Bloc is the original online bootcamp, with over 80 professional developers in our network of mentors. We sat down with one of our most experienced mentors, Jonathan Linowes, to get his take on how to get your first developer job.
In over 20 years in software development, Jonathan has worked at eight companies including stints at the MIT Media Lab, Texas Instruments, and Autodesk. Prior to that, Jonathan received a Masters from MIT. Today, he’s currently the CEO at Parkerhill Technology Group, which specializes in web application development.
Advice for Beginners
What advice would you give to someone who is starting to learn how to code and wants to become a professional developer?
Don’t expect too much too soon. Careers take time to build. Programming is not just a job, you need to build up experience, knowledge, and skills. You have to start someplace and every day learn new things, but it takes time.
What do I need to learn to get a job?
Software development is not the same as computer science. Some developers are computer scientists; most aren’t. Having CS knowledge is great and fills an important need (algorithms, system performance, database optimization, encryption, etc). But I wouldn’t necessarily let a CS person work on the user experience part of my project. And debugging, which is a large part of development, isn’t necessarily taught at school, it’s basic problem solving skills, and paying attention, and challenging your own assumptions (the bug is usually where you’re not looking. A large part of “full stack development” is domain modeling – understanding the business requirements and mapping that into software objects or “resources.” This is something that comes with maturity and perspective, not CS degrees.
Advice for Bootcamp Grads
What would you advise someone who is graduating from a bootcamp and seeking a job.
First, “companies” don’t hire you, people do. Most jobs are won by word of mouth. Meet someone, follow up, ask if they’re hiring, don’t let them just say no, follow up with “ok, well can you refer me to someone you know might be in a better position to talk with me?”
Second, don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Everyone doesn’t know a lot of things, even senior developers.
Finally, its not enough to follow a bootcamp curriculum and think you’re done. Its more like your admission ticket. You need to take on your own projects, develop sites for friends, non-profits, your pet project idea, whatever you can to gain more experience. Feel some pain, figure it out, and get some satisfaction. Keep moving forward.
If and when you’re ready, find the one or few things you’re really interested in, study it, blog about it, put a stake in the ground, and tell people that’s what you do. It may be counter intuitive, but the more specific you are about what you know and what you want in a job, the easier it is to land a job.
What would you say to those who argue that bootcamp grads lack the necessary experience to get a job?
Hiring junior developers can be a great benefit to companies. It’s sometimes easier and cheaper to grow your own than to hire a rock star. If a person has the interest and aptitude, they can and will learn quickly. Junior developers can be shaped and directed more easily. There’s less to “unlearn.” Also, senior developers can learn a lot from the less experienced, we make assumptions about the best way to do things while newbies will ask questions that make you reassess. Its healthy for everyone.
That said, don’t put a junior developer on a big project all their own. Mentoring is ongoing. You need to break things into bite sized pieces, do some pairing and/or code reviews. Expect to refactor and accumulate some technical debt. That’s ok, that’s life.
Interested in enrolling with Jonathan? Check out his Bloc mentor profile.
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