by Andrew Charlebois

From Carpenter to Front End Developer in under 5 months

I went from being a carpenter with zero tech experience to a front end developer at a global advertising agency. In under 5 months. Here’s my story.

January 13th — The day I signed up with Free Code Camp. I was hopeful and excited about trying out something new: coding!

Working through the FCC’s curriculum has been amazing. It’s provided me with a great guided track to follow, as well as an amazing community of people ranging from new coders all the way up to professional developers.

These people will help you out when you get stuck, and keep you company in the chat rooms if you just want to talk code. You’re never alone with FCC. It provides you with every tool needed to be successful, as long as you’re willing to put in the hard work.

During my time with FCC, I met many awesome people. I started out simply asking questions in the FCC chat rooms, and chatting with other campers about code. Many of these interactions grew into close friendships that now extend beyond the FCC community.

Before FCC, I did not have any buddies that code. Most everyone I knew worked in the trades. So making friends with like-minded people who were working toward the same career goals as me was a big deal.

During my first couple months of coding, everything went smoothly. I was worked through JavaScript section in high gear, getting stuff done. But I eventually hit a brick wall. I think this was because I was more focused on speed than I was on building a solid understanding of what I was doing.

I had to take a step back and analyze the situation to see what I should correct in my learning strategy. I realized that I had to slow down, let the knowledge sink in, and really start understanding what I was doing rather than trying to complete challenges as fast as I possibly could.

If I were to suggest anything to new coders, it would be to take your time, and don’t rush it like I did. After I had come to this realization, everything worked itself out, and my journey of learning to code continued. This is not to say that things magically became any easier, but slowing down did help me learn the fundamentals before moving on to more complicated problems, like the algorithm challenges.

Mid April — I decided I should create a new portfolio website so that I could showcase all of my projects in one place. I say new because I had already built my first portfolio as part of FCC’s front-end development projects. It took me about a week from the planning phase to deploying my website online for the world to see. At this moment, I started applying for jobs while continuing with the FCC track.

Along with the FCC track, this is where I started branching out of FCC for some extra curricular activity. I bought a couple of courses from Udemy. ( Courses go on sale there often, and you can sometimes purchased them for around $20.00 each.) Pro tip — it’s really easy to find coupon codes online for most courses.

I started to read books. One that I really enjoyed was the You-Dont-Know-JS series for better “under the hood understanding” of JavaScript. It’s free!

I also started finding and listening to podcasts in my downtime, while walking my dog or driving.

When I first started applying for jobs, I had completed roughly 95% of FCC’s front-end development certification, along with two of my own personal projects (portfolio version #2, and a fictional construction business website to showcase my technical ability).

I updated all of my accounts and information on LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster, reasoning that recruiters might contact you through these platforms. These are the only 3 platforms I used during my job search.

While hunting for a job, I started to notice patterns. Certain requirements were repeated in many job descriptions. I used these repeated job requirements to guide my learning route. I started to learn tools like gulp and webpack, and moved from using CSS to learning Sass. I also started learning React, and built a few of the FCC React projects.

At this point, I’d been applying to jobs for about a month. I’d had a few interviews — either in-person or through Skype — but nothing moved past the first round of interviews.

One day I received a phone call for a position that I had applied for a few weeks prior. The phone screen went well, and a few days later they reached out to me asking me to come in for an on-site interview. Yay!

May 20th — I had to wake up at 4 a.m and start my 4-hour drive to get to their office in time. Because I had such a long commute, they decided to complete two interviews (with different groups of people) and technical testing all in the same day.

The interviews consisted mostly of talking about my past experience with coding, and what I had done so far. There was not a huge list of skills to talk about, so I naturally gravitated towards talking about my previous coding projects, what tools I used, what kind of problems I had encountered, and how I had overcome them.

They also presented me with some testing questions like: “What is the difference between == and ===?”, and “What does ‘use strict’ mean?”

Once I finished both of my interviews, they set me up with a workstation and gave me two technical tests. The first test was to recreate a navigation bar, and include media queries to have it collapse for a mobile version. For the second test, I was shown a JavaScript file with roughly 100 lines of code, and I had to find and fix a broken navigation bar drop down menu toggle.

Both tests had a time limit. I completed the first test, but I was unable to complete the second test. Even though I had diagnosed the problem, I was not able to come up with a solution fast enough to fix it.

May 31st — Around noon, I got a phone call. It was the phone call that I had been dreaming of getting — the job offer phone call! They emailed me the contract, I read it, and I swiftly signed and accepted the job.

The Numbers

  • Job applications: 78
  • Skype & phone interviews: 3
  • On-site interviews: 3
  • The company I will be working for was application #43
It took 4 months and 18 days from the day I signed up with Free Code Camp to the day I received and accepted a job offer for a Front End Developer position.

The past 4 months have been awesome. I have fallen in love with programming, and I am super grateful to Free Code Camp for giving me the tools to be able to pursue this passion.

My new journey is only really about to begin, and I cannot wait to see what is in store for me and continue to share my story. Happy coding!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article please hit the heart button and share it. You can also follow me on Twitter where I share my deepest most inner thoughts.