Beginners Ask Experts Wrap-Up

Big thanks to Alex Bezuska with JSLou for organizing the JavaScript Developer AMA / Panel Discussion at Warp Zone last night, and to all of the panelists for sharing their industry knowledge: Craig Burton, Aaron Johnson, Leigh Prince (a 2x Code Lou grad!) and Ben Wiley.

Alex was inspired to host the event after meeting tech newcomers at meetups who often came armed with the same questions:

  • How do I get my first job in the tech industry?
  • How do I apply to tech jobs?
  • What sort of online presence should I have?

The panel addressed these questions — and more! — for a packed house of tech newbies eager for their big break. If you missed out on the talk, you can check out a video of it here.

Some takeaways?

Make connections in the industry
“Networking” seems to have a stuffy and negative connotation, so “Let’s call it hanging out,” said Ben. Whether you already have contacts in the industry, or are looking to meet more, maintaining those relationships is the key to finding a job in many cases. Tech events ranging from social happy hours to educational lectures to hack nights have forged tons of relationships about the city of Louisville that have lead to new creative side projects and full time gigs.

Find some other dog lovers to make a web app that features pups up for adoption. Get together with fellow foodies to make an API of the best restaurants in town. Congregate with classmates to give mobile development a try. Whatever it is, find something you enjoy doing to get the added experience to wow employers.

Importance of your online presence
Tech is very much a “show-me” industry, where employers will be more interested in the code samples you can provide than hearing you drone on about languages you know. Keep making commits to your GitHub even after your Code Louisville session has ended, to show employers you are passionate about tech and serious about working in the industry. Having solid samples of your work will show that you have experience with coding, even if you don’t have a professional position to highlight on your resume.

As Leigh mentioned, having your Code Louisville project up on GitHub is great! But you should have more. Make your own projects, contribute to open source projects, volunteer your time to a nonprofit, or whatever it takes to produce as many high-quality work samples as you can.

Tips on applying for jobs and interviewing
Searching for your first tech job can be an intimidating process, but the panel reminded everyone that you probably know more than you’re willing to give yourself credit. Especially if you’ve dedicated a significant portion of your life to a different career or industry, you may feel as though you aren’t prepared for a job in tech. Do. Not. Feel. This. Way…seriously.

When employers are seeking junior talent, they want to know you have the ability to learn and can learn to be knowledgeable in anything they may throw your way. You’re not going to know everything there is to know about tech (by a long shot) when you step into your first interview, but you CAN demonstrate you have a grasp on the basics and are willing and able to continue learning.

Never self-select out of a job. Let the employer determine whether or not they think you’re qualified for the role. Trust me — if you only apply for positions that you feel 100% qualified for, you’re selling yourself short. If you come across a senior level position, and you’re still in your tech infancy, that role probably isn’t for you. But if you come across a role that fits your interests and career goals, makes you excited, and you fit even more than half the qualifications? Throw your hat in the ring! If you keep waiting until you feel “ready”, you’ll probably never be ready.

Highlight your transferable skills and personality to help make up for what you may lack in technical experience. If you can show an employer you’re trainable and can fit in with the company culture, many will be willing to take a chance on you.

What else?
The panel also covered topics ranging from how much time you can expect to spend googling solutions, even after you’ve gained more experience (answer: a lot), how to negotiate salaries and freelance rates (short answer: try to make them give a number first, develop a range you’re comfortable with, and always make sure you know the lowest salary you can take), what different job titles mean (answer: Who knows? No really. They’re all over the place.), the necessity of Computer Science degrees (0 of the 4 panel members have a Bachelor’s in Computer Science), and what frameworks are the most important to know (figure out what the job entails, then learn it!).

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If you’re currently in Code Louisville, check the #cl-announcements channel for information on signing up for our post-session Job Readiness Seminars. We’ll help you revamp your resume to make it more tech-friendly, create a LinkedIn profile that will get you noticed by recruiters and hiring managers, and learn some interviewing techniques so you’ll be prepared for anything they may throw at you.

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