How to get a career in tech Part I

One of the beauties of a tech career is no prior knowledge is required. Having a computer science degree will put you ahead but not by a mile. The tech world is an extremely fast pace industry and being willing to learn and invest in your own time is a trait that will propel you to the top in a short period of time. New language features are added continuously. Approaches change along with the landscape. Hence the industry is extremely accommodating when it comes to hiring self-starter.

[– TODO: Author to add education is not required –]

[– TODO: Also add having an education –]

Getting started in something completely new is usually daunting and you will most likely be lost with a sea of information. In the world that we are in information is fragmented and requires a lot of research and planning. Sometimes tutorials overlap and the content is usually for beginners or for experts. Content striking the middle ground is a rare find.

Step 1. Ask yourself the why

We must live life with a goal, and a goal will take us to a high we never imagined we could achieve. This vision of yours of where you are going to be in the next 6 months, year or even decade will be your guide no matter up or down.

Before diving any further into this potential tech dream. Pause for a moment and really think hard, “Why tech?”. You could be intrigued, want a career change, want the magical salary or even want to be a digital nomad working from all over the world. All of these are valid reasons and you must have one before you start. Back when I started out my reason was feeling stuck in my career and felt extremely lost. I wanted a house, and move away from home with Kayleigh, my partner, I was concerned about our future with my career stagnating and my university education not paying off. My goal at the time was to hit a 6 figure salary at my 30 and I was 23 on a £18,000 salary working in Boots. I have stuck to this goal ever since. The bonus for me is I quite enjoy what I am programming.

Step 2. Trial the job

Once you have persuaded yourself of a tech career maybe it’s for you, now would be a great time to give it a go. Numerous code academies have taken off since my time and most of them offer content covering the crux of programming at almost completely zero cost to you. Almost most providers offer some form of live coding challenges with immediate feedback covering the basics from settings variables to writing reusable functions. Going through these challenges should offer some insight into our day-to-day and if they really are something you are happy to do for the next decade or so.

Writing code – Code Academy

Code Academy has been my go-to favourite at the very beginning of my career. They offer the best learning experience with clear explanations and real-time feedback. One of their best features is the online forum where all students come together to collaborate on the challenge.

Code Academy Community

The best way to learn is to be the teacher of a subject we don’t know. This forces our mind to really understand the concepts in our brain and lock in our long-term memory where it will pop up just when we need it the most

I would recommend you to start with their beginner course ‘Learn JavaScript’, ‘Learn JavaScript: Fundamentals’ and ‘Learn Intermediate JavaScript’. Javascript is a great first language for beginners as it’s extremely versatile and relatively straightforward to learn. It also doesn’t have the baggage of other languages that would create a lot of noise and impede your progress.

Once you have gotten the gist of programming It would be a good time to look into their SQL course ‘Learn SQL’. SQL is an extremely common database language that exists in almost every company.

Programming and database languages are our bread and butter. It is an integral part of what we do. As you go through the coding exercises you are effectively a software developer.

(Lately, their UI seems to have changed quite drastically with numerous obstacles added to divert users to paid subscriptions. The free tier is really enough to get you started, once you get to their core offering their courses will really shine.)

A PhD in research – Stack Overflow

Researching is a second nature of a developer. Almost all of the problems we faced would have been answered by someone somewhere on the internet. Since the tech world is so diverse, it’s extremely common that us forget some part of a language. Researching and determining the most appropriate solution to copy are what differentiate a junior and senior developer.

The key to finding this information is searching for the right search phrases. There are usually multiple approaches:

  1. Search for the exact error message with additional information:
    • Search: ‘Object Reference Not Set to an Instance of an Object
  2. Search for a high-level concept:
    • Search: ‘Writing a function in javascript
  3. Search for a problem:
    • Search: ‘Failed to update a read-only collections
  4. Utilise additional search engine features:
    • Search ‘Calculator site:’

There are many more ways to find information online and the most common place you will end up is Stack Overflow. It is one of the most visited websites for us and many across many industries almost all kinds of professions. It is effectively a crowdsource Q&A website and it is on you to filter out all of the noise and cherry-pick the answers.

finding the right information

Your new Youtube – Pluralsight and Udemy

On top of coding and researching, we will have to continuously top up knowledge with self study. The landscape we operate in is improved all of the time. What we know will eventually be superseded e.g. Framework, approaches and patterns. However concepts and fundamental never changes and this is an area we should focus our time on. We also operate in an extremely constrained environment e.g. time, stakeholder interference, external dependencies. Good understanding of the overall landscape will really set you apart from your colleague, you will also make a more informed choice when it comes to trade-offs and knowing all of the options will guide you in making the best decision.

Udemy – Udemy offers

Pluralsight – The material from Pluralsight are considerably more technical than some of the other providers. It covers fundamentals extremely well. You are also more likely to find tech celebrities who designed some of the languages.

