Mission Accomplished: What I Learned From the CNC2018 GetAJob Challenge
What is CNC2018?
CNC2018 stands for the CodeNewbie Challenge of 2018 put on by CodeNewbie. If you haven’t heard of CodeNewbie, it’s a community and podcast run by Saron Yitbarek. They also host live Twitter Chats on Sundays and Wednesdays. Check it out @CodeNewbies.
The CodeNewbie Challenge is a collection of four missions which can help you level up your skills. The available missions focus on helping you achieve goals related to coding. The four options are:
- Start Coding
- Code More
- Blog More
- Get a Job
After signing up for the round, you will receive an email with your first mission. Each round lasts seven to nine weeks. You are given weekly missions via email, and they take as much time as you invest in them.
I signed up for the “Get a Job” mission in January. I made it through five of the nine missions before I completed the challenge and accepted a job as a developer.
In this article, I’ll share my back story and walk you through the insights I gained throughout the challenge. I hope you find them useful in speeding up your journey.
From Grad School Dropout to Developer
Like most of you in the community, I didn’t always want to pursue a career in programming. When I went to college, I decided to study what I felt passionate about: foreign languages.
Near the end of my undergrad, I felt nervous when people asked, “What are you going to do after you graduate?” I didn’t have the answer.
After thinking of the people I admire most, I thought I would enjoy working in academia as a professor. My goal would be to contribute to improving the foreign language education system in the United States.
Through my Italian professor, I ended up being offered a fellowship to study Italian in a graduate program starting the Fall after graduation.
I took the opportunity, hopeful I was heading in the right direction.
Although I loved the professors, my colleagues and the program, I had my doubts about the future of academia. I had honest conversations with professors about the state of the field and unfortunately, it did not look as bright as it used to.
For various reasons, I decided to look at other career options. By chance, I noticed an ad on Facebook for a coding bootcamp.
“Hmm…I wonder if that could be an alternative to grad school for me?” I thought to myself. I looked into the program and the cost. I did not want to take out more students loans, so I looked into alternative routes and found freeCodeCamp.
I had tried to learn the basics of web development a few years prior, but never stuck with it. Towards the end of that winter break, I decided to study coding in my free time and see if it was something I thought I would enjoy.
During that semester, I had trouble finding time to code. Between working two jobs, a full load of classes, and long commutes to school, I struggled to make time. In February 2017, I decided to join #100DaysOfCode and commit to 30 minutes per day.
A month later, I made the decision to leave my grad program after that summer and attempt to start a career as a developer.
In July 2017, I started my first paid gig as a programmer — an internship with a web design agency for a front-end position. I learned a ton and my skills grew ten times faster than studying on my own. My boss said if things went well, he’d hire me on full-time.
To my dismay, my internship came to an end in September 2017 when my boss told me, “I don’t think you’re at a junior developer level yet.”
Instead of giving up, I decided to look for another job and study on the side. I found one in a similar field — digital marketing. It seemed like a good tool to add to my toolbox. In addition, I found a part-time job helping TA and instruct coding workshops for a local meetup.
Things seemed to be working out, but I still wasn’t coding full-time like I’d planned to. That’s when I found CNC2018 and joined in January 2018.
Here’s what I took away from the weekly missions:
Research and Study Job Descriptions
It’s easy to neglect the details of job descriptions when job hunting. In Week 1, the challenge showed you how to figure out what you’re looking for. Take a look at companies you’re interested in and see what they list as skills, technologies, and qualifications they are looking for. Think of this as a “loose map” to help you stay on track.
The sea of web development can feel overwhelming in the beginning. Instead of switching from resource to resource, use the job descriptions to guide you to the next thing. Remember, a lot of thought goes into a job description. Although they don’t expect you to know everything, it will give you something specific to reach the ‘job-ready’ level.
