Finding a Junior Dev Job: Interviewing Basics

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Finding a Junior Dev Job: Interviewing Basics

Helping our students find great jobs is a huge part of what we do at Epicodus. In fact, it’s our mission. Over the years, we’ve accrued quite a bit of job-hunting knowledge to help set our students apart. In the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing our best tips and tricks for junior developers who are looking for their first jobs.

Before you walk into the interview, make a physical or mental list of things you absolutely do not want to leave the interview without them knowing about you. These are not necessarily catch-all things you spout off at every interview. Maybe you did a project that relates to what they’re working on. Maybe you have a lot of enthusiasm for a client they’re working with. As the interview is winding down, make sure you go through that list and that you’ve touched on all those things. Otherwise it can be really easy to walk out of an interview and only realize hours later that there were really important selling points you should have added.

This is not the time to ask about salary, vacation time, or other benefits. If they offer that information you can ask if those things are negotiable, but this is not the time to do the actual negotiating.

Be aware of non verbal cues. It can tell you as much about how an interview is going as what the interviewer is saying. You can usually tell if you’re overstaying your welcome or if an interviewer is receptive to extended conversation by their expression or body language.

Above all else, remember that the employer came to you because they have a problem and they want you to be the solution. They’re investing time in interviewing you because they are in your corner and they want it to be a positive encounter.

Checklist

Here's a handy checklist that we've created to help you:

  • Dress appropriately for an interview.
  • Conduct yourself in a professional manner.
  • Have an answer for personal questions that highlights your journey to becoming a programmer.
  • Have an answer for programming questions that highlights your knowledge and grasp of programming concepts.
  • Have an answer for workplace questions in the S.T.A.R. format.
  • Have at least one relevant question for your interviewer. 
  • Stay relaxed, and enjoy the opportunity to teach someone about yourself, and learn about a company.

Above all: don't undervalue yourself.  Don't offer up your weaknesses or paint yourself negatively. The interviewer should know where you're coming from and can figure out your weaknesses on their own - it's your job to emphasize your strengths.

Finally, don't forget to send a thank-you email after the interview. Read this article about following up after an interview.

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Finding a Junior Dev Job: Sprucing Up GitHub

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Finding a Junior Dev Job: Sprucing Up GitHub

Helping our students find great jobs is a huge part of what we do at Epicodus. In fact, it’s our mission. Over the years, we’ve accrued quite a bit of job-hunting knowledge to help set our students apart. In the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing our best tips and tricks for junior developers who are looking for their first jobs.

When you apply for a job or internship, employers will want to see code you've written so that they know what you're capable of doing. Spend some time getting your GitHub profile looking good. Make sure every repository has a README file that:

  • Explains what the project does;
  • Explains how to set everything up, if someone clones it;
  • Provides information about the goals of the project. (What you were working on and what you were trying to learn);
  • Provides a link to the live site (GitHub Pages, Heroku, etc) ; and optionally,
  • Includes any known issues with the code, and a roadmap for features you'd like to build
  • Is well-organized with markdown headers.

Go through all files in each repository and make sure that there aren't large sections of commented-out code, bad indentation, extra line breaks, or anything else that looks less than professional.

If you've completed a web development internship, also make sure to fork your internship project, so that you have a copy of it on your profile for employers to see.

You might read these articles on the importance of your GitHub profile to employers.

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Finding a Junior Dev Job: Writing a Good Cover Letter

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Finding a Junior Dev Job: Writing a Good Cover Letter

Helping our students find great jobs is a huge part of what we do at Epicodus. In fact, it’s our mission. Over the years, we’ve accrued quite a bit of job-hunting knowledge to help set our students apart. In the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing our best tips and tricks for junior developers who are looking for their first jobs.

A good cover letter will show your interest in the company, show that you understand their needs, and give examples of what you've done that demonstrate how you can fit those needs. Every company treats cover letters differently, and you may hear lots of conflicting advice about how to write them. Below, we're going to share what we've found works best for most Epicodus students, for most of the jobs and internships they apply to. This advice is based on the experience of many of Epicodus graduates and conversations with dozens of companies.

