Working at Big Nerd Ranch: Finding Your People
Editor’s note: This blog post first appeared in a longer form on Andrew’s personal blog.
The phrase “dream job” is thrown around quite a bit, and can mean vastly different things to different people. For a journalist, the dream job may be working for a national newspaper. For a film student, getting to work with Scorsese. For a web designer, the dream job might be working for any number of shops, or…Big Nerd Ranch.
I’ll be honest, when Big Nerd Ranch first showed up on my radar, I wasn’t exactly sure what they did. I knew they did a lot of developer training, specifically for iOS and Android. But beyond that, it was a bit of a mystery. Once I started poking around, I realized how much they were really into, including a variety of weeklong developer bootcamps, customized on-site corporate training, and app development that includes consulting and products like eClicker and Roominant. It also didn’t hurt that the founder was formerly a developer at NeXT and a developer and trainer at Apple.
But it was this video that sealed the deal for me. I instantly knew this was where I wanted to be:
I watched it with my wife, and when it was over she turned to me and said, “These are your people.” I immediately applied for a front-end developer position that was open.
My first week
My first day at Big Nerd Ranch was like the first day of school. I was pretty nervous. This was a group of people I’d hoped were just like me, and I was not disappointed. My day started with a quick tour of the offices and some brief training on the somewhat intimidating coffee apparatus. I then was given my goodie bag, which included a wireless Apple keyboard and mouse, a Big Nerd Ranch t-shirt and a book. I got charged with writing blog posts (achievement unlocked!), and I also got a brand new Macbook Pro to work on, which I’m free to customize and make my own. Oh, did I mention the entire place is Mac-based? What a relief not to have to deal with random PC’s, file format differences, etc.
On day two, I attended my first company meeting, referred to as a “fireside chat,” in which we learned about all kinds of cool things going on internally. And as if my first week wasn’t already getting off to a great start, we were also treated to one of Big Nerd Ranch’s regular “bacon bonanza” breakfasts. Mmmm, bacon. And later that night, I got to sit in on my first company game night, where folks will get together to play board and card games. I finally got to learn and play Munchkin and we had a marathon four-hour game!
To cap off the week, I got to sit in on a client meeting for what may quite possibly be the most challenging and fun project I’ve worked on. Ever.
So yeah, it was a good week.
Brilliant, Hardworking and Kind
I think what’s impressed me the most, though, is that every single person you encounter at the Ranch will stop and introduce themselves and ask what you’re working on. Nobody is afraid to ask for help, nor to stop what they’re doing to help a fellow Nerd work through a problem. Everyone truly loves what they do and cares about doing it right. While it’s important that you be a great developer, it’s even more important that you be a great culture fit. There are three characteristics of being a Nerd: brilliant, hardworking and kind. And that’s evident with everyone you’ll meet there.
I’ve worked places where some developers just seem to put in their time and clock out. Not here. We’re all passionate about what we’re doing and I think it shows in everything that comes out of Big Nerd Ranch. I’m excited and incredibly honored to be a part of it. Here’s to many, many more great weeks ahead.