Change Your Title On LinkedIn
I would argue LinkedIn is the key place to find a job in the tech industry. In Week 2, you were tasked with a mission to update your LinkedIn title and profile.
No, you don’t have to be an expert to put that on LinkedIn. If you write code and know how to build things, you are a developer. Not only does this signal to your network your new skills, but it will also help recruiters find you. Remember, they spend all day searching LinkedIn using specific keywords. If you don’t have these in your title or your bio, they won’t find you.
Build a Solid Portfolio and Use GitHub
Week 2 also challenged you to make a portfolio and keep your projects on GitHub. This shows employers what you’re capable of. Get a portfolio up as soon as you can and add projects to it as you go. This will be more important than your résumé when you’re applying.
Employers want to see that you can build things. They don’t have to be huge projects. Their sole purpose is to demonstrate that you’re capable of taking an idea and bringing it to life. I’ve heard a good rule is to have one to two full-stack projects.
GitHub Pages allows you to host your website for free, so I recommend checking it out for starters. Also, make sure to push your code to GitHub! Employers will look at your repositories.
An easy way to get into committing every day is by keeping a “learning repo” where you track what you learn. A friend recommended this to me as a daily reminder of progress.
Meetups, Meetups, Meetups
One of the most important pieces of advice for finding a job — Go To Meetups! Week 3’s mission was to attend a meetup and practice giving your “elevator pitch.”
CodeNewbie encourages it because it benefits you in these ways:
- You network, which could lead to a job interview
- You get to practice sharing your story
- You get involved with the local community
In almost every tech meetup I’ve gone to, someone mentions that their company is hiring or they know of a company hiring. The last ReactJS meetup I attended here in Phoenix had at least 10 speakers go up to the podium at the start of the meetup to announce job openings.
I met a guy who ended up referring me to the job I have now at a meetup. It pays to go to them.
Even if you don’t find a job offer the first time you go, you may meet someone who ends up playing a part in you finding a job.
Meet People For Coffee
The last tip I want to offer is meeting people for coffee. In Week 5, your goal was to do “informational interviews” and find out what companies are looking for in a junior developer.
Utilize the network you have! If you don’t have personal connections in the tech industry, reach out to a friend or acquaintance who does. Remember, people like helping people. That’s how we’ve advanced as a society.
Invite people to coffee to learn more about what they do and why they do what they do. When I was first looking for jobs, my university alumni network connected me with two developers — one at Snapchat and one at Google.
One said “Don’t choose a job for the money” and the other said, “Contribute to open-source.” I highly suggest talking to people currently in the industry and seeing what you can learn from them.
By following all of these tips and completing all the missions in CNC2018, I was able to land a job before I finished the entire round.
Near the end of February, I submitted my application to a local company for a role as a front-end engineer. I found out about the role through a guy at a meetup. He worked for the company and told me they were hiring.
I asked if we could stay in touch and if he could recommend me for the job. We connected on LinkedIn and when I submitted my application, he also gave me the CTO’s email.
Less than a week later, they invited me in for an in-person interview. After a short conversation with the CTO, he asked me to meet five members of the team. It was an informal interview. They asked me various questions about web development and then asked me to elaborate on projects included in my portfolio. I left the interview with a good feeling.
That same week, the CTO called me offering me the job.
I couldn’t believe it. My original goal was to land a job as a developer by October 2018. Thanks to the freeCodeCamp community and CNC2018, I completed it seven months earlier.
Three months later, I’m working at the same place and LOVE my job.
Join Round 2 of The Challenge and Get Yourself a Job!
If these tips were beneficial to you, I highly suggest signing up for Round 2 of this challenge! It will help prepare you for getting a job as a developer and provide you with specific missions to get there quickly.
Finally, if you enjoyed this article, please clap for it, tweet it or share it with someone who is looking for a job. If you have any questions or would like to say hi, send me a DM on Twitter @jjprevite!
I love meeting new people and would like to support you in your journey, however I can.