Because every company is different, and every job has different needs, every cover letter should be different! Before you even start writing your cover letter, you should research the company enough to answer questions like: "Why do you want to work here?" and "What about our company excites you?"

That said, every cover letter you write for jobs after code school should lay its paragraphs more or less as described below. If you're a strong writer, feel free to take some creative license here; if writing isn't your strong suit, you'll probably want to stick closer to these guidelines. The examples below are adapted from actual Epicodus students.

First paragraph: State the position you are applying for, tell why you are interested in the position and/or the company, and give a quick overview of why you are qualified. For example:

I am writing to apply for the Web Developer Intern position. Culture Foundry excites me on many levels. For example: music advocacy is a subject that is near and dear to me, having been a professional musician for a number of years and experiencing the evolution of the music business first hand. The musician pages displayed on your site are simply stunning! I think that the full-stack development skills I've gained in my recent schooling and internship, and my background first working in technical support, would make me a great fit for your internship position.

Second paragraph: Tell your pre-code school story: how you became interested in development, and the non-technical skills you picked up before school. Make sure these non-technical skills match the non-technical skills the job description requests.

Before starting school at Epicodus to become a web developer, I worked in customer service and ended up at two online music tech companies, back-to-back. I quickly became immersed in troubleshooting user interface issues, and even taught myself a bit of code to help improve the company’s site and client experiences. Besides the obvious need to be an effective communicator, I was regularly challenged to think outside of the box. If someone wrote into support it almost always meant they were struggling with something. While working at Bandcamp, a local non-profit music foundation wrote into support feeling very unsure how to go about using our service as a tool to benefit their cause. I set a time to meet with them in person (as a remote email support personnel, this was unusual), show them the ropes, and even provided the foundation with a charity rate earning them even more proceeds. They thanked me profusely for going above and beyond to help, and I was happy knowing that I left them feeling empowered.

Third paragraph: Talk about your experience at code school, and make sure to match the skills you talk about with the skills listed in the job description.

I enjoyed my customer service work, but I often found myself gazing longingly at the developers, imagining a gratifying and stimulating job solving tough problems and building tools that made a lasting difference. This past April, the path became clear for me to pursue a job in coding, and in July, I enrolled in Epicodus's web development program. After dedicating four months of forty plus hours a week learning numerous programming languages and tools, I consider myself a full-stack developer, and am equally comfortable developing Ruby on Rails backends as working with JavaScript and jQuery in the front-end. But the biggest skill I learned since joining the coding world is how to take a brand new tool or language and have it feel like an old friend. For example, at my recent internship at Company X, their client-side was built with an MVC library I had never seen before, but by the third day of my internship, I was comfortable using it and committing code to production.

Fourth paragraph: Close out with a short summary of why you're a good fit, and thank them for reviewing your application.

Between my breadth of experience in the music realm and newly found fervor for programming, and your company’s passions and aesthetics, I believe I am a perfect fit for your Web Developer Intern position. I know we could benefit each other greatly, if given the opportunity. Thank you for reviewing and considering my application. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

In talking about your experience, the most important thing is to provide examples. In the above example, the author says she's somebody who thinks outside the box, but it's even better that she gives an example of how she took an unusual support request and took the unusual step of meeting in person. And when talking about her development experience, she says she's a able to pick up new languages and tools quickly, and then goes on to provide an example of committing code within a couple days of learning a new MVC library.

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Finding a Junior Dev Job: Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile

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Finding a Junior Dev Job: Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile

Helping our students find great jobs is a huge part of what we do at Epicodus. In fact, it’s our mission. Over the years, we’ve accrued quite a bit of job-hunting knowledge to help set our students apart. In the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing our best tips and tricks for junior developers who are looking for their first jobs.

