Making your own way: Working as a Remote Developer

Making your own way: Working as a Remote Developer
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#1

Hello all, Quincy asked me if I would share my experience getting a remote job. I wrote something before but it was turning out to be a novel. So to spare you all an even longer read, I am going to summarize things a little more. You can feel free to ask me any follow up questions if you have some.

End of 2016 I found freeCodeCamp. I had never done any coding before this. I was a stay at home mom with 3 little ones. I was looking for a way to work from home without going into debt by going back to school. I became stuck on the JavaScript portion of freeCodeCamp almost instantly.

At the beginning of 2017 I decided to join the #100daysofCode challenge. I went back and focused on CSS. I joined the #dailyCSSImages challenge at the same time and started diving into CSS.

By the end of the 100 days of code, a mentor I had told me I should start applying for jobs. I didn’t think I was ready since I had little JavaScript knowledge. I applied to a few places anyway to at least get experience in interviewing.

As a stay at home mom my resume was not impressive. I almost didn’t apply for the job I found when I saw they wanted a resume and a portfolio. Instead of giving up I decided to do something different. I redid the company’s website as my resume. This helped me stand out from the applicant pool. It also helped me become familiar with the company, their brand, and their code.

About a month later they asked to interview me. It happened to be a remote position. I was honest during the interview. I explained the little experience I had and told them my strengths. They decided to give me a chance.

Disclaimer: after I started I realized I was in over my head. The company specialized in Drupal sites for their clients. They also worked with several other CMS. This was not a junior position so I only had a week for onboarding. I had never worked with a CMS before besides some work on my WordPress blog. I had no clue what SSHing into a server was. I hadn’t even completed a full website before I got this job. Instead of panicking, I sucked up my pride and started asking questions. A lot of questions. If something confused me I asked for clarification. I learned if I was stuck for more than 20 mintues on something I should ask for help. Lucky for me my team was onboard with my relentless questions. They even set up a specific Slack channel for me to ask them.

If you take anything from my ramblings here please take this. Ask questions when you are stuck. This is the quickest way to level up as a developer. I even asked a bunch of senior developers about this and wrote a little blog post on it if you don’t believe me :slight_smile:

I spent a year at this position and then began looking for other opportunities. I had continued to learn new coding concepts through creative coding while I was working. I started to “specialize” and market myself as a creative coder. I even created an online course for SkillShare. It’s called Learn Code by Creating Art: Developing CSS Skills in CodePen.

Wes Bos and Scott Tolinski have a good podcast episode on Syntax called Specialization vs Generalization.

Specializing is something my mentor advised early on. I am still learning JavaScript. For me, it hasn’t clicked yet. Despite that I am currently a “JavaScript developer” for a new company.

I specialized in SVG animations and working with the GreenSock framework. Making fun animations is now my job and I make almost 3 times what I was making at my first job.

Things I did that helped me get a remote job:

  1. I worked on a lot of side projects (these were actually small CodePen Pens). I was enthusiastic about them. I shared my progress with other communities like the CodeNewbie community and #100daysofcode. This was useful because I had a lot to talk about during my interview with the company that gave me my first job.

  2. I joined the Chingu group to get experience working with a remote team before I applied to a remote position.
    https://medium.com/@tropicalchancer/welcome-to-chingu-172ff56c8573

  3. I applied to jobs even before I knew JavaScript. This was a big one for me. I thought I wouldn’t be a front-end developer without knowing JavaScript first. My mentor told me I could learn on the job if I could convinced someone to hire me in spite of my lack of knowledge. I had a 5 year plan to get a dev job. Because he pushed me to apply sooner I got a job after 9 months of learning code. I have always made it clear what I do and do not know in interviews. I tell them I am willing to learn whatever the company needs.

  4. Community. I joined a lot of communities for support and guidance.
    FreeCodeCamp,
    CodeNewbies,
    100daysofCode,
    DailyCSSImages,
    Chingu
    CodePen.
    These were some of the initial communities I reached out too.

  5. I marketed myself. (This part a lot of people don’t like, myself included). I joined Twitter and reached out to people in tech. I got a LinkedIn account and started connecting with people in the industry. I started a blog. I shared my work, even when it was a work in progress. I put myself out there and accepted invitations to do things I didn’t think I could. ( I created a course, I was on a podcast, I applied to speak at conferences).

  6. I specialized. All the JavaScript algorithms and data structures weren’t clicking for me. Instead of giving up I made a way for myself with creative coding. I learned as much as I could about CSS, SVG, and animations. Then I found companies looking for those specialties.


Where are the Remote Jobs?
#2

Wow, that is a very different journey. You were able to find a niche that fits your skills and key in on it.

Thank you for sharing.


#3

Yeah, it’s not the way for everyone but hopefully it shows some people there are other ways into development and they don’t need to feel left out.


#4

very inspiring. Thanks for sharing the Journey :slight_smile:


#5

Thank you for sharing, this post gives me hopes as I am trying to get a remote job myself but sometimes I wonder if it would be possible at all for someone like me with no real experience to get a remote job as a first job.


#6

What an awesome approach. It’s great to hear of your success.


