A word of encouragement on getting a job!

Hey fellow campers :slight_smile:

Every now and then I return to this forum and browse around. I’ve seen a couple of posts discussing the challenges of getting a job and just thought I’d share my story to help motivate those who might need it.

This post ended up being way longer than I intended, so my apologies for that.

A little over a year ago I was a struggling artist/ student in Chicago. I was a classical double bassist hustling my way to get a job in a symphony orchestra. I went to school full time, had a part time orchestra job, and a part time dog walking job that I would do in between classes, cycling from house to house (about 20 miles a day) for two years including two brutal ass winters. Even though I could live, I was in a really crappy place. I remember a number of times where after I paid all my study and living bills, I would have around $3 left in my bank account, and would have to borrow money from friends to buy groceries, or take my girlfriend out for a meal. On top of that, I was an international student, so half of my income was made under the table, and without studying there was no way I could afford any other visa to stay in the US. I had dropped out of college before because of a similar situation, and for some reason convinced myself that I had to finish up my studies in order to progress in life.

At some point I had a conversation with a high school friend who is a coder. He was doing super well and worked for himself, building apps for clients around the world. He got me thinking, actually, he got me obsessed about the idea to learn how to code.

Enter Freecodecamp

I browsed everywhere online to find some way to learn how to code, and for someone who was dead broke, FCC seemed like the best resource for me, I loved the curriculum after researching the stack it taught and enrolled. Long story short, two weeks into the HTML section I announced to my community that I would stagnate my studies and become a coder. My plan was to move to California and become a developer. My girlfriend’s parents reluctantly agreed to let me stay with them in LA on the condition that I propose, and even though they weren’t happy with the situation they let me stay with them and study full time. I was 27 and keep in mind that I barely had a dollar, had university debt, dropped out of college for the second time, and am at this point an illegal ‘alien’ resident without a drivers license, any kind of insurance and living in LA (where you really need a car).

Getting the job I never thought I’d get

When I arrived in LA, I started going to every meetup I could. At like my second one, I met a guy with a startup that needed help with his React Native app. I did a lot of work on his app (pro bono) which was in the AppStore and used that to apply for jobs. Before this point I knew 0 people in tech (aside from my friend that I speak to once every couple of years), and found myself in a heavily saturated city, competing with people way better than me. I networked like a mofo and found someone I happened to know who knew someone with a design agency. I took whatever work he could give me, mostly coding out landing pages from designs and building Wordpress sites. My passion though lied in JavaScript and really liked building mobile apps in RN. The people I worked with discouraged me from applying for JavaScript jobs because of my lack of experience. By this time I had been coding for about 10 months, but I couldn’t stop thinking about being a React dev. I applied to jobs every morning from 6 to 10am, carefully crafting every cover letter and adjusting my resume based on the job demands, and then did my work for the agency after that, and at night I would learn more JavaScript. For just under two months I had no luck, until I got an interview with the shadiest company ever. I got the job, but they were uncertain when I would begin working and the wage was ridiculous even for a poor ass guy like me. I really needed the money but I was convinced that it wasn’t what I was looking for so I kept going. A week later I got an interview with a company in Irvine, CA. I remember going in not knowing what skill I was being interviewed for, because I applied to three positions at that company, designer, front end web and React Native. After two weeks that included two technical challenges and two interviews I got the offer.

I’ve been at this job for four months now and am the only React Native developer in a company consisting mostly of native developers. Our company invests in promising companies and help them grow and make exits. Usually building out the entire or most of the tech infrastructure from the ground up. So it’s incredibly rewarding to work with talented engineers on one side, and motivated entrepreneurs on the other.

The interview

My first interview was with the president and CTO of the company. No BS and we talked about my interests, goals and aspirations, followed by a coding challenge where I had to build a Node/ Express API with endpoints that performed calculations with certain parameters, like calculating the radius of two distances. I had an hour to do that. The following interview was discussing a React Native app I had worked on, talking about how I went about incorporating things. The next coding challenge was a take home project. They sent me an outline of the app I needed to build and invited me to an empty repo on Bitbucket. I had three days to complete it. For both challenges I tried to demonstrate two things, quality and speed. I finished the second challenge in two days and the API challenge in about 40 mins. With that said I was really prepared.


Four 12 months I coded 8 -10 hours a day, almost every day. I know many people don’t think that’s a good idea, but that works for me and truth is, I still do. Aside from building my skills, I had my fiance sit down and ask me JavaScript questions every other weeknight for an hour or so (while applying for jobs). I would research every single interview question about React/ RN I could find and write out the questions and answers. I also practiced using online quiz apps and things like codewars and the algorithm scripting challenges in FCC at ridiculously random hours (5:20 am or midnight), so that I could get out of my comfort zone and think whenever I needed to.

