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My journey to becoming a software developer

Learning how to code

My journey to becoming a software developer was not exactly traditional. I graduated university in 2016 with a degree in advertising and marketing and started out in the adult working world as a digital marketer. I spent several years working in digital marketing firstly at a big media agency in London and finally at a small startup in Manchester.

Whilst working at the startup company I came into greater contact with the software developers working there and learnt more about what the role actually involved. The more I learnt the more curious I became, it seemed like a really interesting field and appealed to both the creative and analytical sides of me. At this point I decided to take the Codecademy Introduction to JavaScript course and found it both challenging and rewarding to progress through.

Once I finished the course I started looking for options of how I could further progress my knowledge, at this point I had decided I really enjoying coding and would like to make the switch to becoming a software developer. This is when I found the Command Shift part-time coding bootcamp. This was a great option for me as it was not only cheaper than all the other coding bootcamps in Manchester but it also offered the opportunity to continue to work full time whilst also learning to code.

Completing the bootcamp whilst working full time was very challenging and resulted in lots of very long days where I would start work at 8am and finish the coding bootcamp at 9:30pm but it was all worth it as the learning experience was massively rewarding. I finally felt like I'd found the career path I really wanted to do and the teaching staff were so helpful and knowledgeable they made it a pleasure to learn.

Applying for jobs

I started applying for jobs as a software developer in November 2019 as I came into the final month of the Command Shift bootcamp. I found the process of applying for jobs for a brand new career massively daunting and intimidating as you're pushing yourself to take your first steps into the unknown. Some of the things which helped me when i started applying for jobs were:

Asking mentors to read my CV for meI tried to make my CV as specific as possible to a career in software development. I think it's important when writing a technical cv that you get someone who already works in the industry to look through it to make sure all the languages you’ve listed are spelt correctly and all the terminology is correct.

Play up your transferable skills I didn’t have any work experience that was directly related to software development however I do have good soft skills and transferable skills from other jobs that could help me be a better software developer. Make sure you mention these as employers are not only looking for someone with technical skills they also want someone who will fit into their team well.

Market yourselfWhilst I was doing the Command Shift bootcamp I decided to start the 100 Days Of Code challenge and tweet everyday about what I had learnt and what i was working on. I found that by being very specific in my tweets about the things i was learning and sharing examples of my work my follower number grew quickly which allowed me to network with other developers. The 100 Days Of Code challenge also motivated me to look at code everyday.

Go to events Go to tech events and network with other developers in your city. There are also usually recruiters at these events which you can talk to about upcoming roles they are working on. They also usually have free food and beer which is a plus.

Put effort into your portfolio Build your own portfolio and style it to reflect your personality and who you are as a developer. I built mine in React and put effort into making sure it worked well across all devices, that it was a nice user experience and it showed off all my best work.

Keep a spreadsheet of roles you’ve applied to The current climate for jobs is a tough one and you’ll probably find yourself applying for lots of different roles. Keeping a spreadsheet which has all the jobs you’ve applied to, the date you submitted the application and a link to the advert really helped me keep track of them all. It also meant I knew which ones to chase up if I didn’t hear anything back.

Make your cover letter as specific as possible to the role you’re applying to.I also include as many links to examples as possible in mine so that they aren’t just reading about my skills they can see real examples of my work too.

Overcoming setbacks

I was offered my first role as a Graduate Software Developer in January 2020 about a month after graduating from the Command Shift bootcamp and after a very vigorous and testing recruitment process. When I was offered the role I was told it wouldn’t be starting until April and although this was a big gap I decided to wait for the role as it was the job I had wanted for a very long time and for the company I wanted to work for.

I decided to go travelling in the meantime. 6 weeks into my travels in the middle of March it was announced that the UK was going into lockdown due to COVID-19, I flew home early and began self isolation. I was due to start my new role as a software developer in the first week of April. Two weeks before the role was due to start I was told that the role was being postponed to July due to COVID-19 and the company having less client work. After waiting for several more weeks, in the second week of June I was told the role would not be going ahead at all anymore.

At this point I was unemployed in the middle of a pandemic and panicking that I wouldn't be able to get another job let alone a job as a software developer. I was scared to admit my defeat to everyone after working so hard to get to the position of being offered the job.

I decided to bite the bullet and own my vulnerability and posted a tweet to my Twitter followers on June 16th announcing that I was looking for a job. Surprisingly I had an overwhelming response of support and as a result of that tweet I was offered my dream job as a Front End Developer three days later. I was so happy that over 6 months after finishing the Command Shift bootcamp and a year after I began my journey of learning to code I finally had the opportunity to work as a software developer.

This entire process taught me that It’s really not easy to change your career. You’ll probably experience a lot of rejection along the way but you just have to keep going and always believe in yourself. If it's what you want it will work out one day just keep working towards your goal and don’t let anybody stop you. Also don’t be scared to reach out to people and ask for help this is something I’ve always struggled with and in the end it was because of the network of people I’ve built up and the amazingly supportive Twitter developer community that I have the job I’ve always wanted.

Jasmine graduated from our June 2019 cohort and now works as a Frontend Software Engineer @ FOOTASYLUM. Follow her on Twitter.

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