This forum for the last year has been a source of inspiration, and show’d me that with hard-work, dedication, and a little bit of luck, anything is possible. I thought a long time about what I would say if this day ever came. I will try to make this as brief as possible, but I cant promise anything.
This past week, I found out that I was the successful candidate for a front end developer role at a marketing agency that serves millions of customers where I live. I am over-whelmed, and frankly a little terrified to even start my job, but I am also DAMN excited. This is my story.
I have spent the majority of my life post university working in various sales and retail roles. I graduated with a BA in Political Science. I worked at banks as a teller, I sold insurance for a bit, and for the last 3 years worked as a travel agent. I think the only line of code I ever wrote was in MS Dos when a buddy of mine like 8 years ago showed me how to open a program using the command line. But I was basically always doing sales jobs. I was always good at talking with people, but sales became more and more soul sucking for me. I wanted to acquire a real skill set, not only one which was in demand, but something that I enjoyed.
My brother and I were on vacation last year, and started discussing the idea of getting into web development. I always assumed you needed a computer science background to get into software / web development. When I saw that was in fact not true, I started to teach myself the basics of front end web development, through FCC as well as many other resources including youtube and Udemy. There is a wealth of great resources out there at your disposal, and it can be a little over whelming to choose. I made sure I read reviews on the courses I was taking, because I really wanted to hear about what other people had to say about the courses, projects, instructors, etc.
Bootcamp – This does NOT have a happy ending
First off, if anyone asked me about my recommendation of a bootcamp, I to this day 100% recommend it. They provide a great experience for you to dive into code every single day and really grind. Support systems are great, mentors are very knowledgeable, and for most people, it really helps kick start your career as a junior dev. In saying that, everything you can learn there, you can learn for free online, just have to be disciplined. I had a great cohort, and I still speak with a lot of my classmates daily. I showed up early everyday, and was usually one of the last to leave around 10-11 at night. They were long days. And I will admit, I didn’t get everything the first time, or the second……or the fifth, but I tried damn hard, and the instructors knew that I was trying my best. So, what happened?
I had to leave due to reasons that were beyond my control, but I was pretty crushed, considering I was at the halfway point. It was pretty hard to leave, thinking that this was my chance to get a junior developer role, and at that point, I thought the dream was over and that I wouldn’t be able to expand my portfolio on my own. I also lost out on being able to work with the career services department, so job hunt wise, I was on my own. I got on the bus home, had 3 big macs (seriously), picked myself up and dusted myself off, and went right back to my laptop and started coding, and kept on pushing. At this point I had some projects under my portfolio, and since have added 3 more. I was hoping employers would at least look at me, so I figured I would start sending out some resumes. I kept working on my front end skills ,and started to expand my horizons to Express, Node, React and some database work. I also had to go back to my old job (which I was not happy about).But, I wasn’t about to quit.
Everyday after work, I came home and went right to the laptop, even if it was only for 1-2 hours, and I would get busy. I would go over work from the day before or start a new tutorial, I would read forums to keep myself motivated, watch youtube videos on some new concepts, whatever I could do to make sure I was engaging in some form or another. Im sure there are lots of you out there who work full-time like I did, and we know it isn’t easy to work all week and still put in time to code when your tired. I don’t have any kids and am not married, so I didn’t have other distractions outside of work.
The Job Hunt
I didn’t discard any opportunity. I applied to places on Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, anywhere I could find an opening basically. If i saw a posting on a job board, I would usually apply directly on the company website if it was listed there. I got an interview to the very first job I applied for, and sadly was the runner up candidate. But it gave me a lot of hope that I was not a lost cause, and that this was still a very attainable goal. Over the next few months, I had about 5-6 phone interviews, 4 more in person interviews, and a lot of standard rejections from applications with the usual “We are proceeding with other candidates”. I can’t say how many applications I put in, but I think it was close too, if not more then 100 companies. None of those interviews turned into anything, as most of the time they wanted someone with a little more experience. I always asked for feedback though, and while not getting the jobs, most interviews were a great learning experience. I got to do some whiteboarding, and saw what developer interviews were like. I also tried not to emotionally attach myself to any interview I did get, because I didn’t want to get down on myself if I didn’t get it. I was already 0 / 4. And after each rejection I said, “maybe this isn’t going to happen for me”
If I applied for a job, I would usually find the company on linkedin, and send the CTO a message, just letting them know that I had applied and would love to discuss the opportunity with them further. I had a few friends who were developers who I reached out too who also connected me with their CTO’s and hiring managers. I basically was doing whatever I could to get my name out there so people knew I was looking, and ready to be seriously challenged. Then I said to myself, why am I only applying to places that have postings. I then started to emailing companies that weren’t even hiring, and basically told them who I was, and what I was looking for. From this, I got 1 interview (out of about 35-40 emails), and that company ended up ghosting me (5 weeks and counting and still haven’t heard lol). And of course, my family went to bat for me. My sister’s friend who works at a great company said they were hiring a junior dev, and he told my sister to get my resume from me. He loved the resume, and said it was better then lots that he saw. I was excited……until he broke the news to my sister that they decided they are going to hire someone a little bit more intermediate. Never the less, I thanked him for his time, and look at it as a good connection.
