As companies embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) more wholeheartedly, aspects of their business practices and culture evolve to meet changing needs. Markforged is evidence of that.
Before Nuala O’Donovan joined the company, the 3D printing manufacturer had never hired a software engineer straight out of bootcamp before. But O’Donovan, a star hire, has made an impression, opening them up to taking bootcamps more seriously in the long run.
Add that to the fact that in 2021, Markforged made 50 percent more hires of women and people of color than the year before, and even from the outside looking in, you can see the company’s DEI journey is on an upward trajectory.
We spoke to O’Donovan about her career change and why she joined Markforged. Here’s what her first year at the company—and as a software engineer—has been like, and why you should take a second look at Markforged, too.
Software Engineer at Markforged for one year
Top three must-haves at work:
Sense of Belonging
You joined Markforged after completing The Grace Hopper Program, which is a coding bootcamp. Talk about your career before software engineering. What were you doing and what made you decide to complete a bootcamp?
Before the Grace Hopper program, I actually worked as a communications associate for a theater company in NYC. My responsibilities included e-mail marketing, social media, and some theater producing and programming.
I had taken my first computer science course at McGill, where I did my undergrad, in my senior year. I enjoyed it so much I considered staying an extra year to add a minor, but was eager to graduate on time. I ended up pretty bored and unmotivated in my jobs after that—nothing ever felt quite right, and I knew I had maybe done the wrong thing by not pursuing an engineering or computer science degree. Bootcamps were becoming popular around the time I graduated college in 2015, but they were expensive and I had a lot of self-doubt about changing careers after graduating. I considered applying to a couple of different well-respected bootcamps in NYC, but was intimidated by the high price tag and, still, hindered by self-doubt!
It wasn’t until COVID hit that I knew I had an opportunity to change my future coming out of the pandemic. I didn’t want to come out of the other side of the pandemic without a career trajectory and feeling bored in my job. I studied non-stop for a couple of weeks, brushed up on my programming fundamentals, applied to Grace Hopper in the fall of 2020, and started the program that December. I chose Grace Hopper because of its great reputation and because of its deferred tuition program. Tuition is only paid in installments, with no interest, after you secure a full-time software engineering job within one year of completing the program. I paid off my last installment two months ago!
Markforged has exceptional scores for Ability to Telecommute, Flexible Work Hours, and The People You Work With, but what’s got us doing a double take are the goals they’ve shared for WAM+, their women’s affiliate group: “to provide a safe space for open discussion, lobby for diversity in hiring and promotions, and create an inclusive and collaborative work environment.” Notable results already? WAM+ added a note to all job descriptions to encourage people with nontraditional career paths to apply. Click the link below to browse those open positions for yourself!
The first tech job post-bootcamp or career change can be hard to pick and even an intimidating next step for some. What made Markforged seem like a good fit, and how has the company lived up to your expectations?
The job-hunting process after bootcamp is definitely intimidating. I felt like I had a chip on my shoulder going into most interviews not coming from a traditional background. My initial impression of Markforged was that I maybe wouldn’t fit in because I didn’t go to Harvard or MIT (quickly debunked). My interview process at Markforged was really thorough, and I felt that the time invested in me at that point was a good sign. I knew that I wanted to start at a smaller company where my learning growth would be accelerated and I’d have plenty of opportunities to make a real impact. Markforged has definitely lived up to my expectations in that regard. I have felt like a valued member of the software team from day one—I was nervous about feeling like extra weight given my lack of experience. But I tried to come into Markforged with an eagerness to learn and the confidence to hit a good balance of asking tons of questions and figuring things out as I go along. For new software engineers, knowing how to code is obviously important, but even more important is coming to work with a can-do attitude and a love of problem solving!
It was also really important to me to choose a job in which I would be appropriately challenged—being bored in a job was a horrible experience. And I can for sure say I have never been bored a day at Markforged!
In what ways has Markforged’s culture, team, benefits, etc. surprised you? Provide a specific example if possible.
I am a fully remote employee based out of New York, but I traveled to the Watertown, Massachusetts, office for my first onboarding week. It happened to coincide with the same week MKFG went public, so there was a really great energy in the office. Since then, I’ve actually made a point to come back a couple of times because I enjoy the office culture so much! A lot of people do work remotely, but it’s a really friendly environment and a really cool engineering culture that’s fun to feel like a part of. I was surprised by how closely the different engineering departments work together and feel like one big team. I knew nothing about 3D printing before I joined, and there’s a really accessible and fun culture around it here. Someone’s always printing something innovative.
I was initially unsure about the unlimited PTO policy—I had heard that at some companies, this is basically the equivalent of a *no* PTO policy. I quickly learned that wasn’t quite the case. I really enjoyed the company-wide vacation in August (and looking forward to another one this year) and have felt encouraged by my managers and teammates to take time off when I need it.
Beyond software engineering, are you involved in other groups or programs within the company? And if so, how have they positively impacted your experience here?
This week, I’m starting as a mentor for one of our software engineering interns for the summer. I was really excited to have this opportunity—I know I’m going to be learning a lot alongside her.
Lastly, why should women, women in tech specifically, apply to Markforged?
Markforged is a company where you are going to be treated as an important member of the team, delivering value, starting from day one. That comes with a hefty responsibility, but it’s an amazing opportunity if you’re willing to put in the work! If you want to be challenged alongside really intelligent, ambitious people on a welcoming team, MF is a great place to be.