How to secure a job in web development (with NO Experience)
22nd Feb 2018
Things have changed a lot since I graduated from University with a degree in Interactive Multimedia and Design. The technical skills have changed along with the digital landscape in Northern Ireland. Education and training and what employers' value have also changed to a large extent. When I was at school a lot of emphasis was put on a degree.
Although a lot of employers still put a lot of stock into a degree, there is a shift of focus particularly within the web development market. Many Employers now put more value into experience than qualifications.
When I was a partner in a web design and IT Support business we noticed the disconnect from what universities are teaching to the skills required in the real world. Our head of IT Support didn’t have any formal qualifications, but he had a real passion for computers. His bedroom was like a computer graveyard and he spent most of his free time building and fixing machines.
We saw his potential and to this day he is running his own IT Support business. At that time, we interviewed many candidates with university degrees in computing who didn’t come close to the depth of knowledge that Chris had. Now, that I specialise in web development recruitment, I see this trend to this day.
To secure a job in web development you need to learn the basics. Yes, this can be done my going to university, but the good news is that you can learn the basic skills at home without a great deal of cost. Firstly, you need to understand the difference between front-end technologies and server-side technologies. The front-end technologies are used to design what the user sees.
They all use similar data structures and methodologies although the exact language for each is slightly different. Other examples of server-side technologies include PHP, Python, Ruby, ASP, Java and many more.
Codecademy will let you experiment and learn the syntax in an interactive environment and Team Treehouse has thousands of course videos that you can watch. Some people can self-study while others would benefit from additional guidance. Depending on your learning preference you could try both to decide which suits the best.
Once I learn the basics, then what next?
After you get the basics in place you will need to start to build a portfolio of work, so you can showcase your skills to potential employers.
Don’t be put off if your first few attempts are bad!
I had an interesting meeting with the folks in Reflex Studio this week and it was quite insightful. They gravitate to developers who really showcase their passion. If you want to develop mobile apps then you need to get started in your own time. Come up with a fun idea, develop the app and then present it to employers. The lead developer in Reflex has developed several cool apps in his own time like a Father Ted Quiz and a Retro Drinking Game. Presenting interesting ideas that not only display your technical ability but gave an employer an idea of what sort of person you are as a developer can really give you an advantage above others applying for the same job.
Once you are confident you can then start offering your services out. A lot of web developers in permanent employment started in freelancing. You can approach local business directly to see if they need your services. If this is too nerve-wracking to consider, there are website online that can help secure your work.
For example, have a look at PeoplePerHour. This is a website where businesses post work that needs to be completed. Web developers can also create a portfolio where business can contact them and offer them work. A lot of this work can be completed remotely.
Another good way to get yourself noticed by employers is to attend local Meetups. Here, local companies send technical specialists to discuss certain topics. Sometimes hiring manager attend and it is a good opportunity to network with them. At the very least, it will give you the opportunity to learn about the local companies that hire developers and the skills they require.
Now it’s time for some blatant self-promotion!
It would certainly work in your favour to find a good recruiter that specialises in your skills and then build a relationship with them. Remember, the onus is down to you as it’s your career. Don’t be discouraged if you send a CV and don’t hear anything back. Recruiters are often very busy, and your CV could have gone unnoticed.
Pick up the phone and speak with them directly. Request a meeting and use their market knowledge to help see what jobs are available, how to write an effective CV and how to perform at interviews. You might not get a job straight away, but if you maintain the relationship that perfect job could be just around the corner. I sometimes place candidate’s I first got in contact with years ago.
Here is some advice from a local senior developer who is self-taught and secured a career in web development. You can check out our vlog with Paul McBride by checking out our web series dedicated to web specialist; WebTalksNI on the Corvus YouTube Channel. Learn more about Paul on his website.
What web technologies did you learn first?
Like many self-taught-developers, I started by learning front-end languages like HTML and CSS. They are a pretty great place to start. The tools needed to work with them are a lot less complicated to set up.
What is the difference between front-end and server-side technologies?
Essentially, front-end technology is code that runs on your computer. It is used to control the look and feel of a website. Back end code is code that typically runs on a server. It is responsible for things like getting data out of the database and sending it to the user.
What online courses did you begin with?
I started learning to code using Codecademy then moved on to Team Treehouse when I was sure it was a skill I really wanted to pursue!
How did you learn the fundamentals of programming?
I’m still learning the fundamentals of programming! Being a developer is a constant learning process. I spend most days doing things I’ve never done before.
Which technologies are most sought after in Belfast?
This probably sounds really cliché, but the most important skill as a developer is a willingness to learn and a good attitude. The languages really aren’t super important. Once you understand how to write code, it doesn’t take long to pick up a new language.
How did you build your portfolio?
Every time a watched/read a tutorial, I would build something small using the skills that I learnt. Before long, I had a GitHub account full of code for prospective employers to look over.
What Meetups would you recommend to developers who are just starting?
PHP Belfast and BelfastJS are great meetups. Both languages are used extensively by companies in Belfast and the communities are helpful.
How did you secure your first job?
Getting your first job can be tough. Especially if you don’t have a degree. Persistence is key. I sent my resume to the company I got my first job at every other week for months before they finally caved and called in for an interview. Writing a blog can be another great way to show that you are knowledgeable in software development.
If you’re seeking to upskill your coding skills or maybe you're seeking a new career in web development. Please get in touch today for a friendly chat with me (Gareth) on 02890918528 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you a web specialist who enjoys listening to podcasts? Subscribe to Gareth's WebTalksNI podcast below: