How I Landed a Dev Job With No Coding Experience

I recently re-published my two year old article with the intention to write a follow up piece. TL;DR: I learned to code (front-end) and built an MVP for a location sharing app but the backend service I relied on got shut down… leaving me in a not-so-ideal situation (read the full piece here).

I see four outcomes: Pixity can fail, be a hobby, become a lifestyle business or become a massive success.

It failed. Well technically, I gave up on it. With no income, I didn’t have the luxury of redoing the MVP with another backend. My plan: work at another startup to gain startup experience. It was around this time I stumbled upon Shoelace.

Some of the Shoelace team in SF

After meeting with the founders I landed my dream job as a “full-stack” developer, after only 2 months of coding experience, and as a first hire at a fast-paced and accelerating startup.

It has turned out to be quite the journey.

From starting out at one of the founder’s kitchen table to going through multiple accelerators and a team of over 20, I can almost say “I’ve seen it all”. If you’re interested in Shoelace’s progress check out the investor updates.

“How much backend experience do you have?”
“None.”
“Do you think you can pick it up quickly?”
“Yes.”

It’s not like I had a choice. Startups have a lot of business demands but are naturally strapped for resources — especially growing startups. This creates the perfect environment for learning. As Facebook says — “move fast and break things”. We moved fast, broke things and I learned a tremendous amount.

I picked up Node, Express, Mongo, SQL, AWS and a bunch of other things (hiring, mentoring, Scrum, code and system architecture).

After only 2 years at Shoelace (pretty much all my coding experience) I consider myself somewhat a senior developer.

Why? I am now comfortable and confident that I can learn whatever languages/frameworks/tools that are needed in order to tackle a task — using “best practices”.

The best way to learn to code is by coding.

No matter how junior you are, learning how to code boils down to your work ethic and willingness to overcome problems. You’ll be hit with bugs that seem impossible to squash. But coding is also about grit.

Coding is problem solving. It’s not about what you know now, but rather it’s about knowing what it takes to make things work and arrive at a solution eventually.

Usually this means Googling and testing out every accepted solution on Stack Overflow while trying to understand why that solution worked (or didn’t).

Potential over experience

How do you land your first dev job?

Here’s my advice for anyone trying to land their first dev job. This is how I did it, and it’s purely anecdotal, but take what you like and discard what you don’t …

1. Figure out something you want to build — don’t stress too much about what language and services you should use… the point is to get something working.

2. Break that into smaller components and watch tutorials on how to accomplish those tasks (i.e first make the signup/login page and then learn how to save the data into a database)

3. Tie those components together to complete your MVP

4. Repeat if necessary with different ideas until you feel comfortable in your ability to build things in whatever language you ended up going with

5. Apply for jobs and use your MVPs to sell your ability to learn what’s necessary to get the job done

That’s it — create a small, simple app that you are proud of and show it off — that’s the secret.

Well, at least it’s my secret. I hope you found this article helpful. If you did, please repost, share, and comment. Also tap the👏 50 times (or less if you want).

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