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Notes on ”How to Build a Career in Tech”

Sophia Brandt
former tax officer turned programmer
Originally published at rockyourcode.com on ・3 min read

Kurt Kemple is a self-taught programmer who learned to code when incarcerated. In his talk with Jason Lengstorf he shares his experiences.

Here are my notes from the ~1 hour video:

How to Build a Career in Tech: Kurt Kemple Connects the Dots

Technical skills are a small part of your day to day job. Kurt learned how to prioritize, commmunicate with others and how to organize the work from his previous experience in construction work and as a line cook. Break a big task into small pieces.

Empathy and understanding : “Your perspective of the world is not the center of everything, it’s not the default. Lots of people have experiences that are different from yours.”

Know the stakeholders. Understand what they are invested in.

How to learn? Kurt learns best by doing. He breaks new skills into manageable chunks, and practices them step by step.

How to break into tech : Until you have your first role, you need something for your resume — either certificates or a great portfolio. You also want to highlight the skills you want to get hired for.

One of the best ways to break into tech is to build a community. Learn in public.

Often, job opportunities come from your network.

Resume tips:

  • two column layout (1 page): on the top left the most important info, below that the most important experience (certificate, a project), on the right side put the second most important info
  • make different resumes for different jobs

Remote work : traditionally, the advice for junior developers was to aim for an on-site job, but that’s not possible due to the pandemic.

Ideally, your future company either has a track record for remote work or already on-boarded junior developers.

Find the people in your job that are happy to answer your questions, and ask them — a lot. Communicate early, communicate often. Optimize for feedback.

Focus on the whys, not hows. Everyone can pick up the newest and hottest tech stack and learn how to use it. Rather aim to understand why to use a technology.

Jason Lengstorf, the interviewer, also explains that he doesn’t expect juniors to know a lot, but he wants to get the sense that the junior can find out (“self-starter”). Be confident in yourself, be confident in your ability to learn and grow.

Be aware of burnout. Don’t start a new job and deliver 110%. This becomes your baseline, and soon you’ll be expected to clock in 130%.

If possible, dedicate 70-80% to productivity on the job, and around 20-30% to learning and growing.

How do you learn to program when you don’t know enough about computers?

Try to get a basic understanding of how computers and the internet work, how to use the keyboard effectively. If you don’t know anything about computers, you’re trying to learn two things at once.

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Discussion (1)

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Samson Adesanoye

Thanks for the summary