Alumni Stories

Once a Flatiron student, now coming back to hire: Sterling Walker

Flatiron School / 24 June 2015

A funny thing happened at our Flatiron “Speed Dating” event last week. A Flatiron Fellow who graduated a little over a year ago came back — this time to hire some students of her own.

Breset Walker (known by most as Sterling Walker) is now Team Lead of Software Development at 2U, an educational tech company. Before she enrolled in Flatiron School, Walker completed a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and gave a TEDx talk on accepting change. We caught up with her to ask a few questions about how her life has changed since she learned how to code, and what type of hires she’s looking for now.

How has learning to code changed the way you approach problems?
I’m far less inclined to try and resolve things by brute force. Once you have experienced something as powerful and reusable as a bash script or regex, it seems like an unethical waste of our short time on this earth to do large, repetitive tasks by hand.

Do you ever have a process or routine that helps get you in the right mindset to code?
I dress up to go to work.  I have a small set of work dresses, and I keep some coordinating heels in my filing cabinet at work.  My Mr. Rogers-esque shoe transition every morning is a useful change of context that helps me stay on work tasks at work and to leave my work at the office when I go home.


“Not knowing how to code felt like wearing mittens all the time.”


You only graduated from Flatiron School a little over a year ago, and now you’re the one coming back to hire people. When you began classes here, did you have a vision of what you thought the outcome would be? How does it match up to where you are now?
Not knowing how to code felt like wearing mittens all the time. Even as a kid, I used to need my brother to log me into Ducks Ahoy on our Commodore 64 because I had a pretty arbitrary approach to white space while navigating the file system. Besides knowing that the Flatiron School would enable me to become more self-sufficient with coding, there wasn’t any clear future vision I had about ‘after.’ I certainly had no expectation that I would end up where I am now. Fortunately, the intensity of the program left no room for any existential dread.

Now that you are on the hiring end, what skills do you look for in potential candidates who are working at your company?
Enthusiasm is what I care about the most. We have a specific stack and systems here, and I’m not looking to hire someone to capitalize on previous years experience with these exact technologies. I’m looking for someone who is able to learn and is able to be excited about learning.

What advice do you have about interviewing for a job?
One way to show enthusiasm is to show curiosity. Interviewing is always exhausting and repetitive, but if someone asks you ‘Do you have any questions for me?’ Always have a question for them. Prepare three or four generic ones, like, ‘Where do you see your department being in three years?’ or ‘What sort of traits does someone need to bring with them to the role to succeed?’  Or, if you are feeling really feisty, ‘What concerns do you have about my fit for the role?’

You can have these to put in your pocket, but if you interview with me, switch ’em up, or I’ll recognize them!

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