There’re many approaches to land your first job in tech, especially when you’re a newbie. Rather than just submitting a CV, Katherine showed her work ethic to employers. I hope this interview would give you an insight.

Please introduce yourself

Hi, I’m Katherine. I currently work as a Software Engineer at a startup working on building a mental health app. My role involves developing in React, Ruby on Rails, and Swift.

What was your background before learning to code?

I graduated in 2018 with a degree in Industrial Engineering. I worked for about a year after graduating as a New Product Introduction Engineer, but did not feel very passionate about it.

What got you interested in coding and how did you learn?

I was exposed to coding in a few classes in college and always really liked it, but didn’t feel confident enough to switch majors and delay finishing my degree. It wasn’t until I heard about the Fullstack Academy coding bootcamp that I made the leap. It was a 6 month part time online program, so I figured it was a great way to test out oding without having to quit my job. It turned out I loved coding and knew I wanted to do it full-time.

How did you get your first job in tech?

I actually got my current job by sending an email. I was listening to a podcast and heard about this team that was starting to build a mental health app. I decided to reach out and offer to help out, not even looking for a job, but just looking for more tech experience and mentorship. After about 4 months of helping out in my free time, they offered to hire me full-time.

How did you prepare for an interview?

I’ve actually never interviewed for a job, I’ve just had people get to know me and my work ethic in other ways.

How do you get people to know your work ethic?

For me, it’s personal contacts. For example, I got my current job by just reaching out and offered to help them for free, which ended up allowing me to demonstrate my work ethic with no risk to them.

Another thing I did last year was volunteer to help with a nonprofit app that estimated how long your supply of essentials would last before you needed to shop, which was meant to help people at the beginning of Covid. I didn’t get a job from that but met people and helped me practice my skills.

So my advice to people is to get involved with projects in tech even if they aren’t paying jobs, because that experience and networking can lead to great things. Things like Hackathons could be a good example, although I’ve never done one.

Any obstacles that you have to overcome in learning or getting a job in tech?

Imposter syndrome is a big obstacle in tech, especially coming from a non-CS background. I think it’s key to remember that it’s normal to feel that way. Even experienced engineers feel that way at times. I also think it’s helpful to be confident in your ability to figure things out. You don’t need to know everything before you get hired, you just need to be the type of person that can learn on the job.

Tips for newbies?

  1. Finding good peers and mentors is invaluable. An experienced engineer can teach you something in minutes that it may have taken them years to learn.
  2. Focus on building things.
  3. Learn the skills you need as you go.
  4. Take breaks.
  5. Work on things that you are passionate and excited about and it will be much easier to find motivation.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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