I've always been interested in programming, but only in high school I got hooked into web development. It was (and still is) very approachable for newcomers, with great free resources and tools available online. This is why I decided to learn all about web development and look for a programming job immediately after high school. I didn't wanted to go to college at the time. I considered it a waste of time, time which I could use to gain experience and money on the job.
I will tell you a story about my first 3 (almost 4) jobs as Front-end Developer. Why those 3 in particular? Because only at the last one I felt like in the right place and working with technologies I really wanted to work with. The first two were very important part of my journey so I wanted to include them.
The job I never treated like a job
During high school I really wanted to do some commercial work. I wanted to prove my parents and myself that it's a right profession for me and I can make money out of it. I started to look for a side job online and reply to the listings. I've got one answer from a Pole living in UK asking if I can do WordPress stuff. I just started learning WordPress few weeks ago, but I've send him what I did so far. He said it was a little, but I can start working for him.
There wasn't any interview, we didn't even saw each other. All the communication was done via text. Maybe it was sketchy but I was determined to try it.
Because I was still a student, I started working remotely for 2-3 hours a day. I was helping other full time developers with small tasks. The salary was very low but for me who never had a job before and was still studying it was huge. With this money I bought myself a fancy ergonomic desk chair (I still use it!) and a graphic card to play GTA V 😄.
I left the job after few months, because I was tired working and going to school at the same time, but it gave me confidence that I should follow this path. The fun fact is, during all the time I was working there, we only communicated via text (using Gadu Gadu - Polish communicator) and organized our work on Basecamp. I never saw or heard my employer or people I worked with.
How I've got the job and never started working there
In my location it was hard to find a developer job where I could use "cool" technologies and work with great teams on great products. But there were a lot of places doing WordPress.
Just before I finished high school I decided it is the time I should look for a first full-time job. I applied for a position very close to me and got invited to an interview.
I was never as stressed as I was before this interview. The office of this company was at the 10th floor. For some reason I didn't go to the elevator, but I took stairs instead. I had to wait few minutes before I left the staircase to catch my breath. When I came to the office and said I was here for the interview they said they don't know anything about it! It turned out that the person who replied to my email didn't informed anyone. I had the interview anyway, it was very easy and informal but I've got the job.
When they asked me when can I start I said I would want to still have my holiday so I want to start in September. I knew it was a bold move but they agreed and I was supposed to contact them in two months. When I was living my future boss walked my to the elevator.
I was very happy I've got the job. I knew getting the first job is very difficult. While my colleagues were worrying about the upcoming exams, I was in very comfortable position. At the same time my friend got accepted at Netguru as Junior Front-end Developer (it will become important later).
September came and I made a call to the company that I want to start working with them. To my surprise they said the project I was supposed to work in was cancelled and they can't hire me. I remember I was devastated. Why they didn't inform me sooner? Maybe I shouldn't take this vacation? At the same time my colleagues were going to start their first year at the university and it was too late for me to apply. I thought to myself sarcastically: "I'm unemployed now".
My first full time job
It didn't take a long time I applied for another WordPress position in my city. I remember I was sitting at in the park waiting for my girlfriend when the email came. They invited me to the interview! It was more format one, there were both technical and soft skills questions. The next day I've got invited to the office again. They offered me a job, I didn't get the salary I wanted, but they promised me to increase it after 3 month probation period. I accepted the offer and signed a contract.
The first weeks were very interesting. My official title was Junior Front-end Developer, but I was the only developer in a very small team, working along with designer, copywriter and project manager.
I was so happy I can finally do what I love and get paid. I was fixing some past projects and as I was doing for my own projects I setup whole ecosystem in Gulp to combine small JS files into one, optimize images automatically and so on. It turned out the setup took me more time than I ever worked on this project.
Before my first real project my boss asked me if I can work with WooCommerce and create an e-commerce site. I said I've never worked with it, but I can do it for sure. Later it became clear I couldn't. I didn't knew anything about WooCommerce and I was doing things my way instead of using solutions recommended by official documentation. The site went live, It was working somehow, but not everything from the CMS was working as it was supposed to. Every time client came with some small improvement I was scared the whole thing will collapse.
At the same time my friend was working at Netguru. He was very happy with the job. They offered him a very good salary, possibility to work remotely, flexible working hours and a Macbook he could take home. I'm mentioning a Macbook, because in Poland Apple products are still very premium and not everyone can afford it. By the way this is not advertisement for Netguru 😄.
After few months in this company it became clear to me I want to built more complicated products and have a better opportunity for a promotion.
I bought a $10 Udemy course and started learning React so I could work in Netguru.
Netguru was one of few places in Poland where they offered remote work for Junior Front-end Developer and were transparent about the salary. Sadly when I felt like I was ready to apply for the Junior position it was now longer available. I remember I refreshed their site almost daily to find out if they opened it again.
After almost a month I could finally apply for Junior Front-end Developer. I was accepted to take part in the recruitment process and I received a task to develop a small application. After they reviewed my work I was invited to the interview with the recruiter and other Front-end Developers. With the recruiter I answered some questions about myself and how do I work with others.
After few days I was invited to the last part of the process. It was the interview with the department manager. I was asked about my motivation to be a developer and what I want to learn in the future. At the end he informed me I will receive a job offer in few days.
I was so happy to start this job. Finally I was working in the environment where there were people I could learn from and a project that would take more than a few weeks. I've got assigned a mentor, who by the way took part in the interview, and we closely worked together for almost 2 months. After this time I was promoted to a regular position.
Only at this job I felt like I'm finally doing what I always wanted to do.