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Damian Demasi
Damian Demasi

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10 takeaways from my first software developers Meetup

Yesterday evening I went to my first software development Meetup. I was hesitating in going because I'm sort of an introvert and going into a room full of strangers is not what I imagine when I think about doing something fun. Fortunately, I pushed myself to go, thinking that, at least, I would listen to what the speakers had to say.

To my surprise, I enjoyed the experience quite much. I didn't do much networking, but I could see and hear about people from different backgrounds trying to start (and continue) their careers in software development. The Meetup was focused on junior developers, so the discussion was focused on how to get jobs and the first steps after getting a job. I was glad to know many recommended a process to land jobs that are very similar to the one I followed to get my first job as a software developer, of which you can read more here.

My takeaways

1. No one regrets being brave

There is a saying that I heard on the Netflix show Luis Miguel (a great show, by the way) in which one of the characters says:

No one regrets being brave

I used that phrase as my mantra, and that is what pushed me beyond my introversion and allowed me to face the uncomfortable situation of facing strangers (in a strange language, as English is not my mother tongue).

I knew I would regret not going more than the regret of going and, potentially, making a fool of myself. In the end, it was a great experience, although I didn't manage to extract all the juice out of it (maybe next time!).

2. The importance of culture

There was a general consensus among speakers and the senior developer to whom I talked to that, for junior developers, culture fit is more important than knowledge. This is something that I experienced myself during the interview I had for my current position.

Having the right mindset, caring about the craftsmanship of building things with your code, and having emotional and social intelligence to become a positive addition to a team, is what companies are looking for, and something they won't be teaching you. On the other hand, knowing the right framework or Git workflow (and other technical skills) is something you can learn on the job.

When it comes to more senior positions, technical knowledge is often more important, as you will have to know your stuff really well.

3. Job posts are wish lists

Junior developers may find it difficult to land their first job because most of the job postings demand too many skills. The speakers at the Meetup agreed that the job posts are sometimes not well written, and they just list, from more to less important, all the skills they wish a junior had for that position. Chances are that, if you don't know all the skills they are asking for, many other juniors will also lack those, so you should apply for the role.

In my case, I applied to a job position that was looking for a senior developer, but I was familiar with, roughly, half the skills they asked for. They ended up hiring me, and continue looking for that senior position later on.

4. Meetups are great places to find companies to work at

I could see that the Meetup was packed with people from different companies looking for developers. So, if you want to start working in this industry, or change jobs, going to this kind of Meetups could be your best investment.

Someone told me that, in his company, they are actually struggling to find developers. The job market for software developers seems to be in good health, as there is a high demand for developers.

5. The interview goes both ways

Regarding the interview process, the speakers emphasised that an interview is not only the chance for a company to know more about you but the opportunity for you to know more about the company (research the company before going to the interview!). You should ask about the culture, the professional development plan, salary, what you should be doing to succeed at the position, and any other relevant questions.

Regarding coding challenges, you should be wary of companies that give you a coding challenge to test how intelligent you are. A good company will give you the challenge to see how you work out problems, how you work in teams, and how you react to feedback.

6. Don't chase shiny objects

Some companies will offer you a lot of perks, but you shouldn't let that blind you. Instead of chasing shiny objects, chase culture fit and growth opportunities. Are you going to be a better developer if you work at that company?

7. Open-source contribution

Things that will help you to land an interview (and a job) are:

  • Build side projects, from start to finish.
  • Display those projects on a portfolio.
  • Use an online repository, like GitHub, to display your code.
  • Have an updated LinkedIn account.
  • Build a compelling resume showing all your skills, especially if you are coming from a different industry and they are transferable to a software development position.
  • Contribute to open-source projects. I was surprised how many of the speakers said that this is really important.

8. Self-thought vs university degree

None of the speakers said that their companies will prefer a uni graduate over a self-thought developer (or the other way around). Instead, they focus on what is your thinking process, how you tackle problems, and how well you react to feedback.

9. To succeed, show interest

To succeed in your recent position as a software developer (assuming you landed a job), you should get interested in the different departments the company may have. Try to learn a bit about everything, put yourself in the client's shoes, chat with other coworkers, etc.

10. Good companies are social

By the end of the Meetup, the idea of how a good company looks like was becoming clearer. Cool companies build social relationships in their communities. They host or talk at Meetups. They are interested in how you can become a great software developer. They are more human-like than cold entity-like.

Closing thoughts

I'm amazed about how much value you can extract from these Meetups. If you have the chance to go to one, do it. Put aside your doubts and anxiety, and just go. We are all humans, we share the same struggles, so you are not alone. Remember: no one regrets being brave.

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