As the global job market has been roiled by COVID-19, career changers and job seekers face challenges like never before — from virtual networking to making their LinkedIn profiles stand out amongst candidates. As a pioneer in the bootcamp space, General Assembly has learned to pivot and reinvent the train-to-hire approach to help full-time Immersive program graduates get hired. That’s where our global career coaches come in: they know the hiring trends of their cities better than anyone at GA. In this year of great uncertainty, we asked them to share what they’re seeing and how they’re encouraging their students. (Note: These observations represent a collective pulse check of many — not all — of our hiring markets.)
What hiring trends are happening right now?
Moving into 2021, we’re already seeing improvements, with companies removing hiring freezes and climbing back toward pre-pandemic levels. As of May, recruitment for tech jobs is reaching new highs in many parts of the world, superseding pre-COVID levels. And the race to gain a post-pandemic competitive edge is turning into a talent war between companies.
Industries that are picking up include computer software, InfoTech, FinTech, marketing and advertising, and EdTech. Companies that are well-funded and have high potential to increase staff are in FinTech, e-commerce, infotech, AI, healthcare, BioTech, robotics, education, cloud computing, and cybersecurity.
Companies are also investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, big data, automation, SaaS (software-as-a-service), and FinTech solutions.
We’re seeing an increase in hirings from companies with over 10K+ employees. Contributing to this is likely expanded pipelines for underrepresented groups (including those that did not graduate from traditional education pathways). We’re also seeing an uptick in GA grads getting hired by companies with 50 or fewer employees.
Competition is intense and there are fewer roles: read below for tips on how to stand out (hint: network, network, network).
There’s an abundance of freelance and contract work available, and companies with under 50 employees can be opportunistic places to apply to. Many smaller companies appear willing to take on junior talent, especially if they have additional projects in their portfolios.
Some of our Career Coaches have noted that many people taking on short contract work have been able to turn those opportunities into full-time roles. (Many companies appear to be preferring to gauge performance before offering a full-time role.)
While we have seen companies continue to offer remote-only roles, with the improvement of the vaccine rollout especially in the U.S.,we’re seeing more companies wanting to bring employees back onsite.
What’s the best thing job seekers can do right now?
Network, network, network. Trust and own your worth and talk to people about what you want to be doing and the value you bring. Believe in word-of-mouth power, and practice as many mock or informational interviews and coffee dates as you can.
Work on projects, pro bono work, or contract work with a real client or with professionals outside of your discipline. This will help build your resume and create standout applications that show your continuation of technical competencies and collaboration skills.
Take what you can as quickly as you can. Now isn’t the time to be highly selective or aspire to multiple offers. Because it’s more competitive than ever, the goal is to get started as soon as possible.
Keep an open mind! Don’t close off any opportunity — everything is worth exploring.
Consider finding a mentor. You may not get traditional guidance at a startup, but a mentor can be that person to give the support you need. Most mentors are self-found, so there’s never a bad time to start looking.
Focus on continuing to develop and grow your new skill set while applying and networking, because when you do land an interview, you will need to discuss what you’ve accomplished over the past few months.
Stay motivated and find time for self-care. Remember that ambiguity is one of the toughest things about a job search. Be consistent about following up if you don’t get responses to initial applications. Make connections with peers and colleagues in the area you’re searching. And remember that it’s ok to be deflated and disappointed by rejection. Once you accept that, you can move onto what you can influence: other opportunities.
What is GA doing differently to support students in this highly competitive job market?
GA has streamlined its job sourcing strategies to work globally and has created a team of 30 network builders to support the cultivation, engagement, and job sourcing for our students.
The launching of global initiatives is to benefit all graduates regardless of location — post-course regional networking and coaching sessions are being made available.
A partnership with our sister company, Hired, allows GA grads to create profiles and put them directly in front of over 8,000 hiring organizations.
Our career coaches continue to be deeply invested in their 1:1 coaching and strategy work with grads.
Teams in our local markets regularly provide pulse checks of cities’ hiring trends, jobs particular to the region, and the landscape of how tech is evolving in each location.
Leaping into a new career is daunting at any point in life, especially at this moment, but we hope this advice from our career coaches is reassuring.
Why are UX skills continually in demand by top companies? Spend half an hour with expert GA instructor Javi Calderon to learn why and see if it’s right for your career. He’ll give you an overview of:
What the world of UX design encompasses and why it matters.
Fundamental tools and techniques used by professional designers.
Resources to continue learning about UX.
If you’re ready to go further, explore our upcoming User Experience Design course to cement a foundation in creating digital experiences that power revenue, loyalty, and product success.Or learn how to become a job-ready UX designer with our 12-week, full-time User Experience Design Immersive program.
This month, GA is rolling out major improvements to our evening and 1-week User Experience Design and Visual Design programs! Driven by student and instructor feedback, the Instructional Design team has partnered with the expert faculty members from our Product Advisory Boards to revamp both courses. With InVision reporting that 70% of design teams have increased headcount over the past year1, we want to help you reach your career goals by providing expertly crafted lessons in UX and visual design that meet the moment.
What’s Changing With User Experience Design?
Leveraging the Design Framework in Lesson Design
In analyzing student and instructor feedback, we learned that we weren’t spending enough time on the “How?”behind creating UX deliverables at the beginning of the course. Instead of following a typical lesson flow that starts with overarching definitions of design thinking, user research, prototyping, and critique, we now leverage the Double Diamond framework2 to inform lesson progression. By observing the iterative nature of design in our curriculum, students will be able to start user research by Week 1 and begin sketching their designs as early as Week 2, working through the UX design process more than once throughout the course.