Last week, I got an email from a company I applied to over a month ago, and the head of HR reached out. We had a good phone conversation, which turned into an in-person interview a few days later. The interview was very casual and comfortable. I met with one of the head developers and a senior developer for the company. We went over my resume and discussed my experiences, and the tech challenge was more verbal. Also talked about my past experiences in retail and why I chose to switch careers. I received a phone call the following day from the head of HR, offering me the position of Front End Developer. I was so over-whelmed; I literally couldn’t even get words out to express my excitement or even say thank you. While the job process was tiring, and stressful, I made sure to tailor EVERY SINGLE cover letter to the position I applied for. I wanted people to know that I cared, and didn’t want to send a cookie cutter cover letter.
Things I learned along the way
Friends, please learn git and github, or some type of other version control system. It was asked for on at least 80% of my applications, and the position I ended up getting didn’t even look at people without a github account. I also decided that if there was even a SLIGHT chance for me to get an interview, I was going to apply. I know that there are many job postings out there that want 2-3 years experience. I get that, and of the interviews I had, 50% of them were prob asking for 2+ years experience. Don’t be afraid to apply for something, the worse thing that happens is you don’t hear, or they email you back saying try again next time!
I went to one tech meet up in my area. I just wanted to shake some hands and meet other people in my city who I could chat with and bounce ideas off of. I didn’t go there showing I was looking for a job, I think that would have come off wrong. I went letting them know who I was, what I had done, and where I want my future to go, then we had some wings and I went home. I think networking is an invaluable tool, I have reconnected with a lot of old friends who are now in the Tech sector as developers, hiring managers, and other capacities, who now know my goals. This could be very beneficial for future opportunities.
Make sure you have a resume that looks decent. Put any previous work experience you have, development or other. I had all my sales jobs on there and made sure to list all the skills that I acquired from those jobs. Things like team work, taking initiative, those are important in any job capacity. I also tried to relate those roles to developer jobs in any way I could. For example I discussed how I used a cloud computing software in one of my roles. Make sure everything is formatted well, there are no spelling errors, etc. I also listed each project I had, as well as what tech stack was used for each one. I had a separate skills sections which showed which language and frameworks I had worked with before. If you need help formatting your resume, creddle.io has some great options.
LinkedIn: Make sure you have a professional online presence, people want to know where you are coming from and a little bit about you. Put your resume and links to your github and demos on there as well. Make sure you have a professional photo, and include information from your last jobs. In regards to reaching out to people over linkedin; while this didn’t result in me getting hired, I now have connected with some very knowledgeable CTO’s and developers who told me that once I get some experience to stay in touch. Whether that is true or not, only time will tell, but I think that shaking hands and meeting people could be the best way to secure future positions. Don’t be afraid to get out there!
Lastly, just put in the time. To go from no background to getting a developer job, and a couple of emotional rollercoasters a long the way, it isn’t easy. BUT, if you put in the time, dedication, commitment, and fight your way through the tough times, I promise you, that you will be successful. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough, and don’t let anyone EVER, stop you from achieving what you want to achieve. It is a tough road guys, I know that better then anyone. After what happened to me, I thought I would never get a developer job. And yet here I am, writing this post, and down right terrified to start my first day. But if I can do it, someone who about a year ago, never touched code before in his life, then you can do it as well. I believe in you, and you should believe in you!
A huge thank you to @QuincyLarson and everyone on here who ever answered questions I had regarding anything. This community is something special, and I will continue to be an active member on here for years to come. Keep enjoying the ride everyone, because it’s a damn good feeling when you make a dream turn into a reality.
Sorry for how lengthy this was. I am happy to answer any questions that anyone has.