How I Became a Trainee Developer

Graduation Day

And just like that, the best 4 years of my life had come to an end. Where did all the time go?

On arriving home the evening of my university graduation, all I wanted and probably needed to do was lie down in the comfort of my bed. I was no longer a student. All of the studying I had done over the last two decades had built up to that very moment when I walked up on to the stage to collect my degree certificate. A degree in Mechanical Engineering. The next step would be to go on to pursue chartership as a mechanical engineer. Or rather not. I had spent the last few months of university too unorganised and preoccupied with my final year project that I hadn’t thought much about what I was going to do once I had graduated, let alone even applied to any graduate schemes. And so the job search would begin, just not that very evening.

Over the next few weeks I embarked on my journey as an unemployed graduate. That label probably makes it sound like a bad thing, though I had a world of opportunities waiting for me. Back at university, I had registered with a few graduate recruitment agencies, but had yet to actually read anything they’d sent over to me. The first place to look was in my email inbox, where I found a plethora of emails from several of these recruitment agencies. I verified my accounts with them and checked out what they had to offer. First off I had to build my profile. One thing I had actually managed to do before graduating was to build a CV, tailored for mechanical engineering graduate roles.

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The Search Begins

After adding the finishing touches to my profile, key skills, career goals and so on, I was presented with a long list of graduate roles filtered down to match my profile. ‘Mechanical Design Engineer’, ‘Graduate Consultant Engineer’, ‘Graduate Systems Engineer’, and many more along those lines. The roles varied widely in their description and the skills required for them, though nothing really stood out for me personally. You know, something that I had a “passion” for, that I’d spent 4 years studying for, though I would never really know until I had a deeper look. I decided to go ahead and apply for a few. What better way to find out than to be invited for an interview or assessment centre. I’d be forced to do some research in preparation for the interviews, where I myself could also ask questions on all I needed to know. I’d also get the opportunity to speak to some graduate engineers, and see the kind of work that they do.

Several phone interviews and site visits later I was still unsure whether I was looking in the right direction. Thinking back to my time at university, I remembered the wide array of topics I covered throughout my degree. That was the reason I had decided on a mechanical engineering degree in the first place; it would give me a wide variety of options to choose to specialise in. I hadn’t quite chosen a field to specialise in but after reflecting on all the projects, assignments and labs I had done, I could recall some of the work that I genuinely enjoyed doing and had good memories of. The “good times” I could reminisce about.

A lot of my best work was done in front of a computer screen, where I had to use some piece of software to solve a problem. More specifically, where I had to program the software to solve a problem. I remembered those late nights spent in the library with several coursemates trying to figure out how to make some piece of code work the way we needed it to. Even a task as mundane as “computing the rate of growth of algae in a pond” was made interesting by having to solve it using some coding.

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Let’s Code

So, I enjoyed some coding, but could I make a career out of it? I consulted with a friend from university who had a lot more experience with coding and the various coding languages. He directed me towards thenewboston’s C and C++ beginner YouTube tutorials, just to get an idea of what I was getting myself into. I had some experience with C++ for my penultimate year university project, but I had gone a while without any practice. Now, I know there are varying opinions on whether a coding newbie should start out with low level languages like C and C++, but having completed both tutorials, I have no regrets. It gave me the kick-start I needed, and I enjoyed it. But where was I to go from there.

I returned to the graduate recruitment websites, changed my profile, and read some job descriptions for software development positions. I was still short on most of the technical skills they were looking for. While doing some more research, I came across a YouTube video featuring Qunicy Larson, which led me to freecodecamp. It was here that I learnt a lot more about the kind of skills I would need to get into the industry, and it really excited me. My mind was set; I wanted to be a developer.

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Within a month of following the Freecodecamp curriculum, I was able to design my own website using HTML and CSS. I had also picked up on some basic skills using JavaScript. I was making progress, albeit slow progress. That’s when I stumbled across a job posting for a place at Sparta Global. A spontaneous phone call and assessment centre later, and I was in. I would be trained as a developer. And what better way to learn than alongside a group of other talented and budding developers. A week in and I can already tell it won’t be easy, but who said easy was fun.