Flexible, Accessible Design Tooling
Our Instructional Design team works to strike a good balance between instruction and innovation, and this is evident in how we approach teaching design tools.
On the one hand, too much emphasis on tools at the beginning of a course can shift the students’ focus away from truly grasping foundational design concepts and skills. On the other, it’s difficult to illustrate how a more technical concept can be applied without the use of design tools.
In addition to that balance, we also want to account for the fact that different employers require different tools — and the top design tools can change from year to year. So, our end goal is to ensure that our students are well-versed and well-practiced in core skills so that they can easily pick up different tools as required by their employers.
Our solution is to introduce a design tool tutorial — a companion to the course materials — with resources and weekly design challenges. The tutorial currently features Figma but can be modified to feature another platform such as Sketch or Adobe XD. The tutorial is also mapped to the course’s final project to make pacing and time spent outside of class more manageable and productive.
The final project now has three specialization tracks: Research, UI, and Generalist. This enables students to customize their learning experience based on personal and professional interests, career focus, and available time.
We’re using the Double Diamond framework in our Visual Design course to group visual design concepts in a way that illustrates the discipline’s iterative nature and more organically integrates UX concepts throughout the program.
We improved the final project prompts to include a broader range of industries, including food, nonprofit, fitness, and connected homes. The company structures and product offerings have also been expanded to account for visual design in both digital and non-digital spaces. This way, students will be able to choose and customize projects that benefit both their career focus and their personal interests.
We have reworked the curriculum to place more emphasis on design research and content strategy. This will help encourage students to:
Make research-based design decisions.
Tell a holistic story through content.
Think more critically about content types and design elements before wireframing begins.
By popular demand, we’re bringing back the course’s imagery lesson and incorporating an additional application-focused imagery session so that students can further refine their wireframes using images, as well as typography and color.
For many students, enrolling in a career-accelerating bootcamp can be a daunting decision, especially when it’s conducted entirely online. How do students stay engaged and accountable while learning remotely? We connected with GA student Fletcher Jones to walk us through his day-to-day in our Software Engineering Immersive program. He graduated in July 2020 and landed a job as a software engineer at Safe & Reliable Healthcare shortly after.
Before coming to GA, I was an actor, a model, and a recording artist. I also had experience as a former student ambassador for the U.S. State Department, and after graduating from college, I worked as a marketing consultant. Later, I worked closely with Senator Bernie Sanders during his 2020 campaign for president.
After the presidential race changed, I — like many others — found myself out of the job. And that’s not all: At this point, the pandemic had begun, and the U.S. entered a tumultuous period of race relations. It was a difficult decision but I decided it was best to take on the challenge of a career change while spending some time at my parents’ home in North Carolina. I wanted a path with more job security that also strengthened my problem-solving skills — following my passion for computer science at GA seemed like the best solution. It was.
My instructor was based on the West Coast, so by being on the East Coast during the course (and being a night owl), this provided amazing flexibility. Given the time difference, my schedule probably isn’t typical for a GA student, but learning remotely at GA gives you even more control over your day and how you use your time when you’re not in class. Plus, all the sessions are recorded, so you can revisit at any point. For me, that was a huge benefit to learning online because the recorded lessons were so helpful for taking notes. Online learning was not my first choice, but it was definitely the best one. I’d absolutely do it again.
Here’s what my average day looked like during the course:
7:30 a.m. — Rise & Shine
Given the noon start time on the East Coast, I was able to enjoy a relaxed morning routine. This really helped me start class with energy and a positive attitude every day.
8–11 a.m. — Morning Routine
I would start my day with a walk around the neighborhood — sometimes with my mom, and sometimes solo while listening to music. When I returned home, I’d eat breakfast and do some stretching, too.
11:30 a.m. – Check the Day’s Schedule
Every day, we’d have lectures on at least two topics concerning front-end or back-end programming. They would be split into a morning exercise, module one, lunch, and then module two. Here’s a sample of the schedule:
We’d often begin with a morning exercise (or afternoon in my case). These could range from an assigned coding challenge, to a quick lab exercise, or a breakout group discussing an engineering topic. After these exercises, one member would present the group’s learnings. Everyone comes into the class at different levels of experience, so these sessions were really valuable to learn from students who might have more background in coding.
Here’s an example of a coding challenge — I especially appreciated this one because it showed up on a technical interview during my job search! I was able to complete it in class and present my solution to the instructor for feedback.
12:30 p.m. — First Module Begins
Module 1 is a mix of instructor lecture and (depending on how intensive it is) related lab exercises. These are never solo — you’re always working in pairs or small groups. We would share computer screens using Zoom to work through these, in addition to other tools like our computers’ terminals, Chrome browser, and Visual Studio Code (or another preferred text editor).
The lectures on React really stood out to me — I instantly fell in love with them. It’s such a useful library that allows you to build out robust apps that remain scalable with relative ease. I’m grateful that Dalton, my lead instructor, did such a great job capturing my attention with React and the MERN stack because these are what I currently use at my job. Dalton was always eager to answer questions and would always make sure his students completely understood the topics.
These lectures started with a walkthrough of how React is implemented on Facebook (which it was created for). That visual was really helpful in understanding the fundamentals. Dalton would highlight specific parts of posts, comments, or profiles — things we were already familiar with — and explain to us how they were coded in React. Later in the week, we put all the basics together to create a fully functional app using React and other technologies from earlier in the course (MongoDB, Express.js, and Node.js).
1:30 p.m.— 15-Minute Break
Just the right amount of time to brew a cup of Yerba Mate to get me through the rest of the day. After, we would reconvene to wrap up Module 1.
3:30 p.m.—First Module Ends, One-Hour break
Here I would eat with my family, sometimes take a walk, or on really rough days… take a nap!
