After participating in six interviews (three of which were for a fake position), learning Golang, and competing in a hackathon, I landed a full-time development job

Alec Jones
Aug 21 · 7 min read
Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash

The Background

I’m going to tell you the story of how I finally landed my first full-time web-development job.

But it took a long time to get here, over a year of searching. I did six interviews, wrote countless emails, learned a new programming language, competed in a hackathon, and completed a small internship before I got a full-time position.

The Initial Search

I live in Victoria, British Columbia. It’s a small city of about 400,000 people. We have a small tech sector, but it has quite a few startups downtown.

I decided to approach one of the bigger companies, Sendwithus (Dyspatch), about becoming a summer intern. They seemed excited at the prospect of having a summer intern — they mentioned they had some SaaS products they’d like to have integrated together.

I was thrilled by a tech company showing enthusiasm. They said they’d like me to come in for an interview. When I received the calendar invite, I was a little shocked.

A two-hour-long interview! I didn’t know what they wanted to do — two hours is a long time to sit and tell people why they should hire you. I had heard about day-long interviews for companies like Google and Apple, but this was a small internship.

Still, I was pumped. When the day of the interview came, I put on my smartest casual clothes. I had learned it’s important to dress in an interview how the people of the office dress normally, that way they can see you fitting in better.

Since it was my first interview, it was a little rocky. But I answered each one of the hiring manager’s questions, such as my biggest strength, my biggest weakness, my leadership abilities — the run-of-the-mill questions.

The technical interview portion came. It was a whiteboard/pair programming interview. My problem-solving abilities were demonstrated well, but my coding skills were not. Nerves — oh well.

I shook everyone’s hand on the way out, and I was hopeful. I waited for about five days, and I didn’t hear back. I reached out asking they had found someone else or had made a decision.

The response I got back was, “Oh, we’re having a meeting about you today, actually.” Right … funny how that works out.

I got an email the next day,

I was not impressed. They scheduled in an interview, and I went through it. Then they still made me reach back out to find the results, when they should have already known they didn’t have the staff for me to come on!

There wasn’t much I could do about it; I had to move on and try to find a job.

I was pretty much out of time, as it was already the middle of July by the time I had found out that Sendwithus couldn’t take me on.

Lesson learned: Never put all your eggs in one basket.

Throwing a Bunch of Darts

That night, I sent out about a dozen emails to all the interesting looking tech companies I could find. Hoping that someone would reach back out, I sat patiently waiting.

While I was unable to find a job, my dad reached out to an old coworker/friend of his at Flow. He used to work there as their head of marketing — he was successful. The CEO of Flow said that he was sure they’d have a position for me to come in and do some development.

Eventually, I got an email from someone at Flow asking me to have a chat with him. Additionally, I got a response from one of the darts I threw: Freshworks Studio. My search came down to back-to-back interviews, one at Flow and then one at Freshworks.

To put it reasonably, the Flow meeting did not go well.

The location was never specified, so I showed up at their office because, after all, it’s a Victoria-based company. The guy I was talking to was currently in Seattle.

I was at the office when we finally realized what had happened when I emailed him. He said I should go to the nearest Starbucks, and that’s where we conducted our “interview.”

Once the pleasantries were over, he said the following,

“We don’t really have a job for you. So … Yeah … But we should get coffee sometime.”

You’d think that if they didn’t have a job for me, he wouldn’t have asked me to go for an interview.

Thankfully, I had another interview that afternoon. It was with Freshworks Studio, a consulting agency in downtown Victoria.

The interview didn’t feel like an interview at all. We just talked. We talked about the stuff I knew and the stuff I didn’t know — where my strengths and weaknesses were. It was relaxed.

After my interview was over, it was 3:45 p.m., and things were winding down. I hung out and talked with the people there for another hour. It felt like I already worked there.

Sure enough, one week later, they offered me a small position for a month. I gladly took it.

I learned a lot in that month: best development practices, the agile methodology, and I got more familiar with PHP.

The best part was the people. I got to meet, talk, and hang out with a lot of smart and funny people. That was fun.

September came and I had to go back to school, starting grade 11.

I vowed to land a full-time development job the following summer. I didn’t want to work part-time or work on my own little project in the company. I wanted to be on a team and work on the product.

I had to become a better candidate.

Becoming a Better Job Candidate

I wanted to become a better candidate for a development job so I could get a full-time position.

I knew I was already a better candidate because I had job experience, but I wanted to do more.

I decided to learn a new programming language, Go.

Go is a language that is unlike anything I’ve ever learned. It’s statically typed, and it’s not object-oriented like PHP and Ruby.

But I wanted to learn it because some companies in Victoria used it, and I knew it’d be a good challenge.

I decided I’d put my Go skills to the test with a hackathon. Sendwithus, the company that I applied for earlier, held the largest hackathon in Victoria.

The hackathon is called Battlesnake, and it’s a test of who can write the best algorithm for a modified version of the classic arcade game, Snake.

I didn’t place well, but I definitely learned how to write a program in Go.

The Second Job Search

In May of this year, I decided to reach out to Sendwithus again to see if they’d be interested in having a summer intern.

I explained that I had gotten a job last summer, how I had learned Go (which is their main backend language), and how I have grown as a developer.

I got a response back,

“Okay. If we want interns this summer, we’ll put you on a list.”

I kept looking. One day, was browsing Twitter when I came across a tweet looking for some interns.

The company that wanted some interns was Zeit. They are a super cool serverless platform.

They are building some fantastic open-source products, and I was thrilled at the idea of working there.

I immediately sent an email hoping to be able to talk to them. Guillermo and I talked for a while, but nothing managed to happen.

It was June, and I was started to get worried about where I was going to work this summer.

It’s About Who You Know

It was at this point my dad offered to reach out to a friend of his, Aidan, who could see if there was anyone in town looking for an intern.

After about a week, Aidan connected me with Chris, the vice president of technology, at Checkfront.

I had heard about Checkfront; they are one of the larger tech companies in Victoria, at about 70 people.

Chris and I talked, and I got to go for an interview with him and talk about the possibility of interning there. We grabbed a coffee and chatted about what I could do for Checkfront.

It went well, and he introduced me to Dave, head of the platform team at Checkfront. We went for coffee. That went really well, and then I just had to wait.

Near the end of June, they offered me a position to start as a co-op in two weeks, full time.

I couldn’t have been more thrilled. A full-time development job is something I’ve been working towards for a long time; I’m so excited to finally have one.

I get to work on the platform team. I’ve worked on a big new feature, I’ve fixed bugs in the back end, I’ve refactored legacy code, I’ve worked on the front end. I get to do it all!

It definitely helps to have an “in” somewhere. An, I’ve learned that just because a company isn’t advertising for a position doesn’t mean they don’t need your help.

Back to High School

Unfortunately, I have to go back to finish high school in September. I’ve really enjoyed my experience working at Checkfront.

I grow as a developer every day. I get to learn cool things, and I get to hang out with fun people every day. I’ll just have to wait until next summer.

I’ve got my eyes set on an internship at Github!

Thanks for you so much for reading.

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

Alec Jones

Written by

Just Do It. Seriously, like just go and do it.

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

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