About a year ago I graduated from a coding boot camp, and right now I am a happy developer at Interfacewerk. There are many articles about boot camps, but very little is written about what comes after. So I want to tell you more about my first year after graduating. Was it exciting and stimulating?
Yes. Was it difficult and frustrating? Definitely. But let me tell you how it all started. Just keep in mind that my first year as a professional programmer might look nothing like yours looked or will look.
Becoming a developer. Just like that.
Like many others who choose to attend one of these programs, I was dissatisfied with my job at the time and was looking for a career change. I have a degree in economic sciences and have worked in a variety of business fields, but the sector that caught my attention the most was the world of software development. I have friends working in IT, who would tell me all about their cool offices, company perks and professional development opportunities and just how much they enjoyed their job in general. So the idea of doing a programming boot camp had been in the back of my mind for a couple of years already.
So at the end of 2019, I decided to give it a try and enrolled in an intensive Web Development bootcamp at Ironhack. A friend of mine had done the same and had got great results, so I was confident I could do it too.
My experience at the bootcamp was textbook: I worked 60 hours a week (including a couple of hours of desperation), I ate a lot of takeouts from Uber Eats and I forgot the meaning of sleep. The first steps were not as easy as I couldn’t understand many concepts and felt stupid all the time. But every day I understood a bit more, I started having fun, especially working on the different real-life projects we had to complete during the bootcamp and I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Finally, after two and a half months, I felt ready to start my career as a developer.
After the coding bootcamp: how to find work?
Enter, reality check: the dreaded job hunt. I set myself up for success the best I could. I made sure my LinkedIn profile looked sharp and my GitHub profile was full of green dots, I set up a portfolio website, and I signed up for different recruiting platforms. In short, I did everything I could think of to get my foot in the door.
The reality is that finding your first job as a developer is likely to be extremely tough. Especially if you are doing it in the midst of a global pandemic. I started questioning everything: was it only the fact that I didn’t have experience in this area? Or maybe also the fact that I was applying to jobs in Amsterdam and I only speak basic Dutch? Or maybe there was something wrong with my CV? It wasn’t pretty, but I continued applying to jobs, loads of them.
Facing reality: a tough start
After a lot of effort and frustration, I managed to land my first IT job, an internship at a digital agency. The job wasn’t supposed to be remote, but due to the exceptional situation with Covid-19, it mostly was. The first few days were overwhelming: I realized that the bootcamp had prepared me to get a job, but not necessarily to do the job. Even simple things like the file structure looked complicated in this real-life setting, miles away from the safety of the Bootcamp.
The simple seemed difficult, the complex impossible. There’s nothing like a Git error message to induce the cold sweats of Impostor syndrome in a new coder on her first days on the job. To make matters worse, four months into the adventure I was told that there wasn’t enough money to pay me or the other interns due to the difficult situation with Covid-19. Long story short, with a little more experience under my belt, I was on my way back to the job market!
The second job hunt: not every agency is the same
After getting to the final round of interviews with a few companies, I opted for a remote job at another agency: Interfacewerk. At first, I was a bit reluctant to go work for another agency, but I believed in the team (at least in the ones I had met before starting) and they got me excited to work with them. It was definitely a good decision and the right place to kick off my professional career.
I get to work on interesting projects and features (and not just with basic CSS and Html) with knowledgeable and nice colleagues who are always there if I need help. I do have the feeling that everything I have worked so hard for in the last year is finally paying off. Now, after 3 months, I am still delighted to be working at Interfacewerk and curious to know how much I will be able to grow here. I am learning new things and improving my coding skills daily. And I can say with absolute certainty that I am a better developer now than when I started here.
Stop comparing yourself to others!
Of course, in my day today, there are still many concepts that are completely new to me and the lessons I need to learn. For example, what I just recently realized is that you are not expected to be as fast as everyone else.
Looking around and seeing people completing tasks in half the time it would take me can be very discouraging. But these are people who have been in the industry for years, so it makes no sense for me to compare myself to them. As I discover this world I am becoming more aware of how vast it is and of everything that I do not know - which can be quite overwhelming at times. As a Junior, one of my problems is having too many open fronts and not knowing what to study next.
So, one year after I finished my bootcamp, what have I learnt?
It was worth it! It was an extremely challenging adventure, sometimes discouraging and frustrating, but at the same time also a stimulating and positive experience. Furthermore, it helped me to advance both professionally and personally. It gave me the confidence to take on hard challenges and succeed! If my past self of early 2020 saw me today writing cryptic lines of code, she would probably not believe what she saw and would be quite proud. It's insane what kind of progress I have made.
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