4:30 p.m. — Second Module Begins
For the majority of the course, the time allotted for second modules was usually spent in a lab to get hands-on practice and dive deeper into the ideas we learned during the first module. For instance, our first module on React was followed with a lab exercise that brought our app prototypes to life.
5 p.m. — 5-Minute Break
Sometimes our instructor would see people yawning, and we’d have a five minute break. Or sometimes we’d get a bio break if a lecture was really long. It’s nice that our instructor paid attention to little things like that.
6 p.m. — Presenting Group Work
After a brief break, we’d present group work. Sometimes you’d get assigned into groups to work through an activity, or in Slack, you could use reactions to request teammates. Using Zoom’s breakout sessions, this kind of group work was engaging and motivating. It’s so valuable to troubleshoot with people from (seemingly) unrelated backgrounds to learn how they problem-solve.
One person from each group would agree to present. Sometimes, it was intimidating to see the progress others were making, but most times, I felt that I “got” a concept or solved a problem more quickly. Ups and downs are just part of the day-to-day, and everyone progresses differently throughout the course.
7 p.m. — 15-Minute Break 2.0
During these breaks, I’d interact with my family or just chill for a few minutes.
8 p.m. — Class Ends
8 p.m. — Dinner
My parents would wait for me to finish class, and we’d sit down together to catch up on the day and what happened in class — easily the best part of my day.
9 p.m. — After-Hours Support
After-hours support is something students can take advantage of a few times a week if necessary. Adonis, our teaching assistant, was great and had wide-ranging knowledge in both front-end and back-end development. Adonis helped me get a better grasp on working on servers, specifically using MongoDB with Express. I was having trouble with the database for one of my portfolio projects, Notify, which was a streaming music service using the SoundCloud API. Adonis spent about an hour helping me figure out the bug.
10:00 p.m. — Start Homework
At this point I would complete any unfinished labs and review exercises that need more attention.
Midnight — Ideal Bedtime
Eight hours of sleep was everything. Sometimes, I wouldn’t get to bed until even later; it felt good to go to bed knowing that I did the best as I could, and that nothing was hanging over my head. I was actually doing something and making progress — with the pandemic and all, I hadn’t felt that in a long time.
Two other key areas where I spent time throughout the course were prepping with my career coach and working on my final project.
Meeting With Career Coaches and Portfolio Development
Rashid Campbell, a member of the Outcomes team, was my career coach at GA. Rashid did more than just prepare us for our job search — he was our frontline defense against burnout and genuinely cared about how I was doing as a human being, not just as a student. Learning in an Immersive is intense to begin with, but during the pandemic there was added stress!
On Tuesdays we would meet for two to three hours to work on my resume, personal branding, job applications, and technical interview prep. Additionally, one requirement for students to receive Outcomes support was that we had to create a portfolio summarizing our five projects. I would make time for this kind of work toward the end of the course on many days.
The Capstone Project
For their capstone projects, students mimic a team-client interaction, collaborating to build and deploy a full-stack application that fulfills provided specs. The final result integrates functionality from a third-party API. Instructors urge students to choose a capstone project grounded in a personal passion or a problem they’re excited to tackle.
During the last week of the course, the schedule was very open to allow for deep focus on your project. Any lectures were mostly optional, and we could take breaks whenever we needed. We had an open classroom policy — almost like a workplace environment — so that we could focus solely on the project.
My Final Project
My capstone project was inspired by my background in acting. A lot of people in the arts lack a centralized place to find fellow creatives to collaborate with on projects or events (or promote them). I created a wireframe for a website called Accolade, which helps creatives and artists stay connected and collaborate. Creatives can post and spread the word about their upcoming performances, showcases, or premieres on the site. They can also post an ad looking for actors, models, photographers, or videographers, and more.
First, I had to draft a wireframe of what it would look like and document its features, user interface, and tech dependencies — like a map API to display event locations.
On the day of presentations, students would give praise and “grows” — constructive criticism grounded in an empathetic understanding of how hard it can be to put yourself out there. This approach helped some students feel more comfortable with having their work in the spotlight.
Learning remotely at GA offered more support from fellow students than I ever expected. Everyone was so understanding when there were two deaths in my family during the course. When I got my job offer, Rashid helped with salary negotiations. I still keep in touch with students from my class as they get started on their new career paths. This was a period of my life that I will never forget — through the people I met. It was an authentic milestone.
Over the years, I used to feel anxious about all my loose ends. I have done so many things: I earned a journalism degree after 4 years of college; I jumped from entertainment, to politics, to whatever paid the bills. I looked at my peers who stuck to one thing and admired how far they went. After this experience, I realized that my diverse experiences are my superpower. I can literally do anything I put my mind to.
Each year, the United States honors Latinx Heritage Month to celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors originated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. But like the dynamic community this heritage month honors, it moved forward.
Founded in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week, this event eventually evolved into Hispanic Heritage Month and then — more recently — Latinx Heritage Month. Latinx is a newer term that has gained popularity among scholars, activists, and millennials. The intent behind this movement is to create a more inclusive space for gender non-conforming individuals.
While Latinx aims to provide a space for everyone, it’s important to know that one term cannot possibly encompass all the diverse communities, nations, and identities this event recognizes. Listening is always the best way to start a brave conversation — just because someone is from a Latin country, it doesn’t necessarily mean they identify as Latino, Latina, or even Latinx.
Latinxs en Tecnología
It comes as no surprise to us that Latinx people make up the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the United States. While only 6.2% of all Americans run a business, Latinx founders accounted for 15% of American entrepreneurs in 2019. The same year, Latinx businesses in the U.S. created 3 million jobs and generated nearly $500 billion in sales for the economy.
