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Listener Question: Daman asks about Part Two

Published 8/8/2016

In today's episode, listener Daman asks about what to do next in his career.

Today's episode is sponsored by Linode! Head over to Linode.com/developertea or use the code DeveloperTea20 at checkout for a $20 credit towards your cloud hosting account! Thanks again to Linode for your support of Developer Tea.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone, welcome to Developer Tea. I hope you are having a fantastic Monday. Today we are going to be talking about listener Damon's question for entry experience. What is step two? Today's episode is sponsored by Linode. We will talk about what Linode has to offer to Developer Tealisteners like Damon later on in today's episode. Damon wrote in to my email address Developer Tea at gmail.com. By the way, if you want to write in, you can do that by simply just sending me an email. I read every single one that I get. So send me an email developert.gmail.com. But Damon wrote in and he said, I just started listening to your podcast and I think it's a godsend. I want to pause for a second because I want to make sure that you all know I try not to edit these emails. So they are in as many times as possible there and the original words of the author. So Damon, I appreciate you saying this quite honestly. I'm only here to help those of you who are listening and anything that you get out of it is something that already resounds with you anyway. So thank you so much for saying that. I really believe in the people who listen to this show. So thank you Damon for this kind of compliments. It really means a lot to me. Damon continues, I wanted to contact you to find answers to some career questions that I have. Any input will be greatly appreciated. I've been learning to code since September that's coming up on a year here shortly. He says, I have built one website and a portfolio page. I feel lost as to what my next step should be. I want to find a job as a friend and developer but currently I lack experience. Where can I find an entry level position? Should I find an internship? What kind of project should I add to my portfolio? How do I make myself a competitive candidate? Regardless, Damon. Damon, this question is such a great question because it's kind of the classic scenario for pretty much every developer at some point. They've experienced this kind of loss for what to do. You like many developers, Damon? You're unsure where to put your energy. As we talked about on Friday, you have a lot of energy to put forth into your career. It's obvious to me that you're going to have plenty of oomph to get the job done. But you're just having trouble figuring out what that job is. What is the next step? What is your responsibility? What is the best place to put that energy? I want to help you, Damon, because I believe this career is full of incredible experiences. You have the opportunity to do really awesome stuff as a developer, to make incredible things. You get to build things that will shift the way people live their lives, maybe in small ways, or maybe in big ways. As a developer, you get the chance to work for amazing initiatives and the market and earning potential for developers is continuing to be fantastic. It's growing in certain areas especially. So, Damon, the wall you've hit here is really quite a common wall. I want to reiterate something we've said on the show in the past in more detail. One of the big reasons you are hitting this wall is because the software development industry is still in an early phase where there's not a primary path that Developer Travel down. Most developers start out doing basically what you've done, Damon. They start out in some entrepreneurial path to build experience, particularly through freelance projects. This is somewhat unique in that most other industries have relatively predictable job paths. Assuming the industry is hiring, you can typically go to school, be trained, get your degree, and be qualified for a job coming out of that school at some firm or some major corporation in that industry. It's been around long enough that they've worn those paths down over time, and now it's a more stable environment and people can follow in the footsteps of the many hundreds of thousands that have come before them in those industries. And software development is still young. It's still in an explosive state of growth, and there's not one reliable path to take. On this show, one of my goals is to try to find some of those reliable paths. Try to find some of those common elements for people who are traveling down the road, starting out as a completely inexperienced, just interested encoding, all the way down to the highly experienced expert, the best world-class developers. That's the path that I want to find and hopefully outline for you as developers. The reality is the climate for an entrepreneur, which is really what you are right now, Damon. You are an entrepreneur at the very early stage of entrepreneurship as a freelancer. The climate for you is much more uncertain than for someone working in a secure job at a large company with a salary and benefits. So Damon, specifically for you, I've got a few things that I think can help you at the stage that you've already told me that you're at in your career to go from freelancing entrepreneur to a more stable position at a company so that you can grow your experience on the job. Damon, I'm going to give you some ideas as soon as we finish talking about today's sponsor. Linode, Damon, one of the things I'm going to tell you today is that you need to be building things on the side. We'll talk about that more in a second, but the stuff that you build, you need to put it online somewhere. Not everything is going to be front-end only. Maybe you need some back-end services. And what you're going to find is that most people use Linux boxes for this. Spend up a server. Linode provides a fantastic resource for developers, because you can get a Linux box up and running in just a few minutes. And it only costs you $10 a month. On top of that, Linode provides Developer Tealisteners with $20 a credit, which is equivalent to two months of free time on a server when you use the code Developer Tea 20. And Linode servers are not just machines sitting in a warehouse. They're built on solid-state drives until E5 processors. They've got a 40 gigabit internal network. And their lowest tier plan, that $10 plan I was just talking about, those servers have two gigabytes of RAM. That's a fantastic deal. A great server at the entry-level price even. Go and check it out. Linode.com slash Developer Tea 20. That's basically $100 over the next year gets you a server. That is a fantastic price. What else can you get for $100 a year? That's less than $10 a month when you average it out. After you use that credit