Innovative Startup Seeks Steampunk Sculptor For Senior Software Engineering Role

Qualifications, credentials, and experience are important considerations when assessing candidate suitability for a key role, but they’re only part of the equation. Successful hiring in today’s fast-moving economy also means unearthing lifelong learners with the ability to easily and quickly adapt to changing situations and demands. Recruiters and hiring managers must deploy finely-tuned radars to identify candidates who evidence growth mindsets and grit, as opposed to just matching skills to a job description.

So where do they find these candidates? Who are they, where do they come from, and most important of all, how do you become one?

Candidates who fit these bills come from all directions. Certainly some are computer science majors, engineers, and mathematicians. Some have data backgrounds, coding skills, and apps in the app stores to their credit. Some come from Harvard, Stanford, MIT. But guess what? Some are art majors, musicians, and writers. Some have social media and content marketing experience. Some came out of bootcamps and online degree programs. Some are employed in healthcare, or finance, or HR. Some stopped their educations after high school, and learned to code on their own. Some come from retail, hospitality, or the restaurant industry. Some are veterans. Some are poets. Some are stay-at-home parents ready to re-enter the workforce.

The point is, from all these places and more come technologically adept, creative, innovative individuals who bring flair, imagination, commitment, and self-motivation to the table.

Today, we are seeing more and more organizations realizing that these kinds of “alternative backgrounds” can signal real potential. Are they going to run right out and hire a group of ballet dancers, DJs, language poets, and steampunk sculptors to build their new IT departments? Probably not. But with competition for talent being so fierce, and the pace of innovation moving so fast, companies can little afford to miss a diamond-in-the-rough, so if you’re someone with a non-traditional background, that should spell opportunity.

The challenge is, how do you message your value in meaningful ways? How do you demonstrate that your non-traditional background is in fact an asset?

You can of course promote your transferable skills, but you might also consider highlighting how diverse teams actually deliver better performances. Studies have shown that teams comprised of individuals with different backgrounds often perform much better than comparatively mono-dimensional groups. A recent McKinsey study found that diverse teams can actually stimulate innovation and lead to financial gain for a company. Companies who have embraced many forms of diversity are 30% more likely to see profits above industry standards. Deloitte echoes these findings in a research report entitled ‘Waiter, Is that Inclusion in My Soup?’. This study found that businesses with high levels of inclusion saw an 80% improvement in business performance.

As Dr. Stephen R Covey stated in his wildly influential book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” This is a truth modern hiring practices are still catching up to, but the pace is quickening.

Diversity is in fact rarely far from the headlines these days, but it’s important to note that in this instance, we’re talking less about “traditional” measures of diversity (gender, race, age, etc.), and more specifically about educational backgrounds. How people learn, where they learn, what they learn. The reality is that the lack of a traditional university degree on a resume is still grounds for getting tossed onto the “No” pile at too many companies. Fortunately, that’s changing. Smart, innovative organizations are quickly learning there are better and more effective ways to assess candidate suitability.

Ultimately, it’s not about diversity or a lack of diversity, it’s simply about being open to the truth of where the best candidates are going to come from, and how the best teams get built.

At Udacity, our goal is to provide the best learning experience possible, for as many people as possible, no matter what their backgrounds are. In turn, we aim to send graduates out into the world armed with self-confidence, and with the projects, portfolios, and experiences to back that confidence up. Our hiring partners know this, and they know what our graduates bring to the table. These are mutually beneficial relationships, because our graduates earn exclusive opportunities to demonstrate their value to amazing companies, and our hiring partners get first look at some of the most extraordinary candidates out there.

So if you’re a recruiter or a hiring manager, don’t be so quick to throw that steampunk sculptor on the “No” pile. Check to see if they’ve got a Nanodegree credential first! And if you’re a Udacity student going into an interview, be prepared to demonstrate real value by showcasing your skills, your experience, and your grit. And maybe your poetry as well!

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This post was written by Christopher Watkins, Senior Writer and Chief Words Officer, Udacity. It is adapted from a post originally published on the Udacity Business Blog.

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