crowdsourcing some help for some folk:

people who got jobs working in tech without a big school EECS degree in the 21st century, how did you get your foot in the door?

looking for information more applicable to our younger cousins than my personal outdated experiences.

I appreciate all the great responses in this thread - thanks y'all!

I'm gonna coffee up and see if we can start to refine some of y'alls successful techniques into some transferrable skills to help level each other up some.


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@TheGibson the old ways don't really work anymore, unfortunately, and I'd really like to be able to offer folk more help

For me, it was luck. I can expound more when I'm in front of a keyboard. Remind me if I forget please.

@thegibson @djsundog
Long story short, I'd written a tool to automate unit testing in C which was //far// easier to use than anything else at the time (around 2000 or so). I posted it on Sourceforge, before I was severely burned by them.

@thegibson @djsundog
Some Google headhunter saw this around 2006, and called to ask me if I wanted a job. At first I didn't believe them. Nobody cold-calls asking if you wanted a job anywhere, much less at Google. But, it turned out they were serious.

So in 2007, I ended up working as a contractor. But instead of as a regular software engineer, I ended up as an SET, which is their term for QA at the time.

@thegibson @djsundog
I've been in the bay area working (software-related) tech jobs ever since.

@djsundog I got scammed at a year of college and met a guy while I was there. I'm still pretty young I guess though.

I suppose that attending conferences would be a good (cheaper) alternative

Of course, all the networking in the world won't help unless you know your stuff
@djsundog A bit more detail: I'm doing small business IT but am building a pretty nice network (and experience!) from this gig

Networking really seems to be the big key. Put your self in the right place such that the right time comes and you get lucky.

I've had my projects to talk about, and my enthusiasm about tech and linux experience really impressed my employeers. I'd imagine that public code projects / contributions would help if your younger cousins are looking for similar experience to get kicking off at a development job.

@djsundog a history of open source contributions (to existing projects more than personal ones) count for a lot more than a degree in my experience

@technomancy @djsundog Way too many companies, HR's, and hiring managers today use degrees as a first-level screening tool. Last two jobs I had, nobody under the age of 30 was hired without a degree from one or more top-tier (Berkeley, Stanford) schools. Couple of us old farts got in on our years of experience.

@djsundog work in associative orgs and an interview where I showed I wasn’t afraid to say I don’t know shit but want to learn

- a portfolio (not open source in my case, but serious-ish projects- record label website, public work from a shitty nonprofit job, tumblr api tool with fairly consistent usage)
- luck
- networking at meetups and small conferences (being in nyc helped w/ this)

@djsundog Started working professionally on the web side of things ~9 years ago. I would say a lot of opportunities that I took advantage of (wordpress theming, etc.) have sadly dried up as a starting point.

Volunteer to manage a non-profit's website or put together some websites for local nonprofits.

Though my route was to get a gig with a small marketing company that was desperate, for way under market rate. Jump ship every 6-24 months.

Continued jumping for four years until I actually landed to where I was actually doing real developer work and not just tweaking CMS plugins.

@ajroach42 Any chance I could get a copy of this e-mail?

Or access to whatever overall document you make, @djsundog?

@djsundog i was in the perl irc room when someone joined and asked if anyone was looking for work. we chatted, then i had an interview, got hired, and now 7 years have passed…

@djsundog at the time i was actively involved (like, full time but no money!) in an open source team for an email client, so that gave me some practical experience

@djsundog so my current gig was through someone i had mentored in *nix and related topics

but neither of us would have ever been hired through the 'normal' pipeline

i enjoy learning about everything and teaching things to people (and despite what my brain says, i am told i'm pretty okay at it, so if your brain says you are bad at it, don't listen), so that has been my saving throw over the years. having a network of advocates who will say "this person helped teach me about $stuff" holds a lot of weight

@djsundog so i guess moral of the story is don't be stingy with what you know. also, you pretty quickly realize that you don't know quite as much as you thought, because questions

the catch is i am not really all that social in person, i just get excited about my interests and forget about who all i am talking to...

@djsundog Whoa, never saw it the first time. Everything I'm into I kinda fell into. I've been homeless (one week), between jobs so many times it's not funny. Worked component level repair in a board fab repairing complex test equipment subassemblies. Gave them schematics and teaching about things like phase locked loops and op amps they didn't understand. I kinda broke a bit after two years, I just didn't know how to pace myself. Lost it. Got job months later at local electronics shop which went belly up.

@djsundog Eventually gained reputation as a "really smart guy" after I went to work for a computer service and sales where I found it rather simple to pick up and learn building and repair as I'd had some experience poring over the schematics of Tandy 1000,sx,tx series schematics.

@djsundog the best advice I've got is this: get good at, and comfortable with, the job application process.

The second best advice I have: live somewhere with jobs.

@djsundog for sure, but if you don't live in an area with jobs there are workarounds.

Mostly those involve freelancing, which is a shit. But it works really well for web developers in small towns.

@djsundog dropped out of a tech-focused high school and started an apprenticeship at an IT company, idk how applicable that is in the US though



re: misinformation 

re: misinformation 

@djsundog I started working on a linux distro in high school, someone noticed, and decided to singlehandedly set my entire career in motion

@djsundog and depending on how shenanigans go I might end up working for him, again, for the third time 😅

@djsundog did a lot of self-teaching since i was a kid in the form of building stuff i wanted (personal website, games) or needed (forums). then got lucky finding a job that gave me experience working with production systems. even though it was low-paying, the experience helped me to get a job at a bigger company for better pay.

i think that if you aren't going to pay someone to teach you, you have to be internally motivated. im tech this means figuring out what awesome shit you want to build.

@djsundog Have one, but it had little do with actually *getting* the job. I wanted to get points in Neopets without actually playing through all of the games every day, and ended up reverse engineering their Flash games and "NP-BIOS" encryption, eventually moved on to scrapers and CTFs and such, and got an interview from that.


Not me but an acquaintance (SO of a school friend).

She was into MMORGS, which led to WoW, where she did Lua scripting to automate stuff. Eventually, she got into multiboxing (i.e. playing multiple characters at once using scripts triggered by the primary character.)

IIRC, she was an admin at a nearby insurance company. She saw an internal listing for an entry-level dev position, applied and got it. Some years later, she's now a dev at Desire2Learn.


FWIW, there are a lot of professional devs in her social circle. I was party to a lot of conversations that went,

She: I can't do that.

Everyone else: Sure you can. That's just like what you're doing now plus a few hours of reading.

So that seems to be a thing.


There was a really interesting (transcribed) talk I once read by someone who had observed one particular fandom for a while. She noticed that some of these fans had gotten *really good* at various kinds of design and media work so she asked some of them if they’d tried to do this professionally. And everyone said no, they were nowhere near professional level.

Confidence really is a big factor.

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