I have a great news to share.
I finally got a job as a back end developer in NodeJS !
I successfully made the transition from hospitality to web development.
I’d like to share a little bit of my journey to hopefully inspire or help some of you that are still on your way there.
It all started 2 years ago. November 2018, I wasn’t happy about where my career was heading in hospitality. I had been trying to progress in this industry for almost 10 years and I was still pretty much at the same level financially and hierarchically.
I realized the potential of programming while getting interested in crypto currencies. I had been following these innovative projects since 2016 and saw the need for developers in this growing niche of the tech industry. I had never tried programming before as I thought it involved more math but I loved the opportunities it could open for me. I could see myself making my own sites, making games, contributing to the blockchain space, getting a better job, working from home… All the good stuff…
So I wanted to learn but I had to keep my full time job. Also I had no money to spend in education. So no bootcamp, no university, I had to learn by myself! Reading from the experience of others, I decided to establish a solid plan.
First, the deadline. I would start applying for jobs 6 months from then… no matter what.
It was november 2018 so I would have to start applying May 2019…
Third, I would follow an existing curriculum to avoid getting lost along the way.
Good plan right?
Cue in FreeCodeCamp that gave me a solid fundation in web development. I continued with Udemy classes from Andrei Neagoie with more theory and bigger projects.
I told my familly about my plans to change carreer over the holiday period, but honestly I don’t think they took it very seriously. It didn’t matter. I would show them it’s possible. The goal was really to learn this new skill as it would be as helpful for my career as it would be for personal pojects. So I couldn’t fail…
I had read that people could be applying way before they think they are ready.
So even though I didn’t feel that confident, I started applying to jobs in my local area.
Surprisingly, despite my lack of experience, I already had a couple interviews. I had removed any hospitality experience from my resume and simply filled the blank with the simple projects I had done. (My biggest project at that point: A memory game in vanilla JS).
The hardest part was not, getting interviews but, at this point, it was the technical exercise. Coming from the a different field, I wasn’t prepared for this. The first interviews didn’t go too well. Every company had slightly different stack. I remember one testing me on Jquery even though I had learnt vanilla JS only. That was a little frustrating.
Eventually I got better at the exercise. Even made a simple CRUD app in React as part of an interview for a company. I later used an improved version of this app in my resume.
Still no job? That’s right… I would reach the final stage but they would always end up taking a candidate with more experience. Also I felt a little behind on technical theory, explaining how everthing works, using the technical terms and all. I thought what mattered was making an app that worked. But some jobs, you actually need to explain the theory too…
When came the lock down in France in March 2020, I was focused, I needed that experience! As the hotel I was working in closed, I was unemployed for a few months. This was the opportunity I could not miss. I treated it like a full time developer job and started building my own application using the Hive blockchain api. In July, I had finished the beta version of, basically, a blogging site with a blockchain as the back end, and added to my resume “Founder and Developer” of my own application.
That was quite an achievement for me. Finishing that project brought me valuable knowledge about time managment, debugging, exploring documentation… etc… This was the experience I was lacking all along. For interviews after that, I could relate any question to my project and explain my thought process.
Unfortunately, summer was ending, and I had still no job in development. The recent events had brought chaos to the job market and I no longer had the option to apply abroad. I was not too worried though, I had achieved a personal goal by completing my own project. Now I just wanted to have fun.
Reaching the end of the tunnel…
September, a local startup, hiring mostly interns, agrees to hire me 3 days per week as an independant to help with their Full Stack project. That meant I could still be working part time in hospitality but acquire real world developer experience on the side. What helped? The founders work in crypto currency and were impressed by my project. Even though, they could not hire me full time, this was a nice little win for me and a great learning experience. They knew I was still carrying on with interviews as I really wanted to leave my work in hotels behind me.
October 2020, I applied some more and a response from this company looking for a back end developer in NodeJS. When I ask if there are a lot of other candidates, they tell me no… It’s just you…
The thing is they are looking for a back end developer with experience on Socket.IO and game development. And apparently that’s pretty rare…
I still do the technical interview. I had a day to complete a real time internet speed checker. To be honest, I used every single minute of this day to complete the challenge, going to sleep at 3 am even though I had a shift in the hotel starting at 6am.
Well I apparently did pretty well, and they offered me the job! Wow.
I would have never guessed that my silly multiplayer game would be the key to success.
What helped me along the way, was making real world projects I was passionate about. Things I could talk about in interviews, knowledge that could set me appart from the competition.
My advice: Forget the job hunt a little and have fun building your own thing.
Also your background doesn’t matter. If I can do it, coming from of hospitality, anyone can do it. ;-D