This blog post was written by guest contributor Adrienne Tacke
Over the last few years, many developers and interested technologists have asked (and continue to ask!) me varying questions about how to advance their career. The most common questions I get are “How can I make a career switch into software development?” and “What should I be doing to progress past entry-level/junior positions?”
These are great questions, and I commend everyone who asks them because they are important to think about! After reflecting on my career and taking into account other developers’ journeys, I can confidently suggest three options and have detailed them here.
1. Take a course OUTSIDE of what you need for work
We all know there’s a wealth of information available on the internet in terms of learning resources for tech. Anything from machine learning tutorials to 3D gaming courses and everything in between.
When I was just starting out, I clung to the tutorials and courses I needed to learn for work. Not once did I venture outside of the prescribed set of technologies and frameworks that my job required. This is OK for strengthening your core skills, but if you only ever learn those skills and that stack, there’s a chance you become stagnant!
A great way to ensure your skills stay relevant is to choose a completely atypical technology, framework or area that you don’t need for work to learn about! Wish you could migrate your existing front end to React? Learn about it and then spearhead the effort with your team. Always interested in game development but stuck doing CRUD apps? Take a course on 2D game development and find a new hobby that simultaneously flexes your programming skills.
The point of this option is to encourage a habit of continuous learning whether or not there is an immediate need. You’ll thank yourself later, especially when you find that your new side skills lead to other opportunities!
2. Go to a bootcamp that works for YOU
Bootcamps have skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years. They are an incredible option to consider if you are serious about switching careers in tech or want to advance with a new skill set.
However, not all Coding bootcamps are the same! So, which one do you choose? How do you determine which one is actually worth it? The top things I tell those considering bootcamps are:
Length of Program
Immediately disqualify any bootcamp that promises to teach you everything in a month or less. Cramming that much information, especially new knowledge, is not the way to go and won’t set you up for success. I’d shoot for a minimum of three months and any maximum. The longer, the better, especially if you can go at your own pace.
Speaking of going at your own pace, I highly recommend bootcamps that don’t force you into a specific season or set of months. Even better are the self-paced programs that allow you to set your own schedule. A great program that does this is The Software Guild’s Digital Badge program. They have rolling schedules that start from the basics at least once a month, which then continue as you are available! No need to worry that you’re falling behind or feel guilty for spending a few extra days on a specific topic you really like. You can’t get that when you’re in a preset bootcamp with strict timelines.
Most bootcamps are heavily focused on web development. If that’s what you’d like to do, then try to find programs that focus on teaching skills relevant to what your job market is searching for!
Do a quick search to see what the top requested skills are for web developer positions around you. Do they include React? Angular? Vue? Once you know what’s in demand in your city (or the city you want to be in!), you can narrow down your prospective bootcamps.
Unique Skill Sets
Though rare, there are bootcamps that offer something other than the usual web development curriculum. These are the ones I get excited about because they set you apart, especially in an oversaturated market of web developers. I can personally vouch for the value of learning .NET and C# as that is what most of my career has been based on, and it has served me well!
Level Up with The Software Guild
The Software Guild’s convenient, pay-as-you-go bootcamps come in two tracks, Java and .Net/C#. Both tracks are broken into levels that allow you to learn at your own pace.Learn More
And if you haven’t heard by now, over 3 billion devices run Java. These skills will always be in demand as most enterprises and corporations use .NET/C# or Java!
This last bit is one a lot of bootcamps miss and is something I try to warn potential bootcamp students about! Many bootcamps, unfortunately, try to cram as much information into you within the specified program timeline and then send you on your merry way. Not helpful.
I highly suggest searching for bootcamps that offer meaningful career support after you graduate. Things like mock interview sessions, partnerships with an employer network and resume reviews are invaluable, especially as a bootcamp grad. And you deserve that support! You just spent months working hard and learning new things to advance or even change your career! The best bootcamps want to see you succeed and will offer support and valuable services to help make that happen.
3. Participate in tech events in your city
Meetups and tech events are everywhere these days – even in cities not commonly considered “tech hubs.”
I’m sure you know the value of networking by now. This certainly plays a part in helping you build that network! But aside from looking for individuals who may offer you a job, the greatest advantage of going to and regularly participating in tech meetups or events is the potential to build your personal brand in your city’s tech scene.
Speak at a tech meetup
Local tech meetups are always looking for guest speakers and local developers to give talks! Not only is this a great way to test the waters for speaking, it also allows you to build a relationship with the tech meetup organizers. If you do this regularly, you can be sure that your reach will expand.
Volunteer at local conferences
Not only will you get access to the latest talks and trends of whatever tech conference you choose to volunteer at, you will also have the chance to interact with many of the developers in your city!
Pull an all-nighter at a “hackathon”
Hackathons, by far, are my favorite way of exercising my skills! They also serve as a creative outlet for all the cool things I want to build but never have the time to.
Hackathons are a great way to strengthen your problem-solving skills, practice articulating your ideas and challenge you into creating a demo-able proof of concept in a limited timeframe. All these directly relate to what you need to grow as a software developer and continually need to be exercised.
Level Up with The Software Guild
The Software Guild’s convenient, pay-as-you-go bootcamps come in two tracks, Java and .Net/C#. Both tracks are broken into levels that allow you to learn at your own pace. Each takes between eight and 12 weeks to complete, and new bootcamps start every month! And as you advance through the program, you earn discounts. If you complete all four levels, you can save up to $1,000.
With The Software Guild, you’ll receive expert guidance while in the program and once you graduate. They offer extensive job preparation, including resume building and interview practice, and have an extensive employer network of 450-plus companies like Humana, Adecco or Robert Half.
Adrienne is a software engineer, author and instructor in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can follow her on her blog, Twitter or Instagram.