It can be stressful to switch careers into tech after doing something completely different for a long time. In my case, it was being in the military for 12 years.
I had not experienced a real job interview in more than a decade, and I was trying to switch into a completely new career field. Six months after signing up for online coding bootcamp The Firehose Project, I recently landed a software engineering job as a contractor working at Boeing. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to start a new chapter in my career and put the skills that I’ve learned to work.
That said, during my career search, I learned that there is a lot more to landing a software job than just having the necessary technical skills. The post-bootcamp interview world can be really difficult to navigate, so I documented my experience to outline a potential strategy for other coding bootcamp graduates. Read on for my tips to learn how I landed a job- and what I would have done differently!
6 Steps to Take Immediately after Graduating from a Coding Bootcamp.
- Target companies that understand your background. Since I was in the military for 12 years, I focused on companies in the same realm. All the companies I interviewed with supported the military, which gave me an advantage.
- Researched those companies on CrunchBase and get yourself up-to-date on their current activity (fundraising, new hires, etc), just in case any relevant questions come up during interviews.
- In addition to posting my resume on job boards, research interview questions and reviews on potential companies at GlassDoor and Indeed.
- Keep your GitHub active by pushing what you’re learning and doing, even if it’sa simple challenge from the end of book chapters.
- Completed various challenges at HackerRank and push your solutions to your GitHub.
I knew I was ready when I realized that I was able to bring in value to the company because of my experience. Most of the interviewers told me I would fit in with the teams based on my background. Because I demonstrated a strong understanding of each company’s customers, I was invited to interviews that required a couple years of experience.
How to Approach the Technical Interviews
- Be as transparent as possible with your past experiences, even if they’re non-technical. Because I was honest about my past career, all my interviews felt like regular conversations. I talked about both my development experience and my previous career in the military to provide a full picture of what I could bring to the table.
- Ask questions using software engineering terminology. I knew that I wanted to be a software engineer and that they were looking for a software engineer, so I made sure to use the lingo that was used by the professionals. I replied back using the STAR method whenever it was possible, which provided context to my answers.
- If you have previous experience with the company, mention it! For example, I explained that I used to work on a specific aircraft that was created by the company that I was interviewing with. The interviewer was impressed by this and I think it helped me really stand out among the other candidates.
- Use the interview to ask your own questions. I asked personal questions and questions from the Job Prep section from The Firehose Project curriculum. I asked a TON of questions, because I wanted to work with a great team and I wanted to fit in.
How can your coding bootcamp factor into your job interviews? Well, my experience with the Firehose Project came into play a lot during the interviews, mainly because it showed that I was committed to the idea of “Always Be Coding.” I simply talked about the projects that I completed during my bootcamp and how I learned how to implement various things within each project. Some of the most important questions from my interviews were about team experience. I was able to answer those questions by talking about the chess game that I created with my group while attending the Firehose Project.
Expect Some Interviewers to be Impressed.
During my technical interviews, my interviewers liked:
- … that I attended The Firehose Project because it showed progression.
- … that I was proactive in learning multiple technologies.
- … that I had a GitHub account.
- … that my background brought in new perspectives to help balance out the teams.
- … that I had software experience with a team.
In short, keep coding and articulate how you would add value to the company!
And be Resilient if an Interview Doesn’t Click
At least one interviewer wanted me to have experience with an internship to demonstrate “time constraint” with software development.
Really the only negative feedback I got was this question about internship experience. I tried to speak about “time constraint” based on my experiences, but it didn’t really resonate with him. The good news was that I didn’t see myself fitting with his team anyway. It was a reminder that you need to consider who you want to work for, and you shouldn’t work for someone if you don’t see yourself fitting in.
What would I do with 3 extra months?
- I would complete a couple of freelancing jobs.
- I would complete a volunteer project.
- I would contribute to an open source project.
Overall, I would try to get more real world experiences through freelancing, volunteering, or contributing to an open source project. After going through the interview process, it was clear that these experiences would strengthen and increase someone’s chances of landing their first software job.
So, what’s the easiest thing that you can do today to build your chances?