Employer Highlight: Spantree

Spantree group photo

Collaboration can often be the key to creativity. That’s why we love getting to know other tech companies making an impact in the industry, like Spantree! A Chicago-based boutique consultancy, the folks at Spantree are lovers of everything data and help companies create software solutions for the web.

Group of people looking at post it notes on wall

At our Grand Rapids campus, we recently had the pleasure of sharing co-working space with a few members of their remote staff. They were extremely kind, sharing insight and experience with bootcamp students, and beers with us at the day’s end. We caught up with Dan Lindeman, Spantree Software Engineer and resident Grand Circus friend, to learn more about his experiences as a developer and what it takes to join the Spantree team.

Q&A WITH Spantree

How would you describe your organization and what does your team try to solve?

Dan from Spantree talking to Grand Circus students
Dan from Spantree talking to Grand Circus students

We describe ourselves as a boutique software consultancy. Our main focuses are developing Data Intensive Applications and Site Reliability Engineering. In short, we’re really good at tackling the tricky problems by applying well-worn tools where they shine, and using cutting-edge ones where needed. We pride ourselves on being nimble learners.

In your opinion, how does Grand Circus prepare students for careers in tech?

The breadth of skills honed at Grand Circus has much in common with the tasks and challenges I find in industry, and in my daily life. Grads are well aware of what to expect when heading to the field, and are integrated into the software community, not just as newbies, but as contributors and collaborators.

What are you looking for when hiring programmers?

  • Strong communication skills. The ability to adapt and communicate well under different contexts is critical for success.
  • A passion for learning. We’re constantly experimenting with new technology, so you should be ready to regularly learn new things and help others learn as well. This can be overwhelming (and really amplifies imposter syndrome) but we’re all in the same place.
  • Openness and flexibility. We aim for stability, but we’re a small shop with diverse clients so the ability to roll with the punches and be flexible is key. Our clients rely on us in times of uncertainty and change and we need to be able to keep our heads on and work towards solutions when things go sideways.
  • An interest in being involved. We don’t have it all figured out yet, so we look for future colleagues to be looking for ways to proactively contribute and help our team grow.
  • A nice person. Juggling everything we have to do is hard enough as it is without people being jerks.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in tech?

Work on things you would use. You are the only client you have perfect information with and you’ll actually get it done. By the time you’re finished, you’ll have developed a cool new tool or app to use in your everyday life.

For someone without a background in tech or a computer science degree – what advice would you give them and what should they know going into tech?

Look for work and ideas in strange places. Technology is pervasive, software projects often start in house. Many new developers look to names they know in software, and totally miss chances to build great things with incredible teams in ‘unusual’ companies. Similarly, you’d be shocked at how many obvious problems haven’t had a technologist take an honest look at them. I don’t have a degree in CS, nor was I particularly interested in software engineering before 2013, the vast majority of employees at Spantree don’t either.

What resources would you recommend to new developers?

Meetups. A network of peers and friends is more valuable than any resource I can possibly imagine sharing. I haven’t gotten a single job without knowing somebody from a context like meetup, be it a social-good hackathon, a language group meetup or a Geeks group. Go to them, and make friends.

Group of six students posing in front of Span Tree banner

How do you support continued learning for your employees?

Professional Learning is taken very seriously and carefully chosen to stimulate our minds and our business. We buy books, online courses and yearly conference tickets for our employees. We support schedules that allow for our colleagues to attend things like bootcamps if they believe it will help them and us grow. Learning is also built into our business model. Spantree curates professional learning for our clients as an offered service, sometimes teaching is the best way to learn.

Is there anything else you’d like folks to know about your organization, becoming a programmer, or Grand Circus?

Writing software can be extremely frustrating. The highs are very high, but the lows can feel impossible. Everybody experiences that, none of this is easy. As soon as you feel embarrassed, or down, or like you won’t get it, remember that this feeling is also what learning by experience feels like.

In my experience, many people downplay the creative aspects of programming, and that is a shame. I still get jazzed to the point of taking laps around the building when something I built comes to life for the first time.

Thank you to Dan for sharing his insight and advice and to Spantree for being such great co-working friends at our Grand Rapids Campus!