Administrative Position to Developer – During two periods of my professional career, I experienced the anxiety of employment insecurity. This article describes the successful actions that empowered me to overcome those occurrences and shares lessons learned regarding “How I Got My Job.”
Graduating from university Magna Cum Laude with dual majors and having completed a rigorous course load that included lessons in Arabic and Hebrew and the publication of an honors program thesis (along with being an honorably discharged combat veteran), I thought that the world was mine. Alas, it was 2009, and I was a new graduate, stepping into my professional life amidst the Great Recession. Employment was not to be, at least not immediately.
At that time, I spent day and night completing job applications, perpetually updating and tailoring my resume to no avail. The action then that was most favorable to my job search was my willingness to relocate. After months of job searching post-college and running on dwindling funds, I was contacted by the Army and notified fortuitously that I was owed a few thousand dollars. When those meager funds were deposited, I packed my dreams and moved north, from Florida to Washington, D.C., where I hoped my education and experience would be in greater demand.
Taking the leap from Administrative Position to Developer
Nose to the grindstone, I continued my modest path upward and eventually joined the management team in my office. As a manager, I began to sense unease regarding my skillset, concerned that my aspirations to grow professionally in a technical role might be limited by my education – which was not in computer science but international studies and religious studies. Anxiety crept in when I considered how I might market myself should I ever be without my comfortable government gig. I had been performing web development occasionally at work and frequently on a freelance basis throughout this time. Equipped with some financial savings and an appreciation for that type of work, I resigned from my position and enrolled in a computer programming Bootcamp.
After completing the Bootcamp, my job search was much less successful than I had anticipated. During my job search, I networked with other developers and coding Bootcamp alumni and discovered that the rigor of the institution I had intended was ill-suited for preparing me for the realities of being a full-time developer. So, I studied. Day and night. My life became dominated by learning data structures, optimizing algorithms, completing leetcode challenges, mastering design patterns, and building personal projects. Though I was without employment for a prolonged period and obliterated my once cherished debt-free status, I eventually achieved my first full-time developer position at good pay. I used that experience to shift to subsequent developer positions that were a better fit for me personally.
Ultimately, I was hired by my current employer as a developer. The lessons learned during my period of unemployment continued to benefit me. I continued to seek to enhance my knowledge and aptitude, eventually gaining competency such that I was able to fill an organizational need as a systems engineer. With success there, I was promoted to management. I currently lead the development team and am the manager of implementing a significant federal I.T. project.
I continue to perform web development as a side gig. Because of the adversity I have overcome in my professional pursuits. I feel constant lingering insecurity that drives me to perpetually build my skillset, forever trying to take on new technologies, solidify my computer science foundation, and prepare myself to be capable and employable, equipped to overcome any shifts in the always tumultuous technology industry. Among my goals is to return to school, complete a second degree in computer science and advanced studies after that, with long-term aspirations of taking my career in a direction inclined toward research and mentoring.
Reflecting on “How I Got My Job,” I offer this advice: Seek a technical skill within your field of interest, master it via the plethora of resources that we are fortunate to have at our fingertips. And then complete challenging, innovative projects that demonstrate your competency with that skillset. Be willing to accept an initial position in which you may grow and then capitalize by continuously learning, seeking opportunities wherever possible to apply and demonstrate your unique value.