Finding Your Path as a Junior Developer
We won’t sugarcoat it – finding work as a junior dev isn’t easy. While the tech sector has experienced a surge in recent years, the landscape for aspiring junior developers has evolved into a competitive arena. As a junior developer, you’re not only competing amongst peers with similar skill sets, but you’re also going head-to-head with candidates who might possess more advanced training and experience.
To add a twist of irony, some companies are waving the “Junior Position” banner while asking for a whopping minimum three years of experience. Seriously, what’s junior about becoming a tech wizard in the blink of an eye?
The good news is that the job market is not at saturation for junior devs. While the tech sector has become increasingly more competitive for job seekers, junior developer positions are still being offered – albeit, in a hiring pool of hundreds of potential candidates. It’s never been more important to make yourself stand out and become a top applicant.
There are businesses that are looking for truly “Junior” hires. These companies are eager to mentor and shape individuals according to their values and process. They recognize the genuine essence of a junior role – one of growth and learning.
We had a coffee chat with one of our junior developers, Brittany Freitas, who generously shared her insights on breaking into the field and finding her place within it. She mentions the importance of networking, continuously learning, how previous career experiences can help, and the importance of finding alignment with a company.
From Social Work to Code: Unconventional Beginnings
The journey to becoming a developer isn’t always linear. Our junior developer, hailing from a Masters of Social Work degree and a background in working with vulnerable populations, found a unique entry point into the tech world. It was the realization of technology’s potential to address social service barriers that sparked the transition.
“I wanted to continue helping people,” says Brittany, “But I wanted to do it through a different lens than social work. I wanted to build helpful tools that supported the populations I worked with.”
Observing the transformative power of coding, she decided to pivot her career path, eager to create solutions that could make a positive social impact.
Having first witnessed a family member complete a developer bootcamp, Brittany saw an opportunity to learn a new skill and change careers within an entirely different industry. Transitioning from a career rooted in social work to the world of coding required determination and skill acquisition. Brittany decided to take an immersive web development bootcamp at Juno College.
While learning the skills at a fast pace of a bootcamp had its difficulties, the biggest challenge was to follow after completing her developer certificate: competing as a junior developer in a competitive tech job market.
Navigating Challenges and Following a Process
The job search as a junior developer can be both exciting and challenging. With the tech industry booming, competition for junior positions has intensified. Brittany shares her experience of applying to around 20 jobs per week and following a daily process to stay on top of new positions.
“During my job search, I would follow a daily routine to stay competitive,” says Brittany, “I would start my day by doing coding practice challenges through Code Wars with a friend also job searching. I would then search LinkedIn and Indeed for job postings, and would spend close to 3 hours applying to jobs. Lastly, the rest of my day was set up with coffee chats from other people in the tech industry. I used networking as a tool to find hidden job postings and to practice my people skills.”
To gain an edge, Brittany also leveraged one-on-one support from a career coach at Juno College, fine-tuning her resume, and mastering interview techniques.
Networking is Vital to Success
Networking emerged as the pivotal factor in our junior developer’s success. Brittany recognized its significance in building relationships within the industry, connecting with recruiters, and expanding her professional circle. This approach wasn’t just about seeking referrals; instead, she engaged in meaningful conversations to learn from industry professionals and share insights. Joining technology communities like Tech Tank, Toronto JS, and Civic Tech played a crucial role in networking and honing her communication skills.
“I won’t lie. The first few conversations I had while starting networking were awkward,” chuckles Brittany, “This was insanely good practice to talk about my skills and familiarize myself with how to discuss my new technical skillset.”
The Interview Experience: Showcasing Your Potential
Interviewing as a junior developer often centers around showcasing potential and eagerness to learn rather than a mastery of every technical aspect. Thanks to the practice from networking, Brittany was able to go into interviews fairly confident.
“The great thing with most interviews is most of the employers did not expect a huge level of expertise for a junior position. They mostly were looking for a willingness to learn and have an understanding of core fundamentals.” Says Brittany.
The interviews typically involved a mix of live coding challenges and behavioural questions to understand the applicant more and to test their adaptability. Demonstrating a project’s development journey, challenges faced, and future aspirations proved to be an effective way to exhibit skills and passion.
Rejection is Part of the Process
Rejections are an inevitable part of any job search, and the tech industry is no exception. Our junior developer emphasizes that rejections should be seen as stepping stones rather than roadblocks. With perseverance, she cultivated resilience, understanding that job hunting is a numbers game and rejection isn’t personal. Leveraging each rejection as a chance to refine her approach, she continually improved her networking, communication, and coding abilities.
“You’re sometimes in an applicant pool of over 400 other people applying for the position!” Exclaimed Brittany, “You should never take rejection personally. It’s a numbers game sometimes and rejection is definitely part of this process.”.
“When I saw the junior developer position open at Ursa and read about what sort of company Ursa was, I knew I had to throw my hat in the ring along with other applications because Ursa’s values and the type of work they did were exactly what I wanted to do as a developer,” says Brittany.
“They [Ursa Creative] are an Indigenous-owned technology company, specializing in building systems, websites, and software for non-profits and Indigenous entities, meant that they were developing tools and technology to help support workers and bring more assistance to respective communities.”
After a few interviews and tests, Brittany displayed a great connection with Ursa Creative’s values and clearly demonstrated how her unique perspective as a support worker could come in handy when building solutions to assist us. She was onboarded as our latest developer in the winter of 2023.
Transitioning to a junior developer role is a journey that requires aligning your existing expertise with newfound technical skills. Our junior developer’s background in social work informed her career direction, enabling them to seek opportunities in tech that align with her values. This approach proved successful, leading them to a company whose mission resonated with her background.
Consider Working for Ursa!
We are a growing tech business that is actively seeking new talent interested in driving socio-economic change and benefiting Indigenous communities. We frequently have openings for junior roles within our company. Explore our Careers page for opportunities to work with Ursa Creative