How Alex got a developer job straight out of high school
I was really impressed when Alex Cevicelow contacted me to say that he had got his first Web Developer job just months after completing high school. Alex attended a vocational school but he really got ahead because he spent extra time outside of school learning frameworks and making himself job-ready. Here he shares his advice for newbie coders on learning web development and getting a job.
Hey, it’s great to have you on board for an interview. Could you give an introduction for developers who want to know more about you?
Hey everyone! I’m Alex, I’m 18 and I'm currently living in Louisville, Kentucky working for Home Hero. I’ve been learning web development since freshman year of high school. Outside of work, I like to build side-projects and play video games.
How did you first get interested in programming?
So the first time I got introduced to programming was around when I was 15 years old and I started watching YouTube videos on how to do small things in HTML like adding a heading tag or adding an image. This lead me to go down the path of career and technical education during high school.
Can you explain what your vocational high school was like and how it prepared you to become a professional web developer at only 18?
I love speaking on this topic because I really strongly believe in technical education. I think that going to a technical school prepared me to be a professional developer because I got training and experiences that an average high school wouldn’t have been able to provide. One thing that really helped me become prepared was competing in development competitions. I competed in SkillsUSA for 3 years and the premise of the competition is that your team is given an outline for a website and you have 4 hours to deliver it.
The outline just tells you what is required, not how simple or complex to make the site or its features. Not only was the visual aspect of site judged but so was the quality of the code as well. These competitions were crucial becuase it taught me how to work in a team under pressure and not only how to come to a solution to a problem in a timely manner but how to iterate on it to improve the code and the elegance of the implementation.
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You’ve said before that you put in a lot of extra effort to learn frameworks and prepare for technical interviews. Can you tell us about that?
So I never really followed a set of tutorials or courses because I mainly don't have the patience to sit through them. I do use courses and tutorial series from time to time to reinforce the knowledge I gain from reading documentation or articles. The main way that I learn new things is I have an idea and then I figure out how to implement that idea in a framework.
After I have the base implementation for what I would like to create I then go back and start looking into best practices with each feature I have implemented and how I can improve on them. I did use a Udemy course when preparing for interviews which is the 100 Frontend Interview Questions course by Dylan Israel and it helped a ton!
You applied for 363 jobs from June to September which is impressive given how soul destroying job applications can be. Did you have a system for tracking your applications?
I just used the notes app on my phone or computer. I would usually talk with recruiters or hiring managers during my lunch break so I would just jot a few notes down and I would always ask for them to send the information we just talked about to me in an email so that I could review it later.
Can you talk through what an average day looks like at your current job?
The average day for me is pretty simple. I get in and get started working on tickets that have come in from QA or if I am working on a new feature I will start to pull tickets from the product team. Of course we have stand up and then after that it's mostly heads down coding with the occasional PR to review or pair programming with someone else on the team.
Imposter syndrome is common for many web developers. Have you ever felt that? If so, how do you deal with it?
I have felt it a little bit but I really like being challenged and I have just gotten so into the mindset that if I don't know something that someone around me probably does and I can learn and grow from them or that I can just google to find the answer.
I think that especially for junior devs it’s easy to get lost in a feeling that you need to know everything but I think you if you focus on getting good at one language or framework it helps with overcoming that feeling. I also think having solid fundamentals of whatever language or framework you are working in is key.
What is the most fun thing for you about programming?
I think this is a two part answer for me. I really like when I’m at work and I know that the software that I am working on will help people in some way and that someone will be using a product that I worked on. The second part would be that I really enjoy the many different ways you can put the puzzle together and come to a solution in the end.
How would you encourage someone who wants to follow your example of becoming a developer without a degree?
I think that being hungry and disciplined to work everyday and push through the hard parts are super important. Being in the mindset that you are in control of your future and your goals has really been something that has been motivating for me.
Can you tell us about your plans for the future?
I plan to start my own company at some point, I’ve always been very interested in entrepreneurship. But for now I’m very focused on learning and growing as a developer as much as I can. I think there is an entire business side to software development that I still need to learn.
Thanks for the interview, Alex!
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