Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I landed my first front end job.
Why are you posting this?
I had worked in software product management for 3 years. I got laid off in March. I took the time in-between jobs to explore my interest in web development. On August 28, 2017 I accepted a “front end” job.
I wrote this because you might take away something that will help you in your search for work, or your work through the FCC curriculum.
Wait – why the quotes around “front end” ?
‘Front end developer’ is not officially in my title, but I’m going to be using all the skills I learned to get the Front End certification in my new role.
What’s your story?
I’ve wanted to explore a career in web development ever since MOOCs started getting popular in 2010. I remember emailing many people about my excitement with the CS courses offered through edX, Udacity and codecademy. At the time, I worked in proJECT management and didn’t feel good about my career trajectory. When FCC came along, I started working on the coding challenges and projects.
“Life” kept getting in the way of completing the front end cert.
I hit an ‘insurmountable’ wall when it came to the weather app. I felt so discouraged that I put FCC down for more than a year. I even had the gall to complain to Qunicy that FCC doesn’t prepare you to take on those challenges.
IMO, it still doesn’t AND it shouldn’t.
As a product manager, I watched my team of developers take on ‘spikes,’ time-boxed efforts to answer technology questions in order to provide an estimate of work on a user story. I saw my team uncover answers to questions they didn’t know they needed to answer. So, in my opinion, FCC does its students a service by not handholding us through projects, because developers are always researching and learning about technologies they don’t know they need to know.
All this is to say, stick with it to the end, fellow FCC students. It may get tough working through some of the projects, and you’ll still gain experience all the same.
Encouraged by the many examples of students who were able to land a developer job after the front end certification, I picked up where I left off, took to heart the idea of “Read-Search-Ask” to everything, learned git and github through Lynda, completed the Codecademy freelance ready course (which introduced a heavy dose of HTML and CSS) and completed all the projects needed for the Front- End certification.
I went on to complete one react project, and one back end project. Then I started to apply to positions.
What did your job search look like?
I applied to jobs on job boards. I specifically looked for front-end roles. Many entry level roles required knowledge of React. So, I finished at least one project to show that I had SOME experience working with the library.
I networked where I could in my personal life. I reached back to past colleagues and asked if they knew of opportunities.
At a meet and greet at an event, we went around and introduced ourselves. I let the group know that I worked as a software product manager and was looking for work. As the crowd thinned out for the evening, I struck up a conversation with someone who turned out to work as a Senior Engineer at a startup. We made more small talk and we found out that we had common friends.
A few weeks later, he let me know his company had an open role and encourage me to apply.
That role would have required I have deep knowledge of Web Accessibility. I would have had to implement a small project using AngularJS and SASS, then publish the repo into their Git account. I had a phone interview with the Director, and it was good enough to get me the prompt for the ‘interview project,’ but they ended up extending a job offer to someone further down the hiring pipeline.
Both the Director of Engineering and the fellow I met at the meet and greet let me know that I would be top on their list if another role opened up.
I continued to apply to jobs. I started using the advanced search on job boards to narrow the list of jobs that I thought I could qualify for. My search criteria looked something like: (“JR” OR “JUNIOR” OR “ENTRY LEVEL”) AND (“FRONT END” OR “UI DEVELOPER”) AND NOT (“SR” OR “SENIOR” OR “DESIGNER”). I found a coding related role out of a digital team that ONLY required HTML/CSS/JS/JQuery. I applied, two days later an HR representative called me to schedule a phone interview with the role’s hiring manager.
I got on the phone with the hiring manager. I walked through my resume. I spoke at length about the Wikipedia previewer, as that was the project that used all four required technologies for the role.
I went in for an in-person interview. I met with the team, and everyone was great! They asked me to recreate a page from a photoshop mock. I did it twice: once with custom CSS and again using some Bootstrap 3 for positioning and some components. The role requires I know Bootstrap.
I got the offer on Friday. I accepted on the 28th.
What was your timeline in searching for work?
I applied to around 20 developer jobs, and heard back from the two. I only actively started looking for developer related work for two months.
Tell me more about the interview process.
For both jobs where I interviewed, I was upfront about my development experiences: that I’ve had a 7 or 8 year interest in tinkering around in code., that I’d taken courses for several months, built from scratch 12 to 15 projects that had me use HTML, CSS, Bootstrap, JS, jQuery, node, React, mobile responsive styling, git and gitHub.
For the first role, the Director asked me about my experience with accessibility and SASS. I knew the basics of accessibility from a Lynda course. I had reviewed the SASS docs. I was prepared to pour over both topics to implement the project had I gone through to the next round in the interview process.
For the job that offered me the role, the hiring manager asked me about my experiences in development. I focused on the Wikipedia previewer as this project used HTML, CSS, JS and jQuery: some of the technologies required of the role. He also asked if I’ve designed emails. I knew of the basics of styling HTML emails. A member of my local FCC community asked a question about styling html emails that he posted on our facebook group. In helping him find an answer, I learned about how to code emails.
The in-person interview had me speak to other members of the team. They each had questions of me about how I worked in teams, how I’ve worked to meet team goals and business metrics. I drew heavily upon my experiences in Product Management to answer most of those questions.
What will you be doing?
I’ll be working as part of a small digital team alongside content creators and designers. From what I know, the team has more of a marketing function. But in that effort, I’ll have responsibility over development and maintenance of the organization’s website, the app, and coding the emails for their email campaigns. I may have an opportunity to explore some data visualization given that the parent company makes available feeds of information and stats that might prove interesting for our users to consume.
My biggest take aways
- It pays to play nice with others. Former engineering colleagues and recruiters with whom I kept in contact gave me feedback in my job search. I got my foot in the door with that first company on a part of small talk with a senior developer.
- Get comfortable with “read search ask”. I know I’ll run into obstacles that I’m not prepared for, at work or on other FCC projects. And I’m going to have to find an answer. It’s just part of the job.
- I brought other skills to the interview. I knew that I was going to have to prove myself with any technical challenge in an interview process. Even then, my product skills were seen as very attractive to both places that I interviewed.
You, too, might be able to transfer skills for a pivot into development. Teamwork, Agile / scrum, planning, design, clear communication, etc. all play a role in working as a developer.
- I’m even more excited to complete the other two FCC certifications. I’m following P1xt’s advice on getting job ready to shore up knowledge on topics I don’t know about in working as a developer. (Please, do yourself a favor and read through YDKJS if you envision working with JS). And I plan to finish the Data Viz and Backend certifications before the end of the year.
Thanks @QuincyLarson , Michael and all others on Team FCC for helping me with my transition to work as a developer!