Six Tips To Making The Transition to Software Development


Did I really just quit my job to be a developer? Yup!

NEWS FLASH - In Portland, there are hundreds of junior developers looking for a position and hardly any companies hiring with fewer than two years of experience.

In early March 2018, I completed a bootcamp and, supposedly, I was ready to be a developer. Now let me say, imposter syndrome is real. You can’t just complete a bootcamp and then all of a sudden—poof—you’re a developer. So how do you keep pushing forward while looking for the illustrious first position?

I’m seeing many people, especially underrepresented minorities in tech wanting to get into development, hesitate because it’s nearly impossible to find a job.

Please don’t run away!

Here’s what I learned

Portland isn’t an anomaly

Most tech hubs are like this. There are a lot of folks in our position who recently completed coursework and are looking for entry level positions. That doesn't mean you made the wrong choice or shouldn’t try.

Companies are slowly realizing that they must hire with less than 2 years of experience if they want to fill their open positions.

Over the last 3 years, I attended many and spoke at a few sessions encouraging companies to hire less experienced developers. More and more C-Suites are coming around.

Evaluate the 5 Ws

If you’re going to learn how to code, consider the 5 Ws.

Who will teach you? Is the material taught in-person by a teacher, all pre-recorded or self-guided?

What languages will you learn? Do some research on current job postings and make sure the content is relevant. Also, do a bit of research on the languages so you know which one may strike your fancy.

When are the courses? Some schools require you to be training 9-5, while others are at your own pace. Some require a specific hours-per-week commitment.

Where will you learn? Research the cost and time commitment of college courses, bootcamps and self-driven online certifications.

Why do you want to be a developer? It’s not an easy task but everyone CAN be a developer. It will take a lot of work so make sure you know why. If you’re not sure, it will be harder to keep pushing forward, and it will inevitably come up in your interviews.

I ended up putting my evaluations of these questions into a spreadsheet to help my brain sort it all out.

Be patient

Once you’ve decided to be a developer, be patient. If you’re doing this for the short game of making money fast, you’ll be unsuccessful. It’s a long game and will eventually produce rewards.

If you are going to a bootcamp, most take 6-12 months to complete. That is a long time and there is no way to predict what the job market will look like when you complete it.

We all know there is a drastic need for software developers so it's not a question of "will you be hired?" but rather "when will you be hired?"

Be smart

You should, however, be smart about timeline. Know that it could take you 3-6+ months before you find your first job after completing your coursework. Some find a job right away, while others take a year.

There is no crystal ball. Employers could drastically change who and how they hire—for better or for worse.

Don’t be afraid to take a non-developer position. Some tech support roles, for example, will lead to developer positions. However, don’t take a non-developer role if you expect a promotion in a few months. Growth takes time and so will demonstrating your value.

Plan accordingly.

Network. Apply. Repeat.

Start networking now instead of waiting for when you’re ready to apply. I know it's been said and everyone recommends networking, but it's true.

I've been forcing myself to attend at least one meetup a month, sometimes more if my schedule allows. I've met so many people who may not have a job for me now, but will hopefully think of me in the future. Remember, the long game.

I've pushed myself to send emails, make phone calls, request coffee meet & greets and step out of my comfort zone because most people find a job from networking, not searching Indeed. I've applied to over 80 jobs, but the ones I network with are the ones with the best traction.

Apply to jobs before you think you’re ready. The first few you apply to, you’ll do it wrong. So get them out of the way.

I know the bootcamp I attended recommended that I not apply to jobs until I finish the course. I disagree. In my experience, some companies will hire you even if you haven’t finished your education. Just don’t misrepresent your current skills for what you expect to acquire.

If you’re going to finish in June, start applying to internships as soon as you can. If you wait until June to start applying, most of the internships are taken. Some companies pick their summer interns in January!

It only takes ONE

You only need ONE job. ONE offer. ONE company willing to take a chance on you.

After 10+ years in human resources, Ilana Davis made the transition to software development. She’s now using her HR experience to help women and POC get hired in tech. She loves coffee, vegan restaurants, coffee, crochet and coffee. Follow her on Twitter, check out her website, connect on LinkedIn.

Ilana Davis