While Latinx people continue to excel, they have so much more to offer our community:
The Stanford Graduate School of Business reports that Latinx-owned companies tend to remain smaller than white-owned firms, with average revenues of $1.2 million per year compared to $2.3 million for non-Latinx-owned firms.
The Kauffman Foundation found the U.S. economy would add 1 million employer businesses and nearly 9.5 million jobs if minoritized groups could start and grow their businesses at the same pace as non-minoritized groups.
The Aspen institute estimates that improving the business and entrepreneurship system for Latinx founders could yield an additional $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy.
Our work is cut out for us. While Latinx people have made an unparalleled impact in our country’s economy and technology, there’s still room to move forward. Our job as educators is to bring these discrepancies to light so that we can foster real, measurable — and overdue — change.
But one thing is for certain: Progression never goes backward.
At General Assembly we are listening and evolving to become more inclusive of other cultures, languages, and communities.
Our team in Europe is running the first ever bootcamp cohort in Spanish. We’ve partnered with the Adecco Foundation to grant scholarships to 26 Spaniards with disabilities to help guide their careers toward technology with our Software Engineering Immersive.
Additionally, we’ve teamed up with Techqueria, the largest community of Latinx in tech, to support their Latinx Heritage Month Summit and create initiatives that build on our commitment to making GA a more inclusive place for our Latinx students.
The future of tech looks bright, mi gente. ¡Dale!
Check out our upcoming Latinx-themed events to stay engaged and learn even more:
These days you would be hard-pressed to find a business, regardless of its size, that isn’t investing in digital marketing to assist in their promotional efforts. Businesses must try their best to keep up with their fast-paced consumer markets and are challenged with staying in tune with the ever-evolving digital marketing technologies and strategies available to them.
As a result, digital marketing budgets are increasing by double digit increments year after year, projected to hit a total global spend of 306 billion by 2020, keeping the field of digital marketing both challenging and exciting.
What exactly is digital marketing, anyway?
Well, it’s not too far off from what you might think of as traditional marketing: businesses or organizations connecting with their audiences to promote their brands, services, and/or products, ideally bringing them closer to purchase as they span the customer journey. However, as consumers consistently spend more time online, marketers are shifting their promotional efforts to meet consumers where they are. Thus, digital marketing has come to the forefront, with marketing strategies spanning a variety of online channels such as social media, search engines, email, online publications, and other key business websites.
Today, the field of digital marketing is more interesting than ever and encompasses a wide range of knowledge and skill sets. It appeals to those that consider themselves creative types as well as those who are more analytically or technically minded. A digital marketing career includes a mix of desired skills to be successful in the field — such as data analysis, automation software expertise, and user experience design — as represented in the Altimeter State of Digital Marketing Report.
Digital Marketing Career Opportunities
While the skill sets required of digital marketing specialists are vast and diverse, it’s typically not expected that a single digital marketing role take on all of these skills. Instead, digital marketing careers are more commonly made up of a variety of roles and responsibilities that span areas such as:
Content marketing entails the creation and distribution of consistent, valuable, and engaging content — emails, blog posts, videos, ads, social media posts — to clearly defined audiences. It’s the content marketing manager’s job to decide what kinds of content will resonate most with key audiences and keep them coming back for more. Content marketing managers work with their team members to decide how to use or repurpose pieces of content to suit the various digital channels leveraged by the business, ensuring that the content created has a long shelf life and reaches as many viewers as possible.
Search Engine Marketing
While a solid content marketing strategy is important for digital marketers to develop, it’s just as important for them to optimize their content and websites for search engines, as search engines are primarily what people use to find the information they need. Digital marketers have put various search engine optimization (SEO) techniques in place to improve the ranking of their content on search engines like Google. SEO can be a full time job; it’s the SEO Manager’s job to ensure content and websites are optimized as much as possible and are adapting to the requirements of continually changing search engine algorithms, such as Google’s PageRank.
Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing takes SEO one step further, applying a lot of the foundational aspects, but offering content through a digital ad on the search engine that viewers click on to access. Advertisers are charged per each click on the ad, hence the name of the practice. Putting money behind these ads yields a higher chance that the ad content will be seen. PPC managersare hired to determine which keywords to associate with the promoted ads, how large of a budget to allocate towards the advertising campaign, and which content to promote as part of the advertisement itself.
Social Media Marketing
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are available for digital marketers to use to promote their brands, generate followers, and drive traffic to their websites for future lead generation. It’s the role of the social media marketing managerto determine which social media platforms are best suited for the company’s audience, what content should be shared at what cadence and time of day, and which topics will interest followers based on monitoring conversations through specific keywords, phrases, or hashtags. Social media is an exciting part of digital marketing for people new to the field to dive into, and its use cases and features are always shifting and expanding.
Email is another channel digital marketers can use to reach their prospects and customers. When done right, it allows email marketing managers to strategically send emails that rise above the noise of crowded inboxes and provide a relevant and personalized touch to their subscribers. Emails can come in many forms such as monthly newsletters, event promotions, educational product tips and tricks, and holiday discounts. Email marketing is often in place to point subscribers to a company’s website, with the hopes of driving further engagement or product purchases. Email is a tried and true digital marketing method that’s always improving and challenging digital marketers to do better, ensuring that email marketers stay challenged and subscribers stay informed and engaged.
As the options available to digital marketing professionals continue to evolve and campaigns become more sophisticated, so must the technologies that digital marketers use to maintain them. Enter marketing automation: the ability to utilize software to automate marketing operations that might otherwise be done manually. For example, marketing automation can allow digital marketers to set up processes on the back end of their various marketing tools to automatically send welcome emails to their new newsletter subscribers or schedule their daily social media posts. Marketing automation managerscollaborate with many of the above mentioned roles and are most effective when they’re able to fully leverage both their creative and analytical attributes.