#7

A lot of people are scared to go for remote jobs. I had to take it as “the worst they can do it say no” So far both my tech jobs have been remote. It’s not always the easiest job to get but definitely worth trying for. Groups like Chingu are great to get experience working with a remote team. If you can do something like that you will have an advantage when you apply even without a lot of other experience.


#8

Thank you for sharing your experience and other resources I wasn’t aware of. this gives me more valuable insight


#9

I recently discovered Chingu, I was told it takes about a month to hear something from them after you register. I’m eager to work as part of a team and Chingu provides just that, besides adding that experience to my resume will be very helpful in my job hunting.


#10

Yeah, I know Chingu has grown a lot ( I was in one of their first cohorts) and they work on some pretty exciting things now so they take a little more time to place people. It’s definitely worth it if you can get a spot.

Some other ways to get experience is to see if there are any slack groups, people on Twitter, or even in this forum with similar interests to what you are learning and ask if they will pair on a project with you.


#11

I have joined 2 groups and both originated on this forum but it ends up nowhere, that’s why I joined Chingu. I’m also thinking some projects with a friend because I’m trying to get familiar with pull requests, etc.


#12

It’s good you have been trying. Finding people to commit to a project can be hard when it’s non-paid work. Most of the people in the Chingu group are pretty good about it as far as I know. They have come up with some pretty cool projects. It has been a long time since I was in the group though.


#13

It’s still hit and miss, I’d recommend taking the initiative to be project manager. My experience is if someone is willing to lead the way and keep everything accountable and on track, it helps greatly with the success rate, even if a member or 2 drops off


#14

Good advice :point_up:
The team I was successful on had someone willing to keep us all on track. The ones where we never finished the project were when we didn’t have anyone leading. If you feel you can handle the responsibility of managing a project you might find more success with actually completing one with a remote team.


#15

Aw this really touched my heart. I find my self in a similar situation where I have been stuck on Javascript for the past 2 years and debating leaving front end development altogether. Thank you so much for this from one mom to another!


#16

What a nice journey, very inspiring. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been stuck on trying my first developer job for so long…


#17

Hello, thank you for sharing, do you have any advice for people who doesn’t live in USA? I am from Bolivia and joined Free Code Camp some months ago. I have never worked in developing and would like to know where to start to became a remote developer.
Thanks


#18

That’s one of the best posts of this kind that I’ve ever seen here!

May I ask you: What exactly is being a creative coder for you? I would assume that it basically means that you are a designer. But what’s the difference of being a designer compared to being a creative coder? So you do design with a lot of CSS work and specialised skills there which then sets you apart from other “standard designers”?

And are you doing also art work? Like drawing or painting or other stuff, using a lot of Photoshop, Sketch and the like?

I’m asking because I’m also a pretty creative person (I’m e.g. an educated filmmaker). But I don’t possess ANY specialised skills in Photoshop and complex programs of that calibre (well, maybe only Avid, and I once took an After Effects course at university, but never used it then). And I can’t draw or paint (I’m sure I could learn it, but probably I won’t do it in close future). I love using very simple tools together with pictures I shot by myself or little artwork that I’m getting from somewhere and can do actually pretty good looking designs with this I believe. So keeping it simple, but nice and cool :+1::slightly_smiling_face:

I’ve also once read about a designer who is almost exclusively designing with CSS only (so no Photoshop etc.). And he said that CSS is a hugely underrated thing which many designers are not using to the degree that they should, because it’s so damn capable. I really liked that approach a lot, sounded like something which could suit to me. So is this something similar to what you are doing?


#19

So, I’m definitely not a designer :sweat_smile:
I have worked with some wonderfully talented designers but I am a front-end developer.
While I can draw a little and I actually learned CSS by recreating paintings I don’t really have the creative mind to come up with my own designs :slight_smile: You can check out my CodePen if you want to see some of the things I do with “creative coding” CodePen .
The thing about web development is it really is a diverse field as far as what you can bring to the table and what skills companies are looking for. There are a lot of amazing front-end developers whose primary skill set is CSS. There are whole developer conferences dedicated just to CSS :smile: So if that is something you are interested in don’t be afraid to dive in. CSS has become more and more complex of the years and many companies are hiring people just to work on the CSS for their projects.
At my first job I mainly worked with HTML, CSS, Drupal templating and a very little JavaScript.

I currently work with GreenSock and SVG. I do have to work with JavaScript more now then I did in my first job but most of the JavaScript logic besides the animations I create are handled by other devs on the team.

Hopefully that was helpful. :slight_smile: Basically, you can be a designer who works with CSS but you can also be a developer who works primarily with CSS and they are definitely different roles and have different responsibilities. The designer might prototype with CSS but the developer is going to be building out the site structure with HTML, making sure it is accessible, making sure it is “pixel perfect” (I hate that phrase lol) and adding transitions, animations, and other things with CSS.


#20

So I currently live in Costa Rica but I was in the US when I got both of my jobs. Therefore I am probably not the best person to ask :slight_smile:

I would suggest reaching out to remote devs from other countries. If you are interested in Chingu like I mentioned in my original post they have devs collaborating from all of the world and some of them might be a better resource than me.

One thing I would suggest is to look at the remote positions that might be available in your country and then also look at remote first companies from around the world who hire internationally. See what they are looking for in a hire and start tailoring you learning towards that. This is an older list but probably still pretty relevant