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JC Smiley
JC Smiley

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10 takeaways from 7 speakers on starting the journey into tech

I want to share my takeaways from the Code Connector "Journey into Tech" meetup where 7 speakers gave tips on how to pursue a career in technology. Each of them had vastly different unconventional roads into the tech field.

1. It's important to be willing to take calculated risks to get where you want to be.

You have to be willing to give up something to create an opportunity: time, rest, convenience, and etc. One of the speakers reflected how as an immigrant to the U.S. with very little saving, she quit her job to pursue two tech boot-camps back to back. The first boot camp was low cost and the following one was free. Her testimony reminded me that if you have the will there is a way.

2. Be willing to say yes even if something is uncomfortable.

I can personally attest as a stutter and person with social anxiety that the road into tech is full with uncomfortable spaces. Saying "Yes" led me to working as a teacher assistant at a boot-camp, leading tech meetups, getting paid for a freelance project, working for free for a startup, and giving technical talks. All of these uncomfortable scary tech-adjusted opportunities lead to my first job in tech.

3. Don't be scared to ask for what you want.

One of the speakers felt like she didn't ace an interview for a developer role and pivoted to ask if they had an internship. The answer was yes! She now has her first tech experience by simply being courageous.

4. Don't underestimate the power of networking.

Job hunting can seem like a black hole sucking up every job application you submit. Networking can and should be an essential part of connecting your face, name, or reputation to a job application. Use LinkedIn, Twitter, and tech meetups to connect with others in the tech industry.

5. Have one intentional conversation a day with someone in your network or complete stranger.

You have to have the attitude that every tech-related person you meet is an opportunity to impress and get a referral down the line. In the job search, the key is making relationships. Its depth, not width.

6. Remember that the first job in tech is a continuous part of your early education.

It's not reasonable to expect to come out of a boot-camp or a single year of self-taught learning to be 100% ready to build exceptional professional software. Always consider where you want to be two to three jobs later. The key to success in the first year is to work hard and have a sense of dedication to learning your craft.

7. While learning to code life will inevitably throw some obstacles, but you have to push through the struggle and not give up.

Every speaker reflected on boot camp buddies and self-taught friends that stopped halfway through and gave up just to regret it later. Each speaker talked about the challenges they faced, how they didn’t like their present circumstance, and having the resilience to keep going.

8. Be kind to yourself and remember that learning to code or going to a boot camp is like drinking from a fire hose.

You must have a reasonable expectation that this is the beginning of your education and career. Don't set high unrealistic expectations. Think of the learning journey as an investment that builds up slowly and pays off in the long run.

9. If you are just learning how to code, the best advice is to leverage all the free learning resources that are available.

Anything that gets your fingers on the keyboard and exposure to tech is useful. The speakers stated they use resources like the learning platform Free Code Camp and the mobile app SoloLearn. In person or virtual boot camps are great ways to learn how to code.

10. Once you have a foundation of knowledge, the next best move is to get experience.

A few suggestions included offering your services for free/low price to friends, family, or strangers, volunteering at a non-profit organization, and competing in hackathons (

List of resources they shared:

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