The Earnings of Digital Marketers in 2020
Digital Marketing, no matter which direction you go within the field, is in high demand and the earnings that can be made are in direct alignment. According to Mondo’s 2020 Tech, Digital Marketing, & Creative Salary Guide, you can expect to make upwards of $60,000 USD as a starting salary in most areas within digital marketing, progressing (upwards of $110,000 USD in some cases) as you develop in your career. This of course varies across regions and disciplines, with more technical roles tending to align with higher earnings.
Plan for a Digital Marketing Career
Digital marketing is an exciting field to get into and is only going to get more exciting over time as technology continues to advance. Should you find yourself interested in pursuing a career in digital marketing, don’t be afraid to explore the various ways you can dive into the career path. You’ll find that there are a number of great resources you can invest in to get you on your way. Whether you just recently finished school or you’re switching careers, digital marketing holds un-capped potential that’s yours to take advantage of in 2020.
Hello intrepid data scientist! First off, I’d like to congratulate you; you’re likely reading this post because you’re preparing to interview for a data science job. This means I’ll assume that: (a) you’re the type of person that researches ways to improve and level up in your career, and (b) you’re reached the interview stage — congrats!
As a data science instructor, I’m often asked for advice on how to prepare for a data science interview. In response, I usually bring up three major themes. You need to:
1. Have a background that includes sufficient knowledge of the field of data science to fulfill the job’s tasks.
2. Have implemented that knowledge in some way that the community recognizes.
3. Be able to convince your interviewer of your knowledge and abilities.
1. Knowledge of Data Science
I’ve taken part in interviewing many data scientists and have also been interviewed. Through being on both sides of the table, I’ve seen that there are usually three-ish areas of knowledge that an interviewer is looking for: prerequisite knowledge of data science at large, which includes: mathematics, coding, databases, and the ability to communicate findings and insights; knowledge of the company and its vertical; and knowledge of the tech stack of that company.
If you’re reading this article with a fairly long time horizon and not trying to cram, then you can prepare ahead of time with the knowledge of data science at large by taking a look at this blog post which has a long list of curated resources. If you are reading this and trying to prepare for a data science interview on a short time horizon, this article and this article have a list of questions with answers to get you in the zone.
Knowledge of the company is going to come from research of that company. Read up on the company and if you have time, find second and third degree connections through LinkedIn or people you know and reach out. As a General Assembly alum, I’ve found it incredibly helpful to go to a company’s LinkedIn page, check out who the fellow alumni are, and connect through a LinkedIn message or offering to buy them coffee. Reading up on the company usually takes the form of doing research about the company itself (founding principles, place in the market, investment stage, etc.), but it also takes the form of looking up who you’d be working alongside if you started working there. What does the data team look like? Are there data engineers or other data scientists?
During a data science interview, your background will likely speak to your knowledge of the vertical you’re applying to. In the absence of that, some portfolio projects are a great second option to show your domain expertise.
Thomas Hughes, Manager of Data Science and Machine Learning at Etsy, shared this bit of advice on striking a balance between generalized skills, specific skills, and knowledge in a vertical:
“Companies who do not have much experience in data work generally look for candidates who specialize in their industry vertical. Since they don’t know what they’re looking for, they often will say, ‘I’m looking for someone who has solved problems similar to my problems, which I’m assuming means they have to be coming from my industry.’
More mature companies, with experience in the data space, recognize that many of the techniques are applicable across industries and don’t require industry specific knowledge, and furthermore, someone who’s deeply trained in a specific technique often adds more value than someone who’s just familiar with an industry vertical.”
Theodore Villacorta, Executive Director of Analytics at Warner Brothers, shared with me that, “regarding vertical, your background matters less; it’s more about skills to get data from a database and how you can perform with it.”
Lastly, you need to be fairly well versed in the tech stack that the company primarily uses. Villacorta offers: “Since knowledge of one of the two main open source languages is a strong requisite, along with the ability to use the corresponding SQL packages for those languages, it might be a great idea to showcase those in a portfolio piece. Most organizations have some form of SQL database.” At minimum, be prepared to answer questions about any tech stack that the company uses within the realm of data science and especially be prepared to answer questions about any tech that your resume lists. I usually like to do two things in preparation, to get an idea of what’s being used: first, I’ll head to stackshare.io and see if the company is listed. Second, I’ll look at the skills that current employees list on LinkedIn.
2. Community Recognition
The second piece is the community piece, especially if you have plenty of time before the data science interview. Community is purposefully a fairly amorphous term here. You can attend in-person events like meetups or conferences, or you can also have a community of coworkers, or a community of social media followers. I suggest laying the groundwork naturally. Networking can feel uncomfortable, but finding people you genuinely like being around in this field is usually pretty easy (didn’t anyone tell you that data scientists are the coolest people in any room?). If you don’t find a community that you’re into, try building one: set up a talk featuring other data scientists. Think like a starfish here, not a spider. You’re trying to create interactions and connections that continue to build new interactions in your absence; not interactions and connections that fall into a void once you’re no longer making them happen.
3. Convince Your Interviewer
In your data science interview, you need to convince the interviewer of your capabilities of both areas above. Interviewers are looking to make sure that you’re someone that generally fits into the puzzle board of other employees that make up the company culture. Show them that you’re great at the community thing through past coworkers or your involvement in open source projects online, engagements with people on Twitter, your writing style on blog posts, and the like. As Villacorta mentions, “For everyone, regardless of how cross functional of a role, I think it’s important to find someone who has an ability to collaborate, share resources…I’ll usually ask behavioral questions like ‘tell me a time when…’ in order to get a sense of a candidate’s abilities in this area.”
