Getting the Job
I have done some development work at my previous job, mostly small applications, random additions to existing code, HTML, CSS, etc.. Mostly, though, I had done standard I.T. work. Helpdesk, managed services, data center, and most other random things those in the I.T. field do. Never enough coding to make me happy though. I event went back to school, enrolling in a local community college, pursuing an associate’s degree in computer science with the intention of transferring to a local university with a pretty decent computer science department.
Knowing When to Quit
Persistence. After almost two years at my last employer, I knew I wanted to be a software developer, specifically a web developer. I.T. was great, don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot at my previous employer. More than I ever did on my own. I brought value to my previous employer as well, creating new positions for myself and expanding the revenue for the company. I even learned SharePoint administration and some basic SharePoint development within a short time to meet a clients needs. My future was pretty secure there, at least from my perspective.
Although I loved the company and the people I worked with, on most occasions, I was still not happy. I made an O.K. amount of money, not as much as I could, but considering other things, probably the most the company could afford and at least a lot more than my previous employer paid. I lived about a fifteen-minute drive from work, so the commute was enjoyable. There was an on-call rotation, and sometimes work never seemed to end, but still I had something special. Either way, every day I found myself asking why? Why did I continue on? Helping people with a computer issue, installing a new server or developing a project plan all seemed like interesting ways to make a living, didn’t it?
I dreaded going to work most mornings, though. Solving an issue or planning a project never included much more that “googling” the answer. Most things were repetitive in the end, at least to some extent. I didn’t need to think things through, it was like I was a zombie eating through the problems, no sense of what was really important. I’m not saying I.T. is not important, but for me the thrill had ended. My job was no longer fun, I didn’t have a chance to learn new and exciting things. The process had become boring for me.
I had to find something else. I had already started school, looking to get a degree in computer science. With no previous college credits, it was taking to long. At my age with no college education before, it seemed like a lost cause. Don’t get me wrong in the past two years I have learned a lot from school. Not much about computer science, but still I have gained something from going back to school. The problem is time and happiness. I am 31 years old currently, with a lot left to do to before receive my degree. I have a family. I have responsibilities. Most importantly, I wasn’t happy.
Even when I first started looking for a programming job, I knew I would never find one. Every position I applied for wanted three years experience in five different programming languages. That was just for entry-level or junior software developer positions. Still I applied, more than likely to hundreds of job offerings. I actually lost count. I signed up for all the job sites, received vast amounts of emails every day. Still I continued applying. I started attending developer meet ups, even listened to a few others stories on how they could not find employment as a developer, at least for those just starting out.
Here I am, after at least three months of actively seeking employment as a developer, with a new job as a Web Developer and of all thing in Ruby on Rails, of which I know very little. How did I get here? How did I earn the right to be called a Developer and actually get paid to do it? The only thing I could, be persistent. I persisted when most others wouldn’t. Someone will give you a chance, you just have to be in the right place in the right time. So make sure you’re everywhere at all times.
Putting in application after application was, of course, a start, but continuing to do this was a key factor. Many people I have meet who were attempting to become a developer with little experience seemed to be pessimistic, believing they would never be good enough to be employable. They were beaten down, oppressed by their own minds telling them they were not good enough, unless of course they had experience. Of course, how could one gain the experience needed to be a developer.
I am sure all these would-be developers would actually be very successful in the software fields they dreamed of. How, though, after a much longer time than myself did they not find employment in their dream career? They lacked persistence. They were actually their own worst enemy, telling themselves they were not good enough or would never make it. Would you hire someone who thought they couldn’t do the job? No wonder they couldn’t find employment.
Hopefully, I am not coming off as harsh, I actually hope those I have met that are looking for first-time developer jobs can find the employment they are looking for… and deserve. Hopefully, they learn to become so persistent and self-confident that their next application to a prospective employer causes the employer to ask “Can we afford not to hire this candidate”?
Knowing the Right Answers
As a budding developer, don’t think you need to know everything. Learn how to solve problems. How to resolve questions. How to think. Once you have the basic understanding of programming, your worth a lot. You can do things most others can’t. Sure you have to learn as you go, but that’s what this field is. You will spend the rest of your software development career learning and understanding things you didn’t know before. The best part is, these employers expect you to learn on the job. They know you’re going to “google” the answer, post a question on a forum, or read the API documentation. No one really cares, as long as you can find the answer.
At my last place of employment, one of the questions was “What is a computer technician’s best friend” or “If you were on your own, what is your troubleshooting process”? Both questions should lead to the same answer, “google” or “search it” or some other similar answer. Does it differ so much for those in the software development industry? Or any industry for that matter. If you can resolve the issue or create the solution, aren’t you doing your job?
I am not saying you should just be a copy and paste kind of programmer, you need to be able to understand the issue and the possible solutions. Once your at that point in your development career, don’t be afraid of your lack of knowledge in some technology stack. Be confident, let your perspective employers know you can resolve their problems, because you can. Even if you have to research it first. Persist. For yourself, to yourself. Continue learning and never give up. Grab your future and take charge of your life. No matter how long a road it is, or how hard it is to achieve.