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October 11, 2019

Role model: Junior Java Developer

Agata Piekut by Agata

Katarzyna Machura tells us how she became Junior Java Developer

Hi,
My name is Kate and I would like to share with you my long journey to become Junior Java Developer…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… 😉
I built my first websites in HTML in my teens. They differed from those, that we know today. They were mostly static, and I prepared button animations in Flash, so they would look nicer. It was around year 2000 😉 I started also learning PHP language then.

Unfortunately, mathematics was not my strength at the time, I panicked and chose a humanistic class in high school. After passing my high school final exams, I started studying pedagogy specializing in resocialization. I became a probation officer, because I wanted to help people. Unfortunately, it turned out I was mainly filling out numerous documents. I spent 2 years there, during which I started studying law. You know the theory of the effect of sunk cost fallacy? Again it turned out law wasn’t for me but due to all my efforts and money invested, it was hard to give it up.

I finished my legal advisor training and passed the professional exam for a legal advisor. I thought maybe something might change in my professional life then, but I still didn’t feel it. I didn’t enjoy working, after 2 hours I felt like 8 had already passed, so how could I withstand the remaining 6?

The turning point
I don’t know what was the exact turning point for me. There was probably none noticeable. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what to do with myself and how to endure here in this work until retirement age. I have to thank a friend, who knows me well, and reminded me about the websites I used to create. He helped me to get on the road to IT, and introduced me to people who already worked in the industry. They told me that since I used to do it and it was fun for me, why not go back to it now?

Why IT?
IT turned out to be a natural choice, because it was a return to my interests from years ago. Of course, I had to learn everything from the scratch, cause a lot has changed in the technologies. But I felt “this something” again, as soon as I went back to coding.

Why Java?
Oh I am really a big coffee lover… Just kidding. 😉 I could not literally return to what I knew around year 2000. I have researched the currently used programming languages, their capabilities and commercial implementation. I chose Java, because I felt that it’s the ideal language for me. Java is commonly used in business field. It’s one of the most popular programming languages and you really won’t have any problem to find an open position for Java Developers. Of course, still the most of them will be for experienced developer, but I think that there are many opportunities for internships or junior jobs.

My learning process
I think that it took me 2 years to learn Java. Because of other commitments, I couldn’t devote myself completely to it every day. I usually learned in the evenings. Programming turned out to be something that I really liked to do. I did not even notice when it was 2 am, and I was still coding.

I used various resources, mainly online courses and tutorials, official documentation for Java or Spring, etc. My favorite we javastart.pl, kobietydokodu.pl, samouczekprogramisty.pl.

Also, from my perspective, the best way to learn is to find a group of people that are in the same field, who will help you, share tips, and support you when you’re stuck. I found such a group on Facebook, it’s a Polish group for programming girls – “Programuj Dziewczyno”. It was a really nice surprise for me to see how the other girls are open to help you, show you some valuable resources and even become your mentor in the learning process. When you find friendly people, that are more experienced in your programming language don’t hesitate to ask. But always try to also google your problem first, usually it’s been already solved e.g. on Stackoverflow.

I started with the course from javastart.pl, where I had the opportunity to get feedback about my code. Then, after learning the basics of programming, I started to code my first applications. I started with easy tasks, then tried to make them more complex, add new functionalities, connect to database, use version control like GIT, prepare a GUI, add some framework, etc.

You can also try to find a private mentor to help you with the learning process or take part in some organized mentoring program.

Time for the first job
After a year and 10 months I started sending out my CV. I took a part in various recruitments, job fairs, and other IT meet-ups, looking for job opportunities. I can say that huge impact on my job search had Geek Girl Carrots. I took a part their first hackathon Hacking Carrots, where I met a girl, that recommend me for the internship in her company (big thanks to Beata! 😊). This way, after 2 months of searching, I started an internship.

During the internship, we created a small web application in a 3-person team in the stack: Spring Boot, Kotlin, Angular, Postgresql, REST API. It was a very interesting experience, people were friendly and the 8 hours of work felt like 5 seconds. After the internship I was offered a job in this company, but another amazing opportunity appeared, again thanks to Geek Girls Carrots. During networking on their Warsaw meetup, I met the boss of my current boss, who said that they were looking for programmers for a very interesting international project. I sent him my CV, took part in recruitment and received a job offer as a Junior Java Developer.

I am extremely pleased with my current job. It is a large, international corporation in the TELCO field. The project is very interesting and we work on a daily basis with people placed in various countries in Europe. The fact that we will create our solution from the scratch is also great, because very often you get the offer for the position in which you are maintaining the old code that is on the production. The people in my team are marvelous. I enjoy every second in work, mostly thanks to them. Of course I don’t think that I’ve already achieved everything, but I’ve just started as a junior and I am really convinced that professionally, I am just where I’m supposed to be. Just in the begging of exciting journey…

How to get a job in IT?
First of all, you need to be actively looking for IT job openings. What I mean here is that sending a CV is often not enough when more than 100 copies are send to one junior position or internship. The recruiters have a lot to choose from and the competition is strong. In my opinion, you have to stand out. E.g. I took part in the international mentoring program Learn IT, girl!, in which I had a mentor from Sri Lanka, an amazing man who taught me a lot. I also put Hacking Carrots in my CV and recruiters were asking about it. So maybe next edition will be the best opportunity for you?

Also, I think a lot can be said by the fact that someone really engages in programming, gets involved in the community, attends meetups on topics they’re interested in, not hunting for work 😉 Doing a course or postgraduate degree might not be enough. Recruiters definitely appreciate such enthusiasts.

One more thing, look at the feedback that you get, when you show your code to someone or from the companies that you’ve applied to. This feedback might help you to expand your knowledge or fix some mistakes.

How to start programming?
You know that meme with that exact question, where one person is forcing mouse in the hand of another that wants to learn? It’s almost like that. If you really want to start and see if it’s something for you, start coding. Google programming languages, choose one and search for a free online course, read IT blogs, official language documentation and tutorials or video lessons on Youtube. You can learn basics without paying anything. If you don’t feel it, don’t worry, there is so much more to do in the IT industry… Try to read about different roles for example: testers, scrum masters, product owners, IT support, UI/UX designer, business analyst. Then look for job offers and requirements in it. Maybe you will find one that describe your dream job?

Motivation
People that want to start learning or work in the industry, often ask me about my motivation. Mine is simply learning something that I like, getting satisfied when my code is working is enough for me. So I challenge you to write some app, even simple one, and show it to someone for feedback.

Don’t give up. It isn’t the begging of the XX century… In these days women work everywhere, in every position or company type. If you are sure that it’s your dream job, go for it. It will be self-motivating, if you feel satisfaction during the learning process. Set your plan, work accordingly to it. Sky is the limit. There are many events focused on women in IT, try them, look for something for you. Don’t be afraid. You can overcome every difficulty, if you only put effort into it. Look for mentor or even an idol, that you can put as a example for you and then one day, when you succeed, it will be you… 😉

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