YouTube – YouTube’s offer free content on tech

Be different – LeetCode

Continuous learning is a must and on top of watching video LeetCode is a very fun place to be. It is a raw programming arena where you will only be using basic constructs to tackle algorithms. It is backed by a very strong community and supports many programming languages. You will definitely be mentally challenged by some of the exercises and at the same time, it would be extremely rewarding if you have an elegant solution that is considerably quicker than the majority. The usual metrics are execution speed and computer memory consumption. This is an area aspire senior developers should be familiar with however in modern-day computing, this is becoming less relevant. However, it is still fairly critical in some of the older institutes and some finance tech which heavily relies on the network and execution speed to outperform their competitors.

LeetCode is also the go-to place for interview prep. It is extremely common for financial institutes to test candidates in live sessions as part of the initial phase of their interviewing process. Getting yourself familiar is extremely beneficial.

Step 3. Figuring out the Syllabus

Once you have trialled the jobs and still think this is something for you. The next step is to derive an appropriate Syllabus, this will form the basis of your learning in a S.M.A.R.T way. The syllabus will keep you on track with your learning and tell you and validate your progress against time. A very simple Syllabus could look like this.

My Simple Syllabus:

  1. Website (4 weeks)
    • Complete Code Academy Course; ‘JavaScript fundamentals’ (1 week)
    • Complete Code Academy Course; ‘Core JavaScript’ (1 week)
    • Complete Code Academy Course; ‘HTML fundamentals’ (1 week)
    • Complete Code Academy Course; ‘CSS fundamentals’ (1 week)
  2. Server-side (4 weeks)
    • Complete Pluralsight Course; ‘Java Fundamentals’ (2 weeks)
    • Complete Pluralsight Course; ‘Java Framework Fundamentals ‘ (2 weeks)
  3. Deployment (2 weeks)
  4. Advanced Topics (4 weeks)
Post-It Note

Being S.M.A.R.T is extremely critical in your plan. You would want to pace yourself in your learning for it to be enjoyable as well as make sure you are on track. Scope creep is something we should all avoid, this is also fairly common in software development and it diverts our attention from what we really need to get done.

Deriving a Syllabus in an unknown territory could be quite daunting. Please visit What you need to Learn for a more detailed breakdown of the key areas to study.

Step 4. Create a Linkedin Profile

Linkedin will be your new favourite social media platform. It is effectively your Facebook for your professional work. It will attract internal recruiters and headhunters. Having a well-presented and up-to-date Linkedin Profile will set you apart from others when being scouted. Interviewers also tend to browse through candidates’ Linkedin profiles to look for questions, discrepancies and other achievements that didn’t fit on your CV.

Employers usually post Job advertisements across multiple websites e.g. TotalJobs, Indeed and Linkedin is one of them. Application via Linkedin is considerably more straightforward as you could bypass most of the irrelevant steps e.g. persona Q&A, and cover letter, by applying with your profile directly. This will cut through all of the irrelevant steps e.g. persona Q&A, cover letter. You will also be able to reach out to more employers with considerably lesser effort. Some employers also have direct integration with Linkedin for prefilling part of their application forms.

If you have a particular company in mind, the optimal strategy would be to connect with engineers employed by that particular company and ask for an internal referral. The referer will usually be awarded a referral bonus, which makes it a win-win for both of you. This usually skips a few of the preliminary stages and companies usually favour referral as they prefer someone connected as opposed to leads generated in the wild.

Finally, you could also export your Linkedin profile in PDF format for use as a CV.

Go ahead and create one! It is a must in this digital age.

Step 5. Update your CV

The structure, wordings and presentation of your CV will define who you are to all of your prospects. Someone you never met will decide if they want you or not solely on this piece of document. The interviewer is usually swarmed with dozen of these CVs and they have gotten really good at only picking out useful information and discarding the majority of the information they deem irrelevant. This is extremely important to bare in mind when updating your CV. You want to be succinct and to the point. Everything on you wrote must serve a purpose e.g. Completing the hardest certifications in the industry. Really think hard about how the interviewer will interpret everything you write as you will want to keep this as short as possible and definitely no more than 1 double-sided A4 page.

The structure and styling of a CV usually vary and depending on the channel of application, sometimes CVs are standardised by software or the head hunter before reaching the interviewer. This helps the interviewers to spot the difference between candidates and pick up the best out of the bunch.

Tips for writing your CV:

  • Something I have learned from a recruiter is always write you brief introduction in a third person rather than first. The name will repeatedly appear /

Step 5. Create a portfolio

Step 6. Approach Recruiters

Step 7. Practice Interviews

Step 8. Dont walk this road alone (FDM)

On top of following all of the steps above the most effective way to get yourself into tech is via a tech agency. Most of them consist of a training and recruitment division. They are usually free of charge