Me a year later

Looking back, things weren’t easy but making the decision to become a coder was the best decision I’ve ever made, (aside from asking my girlfriend to marry me :wink: ). If I didn’t, I would have probably still been in Chicago with even more debt and frustration. I spent a total of $400 to learn how to code and now make more money than I thought was possible for myself not very long ago. I’m also building a company in my spare time, which allows me to make new connections and keep the drive to code and learn more every day. I think what is possible in tech is incredible, and I’m super grateful to be a part of it.

Why you shouldn’t be afraid to apply for jobs that you think are out of your reach

I applied to all kinds of jobs. I think I applied to between 90 - 100 and heard back from about 4. Got two interviews and probably had two phone interviews. The part I want to emphasize though is that the job I ended up getting had a job description similar this (no exaggeration ):

_“React Native developer, at least 5 years of mobile dev experience required, 7 years of web dev experience required, strong knowledge of Node.js and maintaining high traffic applications, testing.” blah blah blah

I never let that convince me I couldn’t do the job so I applied to them all and ended getting that job. SO, just go for it and see what happens. Ultimately you need to be a fast learner and have a great attitude, thats definitely the most important.


Just do you, and don’t give up, and if you’re struggling to find a job, just try new things you haven’t tried yet. Don’t let things get you down and stay focused, even if you’re out partying, party whilst thinking about the problem you’re trying to solve :joy:. Pick some language and just stick to it and go for it until you get it. In interviews, have confidence in your knowledge, but be humble in the way you present it.

Lastly, I want to thank @QuincyLarson for this awesome platform. It was my first exposure to coding and FCC is what got me hooked on it. So thanks!

Would love to connect!


Good luck to all


:slight_smile: I was crying and laughing at the same time. :slight_smile: !!!Thanks for sharing your story ! !!


Thanks for sharing. When you were applying, did you mention your previous jobs? (how did you highlight the tech stuff over the rest or did you not mention the other jobs at all?)

Congrats! Do you still get time to play bass?! (Fellow bass player)

Hey @hbar1st,

I didn’t include anything non tech on my resume. My resume was brief with three sections, each outlining the tasks I did for the startup, the agency and as a freelancer (as well as languages I’ve worked with).

In my interviews I never really mentioned other jobs, I always kept things tech related and asked a lot of questions. I was always asked why I decided to make a career change. Which I almost always just improvised on.

Hope that helps!


Hey @KAB,

Not really sadly. I played some gigs here and there in LA when I got here, but since then I got a bit obsessed with coding. It’s something I’ll always keep doing over the long term though.

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Absolutely something that will stick with you. Keep riding that coding wave, sounds like you’ve come a long way; an inspiration to us all :wink:

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Congratulations on your dramatic career transition. Thanks for taking the time to write this up and share the lessons you learned along the way.

There are more than a million international students in the US, and many of them are living in relative poverty and struggling with limited work options. That you’ve managed to get a good job working with tools you love gives me a lot of hope for all the other international students trying to break into tech.

I’m excited to hear future developments. @gwenf is working on an interactive React Native curriculum for freeCodeCamp, and you may be able to help out with the process if you want to reach out to her. I just met her in person last week in NYC and she’s thoughtful and driven. I think you two would have a lot in common.

Thanks again for continuing to be a part of the community and share the insights you pick up working as a developer.


Really appreciate you sharing your experience so far! This is super encouraging for a newb like me!

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good job bro finally all your efforts along the way payoff

wow. congrats dude…

8,10 hours a day is insane!

most of the time I can do 4 or 3.

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Thanks for sharing your story. Great Job! Have fun in LA, I just left Burbank after 7 fun years, now in Texas and starting my next career in coding. You are an inspiration!

Thats awesome. Thanks and best of luck!

Thanks Quincy. I’ll get in touch with @gwenf and hear how I can help out.

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Congratulations! I’m transitioning out of a completely different field (education; I’ve been teaching writing and literature at the college level for 16 years), but I’m going to come in with the same kind of resume gaps as you. It’s encouraging to hear about your success! Best wishes with everything.


Thanks @nmheckel! The same to you!

Awesome story Johann! I just got a (partly) remote job for a company in SF and I feel you: the struggle is real! I think the hardest part is having faith that you can get work if you keep hustling and making connections.

Btw one thing that I found makes it MUCH easier to get work is to contribute to Open Source and write articles.


This was SO encouraging. Thanks for sharing your story! I was about to give up before reading it

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thanks @kudzaidotnet! and thanks for reading :slight_smile: keep on going and best of luck!

@mikias Thats awesome man! And completely agree with you