It’s the end of the tech boot-camp I’m working at and I have so much that I want to pass on to my students. The first thing I want to say is to Immerse yourself into the Tech World. Be the authentic you, but deep dive into this ever expanding universe and the different paths you can take. The following is how I did a triple backflip into the tech world and emerged with better chances at a career.
There are few better ways to learn about tech passively then podcasts. It’s a great way to pick a topic that you enjoy and then soak in knowledge about it. There are 1000’s of podcasts. If one speaker doesn't sound interesting, keep searching until you find a speaker that does talk passionately to you, in a way that you can learn, and about things you are interested in. I listen to podcasts while driving, doing house-work, and exercising.
The following is a list of podcasts I love and listen to regularly:
- Code Newbies by Saron Yitbarek
- Breaking into Startups
- Hello Monday with Jessi Hempel
- Learn to code with Me by Laurence Bradford
- We Belong Here by Lauren Lee
- Indie Hackers
- Dev Discuss
- From the source by Michelle Breneer
- Complete Developer Podcasts
- Design Matters by Debbie Millman
- Front End Happy Hour
- LadyBug Dev Podcast by Kelly Vaughn, Ali Spittel, Emma Bostian, & Sidney Buckner
Syntax Web Development by Wes Bos & Scott Tolinski
This should be a priority for aspiring developers. You can learn a level of competence on your own. But when you learn from others you will hit a level of expertise that you couldn’t have gotten alone. Tech communities have a way of introducing you to better tools/software to practice your craft, next level ideas that will make you a Boss at programming, and presenting opportunities that you wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to.
My personal examples of how tech communities helped me are:
- Learning about a teacher assistant boot camp opportunity that I didn’t know about.
- Countless free online conferences that I didn’t know existed until I read it in an online tech forum.
- Most important was when someone posted job announcements from their companies.
One last thing is to find communities that cater to your needs. An example for me is that I am a person of color and feel out of place in many situations. It made all the difference in the world when I was introduced to a community that looked like me and offered advice on overcoming unique obstacles in my journey.
My best advice is to seek out all meetups where you can learn and grow but to include those that apply to your specific needs as well. A better example is seeking front-end development focus meetups if that is your career goal but also software development in general for a wholesome learning journey. In tech, as in life, you need every advantage to succeed.
Here is a list of tech communities I enjoyed:
- A discord tech community by the awesome James Quick called Learn Build Teach. There are lots of tech content creators there where you can soak in knowledge just from by reading their conversation.
- I can’t brag enough about Danny Thompson GDG-Memphis discord community.
- The Blacks in Technology Slack group have been a game changer for me in dealing with mental health issues and thinking outside of my cultural box. I don't have an invite to share so just search and join. I promise you the value is not in the name but in the daily conversation and content. Just tons of career advice, positive motivation, and Boss level moves.
- Code Connector is the tech community I talk to on a day to day basic. They have tons of meetups, a vibrant community that span several states, and lots of support for aspiring developers.
- Tech Twitter. I joined Twitter just for the tech community and curated my feed to only include tech related content. The amount of free quality content is gold.
- A Facebook tech community call Self-Taught Programmers
The benefits of attending tech meetups can’t be overstated. These are great opportunities to network with local developers, learn new technologies, and practice your soft skills.
The point I’m trying to make is to get away from the computer and network with others. Coding alone does not get the job. You can be the greatest coder ever but if others don’t know you or see your work then your chances of getting a job is lower.
It’s a fact that you are more likely to get a job if someone within that company gives you a referral. The best way for them to get to know how awesome you are is to attend local meetups. This is a chance to say “Hello”. If they are giving a tech talk then the topic discussed is a natural conversation starter. I’m not saying you need to become best friends. Let other developers get used to seeing your face, hearing your voice in conversation, and listening to your thoughts on the topic. Even better, if they hear you give a tech talk or present a side project then they are more then likely to remember you.
Meetups are a fantastic way to practice your soft skills. You get to decide how much you want to talk and the topic. It can be a soft brief introduction or a long in-depth conversation.
If you are like me and not super sociable, then slowly put yourself in situations you are comfortable with. Start with hello and your name. Pick and choose who you want to talk to. Later you can look up their social profile and initiate a digital conversation. With each meetup you will become more comfortable with the environment and more familiar with the group.
I attend several online meetups each month. After the meetups, I introduce myself via social media to the speaker or another attendee to expand my network. Very few people say no to a LinkedIn request when I start with something like “I attended this recent meetup, saw you there, enjoyed the talk or your comment, and wanted to say hello.”
Please go to Meetup.com and search for local meetups in your area. Also look for online meetups that have topics that interest you.
I have a difficult time learning when someone is talking. My social anxiety kicks in and my mind is on everything but the topic being discussed. That is why I love BLOGS. To me blogs are short blocks of knowledge that I can read over and over till I get it. The trick is finding authors that teach in a way that works for you. Blogs also are a great way to get exposed to ideas and to find solutions to problems. The following is my daily list:
I’m a firm believer that you can learn anything in tech for free or low cost. YouTube makes this possible. I can’t stress enough the importance of supplementing your learning with videos on that topic. Having someone else present information to you in another way can help cement that knowledge.
Another great thing about YouTube is the motivation you can get other developers and advice on job hunting. When it comes to tech, this is a resource that should be mining often.
I converted several blog posts similar to this one into a free e-book called "Advice for Breaking into Tech". The book summarizes advice from 700 developers about learning how to code and looking for your first job in tech into an easy-to-read narrative.
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