How I Got My First Software Engineer Job

Whenever I think back to when I first started applying for software developer jobs, I get sweaty palms. 

This reminds me of a book by Josh Bazell where the protagonist has to wait for his grandparent’s murderers in a hot garage. He’s supposedly sweating alot from nervousness and the heat. Josh writes that they are 2 different types of sweat.

I’m probably getting more sweaty vibes than Josh describes. 

I ruminate about when I used to get calls from the big tech giants. All those Google and Facebook Software Engineering Teams. I wonder if they had to go through similar levels of overwhelm and frustration.

Now, because I’m so passionate about helping people (like you), I’ve outlined 5 of the biggest reconciling ideas that made a difference for me and some of my students. Some of these are secrets, some not so much. Either way, I’m ready to reveal them to you.

These are ideas that have made a big difference in whether or not I was considered for a job as my first Software developer job. These ideas have gotten me meetings with people willing to pay for my services, meetings with people ready to negotiate payment schedules and even in an instance, someone willing to drive me to the bank and make sure my first check cleared so that we can begin work right away.

These are also ideas that have gotten me more aligned with client(or employer) expectations and niched my services to the clients that I am more likely to be aligned with. Thus ensuring that I almost always meet or surpass client expectations.

The book by Josh Bazell is called “Beat The Reaper”.

  1. Learning to productize your service:

I probably heard about this on Foolish Adventure or the TropicalMBA podcast. Both of these are business development podcast, but their messages are definitely applicable.

There are many types of productized services out there. There’s this restaurant in Ikoyi that’s called Danfo Bistro. We usually go there for my parent’s birthdays and special occasions(if you’re not from Nigeria, I recommend this restaurant, especially if you know what these are). 

When you order a productized package from Danfo, you get the service:  A sit-down waiter experience, the option to lounge in the roof terrace or their restaurant and the meal you ordered.

As a dev, some of your services may include interface controller development, crafting a database, mobile to database connect, codebase reusability, codebase scalability, code quality assurance, surgical debugging, etc. Not too similar to a restaurant, agreed. If you can combined these utilities into a package deal and craft an offer that a client(employer) can veto, that would yield some significant results.

This package offering may include an MVP, weekly reports, expected results and a communication strategy. It could look something like this:

Care/Beauty App & UX

  • 12 Weeks of personal accessibility.
  • Weekly milestones.
  • Market-fit testing and experience design.
  • Comprehensive code.
  • Latest development trends and competitive analysis.
  • Database rules and midware

$12,000.00

In my experience, this helps “onboarding” budge a lot smoother. This especially works if you can communicate the exact issues, worries and results that the client(employer) is having to deal with in her current set up. As I said before, I’ve had an employer enthusiastic enough to drive me to the bank after I made him an offer as a consequence of productizing services. Powerful stuff.

Ikoyi is in Nigeria, by the way. It’s on Lagos Island.

  1. Going to technology mixers:

How many people do you have in your contacts that are currently hiring or looking to build a Startup with someone that have your talents? You know how you expand you pool?

I have been to Silicon Valley, San Diego(“America’s Finest City”), Austin and New York in the United states, Toronto in Canada, Chester and Gloucester in the UK and Lagos in Nigeria. I know that travel for one of these mixers could be quite expensive. Personally, I’ve had to spend $0(Toronto) – £50(Chester). So, have a monthly budget for this as well. You can always get a ride back, but have a ride there.

Let’s look at the results. I’ve met CEOs in startup mixers who were willing to take me on as a fulltime employee(up to 6 of them in 2 years). I’ve accepted 2 of these offers and they have led to some serious personal growth and perks(like travel to New York City, invitations to Angel Investors’ birthday parties, VIP exclusive time with Linking Park’s Mike Shinoda(he’s the one that raps and so on).

The two events that come to mind right away are Startup Grind(worldwide) and Social Media Week(in Nigeria). I got to know about these events through Meetup.com and some sometimes Eventbrite. There are loads of great resources on those two websites(towards post-pandemic, of course). Seriously, I owe thousands of dollars to these events.

  1. Keeping your pipeline full:

Have you seen how many developer channels are popping up on YouTube nowadays? I’m not too sure if there’s a way to keep track of this, but developer bootcamps are popping up on Linkedin as well. Which means more competition for you, right? The developer job market is becoming fiercely competitive, especially for junior(first job) devs. You could go weeks without finding an ideal match, maybe months.

Try this if you’re still having a hard time finding a job. 

Every time you feel the urge to complain or self-loath, you should apply for 3 jobs that day (or you should take a shot of beer). If you notice that you aren’t getting any where with interviews, you should schedule interviews for advice.

For example, you can schedule an interview with one of your “1st degree” connections on Linkedin with a job handle like “VP of Engineering”, “VP of Product” or “CTO”. 

furthermore, I would try interviewing employees of companies that I want to work at and get their advice on how I should proceed in my job search(I actually did this with Google Nigeria, UCSB, VaynerMedia, Wework and Stanford).

Wework has unlimited IPA booze in their New York office. I went there in my early 20s and I was forced to drink. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

  1. Learning to be strategic:

This may sound a bit cliché, but if you got a job offer today, how would you fit a job into your 3 – 5 year plan? When people ask me what my 5 year plan is, I always say “I plan to be taking on new challenges and growing my expertise, this would be in a unique way and this would be with a unique and amazing product”(feel free to use a version of that in your next interview).

Cop-out scripts aside, you should have a 5 year vision for yourself (this could include being, doing, owning etc.).

For a bit more guidance on the topic of 5 year visions, I suggest Tim Ferriss’ “4 Hour Work Week” (full transparency, the only book I own by Tim Ferriss is Tools of Titans and even that I rarely read). 4HWW  has a pretty sweet audiobook version as well, in-case you’re not a bookworm.

  1. [Resume Writing] Learning to be results driven:

Why do you want to get  hired in the first place? When you leave this organization, you want your resume to write itself. You want a resume that reflects what results you were able to bring to the table (as opposed to what passive tasks, tricks and jargon that you learned during a small project for example). 

Here’s what not to do. Your resume could say: 

  • Wrote HTML5, CSS and JavaScript
  • Used React Hooks and reusable components
  • Pushed commits to Github repo and merged pull requests.

Here’s what you want your resume to say:

  • Helped bring success to the Version 11.01 of X Mobile App Development and it’s deployment process.
  • Automated releasing tasks and cut delays by 20% in 3 months.
  • First to assure team coordination and UX alignment on “public project” with the Product Development Team.
  • Brought milestone X, Y and Z to life by implementing operating procedures in X, Y & Z tasks.  

So, what just happened there? We talked about Learning Productization and how you can spot a Productized Service like a restaurant menu or a contract and even gave you an example of what that might look like.

We talked about Going to Mixers, the types of people you might meet at mixers and the average cost of transportation for something like that. We also talked about Keeping a full pipeline, a way to do this by rechanneling self-loathing, applying to different jobs, drinking beer etc. We mentioned Learning to be Strategic and Learning to be results driven and I gave some examples to go with each of those and some resources to get you started.

Enjoy these ideas and use them with observance because they can be very punchy.

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