Life after the bootcamp

I finished the General Assembly web development bootcamp at the end of February and haven’t really blogged since.

However, it turns out that people were actually reading my blog about my bootcamp experience{:target="_blank"}. From time to time I receive an email from a reader asking me about my opinion about General Assembly or someone at a tech meetup recognises me because of it. Very flattering!

I enjoyed writing it and I’m glad I have it as a record of these rather extraordinary three months. So I’ve decided to continue writing - about my new job as a developer, about my continuous learning and about code.

Of course, now that I’m a real developer (cough), I’m not using the standard wordpress CMS as a blogging platform anymore. No, I sat down and spent a whole Sunday creating a blog section on my own website. I mean, come on, a chef wouldn’t eat an oven ready meal, would they?

I’ll start where I left off at rabeameetscode{:target="_blank"}. The last post finished with an encouraging "onwards and upwards"... and that’s how it went.

The job hunting process

I was keen to get a job as soon as possible to continue learning to code. I was used to constantly being challenged and getting introduced to new concepts almost every day and my life suddenly felt a bit empty without it. Also, I really needed to start earning money again, so there was that minor detail.

I decided to apply to as many companies as I could. Starting with speculative applications to companies on my favourites list that I’d kept for a while, then applying to any job ad for a junior developer that I could find and emailing companies from the list of the General Assembly hiring event.

And I did get responses! I had quite a few interviews, coffee chats and meetings. Sometimes up to three a day which meant that I was travelling all across London and feeling absolutely exhausted at the end of the day.

People in the tech industry seem to be very happy to meet for a chat. And they’re very helpful with giving advice and recommending contacts, which is great. I saw so many different offices and met a lot of interesting people - even though a lot of the time nothing ever came of it other than caffeine induced jitters.

I think in total I applied to about 40 companies. I kept a spreadsheet with all the details of when I applied, who I spoke to at what time, any notes - like a real sales person.

Looking back, I think I shouldn’t have taken up every meeting opportunity and instead reserved my energy for the important ones. But I was so worried that I wouldn’t find a job, that I didn’t allow myself any breaks. It became so confusing that I sometimes didn’t even know anymore who I had told what and if I’m telling them the same thing again or if that was an hour earlier in a different interview. It’s also quite hard to keep up the enthusiasm if you tell people the same thing three times a day. I was getting sick of listening to myself.

Code tests

And then there were the code tests. I did a few, ranging from the quite complex challenges ("Yes, that's a good approach, but why haven't you used Regex? Do you know it?" "Hm, no, not really." "Okay, we give you another chance. Just learn Regex by Friday and solve it that way." "You mean I already put in 3 days to solve this and now you want me to learn Regex???" ← I didn't say that.) to the really easy ones (“Hey, just write some HTML!" "Er… ok?" "Yes, well done! But don’t use these new HTML5 tags. Just some divs will suffice." "Er… ok.”).

After a couple of weeks I already had my first offer (it was the HTML one… the divs did it!). But the money was much lower than expected and the company just didn’t seem like I would be able to learn enough. So the joy and relief that I thought I would feel on getting a job offer just wasn’t there. After much deliberating I turned it down.

Yes, quite a bold move for someone with no commercial coding experience and only three months coding under their belt. But I had some other irons in the fire and luckily my current job came through. Funnily enough it was one of the very first jobs that I applied for.

The perfect company for a junior dev

The guys at General Assembly had built up our expectations as to what our first employer should and shouldn’t be. Their advice was to go for a company that does code reviews, pair programming, TDD, has lots of senior developers who are not only happy to help juniors who can barely name a software design pattern (MVC!) but also speak at conferences, write intelligent stuff on their blog and so on.

Yeah, turns out that’s not realistic. Most of my bootcamp friends who now have a job (including myself) work for companies that might tick one or two of these boxes but that’s it. And, speaking to other people, it seems like even the companies that had the reputation to be ideal for junior devs, don’t tick all the boxes.

But it’s ok. I have a job that is interesting, where I learn every day, where I work with lovely people, a good mix of juniors and seniors and where I get two free books a day.

The plan worked out!

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