstart program spread it out, which made it easier for us. It was clear that there had been a lot of time and effort put into the planning. As a result, by the time we started working with real client sites I felt as if I had been well trained, and that made me feel confident.
PJ: What happened at the end of the eight-week training? Did you know what to expect?
BB: We were placed on teams; I was assigned to the Strategic Engagement Group, other mentees were placed on project teams. At this point, we began interacting with clients, which required new skill sets on top of the technical skills we learned.
We kind of knew what to expect, but until we started working with clients, it’s difficult to know what the environment would be like.
PJ: What were your responsibilities once you moved over to the Strategic Engagement Team? Do you feel as if you’re using the skills you studied in college or are you on new ground?
BB: One thing I really enjoy about being on the team is the real-world experience it provides. You can learn programming skills in school, but that’s just the base. The things you learn on the job can’t be taught in schools. I see this in multiple ways, from working on live projects to working on a team flow where multiple people write, review and change code simultaneously.
PJ: What was your biggest fear when graduating from college and considering a career in software development?
BB: That I’d be stuck behind a computer all day with little to no opportunity to interact with people, or work on other soft skills. But with the Strategic Engagement Team, I’m expanding my technical skills as well as learning vital communication skills, which will deliver dividends throughout my career. This is something most software developers right out of college don’t get to learn or use. I feel lucky.
PJ: What’s the hardest challenge you’ve had to overcome so far, and what was easier than you thought it would be?
BB: The biggest challenge was gaining the confidence to make my own decisions when deadlines were looming and everyone was really busy. I know I’m supposed to be under a lead, but there are times when I have responsibilities and I need to make my own decisions. Or, sometimes a manager will put something into my hand and ask my opinion, and that can be tough.
The challenge I found surprisingly easy is deploying live changes to client websites and moving things to production. I thought that would be much harder than it actually is.
PJ: Has the mentorship program been valuable?
BB: Yes, incredibly so. When I was paired with you everyone in the company told me I was lucky to have such a special opportunity, even though we didn’t work in the same office. They were right, of course, as you’re a Twitter influencer, an eCommerce evangelist, and very well known in Magento. All three of these aspects have benefited me a lot, like the time I wrote a code change to Magento Core and you tweeted it out to all of your followers. Almost immediately it was reviewed. This is a direct result of working with you.
It’s been great to connect with someone who isn’t on my team, someone who isn’t on the engineering team at all. It’s great to be exposed to someone who is on a completely different side of the company.
We’ve read three books together:
- Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence―and How You Can, Too, by Gary Vaynerchuk
- The 5 Choices – The Path to Extraordinary Productivity, by Franklin Covey
- Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, by Nir Eyal
As you know, I’ve sought your advice on management questions, technical issues, career advancement and just about anything that confounds someone who is new.
Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you some questions. Is that okay?
BB: You’re a busy guy; why did you agree to take the time out of your schedule to mentor me?
PJ: This is something I talked about in a keynote address I gave earlier this year. I realized that I’ll reach a certain ceiling in my career, and while I have some notoriety in the world of eCommerce now, it certainly isn’t destined to last forever. Not everyone is destined to achieve global fame and success, after all. But ever one of us can help others pick up where we left off, if you will. I want my ceiling to be your floor, to give you the tools so that you can build up from there.
This is the open-source ethos. In the open-source world we share all of our learnings, challenges, successes, and failures so that the people who follow behind us won’t need to start from scratch. We want them to start from a higher order level of thinking or a higher platform. This is what the Something Digital mentorship program means to me.
BB: Would you have benefited from a mentor at the beginning of your career?
PJ: I’ve had many mentors throughout my career, though none of them formal like the relationship I have with you. And I didn’t have someone to show me how to avoid the pitfalls I’ve encountered in terms of time management, establishing boundaries between my work and personal life, and setting realistic expectations in what I can deliver. Some of these issues are addressed in the three books I recommended to you, but much of it has been learned through trial and error. Figuring this stuff out early in your career is beneficial, rather than waiting until you’re in your mid-thirties. I wish someone had sat down with me and armed me with tools when I was your age.
If you’d like more information about the [BRIDGE] SOMETHING mentorship program and/or Jumpstart, please contact us! Apply to SD Careers or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist & Bradley Brecher, Programmer