Insight from CallRail’s Amanda Raymond
If you ask any of Amanda Raymond’s friends, family members, or colleagues, they’d all agree that she embodies living life to the fullest.
The Staff Engineer at CallRail is currently exploring the great American outdoors in a custom camper which doubles as her portable office. And when she’s not showcasing her coding skills at work, she’s busy exploring, kayaking, solo hiking, or making repairs on her house with wheels. “Everyday something breaks, so I'm learning how to be an electrician, learning how to be a plumber, and everyday I have to learn something new,” she says cheerfully.
This roadtrip is a full circle moment for Amanda because, just over 8 years ago, after quitting her job as a biochemist, she set off on another cross-country trip that reconnected her with an old friend who introduced her to an opportunity to change her career trajectory by joining a coding bootcamp.
“Coming from a biochem background, you had to have a certificate on a wall with a high degree to get through a door. I had a bachelor's, I didn't have a Masters, I didn't have a PhD,” says Amanda. “I knew that I wanted the freedom of a career in Tech and the lifestyle of a coder so I took a leap of faith.” And she dove headfirst into a full-stack web development bootcamp. That leap of faith has helped her transition from a job in science that she wasn’t passionate about and grow a fulfilling career that allows her the freedom and flexibility with a company that embraces her adventurous spirit.
We sat down with Amanda to hear more about her career journey, and to gain some unique insight on starting a career in technology with a non-traditional background. Keep reading for her top 5 tips for breaking into a career in technology.
Tip 1: Acquire the Skill Set: Join a Bootcamp or Use Online Resources
Amanda’s journey began when she attended a coding bootcamp. “At the time I joined, the whole concept of coding bootcamps was new,” she explains. “So a lot of people didn't know what bootcampers were.” But nowadays, bootcamps are one of the most popular ways to learn how to code and, like for Amanda, they serve as a great foundation for career pivoters to break into the world of tech.
Amanda highlights the fact that you don’t have to have a degree in computer science to start working in tech. Career pivoters have valuable experiences, perspectives, and transferable skills that can be hugely beneficial for companies. Amanda sees having a background in something other than tech should be seen, “not as a disadvantage, but as an advantage.”
But bootcamps aren’t the only way to accelerate your learning, especially considering the financial investment required for these intensive courses. “There are so many free resources out there,” Amanda elaborates. “If you have the discipline to teach yourself, you can listen to podcasts, you can do tutorials online, you can watch YouTube videos, the possibilities are endless. Information is free on the internet these days and so at the end of the day, if you're trying to see if you wanna go into tech, I would say immerse yourself with that information.”
Tip 2: Network to Build Personal Connections!
When it came to finding a job, Amanda eagerly recommended networking. “My advice to people going into transitioning into tech is to go to meetups consistently, but don't go with the intent of getting a job,” she warns. Instead, she advises to focus on making connections, and the professional opportunities will follow. “Get to know people, be excited to be there, be motivated to learn, and be curious about the people that you're meeting. Because at the end of the day, a lot of people just want to work with people that they get along with.” Amanda secured her first major tech job at a small startup via a networking event. Her connection with a friend of a CTO of a local startup led to an interview, her first job in tech, and a “forever mentor.”
After a bustling three years of learning under the wing of that CTO, Amanda was ready for the next learning experience via a different lane in the tech industry. “The fervor and energy surrounding ‘startup life’ was incredibly rewarding and insightful for my apprentice-like mind for 3 years, but eventually proved pretty taxing,” she explains. “ I was excited to dig into the next phase of my career transition at a larger company..” So, once again, she utilized her network to transition from her startup to a position in CallRail. “Some of the CallRail admins had previously worked for the same startup I was currently working at, and my CTO advocated for me as a reference to let them know I was going to apply.”. She started her journey with CallRail in 2017.
Tip 3: Leverage your Transferable Skills
When pivoting into tech, your transferable skills will help you bridge the gaps that you might be missing with education. In fact, they can also give you a leg up on your colleagues. In Amanda’s case, applying the scientific method to coding came as a strength. “I use it daily at work for solving problems,” she explains. “It comes down to observing a problem, researching the topic, proposing a hypothesis, running an experiment that can test that hypothesis, analyzing the results, and then reporting the conclusion.”