Hughes explains, “Senior level positions generally need to be providing leadership and influence over non-technical stakeholders. So they need experience explaining how the work they and their team is doing is valuable in non-technical ways.” Demonstrating your knowledge in an interview comes down to staying open. You’ve done the studying, now just get out of your own way.
I like employing the beginner’s mind here. Take every question in as though you’re uncovering the answer alongside the interviewer. In other words, think of it kind of like an archeological dig, rather than a tennis match. When you get an interview question like, “what’s a P value?” you can respond with, “are you curious about calculating and interpreting P values in the context of hypothesis testing in a project? Because I had a great project I worked on [insert teaser to a project here]… or are you looking for a definition?” This gives your interviewer a ton more fodder to work with and opens you up to answer questions in the Situation, Task, Action, Results (STAR) format, especially as it relates to former projects and jobs.
Regardless of where you are in the interviewing process, know that there is a position and great fit for a company for you somewhere. I think it’s helpful to consider the process of interviewing through the lens of a company — they’ve been looking for you! Don’t let your own ego get in the way of letting a genuine interaction take place during the data science interview. Interviews aren’t something you’re “stuck with” having to put up with on your march towards another job. In fact, they can be incredibly rewarding moments to find new areas to learn about in this fascinating field we’re in. Good luck, and let me know how it went!
The truth is, no one is born with the coding skills a potential employer is seeking for tech job openings, and your resume doesn’t need to include a computer science degree. The good news is every web developer acquires the technical skills along the way that leads to their first job, and the path is not the same for everyone. With this dream tech job becoming a desired career path for many, you’ll want to have a proper outline. Below are my 5 steps to getting your first job as a web developer.
1. Research and Visualize
If you came across this article because you were researching how to get a job as a web developer, guess what? You’re already immersed in the first step! Congratulations.
In one of my favorite business books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey outlines an easy-to-understand approach to attaining your goals — through conscious changes to your behavior and character. While all of his 7 habits are important, I want to point out habit 2 to you with regards to landing a web job: Begin with the end in mind.
In the book, Covey says that habit 2 is “based on imagination — the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes.” The idea is “based on the principle that all things are created twice,” he continues. “There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint.”
In essence, he says that everything that we bring into reality in the future has its start somewhere before, in the mind. It could be an idea, a goal, or even a Google search; suddenly “it” becomes an outline, a map or a schedule, and slowly the first mental birth gives a subsequent existence to something physical.
When it comes to your career as a web developer, this means researching the steps you can take today in order for you to be confident and capable to start a new developer job in the future. That’s how I’d like you to approach this goal.
Do your research: The better you know the blueprint for what you want to build for your web career, the more motivated you’ll remain along the way. You’ll be able to track your progress toward a goal. And then visualize: See yourself follow the plan as you grow your skills and confidence and ultimately land your dream job.
Read 3–5 different takes on how to become a web developer from tech and career blogs, YouTube, Quora, LinkedIn, etc.
From the different perspectives you’ve gained, what is common among them? What do they say you should learn for a web developer job? How do you acquire the skills that are suggested?
Make a step by step plan on how you can achieve the goal. Base it on your personal skills profile, schedule, timeline, resources, etc.
Visualize yourself 1, 3, or 5 years in the future while focusing on what’s doable today.
2. Learn the Skills
The bottom line is that a web developer job comes down to skills and execution. Employers — your future hiring managers and colleagues — will expect you to have certain technical skills and to execute them as required by the role, especially if you want to keep the job. While soft skills are important in any organization, in this job you’ll ultimately find yourself being put to the test through your tech experience and knowledge, and your goal is to let this fuel your productivity and success.
When I started to learn web development, I realized I had a lot of new things to learn. Coming from an arts background in college but having a life-long fascination and familiarity with computers, I knew that my English writing would not directly translate to writing code. So what did I need to do? Thankfully I was in familiar territory; I had to learn to write and to learn new languages. That meant learning new writing syntax, structure, rules, etc. From the start, I learned HTML and CSS were the backbone of the web. HTML gives structure to every webpage’s content, and CSS provides the styling. Without those two, what would the web be? Would it be?
While I was working a full-time job that was not tech-related at the time, I made a schedule for myself: at least 3 times a week I would go to a learning space or coffee shop after work to learn HTML and CSS. Yes, I visited many spaces, libraries, and coffee shops. I drank a lot of needless coffee. I researched many topics. I stumbled and learned. One night, it could take me three hours to learn a simple concept which only became a rabbit hole to other related concepts. It never seemed to end and I only had so much time in one day.
In the long run, every hurdle mattered. Once I learned something a couple of times, I started to retain knowledge, and through practice, I put it to work.
Bonus Tip: One thing I always tell my web development students is this: find a project. It can be anything — start a website about your dog, your kids, your most recent vacation, Auntie Betsy, the weather — whatever. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even have to be public. Just create something.
Having a pet project, even simple ones as those mentioned above, will give you a needed end-goal. You’ll start to come across hurdles as you envision what content is needed, how the website should look, how to host it, and what design you want, such as fonts, colors, assets, user experience, template layout, etc. Guess what? Each of these web hurdles and design choices may become your three hour session at a learning space, but each obstacle will reward you with practice and knowledge.
Learn HTML and CSS. Interactive online platforms provide an excellent start, and they can be reinforced by coding bootcamps. If by chance you come from a graphic design background, you’ll enjoy CSS! You might soon see yourself as a web designer.
