by Dimitri Ivashchuk

How I got a developer job abroad: my journey from marketing to tech

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

In this post, I’ll go into the details of how I, a Ukrainian marketing student, got a job offer from rad company which works with progressive technologies and develops a great product.

I’ve written this post for those wanting to start their career in programming but who are scared or require some guidance and inspiration.

I received fantastic feedback on my Twitter post about getting a software developer job in Europe without being an EU citizen.

I decided to write this piece to share my story, give you a new perspective and maybe destroy a couple of stereotypes about programming.

I will split this post into three parts so you will have an opportunity to read it in the most comfortable way.

  • My background - where you will find a little information about myself.
  • Main takeaways - where you will find a list of the main takeaways of being a self-taught programmer and what helped me along the way.
  • Getting a job abroad - where I will share some tips and tactics that would be useful for getting a remote or on-site job abroad.

My background ??‍?

I spent almost one-third of my life studying marketing and business. I can’t say that I would do things in another way if I had a chance. For sure, I have never regretted a decision to join a business-related program at my university.

I started to code at the end of the first year of my bachelors degree. In the beginning, it was just a fun hobby I used to enjoy doing in my spare time. It all boiled down to watching tutorials on different online platforms and coding along.

After a couple of years, it became evident that solving problems, creating things from scratch and constantly learning something new was something that drove me to an inexpressible extent. I stopped thinking about further pursuing a career in marketing. Instead, I focused on spending all of my free time exploring the fundamentals of programming, trending technologies and best practices of writing code.

Back then I didn’t want to abandon my studies. I saw a real added value of being a programmer with a marketing + business background. Thus, I decided to get a Master of Science degree in marketing abroad. At the same time, it was a chance to try to find myself a job in a new environment and open a lot of exciting perspectives for personal development.

I chose Vienna as one of the most gorgeous cities in Europe. It has amazing public transport, a great healthcare system and has been for many years on the list of top global positions among the most comfortable cities to live in the world.

Main takeaways ?

Before the actual takeaways part starts, here is the main thing you need to know about learning to code as a career-changer or hobbyist:

Whatever your background is, you CAN learn to code if it is what drives you and brings joy to your life.

I know so many people who worked in or studied finance, marketing, history and changed their careers to become programmers and were extremely successful.

Let’s see what exact approaches you can use to achieve that desired result faster and get your job as a developer.

Stop learning - start building

This core principle can’t be missed if you want to get better at something. Of course, watching a video or reading a tutorial on Medium seems like a very good investment.

However, you may learn much more effectively by following this simple strategy:

Think of some project that you would love to use. It may be very simple in the beginning and have basic functionality. For example, I wrote my first small app in just a couple of files and it was just plain HTML, CSS, JavaScript - no frameworks, no libraries.

If you just come up with ideas of what should be present on your site and learn to formulate them clearly you will find an answer for almost any problem on Stack Overflow or other similar resources.

It will allow you to learn those things proactively and put efforts into the actual development of your core dev skill - problem solving.

Begin slowly but have grandiose plans

At the very beginning, I spent too much time learning fundamentals and basics. For sure, they are extremely important to know. However, if you are not interested in more advanced topics and don’t read about them from time to time you won’t be able to kick start your learning abilities.

I had been doing web basics for already a year or two and only heard that such cool things as React, Vue.js, Webpack, etc. existed. I never decided to try them out at first. I had to overcome a fear that I wouldn’t understand anything.

But then, I started to gradually increase the complexity of things I wanted to learn. You would be very surprised how fast you will pick up new technologies and be ready to use them after you force yourself out of the comfort zone.

Tip: Often attempt to play with the more complex toys.

Be open-minded but critical

Many people think that now is the best time to learn web-development because of the plethora of technologies and tools available as open source.

Moreover, many of them have very strong communities that can support you during the learning process. For example, they can get you out of frustrating situations when you just can’t make things work properly.

It comes with a price though. It’s easy to get caught into the trap of just jumping from one technology to another and not really learning anything in depth.