Having an idea of how your prior skill sets can be applied in your new career is an interview must. Being prepared to explain your non-traditional background can help employers better understand who you are and what you can bring to the table.
Tip 4: Find the Right Work Environment for You
One of Amanda's favorite aspects of working at CallRail is that the company prioritizes employee passions. “CallRail is a place where, if you are passionate about something, then they will do whatever it takes to help you to do it. They want people to be passionate about what they're working on.” And that doesn’t just mean in the workplace. In fact, Amanda credits her current lifestyle to CallRail’s trust and willingness to provide remote opportunities post-COVID. “Not many companies would be okay with what I am doing, but CallRail has been very supportive. My manager has, from the very beginning, been supportive of this track for me.”
Having a sense of support and trust at work translates to overall happiness and wellbeing. “At the beginning of my mobile office journey, I asked my manager to please let me know if I have a decrease in work efficiency, and that I would promptly adjust,” she explains. “And my manager responded with,, ‘If anything, we think that you are going to do better work because you will be happier.’”
To find the best work environment for you Amanda recommends doing your research on company values and culture and asking questions to make sure the company is a good fit. “When you're interviewing for a job, they're not just interviewing you, you're interviewing them to see if that's a place where you can thrive.” She further explains, “At the beginning of your career transition into Tech, you want to find an environment that celebrates where you are currently in that journey and provides you with tangible resources and guidance to take you to the next level.”
Tip 5: Build the Right Mindset
In order to best succeed in this field Amanda highlights three mindset shifts she believes led her to success.
Be patient with yourself. “You have to have a lot of patience with yourself when learning something new. And if you have confidence that you can do anything you set your mind to and the patience with yourself to stick with it (because it won't happen overnight)— you can be successful,” says Amanda. “The patience to stick with myself and continue to believe in my abilities during challenging times was my map to transitioning into tech.”
Get comfortable not always having the answer. For Amanda, starting a career in tech requires accepting that you will need to be a continual learner. “I think that being in tech is kind of like being on a constant roller coaster of newness and learning. That journey never ends, and you have to kind of be okay with that and then get good at it,” she explains.
Be passionate and coachable. As the previous point suggests, teachability is a trait that any career pivoter needs to embrace. During her time as a coding instructor, she noted that the most passionate students were the most likely to succeed, saying “What I saw as a teacher and as a mentor is that the people that were truly passionate, in a way that was contagious, were able to succeed by constantly communicating and staying humble, yet eager to tackle the rigorous process of learning.”
💎 Looking for some tips and tricks to prepare for your job interview with CallRail? You’ve come to the right place! Make sure to watch the video until the end for some valuable insights.
📼 Watch this video to get some tips that will help you prepare for your interview with CallRail. In this video, you’ll meet Kristin Marsicano, Director of Engineering, and Jon Cyprian, Talent Acquisition Manager at CallRail, who will tell you about the application process and give you some tips and tricks to crush the interview!
📼 Tip #1 for your interview with CallRail: Based on Jon's personal experience as a recruiter, he shares there isn't a "moment" when he knows the candidate is perfect for the job. That said, some vivid indicators naturally give recruiters a better feeling about a candidate, including the research they've done and just their genuine honesty! Transparency about skillsets and what you are looking for in your career journey matters!
📼 Tip #2 for your interview with CallRail: Kristin reveals, “One of the most common hiring misconceptions is that you have to meet all of the criteria in order to even consider applying." That is not true! Being on the other side of engineering hiring for the past seven years, Kristin has seen so many scenarios where the company extended an offer to somebody, even if they didn't meet every single one of the criteria. She recommends that you directly call out how your existing experience matches the job requirements when you apply. Then, if and when you get through to the interview, be prepared to note specific examples that match your experience to the role's needs. Kristin is looking to hire people who can adapt, who have the self-awareness to know what it takes to learn on the job.
Resume Tips for your Interview with CallRail
Jon says there are really only two things to keep in mind when it comes to resume tips. First, a resume over two pages can be too much. But if you still want to present that extra information, Jon recommends doing two submission formats: a short-form and a long-form. The second thing Jon suggests is to submit your resume in a simple form, using either PDF or Microsoft Word. That's because many applicant tracking systems that recruiters use do not accept additional formats.
