The Tech Industry: Riding Roller Coasters

The Tech Industry: Riding Roller Coasters

      Just sitting here eating cheerios, listening to Jazz and contemplating my life.   I’ve come to the realization that working in the tech industry is like being on a roller coaster ride.  You have your ups, your downs, rides ending quicker than you thought,rides you wish would just end and rides you wish would last forever. Two years ago I decided to quit my job to attend a coding bootcamp in hopes of becoming the next Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I haven’t reached Girl with the Dragon Tattoo status yet but you know what.…I’m ok with that.  Instead I’ve become the Girl with the WordPress Wappuu and it has been quite the ride. Four rides be exact.

The first ride was one that I wanted to get off the second I got on.

    My very first job straight out of the bootcamp was working for a web agency that built custom websites for the hospitality industry.  I kinda knew right from the get go that it wasn’t the place for me to be but I had been looking for work a little over 2 1/2 months and was getting antsy. It was my first offer so I decided to take it.  The job itself really wasn’t bad, I was just ignorant of my skill set and had terrible performance anxiety. I laugh when I look back on it now but at the time I was expecting to be trained, mentored, have awesome documentation to refer to and most importantly an understanding team of  co-workers that were ready and willing to help me succeed. I would say these expectations were a little unrealistic, wouldn’t you?   As I unfortunately came to find out the tech industry doesn’t work that way. You are thrown in with the wolves and  you are either eaten alive or become part of the pack  Well I was eaten alive.  I ended up lasting for about six months.  I saw  the writing on the wall pretty early but decided to hang in there because… well… that is who I am.  The day they told me it wasn’t working out I was completely relieved.  I knew it hadn’t been working for a few months so it was a welcome blessing.  I was happy to finally be out of there.   

The second ride was fun until they very end.

    Next came the internship.  Again I found myself  at a web agency but this time as a paid intern.  I thought for sure that I would be mentored and trained.  Again it was the same scenario you are thrown in with the wolves and you are either eaten alive or join the pack  However this time around I did have co-workers that were actually  ready and willing to help me. The environment was a lot more friendly and welcoming which I really appreciated.  However towards the end of my time as an intern I started getting really stressed about a particular project I was working on. In addition to being stressed the Project Manager I was working with started to become hostile pushing me to get my project done. So that night I went home and was up until 3 or 4 in the morning working aimlessly trying to get things done.  I was so frustrated that I ended up going to Twitter to vent my frustration.  Word to the wise don’t ever tweet anything at 3 in the morning unless it’s a funny meme.   The  next day at around 11pm as I was trying to finish the up project I was working on with a co-worker my slack went dead.  I was locked out.  I thought…hmmm…thats kind of weird then about five minutes later I got an email from my boss saying  that I was no longer an intern.  That was that.   Moral of the story kids, don’t ever mention anything about work regardless of  how vague.…ever!  Someone…. is always watching.

The third ride helped me to see that roller coaster rides really are fun. You just have to find the right one.

     After two failed attempts I really started to wonder if web development was really for me.  On the one hand I knew that I enjoyed tinkering with web development as a hobby.  I found it to be a fun creative outlet.  On the other I knew that I had some deficits that I needed to overcome in order to be a worthwhile hire.

     During an influential conversation I had with a recruiter I decided to look at what my innate skills were and combine them with the tech skill set I had developed over the last year. This led me into a position where I consulted and taught entrepreneurs and hobbyists how to build their own WordPress websites. It ended up being a great experience for me.  I would have  25-30 minute phone calls sessions back to back helping people with their WordPress websites. This was critical for two reasons the first being I was able to learn the ins and out of WordPress through repetition.  When you talk to people about WordPress for forty hours a week you start seeing the same issues time and time again.  If you don’t remember how to solve it the first or second time you will for sure remember by the 5th or 6th time.  The second was that I was forced into having to solve problems faster by being restricted to 25 minute time frame.  Knowing how to problem solve as well as doing it quickly is paramount when it comes to web development.  The role started out like like my last two where you are thrown into the deepens and you either sink or swim. Luckily  I was able to come out of this one swimming and finally find the confidence I had been lacking.   The consultant role was great in many ways but I was itching to get back into development work.

The fourth ride was fun. It had a lot of ups and a lot of downs but I was never really sure if the ride would continue forever or end at any moment.

