How to enter the field of software development after a bootcamp?
CIO/COO at SCOUT Space Inc
You are on top of the world. Welcome to the software world!
After grueling weeks and months, you are finally done with your coding bootcamp. You have built tech that you could not build before and now you should be ready for many jobs in the field.
"But something is off, what is happening? You have posted your resume to a lot of platforms on the internet. You have let the world know that you are available for hire on Indeed and LinkedIn. Yet, your inbox is not overfilled with invitations to the interviews. You are getting frustrated and considering what can be done to change the situation."
"Let’s step back and review your situation from the perspective of risk. Why risk, you say? It is because I believe that risk is the main factor that the employer has to consider before bringing you on-board."
ANALYZE THE SITUATION
Let’s step back and review your situation from the perspective of risk. Why risk, you say? It is because I believe that risk is the main factor that the employer has to consider before bringing you on-board. Let’s say you have skills from the bootcamp and some of the practical know-how, but you have little actual experience. This means that all of your value is POTENTIAL. It is yet to be measured in the field. The employer has to invest a considerable amount of resources in bringing you on-board, training you and hoping that when the big assignment comes that you will be able to succeed.
This is in contrast to someone who has been in the field, has solved similar types of problems and can also bring strong referrals to the table. This person already comes with proven credentials and betting on this person is a lower risk proposition.
"What are the ways that you can improve the situation? There are many, but I will go over a few here that over time should be easy to change for you."
BRAND AND RECOGNITION
Unfortunately, you are starting as a nobody in the software industry. However, this is a great place to start, because ANY steps that you take towards improving your brand will increase your visibility.
Firstly, you might want to decide on what kind of recognition you want. Start going to places where other technologists are and talk to them. This could be meetups, conferences, seminars, lectures, talks. Anywhere where you can physically converse with others. This will allow you to make your judgment about which tech tribe you feel the most comfortable with. If you cannot decide on what feels right, then just pick one, be that frontend, backend, database, api, whatever. This helps to narrow down your next steps.
Secondly, now that you have picked a type, let’s say an API developer it is time to update your representation. Review your resume, Linkedin and other job applications and adjust it in a way that the API experience and ambitions come through clearer. This also helps with the introductions when you go to the social gathering. ”Hi, my name is Jill and I am an API developer”.
Thirdly, if you have any social media presence or github repo, it is a good time to start focusing messages on only projects that are highlighting your API experience. This will help the employer to collaborate your resume, experience and reduce the risk variable necessary for your hire.
ACTUAL PROJECT COMPLETETION - GENERATING EXPERIENCE
Since you don’t have actual software experience, it is a good time to start generating it from scratch. While it might be hard to find a paid gig at this time, there are plenty of unpaid opportunities.
Hackathons are one of my most favorite ways to generate coding experience. As part of the events, you are thrown in the midst of the problem and the projects have to be actually built, otherwise your team will not be recognized. It is time-limited and collaboration is greatly encouraged. These events closely resemble last minute coding sprints by the actual software teams and will prove very valuable on your resume.
There was perhaps something very interesting that got you started in the world of software. Perhaps you wanted to know how the Apple Watch works or how a GPS satellite protocol is put together. Use that passion to explore those topics structurally. Document everything that you find and practice writing code for those products. Write a simple app for apple watch or a GPS protocol interpreter. It will be fun and satisfying for yourself, but also will add some experience to your resume.
Charities and political campaigns have very small budgets but they always need technical help. You may already know the charities or politicians that you want to help or you can find some that you like at Charity Navigator. Reach out to their primarily technical email and offer your services pro-bono. Some may not reply, but some will absolutely take on your help. Again, use the passion to drive your energy here and these project become a juicer part of your resume
These days there are hundreds if not thousands of technology incubators across the world (ex. https://www.failory.com/startups/united-states-accelerators-incubators). Many of them are filled with aspiring entrepreneurs who want to make it big like yourself in the world of tech. As with volunteer projects, they still lack funding that is necessary to get them off the ground. And again this is where you come in offering your service pro bono, or perhaps in an exchange for an equity stake. If the company works out and they are able to raise money, this could be a company you can join and the resume becomes irrelevant.
KNOWLEDGE OF THE EMPLOYER
Another way that you can reduce your risk is to know as much as possible about the company. Almost nobody does this research. There is a surprisingly low number of candidates who even visit the company’s website and learn about the products. Stand out, visit the website, read the company blog, go to their conference, meet their representatives, get a demo of the product, follow them online, comment on their posts, know what their needs are. This commitment will get you recognized and at least will get the door slightly ajar for the interview.
COMMUNICATION AND TIMELINESS
I cannot say this enough, but it seems a very basic skill that we have stopped practicing professionally. You have to reply to ALL emails, answer ALL questions as asked, and show up on time for ALL meetings. These are three simple rules that will make you stand out as a professional. There are a lot of individuals who are self-absorbed and believe that the value is just in them and not in the relationship between employer and the employee.
ENGINEERING A GOOD FIT
Like in dating you have to find the right employer who is a good fit for you. Even though I value these ways that I listed above of improving your overall standing, they are not universal. Various employers may have different understanding of their own needs and this may come as a surprise, they might not be as experienced as you are in making correct technology decisions. Pace yourself, but don’t get upset if your value is not getting recognized. Part of the game is finding the right fit for both you and them.
Hope this helps and good luck!
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