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining CallRail? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get To Know Kristin and Jon
Kristin is an experienced technical leader, people manager, educator, and mentor with 20 years in the software development industry, including authoring Android Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide. She excels at project and team leadership, and is effective at communicating with technical team members across disciplines and skill levels, as well as non-technical team members and stakeholders. She has experience seeing projects through from inception to implementation. Kristin builds buy-in with internal team members and stakeholders through transparency, collaborative ownership, and consistent practices.
Jon has been with CallRail for more than three years now, first as an Internal Recruiter and currently as a Talent Acquisition Manager. If you are interested in a career at CallRail, you can connect with Kristin and Jon on LinkedIn!
More About CallRail
CallRail is here to bring complete visibility to the marketers who rely on quality inbound leads to measure success. Their customers live in a results-driven world, and giving them a clear view of their digital marketing efforts is the first priority for CallRail. They see the opportunities in surfacing and connecting data from calls, forms, and beyond—helping their customers get better outcomes. CallRail has appeared on best places to work lists and are ranked #1 on G2, but they’re not done. They need savvy, innovative people like you to help their customers scale and grow. Are you game?
Fostering Strength & Vulnerability with CallRail's Crystal Thornton
Crystal Thornton has long mastered the perfect chocolate cake, but that doesn't keep her from trying out new recipes. She's currently working on making edible glass structures out of isomalt sugar.
She's always been one to take on new challenges, whether in the kitchen or in life. She usually succeeds at them, too—and often goes above and beyond. Like when she set out to run a 5k and ended up completing five marathons. Or when she entered her first bodybuilding Figure competition.
But like 75% of women in leadership who told KPMG that they experienced feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt in their careers, Crystal has struggled with imposter syndrome despite her many professional successes.
"I'm probably the best hype woman or cheerleader possible," says the engineering manager at call tracking software company CallRail. "But I don't do that enough for myself." Even her husband, she says, has noted that she always under-credits her accomplishments, from successful bakes to big promotions.
Over the last few years, Crystal has made a point of addressing that imposter syndrome. "I am going to speak into existence who I am and what I want for myself, and realize that I'm worthy and I'm deserving," she says of her new approach to her worth.
We sat down with Crystal to learn how she's come to recognize and address those feelings of doubt, as well as how she's working to pay that recognition forward by creating an environment for her team where everyone feels supported and welcome.
Building a career and navigating toxicity
Crystal first thought she wanted to be a teacher, like her mom, and studied English and African-American Studies to prepare for that career. When she graduated, though, she was more inspired by communication outside of the classroom, so she started working as a technical writer.
While she was good at the work, Crystal says she struggled with the culture. "I was in a predominantly white environment; I was the only Black woman there," she says. "I was in a junior role, trying to figure out the lay of the land, and I just did not have the support that I needed." Crystal now identifies that manager as the first person who made her feel "less than" at work. "No matter what I did, I just didn't feel like I could do anything to get into the good graces of my manager. It was very toxic and I could not figure out why I always felt so small after work each day."
She wanted to leave that role, but she felt like she needed more experience under her belt first, so she stuck with it for two years before becoming a QA analyst.
She quickly proved her talent in that space, becoming a test lead and then a senior QA engineer, but she still had a hard time owning her success. She was doing a teambuilding exercise and couldn't think of a response to the prompt "What's something you're proud of?" when she first realized she was belittling her own accomplishments.
It wasn't until Crystal was at CallRail and had what she calls a "truly great manager" that she started to see herself differently. "He always encouraged me, listened to my ideas, and pretty much let me run my career. He gave me a lot of open space to figure out what I wanted to do, and to make my own mistakes as well," she says. "It got to the point where I would pinch myself, like I cannot believe that I am finally somewhere where I am happy and can grow with the best manager."
When she was considering taking a promotion to become a QA manager at CallRail, he supported her—and helped her feel confident enough to apply for the promotion beyond that one, too.
Leaning in, with help
Crystal was listening to a presentation by CallRail's VP of Engineering when she heard him say they were looking to hire an engineering manager and that those in QA were welcome to apply.