that Linode is so generously offering to Developer Tealisteners, make sure you use that code, though. Developer Tea 20, go to Linode.com slash Developer Tea 20. And that code will be automatically applied. Thank you again to Linode for sponsoring Developer Tea for being such a great sponsor. By the way, they have eight data centers. I meant to mention that. That's in the read. But I know Linode's read at this point so well that I can just speak to you about how you would use this product. And I think it's a great solution for people just like Damon who are trying to get these side projects off the ground and trying to build their experience working with Linux boxes, for example. So again, Linode.com slash Developer Tea 20. Again, we're talking about what step two is for a relatively inexperienced developer. Damon is asking about where to go from here. He's basically an entry-level front-end dev. And he doesn't know what the intermediatory steps are between developing his first website or first two websites and being employed and working on this stuff every single day and getting paid by a company to do it. And that's what we're going to be talking about for the rest of this episode's Damon-specific situation. Damon, for your situation, I have some recommendations for you. I'm going to give them to you. But I want to recognize the fact that these suggestions are not some new epiphany that I had just for you. These are ideas that we have talked about again and again and again on the show. Other people have talked about them on other podcasts and in blogs for years. And they have worked for many, many people before you. And in general, they will work again in the future. So if you're listening to this episode and you are in a similar situation as Damon, then this advice is for you as well. These are three ideas I want to give to you today, Damon. And there are plenty more things that you can learn about this stage of your career. A lot of them you will learn on your own. But I'm going to give you these three ideas for today. Number one, pursue an internship doing any kind of work that is related to development. That last part is really important. Pursue an internship and don't be picky about the type of work as long as it is at least tangentially related to development. The experience you gain at an internship is absolutely invaluable. And quite often internships end up leading to job opportunities. Either at the company that you're at or maybe it's just a company that is nearby that they know someone who works with you at the company that you have your internship at and they give you a good recommendation for a different company. There's plenty of ways that you can get a job after an internship. But an internship very often ends up leading to a job in one way or another. If your goal is to be employed by a development company, if that's your big step goal, an internship is the halfway step between where you are and where you want to be. There are very few downsides to an internship. Some internships don't pay. That would be a downside. Some don't pay well. That's a little bit less of a downside, but still you have to make enough money to pay the bills. Some pay like an hourly job. Very few will pay you a salary rate. But remember, the internship is temporary. So any kind of work you can do that is even somewhat related to development is worth your investment. And that's how you have to look at it. If you're getting paid less than you would like to get paid, it's probably because it's an investment. It's a risk for the company that is hiring you as an intern. It's a learning opportunity for you and experience building opportunity for you. You have to view that as an investment. Just as a side tip for the monetary side of things, you may want to save up some money doing a side job. Save up some money before you start your internship because it's likely that you're not going to be able to have another job and gain as much as you can out of an internship. By the way, if you're going to do an internship, I highly recommend that you sign on for a full time job. In other words, make your internship a 40-hour a week, 9 to 5 or 8 to 4, whatever the hours of the company are that you work for, maybe they have flexible hours. It doesn't matter. Make it as much of a normal job as you can. There's a couple of really good reasons for you to do this. Number one is people will start seeing you on a regular basis in a full time position rather than being reminded that you're an intern by you leaving in the middle of the day, for example. So mock a real job as much as possible in this internship. Of course, the other reason is you're going to learn a whole lot more. If you are fully engaged in your internship, you're going to learn a lot more than you would if you were only part-time in your internship. The relational equity you gain with this internship is incredibly valuable and you shouldn't underestimate it. You are with people day in and day out, and they are interacting with you and seeing the work you produce. Perhaps more importantly, though, instead of them seeing you as a resume added to the stack of resumes that they have to go through, they get to see your character in action. They get to see the way that you work, the way that you are as a person. And that puts you at the top of the stack because now they know significantly more about you as a person than anyone else that all they have in front of them is a resume. So again, number one, pursue an internship doing any kind of work that is related to development. Number two, make a bunch of smaller, more focused things. Make a bunch of smaller, more focused things. By the way, these can be done in parallel. And in fact, I would say that you need to start making smaller, more focused things before you start applying for internships. This is going to help your pursuit of an internship immensely if you have a couple of these smaller things ready with you when you go in to meet that company that you want to intern with. You've made your personal website, which is a great step. You have a GitHub account. And by the way, just a small piece of advice. Try to get a domain that is not a GitHub pages domain, get your own domain if you can. It just simply looks a little bit better on a resume. But overall, the work you've done is relatively slim. Damon, it's decent work. There's nothing particularly wrong with it. But it's slim. There's not a lot for me to go on. You don't have to have a client to practice this craft. So I recommend to pretty much everyone looking to build their skill and show their ability to solve problems. They create a bunch of small, narrowly scoped, like tiny projects. Very narrowly scoped. The kind of projects that take you at most a weekend or maybe a Monday through Friday sprint to complete. But lean more towards the one or two day projects. What this forces