The Client Program Experience
A Q&A with some of our client developers!
Go ahead and introduce yourself!
Christy: Heya I’m Christy, an incoming sophomore at Cal! This fall will be my second semester as a client developer in Codebase. To be honest, I was actually pretty clueless about the whole landscape of CS organizations on campus, and I only happened to hear about Codebase from my awesome CS61A TA Erica who was in the club! For my first project last semester, I worked with healthcare SaaS company PatientPop on an app that converts scanned medical forms into web forms.
Connie: Hi I’m Connie, also an incoming sophomore! I found Codebase on the EECS student organizations website first semester as a freshman when looking for software clubs, and after attending our info sessions, applied in both fall and spring. When I became a client developer I worked on building a full stack business onboarding flow for Middesk!
Kelvin: Hello I’m Kelvin and I’ll be a senior and a client project manager in the fall! I joined the same semester as Richard, which would be my fall semester of sophomore year. I actually found out about the club because my CSM mentor was the president of the Codebase and was telling me about it.
Richard: 👋 I’m Richard and I’ll be a junior and a mentored project manager in the fall! I joined Codebase the first semester of my freshman year after grabbing a flyer on Sproul, where I met Kelvin in the mentored project. Previously, I’ve been a client developer on Mixpanel (Fall ’19) and Pantheon (Spring ‘19).
What was the recruiting experience like? Any tips for applicants this semester?
Connie: First semester, I went to a bunch of info sessions without paying too much attention and applied to a lot of clubs, but I quickly realized that it’s as much about you as it is about the club. The people, their experiences, and the club vibes can be really important indicators for if the club is something you want to commit to and will enjoy becoming a part of. Second semester, I went up to talk to club members at info sessions, asked a lot more questions (Don’t be afraid! We don’t bite :)), and really tried to get a feel for clubs before applying to ones I could really see myself joining, like Codebase!
Christy: Since I missed the info session, I walked into the coffee chats not to convince people that I was the perfect candidate, but more to find out if the people and culture were a good fit for my personality and interests. During the chat, I asked my interviewers questions about how they came to Codebase, why they stayed, in order to get a sense of the kind of people Codebase attracts. I knew the cutthroat rep Cal’s CS clubs had; hearing about the mentored team and how friendly Codebase is to newcomers as well as seasoned coders, I felt like this was a group of people I wanted to be around!
My takeaway is that sharing honestly and freely is one of the most important parts of the interview process — officers are genuinely interested in getting to know you! If you’re worried about the technical interview, just brush up a little on Python/Java, practice thinking aloud in the process of problem solving, and be prepared to quick-Google resources. Don’t be afraid to ask any clarification questions of your interviewer (it’s much better to understand the task clearly than to worry about looking silly).
Kelvin and Richard: We actually came from our mentored project, and stepped into a client project after we finished that!
What kind of experience did you have going into client developing?
Connie: I came to Codebase fresh from taking CS61A, as well as working extensively on a full stack hackathon project from Cal Hacks in the fall, primarily in Angular. Prior to that I had only taken AP Computer Science A in high school the year before, so I was definitely unsure of whether to apply to client or mentored, but talked with a lot of Codebase members at info session and decided to apply to client!
Kelvin and Richard: We had built a full stack web application for a local high school as part of the mentored project! Read about it here.
Did you have any worries before starting?
Kelvin: I think a common experience that a lot of us have is a bit of imposter syndrome. It’s kinda crazy being a student at Berkeley, and always being surrounded by people who are so so talented at what they do. It’s definitely easy to get lost in the sauce, and feel like you don’t belong or that you’re not good enough at what you do. I’m still not entirely confident in myself, but I think one thing that’s been helpful for me is being a part of a community where I feel comfortable asking questions and reaching out for help when I need it. Being able to find that community in Codebase has been monumental in my own growth and I’m super lucky to have met those people early on in my college career.
To whoever is reading this: If you’re ever worried that you don’t have the “right” experience, don’t worry, all of us also feel the same way. It’s scary, but keep asking questions and keep trying to find a place where you can grow, and I hope that’s with us at Codebase :).
What does a typical week developing for Codebase look like?
Richard: It’s tough to describe a “typical” week since projects move so fast and there’s so many exciting new challenges and activities each week. In general, though, it will consist of a weekly meeting where we catch up and plan our next week, one or two work sessions where we pair up to grind out our weekly tasks (with the help of snacks 😋), and a weekend social where we have fun and get to know our teammates.
The PMs (project managers) put in a LOT of effort to make sure our team members bond closer and our project runs smoothly. While it is a decently heavy commitment of ~15 hours / week (including socials and general member activities), it hardly ever felt like a commitment as I’d always be looking forward to our next event. And of course, cross-team and club-wide activities mean you’ll get to hang out with people outside your project team as well.
Towards the deliverable dates (one during mid-semester and one at the end of the semester), the work tends to ramp as we’re preparing to present to our client. But it’s often the most exciting time too, as all our hard work is starting to come together into a full-fledged industry project.
Could you talk about your experience working with people in the tech industry?
Christy: Working with our contacts in the tech industry was definitely one of my favorite parts of the client experience! “Point(s) of contact,” abbreviated POCs, are the industry developers or product managers we keep in touch with over the course of a project. With Patientpop, our team was fortunate to have incredibly responsive and encouraging POCs. For me I definitely have the tendency to feel afraid or intimidated at the prospect of asking a dumb question, so I had to make a conscious decision to put that aside in the interest of learning the most I could. To tell the truth, I kind of let loose — throughout the week I pretty much inundated our Slack with any and all questions I had, and it was completely fine because our POC enthusiastically replied tenfold with gifs, code snippets, and links (our longest chain was about 100 messages)!
From efficient workflows to machine learning resources, POCs often have deep insight into any topic or hurdle; in general, there’s so much to glean from the way they think and evaluate ideas that it negates any embarrassment in asking. Having this opportunity to learn from and make friends with our industry contacts is something I’m immensely grateful for — these people are really excited to share what they do and know!
After March, we completely transitioned Codebase to remote. How was that experience?
Connie: It was kind of sad to not be able to do a lot of fun events we had planned like bowling with PatientPop and going to visit our client Middesk in person, but we tried to modify events and planned more time for social interaction at the end of our meetings/work sessions. We implemented a lot more group coding over zoom and debugged virtually for many hours :), and our final deliverables were presented remotely. Socializing with others was definitely harder and required more effort like pre-planning and reaching out more, with less spontaneous hangouts and food related events, but overall, we tried our best to create more opportunities for members to socialize virtually.
Last thing, what has been your favorite part of the client experience?
Christy: Apart from meeting Connie and other caring peeps (:p), probably engaging in conversations with our POC and taking in his inspiring enthusiasm and unfettered opinions about the cool tech we were using!
Connie: Definitely meeting Christy :) and a lot of really cool passionate people who I really fit in with, and overall becoming a part of a really great community to learn and grow together and have lots of fun!
Kelvin: I feel like this sounds unoriginal at this point, but it’s definitely the friends I made. I think I’ve made some lifelong friends in the teams that I’ve been a part of, and it’s 100% the highlight of not only my client project experience but my college experience as a whole as well.
Richard: I’d have to agree — meeting new people and working with a close group of friends is definitely my fondest memory of the client experience. Apart from that, I think the flexibility to learn a completely new set of technologies and build a complete industry project every semester is a unique opportunity that I really enjoyed.