My turn - I'm now a junior web dev!

My turn - I'm now a junior web dev!
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It’s finally my turn to write one of these. Technically I could’ve written it already two months ago, but I wanted to wait until after my “trial period”. I’ve been working about 20 hours a week as a web developer since April and in August I’ll being working as one full time.

My Path

I’ve been in contact with coding in short bursts for 12 years now and when I was a teenager my goal was to become a game developer, so I did some coding in school and boy do I hate Java now! Anyway, I went on to work in a completely different field and during my master’s studies we read a couple of database courses which required us to learn some basic coding. Then chance happened and I got a job in my field which also included some coding, but with kids at a child’s level. In April last year I decided to get a better understanding of coding and that is where my journey started for real.

From April to July I coded sporadically in my free time and I think that the most advanced thing I built was a fully text-based Blackjack game in Python, which consisted of almost a thousand lines of code and a ton of if-statements - and some bugs. It took 12h of a Saturday and from there I was hooked, because I had actually created something myself with code.

In July I had so much stuff that I wanted to learn that I had to start keeping track of what I was going to do to not get lost in the pile of things to learn. I did so in a spreadsheet and am still keeping track of every day. I could list the technologies I consider myself adept at now, but quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter. I started out learning Python, switched over to JavaScript and I knew some PHP since earlier. I am now working with JavaScript and PHP and what I’ve come to realize is that if you know one language it is rather easy to just jump to another.

Job Application Process

Ah, the juicy part… You know what, I had actually planned when to start applying for jobs already six months before I did. I set a goal to be good enough of a programmer to be able to apply for jobs at the start of 2019 and another one to start applying to jobs in March. I figured it would take a lot of time before I got a reply, let alone a job, since I didn’t have any developer experience. Especially after seeing some horror stories on here. It didn’t.

It took me 8 applications, of which 3 didn’t respond at all, 1 rejected me after a phone interview and another 4 booked me for on-site interviews. In total I went to 6 interviews in a span of about 3 weeks before I had my first developer job. I live in a (comparatively) large city in Europe so there are a lot of other juniors available, but I believe I had three things that helped me out a lot:

  1. An interesting CV. I took inspiration from this blog post to help me write my CV in a good way, as well as some great advice from a Youtube (Forrest Knight) who said that in every GitHub project you want employers to look at, you should describe what you learned from doing that project, rather than what the project really does.
  2. Low requirements. Yeah, most of us really want that 100k paycheck and fully remote work, but when you’re looking for your first job in the field, what you’re really looking for is a foot in the door so that you an accelerate your learning and the only salary you really need then is one that covers your basic costs of living.
  3. Some soft skills. Some light humour during the interview and being able to properly communicate with another human being actually goes a long way.

It may vary depending on where in the world you live, but what you’ve worked with before or what you’ve studied doesn’t matter a lot. Sure, a degree in most subjects means to an employer that you can finish something. Having held a job means that you know what it means to work, but that’s kind of it. I included my current job on my CV and skipped the rest.

Technical Interview Questions

I figured I’d include this tip as well: try to figure out what the interview process looks like in your country. I’ve heard from a lot of American people online that the interview process contains a lot of whiteboard algorithm problems and that practicing those therefore is key to getting a job. And while I agree that they are great for improving computational thinking, I didn’t get a single one of those during my interviews because - I’ve since learnt - we don’t really do those in my country.

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Congratulations, and thanks for sharing your story!