How to Change the World (in Your Underpants): Getting Started in the Tech Community
Everyone wants to change the world, but in order to do so, you have to put on pants. I found a loophole.
That loophole is web development.
Web Development is one of those careers that helps improve lives through innovation and technology. And as if that wasn't amazing enough, it is also one of those careers that you can do from the comfort of your home.
I am excited to share with you the things I learned about how to land your first job in the tech industry.
First, I'd like you to know that I myself just recently started in the Tech Industry. Although I consider myself very lucky to be in the position I am in (Junior Developer at Metal Toad), I was fortunate enough to have mentors guide me through the initial maze. Before being a Junior Dev, I was an accountant for 7 years. Now I am on my way to becoming a Full Stack Developer, all within a year.
This blog post will focus on what you need to know to get started as a developer and the steps to take to land the job.
First Things First
The first thing you need to be aware of is that "tech industry" is a big word that encompasses a lot of different fields. From Developer to Project Manager, there is a wide array of career paths that you can focus on, in a variety of different industries. Some of the career paths include: Web Developer, iOS Developer, Software Developer, Cloud Engineer, UX/UI Developer, QA Engineer, Information Architect, Strategist, and many more. As for the industries, these include Development Agencies, Creative Agencies, Private Corporations, Health Industry, and Education, just to name a few.
One of the most important steps is defining the industry you want to work in. For me, knowing my personality type and how I like to work, I chose to be a Web Developer at an Agency. Agency life is fast paced, at the bleeding edge of technology, collaborative, and creative.
After deciding which industry is best for you, the next step is figuring out which technology most appeals to you. For me it was web development.
But what is a web developer? A web developer is a type of programmer that focuses on the development of web applications. Specifically, those that deal with web servers and web browsers, allowing you to choose between the front-end (web browsers) or the back-end (web servers). Those who do both are called full stack web developers.
Though I talk a lot about web development, these resources will help guide you in finding what technology is the best fit for you.
On top of those resources, the one thing that really propelled me forward was a mentoring program called Thinkful. Since I didn’t have the funds available to jump into a coding school, I needed to find an alternative. Thinkful paired me with an amazing mentor, Ken Stowell, who really pushed me to become the best developer I could be. I never really had developer friends, but if I was to assign one thing that made all the difference, it was surrounding myself with like-minded individuals. I found that these people not only loved what they do, but couldn’t wait to share it with the community. So I started joining meetups regarding web development, hackathons, and started working on my portfolio. Which brings us to how to land a job -- a well-rounded portfolio.
A Skill-Based Career
Web Development is a skill based career, so it only makes sense to be able to display your skill set. Enter your portfolio, the thing you want to put a lot of thought and effort into. A portfolio opens the doors and sets you apart from other developers. It also helps in driving the conversation forward if you get called for an interview. Apart from your skill sets, the things your portfolio will speaks to the most is about your drive and curiosity. It will show how passionate you are, and how much you care about what you do. If there is one thing that employers are looking for, it’s drive, passion, and courage. How far were you willing to go and push yourself. What were the decisions you made and how did you tackle and solve a problem. These are the things you want to convey when talking about and displaying your portfolio.
Together Is Better
The beauty of all of this is that you are not doing it alone. You are not alone in your exploration of all these technologies. Though starting out can seem daunting and isolating, all along your career path, you will look around you and find people that are at the same level as you. This is why I love Open Source Development and the Community that surrounds it. These are people who want to help you succeed at an incredibly large scale. You will start noticing that if you ever have a question (and you will), you will ask it and someone has already had the same problem and has answered it, helping you overcome obstacles as a community. With all that help and love, it only reinforces in you the need to give back. There is nothing like the respect for someone who has solved something and shares it with all of us. This is why open source and companies that focus on it are awe-inspiring.
This might sound like a lot of information, but don’t let it throw you off. Once you start learning one thing and become good at it, you will wonder what else you are capable of. And in that wondering, a couple of fears surfaced for me. Here are a couple of the fears I hear most often:
Am I too late to start on web development?
Never. Web Development is always changing, so if you think you are learning something new, guess what? We all are. Constantly.
Am I crazy for doing this?
The answer is yes, and that's why we need you. We need bold people that are curious and care about their work, improving the lives of those around them. Luckily, with the internet, your reach can be big.
Can I do this?
Hell yeah you can! And once you are here, we'll do it together. Join us. We have beer.
How long will it take me?
It will take you about a year to become a rookie. It took me 4 months to learn the basics, and 4 months to build my portfolio with the help of my mentor and with a lot of drive. It’s up to you and the effort you put into it. A little secret that helped me was loving every second of it.
Why is my girlfriend so beautiful?
(She made me write this).
What do I do now?
Jump in and try it out!
Even when you are finishing a code school program (or are an accountant of 7 years and haven’t coded a single html page), you won’t know what the future entails. So my response remains the same:
As mentioned earlier, there are many options out there to help you start your web development journey. I personally chose to enroll in Team Treehouse for the Front End courses, Code School for deep diving into a particular language, Codecademy to actually learn and understand the syntax and application of the language, and StackOverflow every time I got lost (which was a lot, and an integral part of being a web developer). I would highly suggest finding yourself a mentor. As I mentioned before, this part was crucial to my success.
If you are lucky enough to live in Portland, we currently have Mentorship Saturdays at Metal Toad. We really care and love that you are pursuing your passion and will help you succeed in anyway we can. Third, join a community (Meetup is a great place to start to find like-minded individuals) and work towards a common goal. These will not only look good on you résumé, but will also help you understand all the little soft skills that are needed when collaborating on a creative space and how to handle projects as a group.
I could only imagine that reading all this for the first time would fill your head with questions so please feel free to reach out to me through Twitter or Email to answer them, or to just say hi. We are all on the same boat, working towards the same goal of helping people, sharing knowledge, being curious, and making this world a better place, together.