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Landing My First Development Job

Written By: CodeKristi

Learning to develop has been quite a journey: some days I felt excited and empowered with my new skills, and other days I felt hopeless after struggling for hours to figure something out… Finding my first job as a developer was a very similar experience.

To me, pre-match preparation is extremely important because that is something that is within my control. ~ Sachin Tendulkar

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When I decided on changing careers from teaching to software development, I realised that I would need more than just a little knowledge about the software languages and technologies – I would also need to know the general industry, as well as people who work in the industry. So apart from working hard on learning skills & knowledge through online courses and blogs, I put networking with actual people as a high priority. I started attending meetups in my area, and I really wasn’t picky! I went to any and all meetups that had a general relation to software development. Some were language specific and others technology specific, but I attended, even if I weren’t currently using or learning those languages or technologies.

I met many people and I told them about my career change and my future plans. Most of them were intrigued, interested or impressed. Some of them told me to let them know them when I was ready to start working, while others gave me their business cards to contact them if I ever needed help or guidance. All in all, it was a much greater and more valuable decision to attend those meetups than I ever expected!

Another important factor in finding a future job was to impress potential employers and showcase my abilities. So except for working hard on networking, I took some time to create an online presence. I created a Github profile, where I shared repositories with the code that I wrote as part of my online courses. I also started writing these blog posts to show that I have an understanding of the industry. And lastly, I worked hard on having an attractive CV to get potential employers’ interested.

As I didn’t have any real development experience yet, this was quite difficult to do. I did some research on types of CV’s which other software developers are using and decided on a single page CV (or resumè). In this document, I included all my formal qualifications and a short software development-related summary. If the company were interested, they could then contact me for a full CV in which I also described my non-coding related skills and experience.

Job searching is like hitting a piñata… If you swing enough, you’ll be rewarded! ~ Anon.

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When I started out on this journey, my husband and I agreed that I could take about 6 months to study web development before I should start looking for work. When I was close to reaching my deadline, I started by applying to some adverts I found online, but unfortunately, I got no real feedback from those.

I also applied to put my CV on a local software development site. This site is different to most job portal sites in that it that showcases CV’s to companies, instead of having a list of available positions for possible employees to look at. The companies can look through the list of CV’s, from where they can then contact the people whose CV’s they like. Regrettably, I failed their application development test – at that point I haven’t yet worked with any of the languages in which they offer the test, so I wasn’t able to complete the test in the required time frame. This was a very demotivating experience for me, but also helped me to get some perspective of how much I still needed to learn.

When these two routes of finding a job didn’t pan out, I decided to contact the various people I met at the meetups and to send them my single-page CV. Two of those people replied – one saying they would put me on a short-list, and the other inviting me for a meet and greet interview.

Job interviews are like first dates: Good impressions count; Awkwardness can occur; Outcomes are unpredictable. ~ Anon.

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The first interview I went to lasted about 20 min. They asked mostly personal type questions:  I explained why I made the career change, what I am looking for in a position, and they told me a little about their company. At the end of the interview, they asked me to come in for a development test the following week.

The test was on C# and the Angular 2 framework, two technologies I have never worked with before. I explained as much to the interviewer, and she replied she would send me a few links that would give me a good basis to be able to pass the test. The links were for C# tutorials on the MSDN website. I worked through those, as well as some videos on Team Treehouse to try and understand the basics of the language. However, with no DotNet, or any real programming knowledge, I learned that it is pretty much impossible to crash course a language like C# in less than a week. The language is far too complex and has too many aspects which were new to me.

The night before the test, my husband (who has been a C# dev for a few years), sat with me and explained a few of the basic concepts to me. These few hours of explanation were invaluable, as the things that he showed me were about all I could remember and use the next during the test.

In hindsight, the interviewer was correct when she initially told me the test was really easy. This remark, however, was based on the assumption you do have some development & some DotNet knowledge. Point is, I had a really tough time during the test…

The company was quite nice, as they allowed me to ask any of the surrounding developers for help. I was even allowed to use Google to find answers if I wanted to, and I did use it! I learned though, that Google is only useful if you know what you are looking for and how to search for the answer. For me, it was really hard, since I didn’t know the things that I didn’t know and thus I had a difficult time to search for the answers to my questions. I still tried my best, but I know I didn’t do as well as I would’ve preferred…

After the test, I waited almost 3 weeks to hear back from the company. I was quite sure that it was the end of that position, and I continued applying to other adverts. When at last I did hear back from my initial interviewer, she said that the test went ‘okay’ and that the development team would like to meet me.

Why they decided on inviting me to the third phase interview after that test, I will never be sure, but it was a positive sign. So I went and gave it my all, and I hit that interview out of the ball park! From here on things moved very quickly.

I got my offer of employment from the company less than a week later, on the last Thursday of April. By now I was about a month over my deadline to find a job. As this was my only real offer, and a great one at that, I had no difficulty to accept it immediately. They wanted me to start at the beginning of the following month, and thus I had only a few days left before the commencement date on the 3rd of April. After more than a month of waiting and uncertainty, I had only 4 days to prepare myself for this new position.

Suddenly the months of studying, planning and dreaming became a reality: a very scary reality…! Was I really ready for this? Would people figure out just how much of a noob I still am, with no real knowledge? I only had a weekend filled with these thoughts before I had to go out and face the music!

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