Getting Off the Ground as a Green Developer
I recently had a family member, just out of college, ask me about finding an entry-level position in IT. While he had plenty of scholarly knowledge of principals, paradigms, and even history of technology, his CS program had done little more than promise “They are all going to be lining up to hire you when you graduate our program” to prepare him for the inevitable job hunt once all those tuition checks were cashed. This is a familiar problem. Luckily, here in Birmingham, we have a great local tech community (Shout out to Magic City Tech Slack) where there are plenty of people who genuinely enjoy helping people. And, although the knowledge acquired in a CS program is valuable, that alone can make for a difficult start once school ends; especially for those who have no interest in sitting at a cubical writing TPS reports all day or resetting passwords in AD for end users. For those of us who really want to dive into the “build something great” part of tech the problem becomes experience and how we can show that experience. Now, I know, you may be thinking “Experience??? I thought we were talking about new grads????” and you are right, but experience on the job isn’t the only kind of experience.
Here are some things that you can do to get some of that experience on your own and have something other than a certificate to show at your interview
- Find out what you really want to do
This one may sound obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how often I am talking to someone who wants to get started and the simple question “Well, what would you like to do?” invokes a look somewhere between trying to do differential equations drunk and what I imagine the first man seeing fire looked like. It seems to not ever come across some people’s minds that they could have a say in what kind of job they get. This seems especially true with people who come from areas that have no tech scene at all aside from the IT department at the local hospital and it makes sense. In the past people who live in places like that (was me as a youth) kinda have to take what is there if you want to stick around and not have to relocate. The good news is that there are opportunities all around and remote hires have never been more common. I encourage anyone getting started to figure out what it is that you enjoy and look specifically for that. For instance, if you enjoy coding then you probably won’t be happy in a job as an AD admin in an office. If you absolutely hate communicating with people then Internal Support probably isn’t for you. If your love is UI development you probably shouldn’t be looking at analyst positions.
- DO IT!
You don’t have to wait until you are hired to start gaining experience in a lot of different disciplines. Find something that interests you, a problem to solve, and solve that problem using the tools that you would be working with in your dream job. It doesn’t have to be an enterprise ready application, it can be anything. The point is to get some experience writing code that works and accomplishes some task, regardless of how trivial or meaningless that task is. Here is a python module that I created just for fun to demonstrate this principle to a friend. It doesn’t matter if anyone uses it, or if it changes the world, the point is that I have spent some time coding aside from a class assignment. You can do online coding challenges, publish modules to PyPi, make a personal web site, ad infinitum.
- SHOW IT!
Having started to build a local repository of code the question becomes “What do I do with it???”. The answer COMMIT IT!. All code that is ever to be run more than once should be in a repository. Having code repositories is the number one thing that allows you show that you actually know how to code. The other reason is that ALL CODE THAT ORGANIZATIONS USE WILL GO INTO SOURCE CONTROL SO IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MEANS AND HOW TO USE IT
- Get in touch
Like I said before, Birmingham is blessed with a jumping startup and overall tech scene and your city may also. Find local meetups, Slack organizations, and groups to get involved with and talk to - there is no substitute for knowing people in your local tech community.
Don’t wait until the day after graduation to start working on your chops as a developer, making connections, and spreading your code across the net. Get find what you love, do what you love, then shamelessly self promote. Good luck.
Linux loving , Python slinging, OpenSource evangelizing Senior Solutions Architect at Quinovas