Happy Anniversary to me

That’s right, it’s been an entire year since I quit my job and began school to start a new career.

As I sit here, still looking for a new job and reflecting on what I learn, I have no regrets.

Even though this has been SO.MUCH.HARDER than I ever would have imagined, than anyone would ever lead you to believe – I have no regrets.

I have learned so many things, even if there are so many more to know.

My friend Craig thinks ANYONE can learn to code. I don’t disagree. I think anyone can learn to code some.
I think everyone SHOULD learn to code some.
I do not think that ANYONE can learn to code effectively enough to become a developer.
Some days I wonder if *I* have learned to code effectively enough to be a developer.

In the last year, in addition to my month-long boot camp last August, and my two month-long Development Accelerator last November/December, I TA’d 4 month-long 201 (boot camp) classes and one 10 week 401 (Development Accelerator) course.
During that time, I met so many amazing and competent people. I met many people whose abilities and talents and skills and aptitude and intellect blow mine out of the water. I met a few people who I wondered how they came to be at code school and why they thought that was the right thing for them. I think most of those people bought into the “anyone can learn to code” idyll.

Some of the people who I met who were very capable and went on to great success had prior experience or a Computer Science background. Some of the people simply had a real knack for coding. Some of them just worked their asses off. I feel like I fall squarely in the middle of those things. I did have a little prior experience and maybe a bit of aptitude for some of it, but I still had to work my ass off to kill it in those course. And now, interviewing…

I’ve traditionally been a great interviewee. To the point in which I’d sort of thought everyone was. I always felt like everyone “interviews well”. That you show off your best self in an interview. And that is true, to some degree.
We dress our best, and put forth our best manners and show up in a more than timely fashion. We prepare as much as possible and put as much of our knowledge to the forefront as we can.
My past experiences as an interviewee did not prepare me for interviewing to be even an entry-level developer.

I have my ups & downs in interviews. Some have been weird, some have been “normal”.
Sometimes I leave feeling positive that I will be offered a job (this has happened twice and I was apparently incorrect both times.) Other times, I know I have failed miserably. More often than not, the experience is somewhere in between. Even if I do well, I wonder if I’ve done WELL ENOUGH.

In the past 7 months, I’ve applied for something like … maybe 300 jobs? I counted my most recent spreadsheet the other day that is just for past 2 months, and that one had 110. So 200-300 is probably accurate.
I’ve had 6 REAL in-person interviews (i.e. at actual companies with actual people who worked for the company, not just an in-person with an outside recruiter or a phone interview or whatever. I really couldn’t easily tell you how many of those I’ve had. I feel like we must be closing in on at least 50?)

I’ve never had to have more than ONE interview to get a job in the past. I mean, literally, in every other field I’ve worked in (and even when I got a job as a jr. developer back in 2000) I literally applied for ONE job and went on ONE interview only and got the job. I didn’t expect this to be as easy, but I also didn’t foresee it being this hard.

While I feel humble and honest about my skills (I am squarely entry-level and have SO.MUCH.MORE to learn), I still feel completely capable. I firmly believe that if someone would just give me an opportunity, I would succeed. I don’t try to oversell myself, but I also don’t sell myself short.

At the end of the day, at the end of this VERYLONGANDDIFFICULTYEAR, I am still happy with my decisions and where I am at today. But if someone asked me if I thought they should make the same decision? I’d have a lot of things to say and none of them would be as simple as “yes”.

In the first 6 months of my job search, I worked at school as a teaching assistant. While I didn’t get as many interviews during that time period as I have since leaving, I felt more prepared. I was looking at code, using code, hacking through code and debugging code every day.

That’s not to say that I haven’t used code since then. I’ve been doing tutorials to keep up, and studying my data structures and algorithms, trying to get through “Cracking the Coding Interview” and taking classes. But there just isn’t any way to be prepared for every interview. None of the things mentioned in that last statement have required me to use a constructor function, which I was really familiar with for months, having used it on a daily basis as a TA for the 201 class. So, in the meantime, not using a constructor function every day anymore, when asked to use one, my brain goes blank for a second and it takes a few seconds to begin to remember all the pieces.
Or, if there’s a built-in method I could use for something, I’ve probably forgotten what it is. Or I might convince myself that something that isn’t a built-in method is.

Point being, while it might have seemed intuitive and logical that it would be more effective for me to search for a job without the “distraction” of working as a TA, really, even with all the tutorials and classes, I feel like I am forgetting everything I’ve learned, all the while learning ever more things.

It’s frustrating, mostly because I feel like I need to be at a job focusing on working on coding consistently and IN SOME SORT OF DIRECTION, rather than scrambling to try to do all the tutorials I’ve bookmarked over the months and hopscotching from class to class in no particular order (because you just take whatever interesting thing comes along when it happens.)

Beyond that my frustration lies in lack of communication and follow-up from companies. I try to follow up as much as possible on my end without being a nuisance, but I find that I often don’t hear back from companies even when they have specifically said I’d hear back from them within a certain time frame (even when following up on following up.)

I’m sure eventually the right job will come along. In the meantime, I remain as productive as possible in as many ways as possible.

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