you to do is focus on the fundamental core idea of the project rather than trying to build all the supporting infrastructure, all the stuff that everyone knows how to do anyway. In a code review, that stuff is typically skipped over because it's so easy to copy and paste code. And you basically have the infrastructure that you need. But the unique underlying idea, the thing that makes it different. So everything has a login system, for example, but the thing that makes your app different. Whatever that is, that's all I want you to build in these tiny projects. This exercise not only builds your portfolio within intriguing work, but it also teaches you about how to narrow your work into the most valuable output that you can accomplish. And believe it or not, this is usable on the job. This idea of tiny projects, really what you're doing in your job is a bunch of tiny projects stacked up together. So this one skill is worth the investment of your time in these very small projects. Damon, for you, I'd recommend maybe doing five to 10 of these projects to begin with. Once you have a few under your belt, maybe two or three of them, that's when I'd say to start looking for your internship. If you do, if you one day projects, make it a hard cut off, 24 hours only, and then you're done. And code one really awesome thing on a Saturday. And then a few slightly larger projects, but still relatively small. So a two or three or four day project, you will have a lot more experience and a lot more to show potential employers than if you spent all of that time doing only your personal website. So pick a few different projects and pick a few different technologies. They don't have to be wildly different, but I certainly wouldn't do one project with Bootstrap and then another project with Foundation, because those are so similar that if you know one, then you can pretty much use the same knowledge for the one as you do for the other, those two front end frameworks. So pick a few different types of technologies and structures to focus on for these many projects. We've talked about this idea a few times on the show in the past, and we will definitely include some links in the show notes to a few of those episodes where we talk about building small things and thinking small. Number three, don't be afraid to express yourself in your professional work. Don't be afraid to express yourself to be yourself and to show that you are a human in your professional work. This is so commonly overlooked that people think that the top number one thing that will get them a job is their list of programming languages. People often think that whoever they are applying to is totally uninterested in them as a person. That for some reason, because this is the tech profession that they don't really care what their fashion sense is, for example, or they don't really care in what they look like, how they present themselves, whether they're professional or not, and they don't care about their hobbies, for example. This is so not true though, because there are people on the other end of your resume. There are people on the other end of the computer who are looking at your website. One of the most important things you can do for your professional life is have interests outside of your professional work. Now I'm not saying you had to be a world traveler or post pictures on Instagram of you running marathons every week, but your website Damon is nicely done as an introduction to your current level of expertise, but I don't really know much about you. When I'm going to hire someone who they are is often more important than what they can do because what they will do will change over time, but who they are will tell me how it will change. And when I hire someone, I typically do so for the long haul, assuming they want to grow with us at Whiteboard. So think about it from this perspective. If you are the employer that has sent out a call for interns, for example, which are you more likely to pick? One of 30 people who have very similar experience and you know nothing about and all of their websites look like basically the same thing, and they had the same types of technologies. Maybe there's a few that excel and a few that lag behind, or are you more likely to pick number 31 who has all of the things that the other ones have, right? He or she has the experience and the list of technologies that is relevant to the actual job position, but they also have turned in their application early and they've spent time to make sure that their grammar and their email was correct. And that person seems to be actively involved with local events in the city, even if it is simply to make you memorable. Don't be afraid to put a face to the name, so to speak. I would even say that it would be a good idea to put a picture of yourself on your website. This helps people connect to you and remember you. Of course, don't go overboard with this. If your intention is to get an internship, balance your personal life with the value you are bringing to the table. And remember that the person who is reading your website will be looking at you from as many angles as they can to try to determine if you will make a good fit. If you don't give them enough angles to examine though, they may simply pass you by because they don't have enough information to even remember you, to even remember your application or your website. Ultimately, be pleasant, memorable, polite, and professional. This is gonna take you a long way. So don't be afraid to introduce a little bit about yourself on your website, perhaps in your resume. Those are things that people will remember about you beyond the things that everyone else is already saying. Damon, I hope this episode is incredibly helpful to you and I hope you get some ideas about what next steps are for you. Thank you so much for sending in a question. Of course, if you're listening to this episode and you have a question, maybe a follow up question to this one, you can always email me at Developer Tea at gmail.com. If you're enjoying today's episode and you'd like to make sure you don't miss out on Wednesday's episode of Developer Tea, make sure you subscribe in whatever podcasting app you're listening to right now. You can do that on a computer, you can do it on a phone, pretty much every app allows you to do it as well. So go and subscribe before the episode ends. Thanks again to our longtime sponsor, Linode, if you are in the process of making a side project or if you're in the process of scaling a small project to be much larger, Linode may be a perfect option for you and they're giving you $20 of credit and a seven day money back guarantee. Go and check it out Developer Tea 20 is the code to use it checkout to get that extra $20. Linode.com slash Developer Tea 20. Thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea and until next time, enjoy your tea.