How I switched career and what I have achieved in the last 4 years as a developer

Keep working hard!

Keep working hard! It will all be worth it!

First day as a junior developer, I am so proudly taking out my notebook, scribbling down as quick as possible my to-do list from Jo, my new boss. Next months are all about video courses on Udemy:

  1. Deeper understanding of JavaScript
  2. Front end development with AngularJS
  3. Back end development with NodeJS

Smoke out of my ears after long days at work. But hanging in there, and almost weirdly enjoying every part of it.

A few months later, the company succeeded to raise money and I finally got hired as a full stack developer. From that point on, I got more responsibilities on the core product and was able to apply what I had been learning for the last six months. Day after day, I was excited to dive deeper into the real world of engineering and high tech ecosystem.

As a surprise to all of us, Jo took the decision to leave the company for personal reasons. I tried to convince him to stay: he was my mentor and as the CTO, a pillar to our small company. In full honesty, Jo’s departure put a big strain on the team. We needed him! I strongly believe that everything in life happens for a good reason, so I decided: no mourning, I will have to view this sad event as a positive challenging experience instead.

Reflecting on this today, I can see how Jo’s departure ended up being such a great opportunity for me. I had become the only technical employee with all the product development process falling on me. I quickly realized I had taken a bad habit of asking Jo directly for help when I couldn’t successfully accomplish one task.

I can tell you, dear reader, that through this experience I have acquired skills that I believe essential to every developer:

  • Online investigation: tracking down this information you need to complete the feature you working on, or to debug your code.
  • Communication: reaching out to the community, participating in meetups, etc…
  • Curiosity & constant self-learning: I subscribed to many newsletters about web technologies, such as Sitepoint and Scotch.io. These included access to tutorials, articles, courses — the best source for learning material. I also signed up for a specialization on Coursera — given by the Hong Kong University — with a focus on the MEAN stack. I highly recommend it, very complete and well explained. I completed this course in 5 months and even got a raise on my salary!

If you are a beginner in your developer career, my advice for you: push yourself hard, and resolve problems on your own. I remember this one time I stayed stuck on one bug for almost three days. I ended up finding the solution on my own, and trust me I will never forget the trick!

Long story short, I worked at this startup as the technical lead for almost two years and gained very valuable experience. I led many pilots including one for a big French company, that ended up being very successful. I was in charge of hiring and managing the developer interns. I also contributed to a company important milestone: integrating Docker to our product. This was a really challenging task to implement due to the lack of available online documentation, but I managed to complete it successfully. After these 2 years, I decided to resign from this job, as I felt my experience was done, and was ready for my next challenge.

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