Learn how to write a simple HTML document from memory. The syntax will become engrained more thoroughly this way. Yes, type out the <html>, <head>, <title>, <body> and other common HTML content tags so that they become second nature. Learn how to integrate CSS into the document in-line, and through a linked stylesheet. Speaking confidently about the technical structure of an HTML + CSS page alone can help you score big in a job interview.
Lastly, how do you get to be online given the framework or CMS? How does web hosting work? How do you deploy a web application?
3. Add to your Portfolio and Gain Experience
Once you’ve created one or two simple projects for yourself — as long as they provide a good dose of learning and experience — create something that you want to share publicly. Can’t think of anything? A personal blog or a professional resume website is a good start.
When you’ve created a website that you can share with others, get the word out. Add it to your social media profiles, including LinkedIn. Don’t be afraid to market it, and of course, improve it as new ideas and content start to flow.
My first public web project was a short story fiction website. Because I came from an arts background, it was actually my interest in creative writing that brought me to tech. I had owned a web domain for a couple of years (the “idea”), but it wasn’t until I was determined to create my own website that I took the steps to build it.
While I enjoyed writing and publishing short stories, through the project, I continued learning about web publishing, platforms and upkeep. I was public about my project and in time I had guest writers’ content on my site, and family and friends reading it. Before I knew it, I had family and friends asking me if I knew how to make a website. “Oh, you’re opening a business and want to know if I can help with the website? I’d love to”, I’d say.
At first, I built websites for family and friends, and then used that experience to get the attention of third-degree references. Ultimately, I started to freelance and gained contract work. I created professional business websites for small businesses and individuals. In the span of two years, I had decent freelancing experience, a nice group of samples from my creations, professional references, and the confidence to apply to full-time opportunities.
Put to practice what you’ve learned. If you haven’t already, purchase your first domain. Choose a CMS or framework to get started.
Host and publish content, improve it, maintain it, and share it.
Add the site to your social media profiles, in the links or projects section.
Be open to freelance work with friends and family. Help someone improve their website. Provide web advice and guidance. Work on making someone else’s dreams come true through your new web skills.
Let one project breed the next. You’ll be amazed how many people and businesses need help online. After a handful of contract projects, you can start considering yourself a freelance junior web developer.
4. Be Part of a Community
Depending on the languages, frameworks, or CMS you choose to work with, be part of that community. Your presence can be digital and physical. Subscribe to pertinent tech blogs and tutorial websites on the subject to stay fresh; join online communities of tech professionals where you can learn and give help (e.g. Stack Overflow, WordPress.org); join an offline meet-up; attend a conference, coding bootcamp, and hackathon. This community experience will improve your coding skills, allow you to network, increase your chances of more freelance projects, and make you look more experienced to a potential employer.
If you decide to start making simple websites with a CMS that is not open source, such as Shopify, Squarespace, or Wix, that’s fine too. As long as you can practice HTML and CSS at first, it will springboard you into other challenges. Eventually, I gravitated toward PHP, Python and related frameworks, and I became involved in those communities as well.
Where are those who use your CMS or programming language hanging out? Developers tend to find each other online in forums, blogs and community websites. Join, say hello, and start to learn and contribute.
Be open to offline interaction. Look up events near you, or travel if you need to. While developers do enjoy their desks, events are very common. Programming does not have to be a solo experience.
5. Think Like a Recruiter
At this point, feel confident that you’re a junior or experienced web developer candidate for any potential employer, depending on the amount of freelancing you’ve done. Hiring managers will be interested because you have a solid working knowledge of how to make websites, you’ve built your own projects, you’ve helped create or improve others’ sites, and your community involvement shows you’re eager and motivated.
The next thing you’ll want to do is place yourself in the shoes of a recruiter. Whether it’s an in-house recruiter seeking talent for their tech company, or a staffing agency’s tech recruiter looking to find candidates for clients, your resume will not get to the hiring manager unless it first attracts a recruiter.
I landed my first web job through the help of a staffing agency’s tech recruiter who thought I’d be a good fit for a client. After a contract period, I was converted to a full-time employee. You’ll find that this is a common and realistic route.
In your resume, use keywords to be specific about the programming languages you’ve learned, including related frameworks, dependencies, tools, and software. When tech industry recruiters are looking at your resume, they want to make sure they won’t be wasting the hiring manager’s time with someone who doesn’t have specific experience in what’s required. Keywords are also how recruiters will find you.
Be open to templates. Recruiters are open to creative templates and designs as long as the content is strong. Use services such as Canva to find interesting layouts. Don’t forget to add the time you worked as a freelancer, your web links and projects, and any related education you’ve completed. Create different drafts of your resume, and get others’ opinions.
Maintain consistency across job boards and social profiles. Create a profile on 2-5 job boards. LinkedIn should go without saying — make sure the verbiage used on LinkedIn matches what you’ll send a recruiter or hiring manager on your resume. Keep thinking keywords. Consider joining other job boards such as Indeed, Glassdoor, or Monster, which are general job boards that recruiters frequent, or even tech-focused ones such as Hired, StackOverflow, or GitHub.
Be active online. Share others’ content and consider creating content of your own, such as videos, articles, and podcasts.
On the job boards, select that you’re open to being contacted by recruiters, but be subtle. Be open to a junior web developer job. Stay attentive and courteous even to opportunities that don’t align with your expectations: you never know which recruiter or employer may be the right match now or down the line.
The Opportunity is Yours
When you land a call or an in-person interview, be honest about what you know and don’t know, and be confident about what you can bring to the table. Always come prepared.
Once you have an interview, the opportunity is yours. There’s one thing left to do: ace the interview with the belief that you can walk through that door of what was once a visualization.
