Code in the Real World

So I have officially done what I set out to do – I have become a professional software developer. I started work this Wednesday at a small start up in the city. The company has about 15 employees as of now, and is located on half of a floor that is being rented out by a design company with too much space. It  has a decidedly modern feel. The walls, furniture, and fixtures are all white and cyan and frosted glass. Everyone sits together at a large white table, and the wall is lined with a few standing desks that I occasionally take advantage of. The kitchen, I am told, once was stocked with snacks, but, tragically, this is no longer the case. Still, there is a Keurig machine and a nice assortment of Tazo teas, so it’s hard to complain.

There wasn’t much of an onboarding procedure. They bought me breakfast on my first day, and everyone stood around and introduced themselves to me. I received my new macbook pro, 15 inches, space gray. Within an hour, I was working on my first assignment, which was to add my name and picture to the company website. After that, I was given my second assignment, which was to build out an actual feature for the website.

I started to get fatigued pretty quickly. When I was a student at Grace Hopper, I got used to focusing on code all day long, but I slipped up a little during the fellowship when I didn’t have urgent projects to work on every day. So my first full day of coding took a lot out of me. I managed to get the feature working by the end of the day, but as soon as I got on the train home I immediately realized several things that were missing from my work. I spent, essentially, the next two days refactoring and polishing the feature. I also wrote tests for it and did some bug fixes throughout the site.

I have been working closely with another female developer, which is great. She has worked extensively on website that I am working on, and has been a very good resource as I am getting started. I have mostly been using React, which I feel comfortable with, but we also use some new libraries that take some getting used to, so it’s good to be able to turn to the person next to me and ask a question when I need to.

The company I work at does a lot to be transparent, so I have also been attending meetings that are not at all technical in nature. It is a glimpse into a world that, up until now, I knew little to nothing about. Perhaps, within a few months, I’ll be able to say more about the process of startup funding, or the politics of telemedicine. For now though I’m just absorbing all that I can.

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The Job Search

The job search… the big question mark at the end of every coding bootcamp.

“Will I really be able to get a job after this?”

“What does that 97% hiring rate that Fullstack Academy advertises really mean?”

My job search was postponed when I became a teaching fellow, so I was able to watch some of my former classmates go through it from a distance. Some of them were lucky and landed dream jobs within a few weeks. Others, the majority, I think, seemed to struggle more.  The anticipation built.

I told myself that I would start my own job search on January 1st. This would give me 6 weeks before the end of my fellowship (and looming last paycheck). I procrastinated. I submitted my first job application on January 3rd. I received my first job offer on January 27th, and my second offer on February 1st. I accepted an offer on February 2nd. The whole thing was over and done with in less than a month.

This was, obviously, a favorable outcome. Do I know what I did to make this happen? No. I must have done something right, but other things I almost certainly did wrong. Here’s a bulleted list (yay!) of facts about my job search. I think it serves as a nice contrast to some rather frantic posts I have read about the post-bootcamp job search, although I do not propose that any of these things are “lessons” or in any way indicative of what is typical or will work.

  • I applied to a total of 10 jobs. I found all of them through online job postings. This is not recommended.
  • The only two sites I used to find jobs to apply to were Angel List, which has a collection of job postings at start ups, and Tech Ladies, which is a community of women in tech that has a job board.
    • The great thing about Angel List is that, once you fill out your profile, applying to jobs is very easy. You simply write a short message to the employer, no long cover letter. I did write personalized messages for all of my Angel List applications, but each one took only about 10 minutes.
    • The great thing about Tech Ladies is that it provides contact information of someone at the company for each job post. This allows you to reach out directly to a real person after you send in your application. I got a pretty good response rate from my applications through Tech Ladies (3/4 of my applications through that site got responses).
  • I played up my previous non-technical experience as a teacher A LOT. I genuinely learned a lot of valuable lessons from teaching, and I know that I have more to offer because of it, even if the “hard skills” are not the same.
  • I made a portfolio site and linked to it in all of my emails with employers. I used an html5up template for my site, because I wanted it to look very clean and professional (and be mobile responsive), and I didn’t have a lot of time.
  • I keep a blog, which a lot of employers mentioned (too meta?)
  • I didn’t go to any meetups (not recommended).
  • I limited my search to smaller companies, since I hate bureaucracy.
  • I sent thank you emails after literally every conceivable interaction.
    • In the company at which I accepted an offer, I tried actually sending thank you emails to every person I talked to during my onsite (I talked to 4 or 5 people within the company). I didn’t actually have everyone’s email addresses, so I sort of creepily guessed their emails until I found something that went through. I wasn’t sure if that would work out, but apparently it did.
  • I wrote new, personalized cover letters for each company I applied to.
  • I applied to jobs even if they said they wanted several years of experience.
    • The position that I accepted said it required 3 years of experience. LOL.
  • I had my cute story about how I became a developer down.
    • Something like: I took my first comp sci class in college, and I really liked it, but I didn’t become a major. When I graduated, I started teaching math, and I was teaching myself to code on the side. I started to spend more and more time on it, until eventually I found myself sneakily coding in the teachers lounge when I was supposed to be doing my real job. And I realized that, if this was what I wanted to be doing at work, I should just make it my real job.

In any case, today is my second to last day of work at Grace Hopper, and I start my next job next Wednesday. I am very excited to get started!