   So here and there I would scourer the job boards hoping to find that diamond in the ruff.  Then one day I found it.  A small web agency looking for a remote WordPress Support/Developer based out of Utah.  I applied, interviewed, tried out the position as a contractor and was then offered a full-time gig.  I almost felt like every opportunity I had had up until this point had been preparing me the role all along.  I loved working from home.  I felt a great sense of pride in the websites we were building for our clients and for the first time since starting my journey into wide world of web development I finally felt like a true blue owner.  It was great!  I worked hard, learned a lot, and relished my time as a remote worker.   Unfortunately all roller coaster rides do end.  When working for a startup the end of the ride can come at any moment but you enjoy the ride for as long as you can be a part of it.

What kind of ride will I go on next?

My first job exposed to me to WordPress and helped me learn the dynamics involved in web agency life, my internship restored my faith in developers as empathetic human beings and taught me a very valuable lesson about social media. As a WordPress consultant I gained a deeper understanding of WordPress and how to problems solve under pressure. And working for a small startup I learned the value of entrepreneurship, accomplishment and ownership. Will my next roller coaster ride be one I’ve been on before or a new ride all-together? As I continue my journey as a developer  I encourage us all to be mindful of those who are taking their first roller coaster ride and ask that we  make it as fun and exciting as it looks to those on the outside 🙂

Thank you.

Junior Developer:  Job Hunt

Junior Developer: Job Hunt

Job SearchI graduated from a coding bootcamp the week before Christmas ( 2015 ).

I was filled with both dread and excitement.  Dread because I knew

looking for a new job would be difficult and excitement for what the

future would hold.  I applied to over 100 jobs before I landed my current

gig. Some of these were through connections but most were through job

boards.

Here is what I learned while I was on the job hunt:

  1. Nobody wants a Jr Django/Python Developer.  If you are not a senior or mid-level developer don’t even bother applying.
  2.  Jr Developer positions are few and far between.  If you are lucky to find one, so have a few hundred other Jr Developers (competition is fierce ).
  3. ( Utah residents listen up!  )  Utah County has a lot of web developer positions. 🙂  However the pay is extremely low.  Like $12/hr low( yes I have actually seen this at a few companies) especially for those who are inexperienced.  What a travesty eh?  Well not really.  You see this works out great for college students ( UVU and BYU … ever heard of these schools? ) because they actually get to work in their field while going to school and they don’t necessarily have families or mortgages to worry about.  So it is a win win for the company and the college student.  However I’m not a college student.  I’m a 30 year old trying to make a career change.
  4. Despite what some people will tell you it’s pretty much an industry standard to keep your resume to one page.  If you are a grad from a bootcamp and you have no actual coding experience then it should absolutely be one page.  No one cares how awesome you were in your past life prior to coding. Let that shine in the interview 😉
  5.  Going to meetups/user groups, networking, and having friends in the industry will definitely open doors for you. However in order to walk through those doors you still need to know how to code.  Most companies aren’t hiring for potential.  They are hiring for talent.
  6. It is critical to know general programming concepts.  For example, you need to know what an object is, what data structures are, and how to work with arrays. You don’t need to know this just to be impressive in an interview.  You need to know this in order to be a productive member of your new team.  This how real life developers/programmers communicate.  They speak Computer Science.  (This wasn’t one of the many things I learned duringthe job hunt.  It was more of an on the job kind of a’ha! moment. However due to recent conversations with new bootcamp grads, I think this is very important to realize during the job hunt). 
  7. Apply for those jobs you know you are qualified for or that you really really really want.  A statistic from a Hewlett Packard internal report says, “Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.” To my fellow females out there if you meet at least 60% of the qualifications then definitely apply for that position.  Some advice out on the interwebs will say to apply to any and every tech job you see.  You will hear things like, ‘Companies don’t know what they want, apply anyways’ .  This may be true. However we do know what they want.  They want talent not potential.  Don’t do it. Just don’t.  It’s a waste of time for you that can end up being demoralizing in the long run.
  8. Don’t be picky.  Just because you learned a certain language or framework doesn’t mean you should restrict yourself to those positions. Despite what other developers are saying nothing is wrong with PHP and WordPress.  It’s very popular and a lot of businesses use it.  So consider it to be a very advantageous language and framework to learn.
  9. Money isn’t everything.  Sorry to break this to you but you are probably not going to land a job that pays 100k or even 70k for that matter.  Nor should you consider taking a job that will pay you that much in the first place.  Why?  Let’s see,  if a company is dumb enough to blow 70k on an inexperienced developer what does that say about the longevity of the company or your career?  To me it says you can plan on being let go.  The company won’t be able to afford it in the long run. I’ve seen it happen.  So if you are serious about your craft and truly want to become the best, consider mentorship over money.
  10. Don’t lie on your resume or embellish in your interview.  Just don’t do it. You will be found out and you will be let go. In some industries embellishing your abilities is ok. ( Whatever gets you the job right?) However the tech field is not one of those industries.

 

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