The better approach would be researching the field and trying to make your own opinion of things. Always look for the advice of professionals, but decide for yourself what makes you happy to work with.

After all, many things are solving the same problems but in slightly different ways. As a beginner developer, you probably wouldn’t need to learn React, Vue.js, and Angular at the same time.

Tip: Try to focus on one thing and become an expert in it

However, be open to learning new technologies and tools. In my opinion, it is one of the most important prerequisites of getting a well-paid and interesting job.

Don’t be afraid to connect

I must say that soft skills are quite underrated for developers though they can help you a lot to improve in many aspects.

Initially, I used to think that those interesting people on Twitter were some sort of celebrities. They don’t answer any messages and spend all of their time building cool things. In reality, it’s not even close to the truth.

Since I’ve destroyed this bias in my head I reached out to lots of them and learned a lot in both professional and personal areas of my life.

Do me a favor. Find a person you would like to have a short conversation with who interests you as a developer and person. Be polite, respect their time and have some clear questions in mind. Write to them and you would be surprised how much you learn!

In the worst case, they would just say that it’s not their top priority now but you could try again in some time.

If you would be interested in getting some personalized advice from me regarding any topic, I would be really be happy to help. I try to answer every private message within a couple of days and give advice based on what people are asking for.

Get a job abroad - have a powerful and meaningful start ?

To be completely honest with you, at first, I was quite skeptical about my prospects. After having read lots of articles and forums I got an idea that it was almost impossible for a foreigner to get a job in Austria (this may be different from country to country, but Austria, apart from being an amazing country in many ways, is very bureaucratic).

In reality, things turned out to be not that complicated and all I needed to do was to start applying and see how things worked myself.

The main takeaway:

Don’t overthink it! If you define your goals and start with small steps, you’ll eventually get there!

So, to get started with your job search, define the roles that you want to apply for. It will help you to learn about the required technology stack. Consequently, you will soon identify some weak spots you need to improve.

Depending on the situation you might also want to improve your CV, see how many jobs there are, or complete your LinkedIn profile.

Don’t postpone the application process for too long

Many beginner developers fall into the bias of thinking that they are not ready to apply after some time of learning and coding just within the scope of pet-projects. It’s not always true. Often, passion means more than experience or real job experience in the case of junior positions.

Apply from the early stages of your learning processes, but be ready to show some dedication to your employer

In my case, it was a different story because I’ve already had work experience and many projects on GitHub that I was ready to talk about. My best advice here is that you need to show consistency and passion for coding and that is just doing things and showcasing them on your GitHub profile from the earliest stages of your developer career.

Don’t take job requirements too seriously

My current German level is Upper Intermediate but I’m still ashamed of the fact that I can’t properly have long meaningful conversations. ?

Most of the jobs in Austria require proficiency in German so I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities just because of not applying to those jobs. Moreover, 99% of jobs were listed as full-time positions. As a student, I am able to work for only 20 hours per week, so that excluded the rest of them.

I decided to take it seriously and write a cover letter for every position I’ve been applying to. Just to fill you in on my specific situation, I had no German proficiency, no work permit, and no ability to work full-time.

I was startled by the response I received. Out of almost 20 applications, I got an invitation for an onsite interview for 15 and responses are still coming in.

My current employer was quite optimistic about my prospects in the company and offered me a part-time position with the plan to transfer it to full time as soon as I finish my studies. Also, he helps me a lot with everything connected with work permits and other legal stuff.

Don’t think that job requirements are final. In most cases they are flexible and you can get a job even without some required things in your CV

That’s it for this blog post. I’ve tried to provide some condensed advice that I wish I had before starting an application for jobs abroad. I will be happy to receive any feedback in the comments and hope that this post is helpful to you in your job search.

In case you want any specific advice, feel free to drop me a message on Twitter.

I can have a look at your CV, portfolio or tech stack and formulate your strengths and things you need to improve or just have a chat at your convenience - DMs are open ??

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