"My ears perked up," she says, "but I thought, 'He's just saying that so we won't feel left out. I have no coding experience whatsoever, why would they want me to be an engineering manager?'"
The VP's encouragement to apply wasn't enough to crack the imposter syndrome that Crystal was still dealing with.
But then her manager checked in and told her she should go for it. "If he hadn't pushed me a little bit, I know that I would not have even thought about applying for the engineering manager role," says Crystal.
And then her good friend gave her a speech about why she needed to apply: "'You can do this. You're already doing this. You will be a great engineering manager. Stop talking yourself down. You will be awesome,'" remembers Crystal.
And that did it.
She applied and was offered the position, and even then, it took several days for it to sink in that she was about to make a big move in her career.
That was the moment she decided to face her imposter syndrome head-on. She realized there were two stages to dealing with it: first, leaning into the support of the people around her who believed in her. And second, remembering to believe in herself. "The question I ask is, 'Why NOT me?'" says Crystal.
"For the longest time, I felt pressure to not fail. I felt that I had to work extra hard to prove myself, and to prove that I belonged. At the time when I started my career in the tech industry, I did not see a lot of people that looked like me. I didn't have a community to lean into for support, which is why I love to see all of the new groups that have been formed, like Technologists of Color, for example."
Now, as an engineering manager, Crystal is working to pay that forward.
"That support goes a long way, 'cause a lot of us don't have that support," she says. "I don't take that for granted. My goal is to be that same support for someone else. Navigating in this industry, well really, life, I have learned to not only advocate for others, but to advocate for myself. For a long time I could not find my voice so I didn't use it. After a while, I found out just how much of a disservice it was to my growth in my career. How can I expect to help others if I can't speak up for myself?"
Enabling happiness, and 3 ways to support that
As a manager, Crystal knows that all of her team members will be different. As such, she works to create an environment where everyone can thrive, understanding that what works for one person won't work for another. That's part of why she chose a career at CallRail in the first place, and she wants to contribute to building the culture that has been so welcoming to her.
"I was consulting with a company where I had to travel five days a week, and I decided that the next company I went to had to have work-life balance and great benefits," she says. "That's how I ended up at CallRail. I needed to feel happy, whole, and accomplished."
There are a few things Crystal has identified that are important not just for individual managers to do but for companies to enable at scale in order to foster an inclusive culture that works for everyone:
- Be intentionally inclusive. "Make it known that you're trying to include everyone in some way," says Crystal. "Everybody's career path is going to be different. Everybody's walk of life is going to be different." At CallRail, for example, Crystal points to the top-down focus on diversity and inclusion, sponsorship of ERGs for people of color, and mentorship programs.
- Encourage feedback and really listen to it. "Even as a leader, I might not know what's going on," says Crystal. "I depend on the people who report to me to tell me what's going on so I can fix any issues." This means going beyond anonymous surveys, she says, and really showing employees that you're making changes that impact them for the better.
- Create safe spaces through communication and a focus on personal growth. "People need to feel like they're able to come to work and be comfortable and accepted," she says, highlighting how truly important that was throughout the last year of economic uncertainty and a racial reckoning.
Vulnerability in the present
One of Crystal's managerial superpowers is that she is just as comfortable with what she doesn't know as she is with what she does. "When I found out I was going to be a manager for some really smart people, I was like, 'Oh, gosh, that guy could probably create an app on the fly, I can't do that!'" she says. "But then I said, 'Crystal, that's not your job. You're not supposed to code. You're not supposed to solve the outage issue. Your job is to support your team and provide guidance for their careers. You are there to be their person and advocate for them.'"
And now, while her imposter syndrome does pop up every once in a while, Crystal knows how to stay focused on all her accomplishments that have brought her to this present moment, without worrying if she deserves to be there or what's next.
"I'm enjoying being an engineering manager," she says. "I'm growing. And if I'm thinking about a five-year plan, I am going to miss out on some great times. I'm going to start overthinking. I'm going to create problems that haven't even occurred yet. And I just don't need that type of negativity in my life. That's just my rule in general right now."
"I mean, if I learned anything last year," she adds, "it's that plans often don't go according to plan! Take it day by day, week by week, and month by month. Really take time to appreciate life!"