For many years, I worked in call centers. I loved it! But the contracts were very short. Every few months, I had to interview for a new role 🥲.
It's just as well because when my most recent contractee learned about my pregnancy, they weren't interested in renewing the contract.
That really sucked. But it was the catalyst I needed to finally learn to code websites well enough that someone would hire me.
This is my story about working in call centers, learning to code on maternity leave, and using my experience navigating call center jobs to land a junior developer job in only five months.
I've been working as a Junior developer for over a year now, and there's a lot I can share with you that I wish I knew!
Switching to web development after already graduating
I have a degree, but it's not in anything programming-related!
First, I studied animal management, then biomedical research, with a minor in research and development:
Oh, I loved the work! But after my first internship, I realized it wasn't the best career. There weren't many opportunities unless I pursued a Master's degree, but that wasn't financially viable for me at the time.
This problem thwarted my goals, but I learned to adapt and made a new plan. It involved working in a call center to save money for my Master's.
Working in call centers
3.5 years later, I was still working in the call center. I enjoyed the work, and my colleagues and boss were kind
My only problem was the short-term nature of the contracts. I never had robust job security, and, as I worried, after 3.5 years, my employer did not renew the contract.
Recovering from a miscarriage
After a miscarriage, I had used quite a few sick days, and I suspect the higher-ups chose not to extend my contract anymore as a result.
I decided to look for a new call center job, and with 3.5 years of relevant experience, I found one quite quickly. The building was literally next door to my previous office. How convenient!
Six months later, my contract was up, and I found another job. Developers will know what I mean when I say I continued this "infinite loop" for years 🔁.
Each time I ended up for another two or three months unemployed, doing round after round of interviews and ending up with a new short contract. Unbeknownst to me, I was growing my skills as an interviewee, which would help me later in this story.
When I got pregnant again in 2019, my then-employer decided not to extend my contract through my maternity leave.
Losing my job while starting a family was the catalyst I needed to try and find work in another field. As successful Scrimba student Yin Chu points out, it's okay to change your mind about your career and I decided not to peruse my Master's.
I dabbled with code when I was a teenager and like working on computers, so I thought I'd take a web development boot camp for a spin!
Enrolling in a coding boot camp
While I was unemployed, the unemployment agency agreed to finance my enrollment in a coding boot camp, but only if I followed their rules:
- Promise to finish the boot camp
- Complete it in 3 months
- Regularly meet with a job advisor
Sounded like a good deal to me!
The boot camp encouraged us to try out Scrimba, particularly the Frontend Developer Career Path. I did quite a few projects and courses on Scrimba as I love how the site's set up.
Scrimba's Frontend Career Path helped me get projects on my GitHub page that I could show employers.
How I landed my first job
You never feel "ready" to apply, but since my unemplotment was ending, I didn't have a choice.
As you might expect, with only three months of experience, I experienced a lot of rejection, but that didn't slow me down. Based on my experience changing call center jobs, I knew it was a numbers game.
Whenever I got rejected, I thanked them for letting me know and asked a few questions about what I could improve.
Not everyone responded, but the feedback I got from those that did was golden. I was no longer shooting in the dark.
Eventually, I started to get some interviews!
It helped me that I'd done so many interviews in the previous years and I had experience communicating in a business setting. Since I had some office experience, I knew what questions to ask as well.
My first day as a developer
My company is a hybrid one, so I met many coworkers online! This suited me because I'm bad at remembering names but on Zoom, I could always glance beneath their video.
If you are wondering what to expect from your first week as a junior developer, in week one I -
- Setup my laptop
- Got to know the team
- Learned the programs this company specifically ue
I had trouble setting up my computer, which wasn't great for my confidence. Thankfully, I got all the support I needed.
What tasks does a junior developer do?
You might be wondering what a brand new developer is tasked with!
Mainly, I was tasked with minor changes to help me explore and learn the code base. For example, my first task was changing the application's translation.
I am thankful for my coworkers, who were always there to help me. Additionally, I got to observe their code and ask questions.
After a few months, my manager tasked me with a more significant project. It allowed me to take more ownership and feel useful. Yes, I got help, but this time I felt like I was doing actual work instead of "just" being trained.
I got imposter syndrome.
To this day, I struggle with imposter syndrome. If I knew it would weigh on me so much, I might never have chosen to become a developer.
Despite how I feel, I know I am getting better every day, and one day I will feel good enough.
Coding is a fun career
Learning to code can be quite solitary. It surprised me how much fun working as a developer is in a professional environment! Most people share my hobbies and sense of humor, which makes it a great work environment.
It's not just about the people. Coding is challenges me in a fun and rewarding way. It gives me a real boost if I manage to solve something I've been working on for half a day. It's great to know I am contributing to an app people use.
I managed to secure a junior developer job in about five months.
It's tempting to think you have to be a highly competent developer before applying for jobs but that isn't true.
- As a beginner, you are probably not very good at evaluating your skill
- You might have imposter syndrome like me
- Employers are prepared to invest in developers who can show a good learning trajectory
Interviewing and communicating well in a business environment are two skills I didn't necessarily appreciate at the time.
When changing careers, it's easy to think you're starting from the beginning but more skills and experiences transfer than you probably realize.
Even if you don't have experience applying and interviewing yet, I hope you learned from my experience that your approach could hugely impact your success.
I'm so happy I can call myself a developer!