When the long road leads to the dream job - Technical.ly Philly

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May 30, 2019 7:19 am

When the long road leads to the dream job

How Montana Goodman found purpose and mentorship at custom software development consultancy PromptWorks.

Montana Goodman in PromptWorks' Center City office.

(Photo by Sam Markowitz)

On the journey to figuring out what to do with her life, software engineer Montana Goodman had to make a few pit stops.

It began immediately after graduation. Clutching a diploma for her degree in mathematics, the Illinois native found herself wondering, “Now what?”

Rather than sit around and wait for an answer, Goodman went out and chased one. First stop was “the math capital of the world” — Princeton, New Jersey. Goodman worked for a chain of movie theaters while she interned her way through multiple tech companies that left her feeling less sure of her future than ever.

“I had these internships, but never any guidance or a mentor,” she said. “I was asked to do stuff I couldn’t do and felt like I couldn’t ask questions. I figured the industry just wasn’t for me.”

After working a slew of part time jobs, Goodman hopped on her motorcycle and set off on a cross country ride to California. Frozen by the time she hit Illinois, she pumped the brakes on her trip and stayed for a while. Later she moved to Texas and back. Twice.

Sick of moving and ready to put her degree to work, she made her way to Philadelphia, a city she’d fallen in love with during her time in Princeton.

“Friends let me live with them for a while rent-free,” she said. “I spent my days going to meetups, taking classes, asking people to grab a coffee, exploring. People are more willing to help you than you think. ”

Fatefully, the very first meetup she attended in Philly was hosted at PromptWorks, a custom software development consultancy in Center City.

“The event was held in the dining room and I could see everyone working through this giant window,” she said. “I wondered, ‘What’s that like?’”

Working at PromptWorks became the dream, but she still didn’t feel like she had enough experience to apply — until she came across a blog post written by a former PromptWorks apprentice. Reading about the breadth of resources and mentorship offered at the company sealed the deal.

Just over a year into her dream job, Goodman sat down with us share a little bit more about her experience as a software engineer at PromptWorks.

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Tell us about a typical day in your life.

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I usually get in around 9 a.m. I pick up what I worked on the day before or if I finished, I start on something new.

Generally, I’ll spend my time pairing with another person, looking at each other’s screens, helping figure out any problems. Through this I’ve learned you can often figure out your problem by talking it out with someone else.

Everyday we have standup at 11:50 a.m. — it’s meant to be 10 minutes right before lunch, but currently I’m working on the biggest project we have, with the biggest team. I’ve been on it since October, which is an unusually long timeframe for us, but the client is very involved in the work. In fact, they actually dial into our standup every day for this project.

So there’s really no “typical” day. It varies, which I like.

PromptWorks has grown quite a bit in the year you’ve worked here. How has that been?

There’s been a big change. The company was founded by engineers, so it’s always been engineering-heavy. But just in this last year they’ve created new departments. We just hired our first QA lead in February.

The change is great in a lot of ways. In terms of culture, there are more coworkers for activities that we have every Friday at 4:30 p.m. — demo days, game days, happy hours, etc.

Of course there are growing pains as we figure things out, but I have a lot of faith in management. They encourage us to contribute ideas. And every Thursday they share company news: announcing sales, new hires, client updates.

If we have new documentation on a process, there’s always an opportunity for us to raise our hands and express ideas or concerns. For me, it’s nice to see others voicing their opinions. I wouldn’t have done that before, but here I feel comfortable.

Talk to us about the mentorship and learning opportunities available to you.

When you first start there’s an advisement program for one hour every two weeks. You are matched with someone who isn’t your manager so that you can ask questions or work on a project together. For me that was super useful because I’d always felt like I didn’t know enough about the tech industry. This gave me the chance to ask questions that I didn’t feel like could ask publicly in standup.

There was a bit of a learning curve because I’d never done pair programming before. Suddenly I was pairing with a tech lead every day. It was scary at first. There’s no pretense — they know where I’m at and I know where they’re at. I couldn’t pretend to know something that I didn’t. It’s great though. It doesn’t allow for ego to get in the way. And I feel like I can ask questions.

I like that this place challenges me, but in a way I’m comfortable with. It’s a lot like math. There’s a right answer, but the way you find it is purely creative. And I like working with people and talking out problems and finding solutions together as a team.

What is the internal culture like?

I feel like it’s familial. It’s like I’m working with siblings. We’re there for each other and have each others’ backs. We want to support each other in making quality projects.

There’s a lot of integrity and I’ve built great friendships. The people here take you at face value.

I feel safe being myself. We did a show and tell one Friday and I’d been taking figure drawing classes, so I did a live portrait drawing. It took way longer than it was supposed to and was really fun. Afterwards I thought, “Wow, I was actually able to be vulnerable up there and didn’t think twice.” That used to be so unusual for me in groups at work.

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