Navigating the First Job as a College Graduate: Zachary Shatto’s Journey at RELI

Navigating the First Job as a College Graduate: Zachary Shatto’s Journey at RELI

Starting your first job after college can be a daunting experience, filled with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. For Zachary Shatto, the journey from George Mason University to becoming a Junior Developer for the National Plan & Provider Enumeration System (NPPES) contract at RELI Group has been quite a ride. In this blog post, we delve into Zachary’s experiences, challenges and insights moving from college life to the professional world.


Zachary’s Academic Journey

Zachary embarked on his college journey with the intention of studying Computer Science. However, as he delved deeper into the curriculum, he realized it wasn’t the perfect fit for him. So, he made the decision to switch to Information Technology, which offered a broader range of subjects, including coding, web development, networking and security – a field that had piqued his interest significantly.

His education at George Mason University stretched over 4 1/2 years, including semesters affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout his time there, Zachary concentrated on security-related subjects, building a strong foundation in this area.


Transitioning into the Workplace

Transitioning from college life to the professional world was not without its share of challenges for Zachary. After graduating in December 2022, he found himself in a job search slump, sending out countless applications without much success. However, things turned around when he was referred by an acquaintance to a position at RELI, and he was able to secure an interview.

Zachary was hired as a Junior Developer for the NPPES contract. His day-to-day responsibilities primarily revolve around planning work for upcoming sprints, with each sprint involving specific tasks or bugs that need to be addressed. He works closely with senior developers and quality assurance testers to understand the issues, how they occurred, how to recreate them, and where to locate them in the code. The debugging process is an integral part of his role, and they follow the Agile methodology, which includes daily stand-ups to review previous progress and plan for the day ahead.


How Zachary’s Education Prepared Him

Zachary’s college education played a significant role in equipping him with the knowledge and skills required for his job. While coding classes provided the technical skills, the business-oriented courses were equally instrumental in preparing him for the professional world. These courses introduced him to concepts like Agile, sprints and stand-ups, which he uses regularly in his current role.

One of the highlights of his academic journey was a senior project for an olive oil company, where he built a system to query data. This project not only allowed him to apply his technical abilities but also taught him valuable problem-solving and project management skills.


Surprises and Lessons Learned

One of the most pleasant surprises in Zachary’s new job is how easy it is to interact and communicate with everyone – even in a remote work environment. There’s no barrier to asking questions, and his colleagues are supportive and helpful. This sense of collaboration and teamwork has been a crucial aspect of his transition into the professional world.

Reflecting on his journey, one key lesson stands out: it’s better to ask for help than to struggle in isolation. While independent learning is essential, some challenges can only be overcome with the guidance and insights of experienced colleagues. Shifting from a classroom setting to a team dynamic was a significant mindset change for him, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and communication.


Advice for Students

Zachary encourages students who are just beginning their college journey to value their connections, especially with adjunct professors. Their real-world experience can provide invaluable insights into the industry, which can be a tremendous asset as students move forward in their careers.

For seniors, his advice is to broaden their skill sets as much as possible. Seek out valuable certifications in the field while they’re still in college, as this can set them apart from other job applicants. Additionally, he recommends attending career fairs and conducting research beforehand to make a strong impression on potential employers.

The transition from college to the professional world can be stressful and challenging, but the sense of accomplishment and the opportunities that await are undeniably worth the journey. Embrace the learning experiences, ask for help when needed, and stay open to new opportunities – your future is full of potential.

RELI Group is proud of the role we play in many young professionals’ careers, whether through our robust internship program or a first job out of college. If you’re ready to join Team RELI, check out our current openings here!