Shifting careers to move into a fast-growing field like technology can be a smart investment in your long-term professional success. The hardest question for most career changers is not whether to make a change — it’s where to begin. This is especially true if you are considering entering a field you’re unfamiliar with.
Luckily, the path to getting a job in tech with little to no experience can be a simple and direct one if you follow a few basic steps.
1. Develop a Growth Mindset
First, keep in mind that your perspective can determine how successful your career change process will be. It’s worth taking some time at the start to get into the right frame of mind. If you’re looking to get a tech job, the key is to develop a growth mindset.
Having a growth mindset simply means believing that new skills can be learned and mastered. No one was born knowing how to write code or build web applications! Everyone, no matter how naturally talented, was a beginner once. Every app or device you use was created by a team of people who had to learn and practice new skills on their way to creating something awesome.
You’ve been a beginner in the past too, and have learned all kinds of complex things, from typing or riding a bike to playing an instrument or making a work presentation. So give yourself space to learn, regardless of your age or experience.
In tech, progress never stops. There will always be a new tool or programming language to master. Just know that every new program that you get under your belt will make it easier to master the next one, whenever it pops up.
2. Know Why You’re Making a Change
Why do you want to get a job in tech? It could be that you’re curious about how things work and the code that makes it all happen. Maybe you’ve grown up with digital devices and can’t imagine life without them. Or, perhaps you’re looking for a stable career that will allow you to better provide for yourself and your family. You may have wanted to move into a tech career for a while, and the timing finally seems right to make the change.
There are no wrong answers here. The important part is to have a vision you can go back to on rough days to remind yourself why you want to be a tech professional, and give yourself a motivational boost of energy to keep going.
3. Name Your Goal
The key to this part of getting your tech dream job is to be clear about where you want to end up once you learn the ropes. There are all kinds of exciting job opportunities in tech, and one or more are sure to be a great fit for you.
As you become more familiar with the responsibilities of these roles, you can also begin to narrow down your preferred type of workplace. A deeply resourced multinational enterprise company can be just as satisfying as a career destination as a scrappy innovative startup in a field you really love. Choose what makes the most sense for you and your reasons for setting the goal identified in step 2.
4. Start Right Where You Are
Now you know where you’re going; the next step is to map the route to get there. The good news is, you don’t need an MBA or any other formal degree to be successful in your new tech career. You don’t even need to have a technology job to start getting tech experience!
In fact, you may be able to start getting tech experience at your current job. Consider volunteering to help update a small business’ website, interview shoppers about your store’s app, or shadow someone in your IT department as they troubleshoot a problem. Information you get from these “practice” opportunities can help you decide what new skills you want or need. Check with your HR team to see if your company offers tuition reimbursement or any upskilling or reskilling programs that you may qualify for.
There is an abundance of virtual training possibilities for those who prefer a self-study program. From free YouTube videos to paid options like Coursera and LinkedIn Learning, there’s no shortage these days of convenient and affordable ways to master new skills at home and at your own pace.
Interested in learning alongside a team? Consider participating in a hackathon as a subject matter expert on an issue close to your heart, and watch up close as tech professionals work together over a fast-paced weekend to build a solution to a pressing problem. Or reach out and pick up some projects through Catchafire or a local site like LendaHand and start building your emerging tech skills while helping make the world a better place.
Learn better in a classroom with live instruction? Reputable companies like General Assembly and CompTIA offer a variety of programs designed specifically for adult learners, and with schedules and topic areas crafted to meet both your needs and the demands of a hot job market. Programs are offered both online and, where permitted, in person on campus. Financial aid and payment plans are often available for students who qualify; there’s no need to take on crushing amounts of debt for a conventional four-year degree when a rigorous 12-week bootcamp can give you the skills, tools, and support you need to be a competitive tech job candidate.
Networking doesn’t need to be a negative experience. Consider it a way of learning about your new industry and community by connecting with human beings who were once in your shoes. Most people enjoy helping people the way they were helped on their journey. As long as you treat people with kindness and respect, and not simply as a means to an end, you’ll begin to grow your reputation as a smart and curious person who would be a pleasure to work with.
Online communities can be as powerful for networking as in-person events. With so many networking events happening virtually, you can connect with hiring managers, tech recruiters, and other potential employers from Silicon Valley to New York City and beyond, often for free. Check out sites like Meetup and search for the topics that interest you; from Python to Ruby to HTML, there’s a meetup to meet your needs.
You’re seeking ways to connect with tech industry professionals as someone new to the field and eager to learn. So polish that resume, post it on job boards, read a few articles on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile, and put yourself out there. Once you start writing code, even if it’s for a class project, share it on Github. Leverage social media to connect with future colleagues and maybe even find a mentor.
Volunteering and being of service is both a great way to learn and a great way to meet new colleagues in the tech industry. Consider joining a professional association or two, even if you are just starting out. Get involved in Slack channels, LinkedIn conversations, Twitter feeds, and attend a few conferences, whether they’re virtual or in-person.
Initiative, curiosity, kindness, and hard work will set you apart as a strong interview candidate for your first tech job. The more tech talent you begin to have in your circle, the more likely it is that you’ll begin hearing about relevant job openings — and your new friend may even be able to get your application directly to a hiring manager.
You can land your first tech job with no experience as long as you’ve done the right research and preparation beforehand, and are willing to put in the time and effort to master new skills. A commitment to lifelong learning and a clear idea of what you want to do and where will help ensure your success, no matter how you choose to study. Take the time to consider free and paid training options, in-person and remote programs, and volunteer opportunities as you design your learning plan. And, start connecting with your future employers and colleagues early through networking and social media. A new career is waiting for you — take your first step toward it today.