If you don't already have an up-to-date, professional-looking resume, start by making a LinkedIn profile, which you can later be used to generate a resume. Many employers will even ask for your LinkedIn profile in lieu of a resume. For most people, we suggest you organize your LinkedIn profile as follows:

  • Include a recent photo.
  • Edit your tagline to something like "Junior web developer", or something similar.
  • Create a friendly URL including your name.
  • Write a short summary of what you're doing now (learning to code) and why you decided to become a developer. Keep it under five sentences.
  • Add a link to your Github profile (and optionally your website) to your summary. The link will show up as a large box, this is OK.
  • Move the Projects section just below your summary. Add some projects that you've completed to this section. Include links to the Github code for the project or a live site on Heroku, Github Pages, or another hosting option, if possible. Talk about what the projects do and what technologies were used.
  • Next, list your previous jobs under Experience, with a short description of what you did at each role. Be specific and succinct - use concrete numbers and examples, like "Responsible for on-boarding and training two dozen new employees in 3 months", rather than vague statements, like "Fulfilled management duties beyond expectations." If you have more than 3 or 4 previous jobs, just include the most recent ones (unless earlier ones are relevant to the jobs you're applying for).
  • Break down past experience descriptions into bullet points. You can easily do this by using the Alt-8 shortcut.
  • If you're an Epicodus student, add Epicodus to your Education section, and move that section directly after your Experience section. Write a brief summary of what you're learning and doing at Epicodus. Don't write about what Epicodus is - write about your experience. For example, one student wrote "I'm currently learning how to build web applications with JavaScript, Ruby/Rails, HTML, and CSS. More importantly, I'm learning how to think more like a programmer, write good code, and pick up new languages and technologies." Another wrote: "At Epicodus I've learned how to learn programming languages more than learning any one language for the sake of itself. I've learned how to work towards a programming goal on my own and with others until success happens. I've also learned how quickly I can process a tremendous amount of information that is new and uncomfortable at first, and have it feel comfortable like a worn pair of jeans by the end of a week!" Don't copy these examples - come up with your own that describes your own unique experience.
  • In the Skills section, list skills you've learned, like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ruby, SQL, Ruby on Rails, AJAX, Git, TDD, pair programming, and more that are specific to your own course track.

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Philadelphia Here We Come!

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Philadelphia Here We Come!

The expansion keeps on rolling! In addition to opening a campus in Seattle in June, we’ll be establishing a new branch of Epicodus in Philadelphia in August. We’re excited to bring Epicodus's teaching philosophy and learning model to the East Coast, and look forward to connecting with a new batch of students and employers in the city.

Applications are now open for Philadelphia, and class starts on August 1. To begin, our first Philadelphia class will learn Intro to Programming, PHP, JavaScript, and Drupal. After we run our first series of courses and have some time to get settled, we'll expand our offerings to many of the other courses we offer in Portland.

Stay tuned for more information about our Philadelphia office location! And keep an eye out: another Epicodus campus may soon be coming to a city near you. 
 

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We're Making Some Changes to Our Tuition

By Michael Kaiser-Nyman, President

Epicodus has seen some big changes in the last three years. Along the way, we've grown from just me, to two teachers and me, to now having a staff member dedicated to career coaching, three staff reaching out to employers, a staff member building out our student portal and related tools, and multiple employees improving our curriculum. We've also moved into a beautiful office in downtown Portland with views of the river, a large kitchen area, and plenty of couch space for hanging out. And we've done all this basically without changing our tuition even to keep up with inflation, not to mention the huge growth in the costs of providing a service almost unrecognizably better from when we started 3 years ago.

For a little context, the first Epicodus class in 2013 was 9 weeks long and cost $2,800, or $311/week. The second class was also $2,800 and 18 weeks, or $156/week. The third and fourth classes in 2014 were $3,400 and 16 weeks, or $213/week. In 2015, we increased our class length to 20 weeks and kept tuition steady, for $170/week. Now, we've added in an extra 2 weeks of job prep, bringing the weekly cost down to $157.

In other words, it's finally time for our tuition to keep pace at least a little bit with the improvements we've made. We are now and will continue to be far and away the cost leader among coding schools on a simple dollar basis, and an order of magnitude a better deal than anybody out there considering the length and quality of our program and job support. 

Individual classes will go from $1,000 to $1,200. Up-front discount will go from $850 to $975. (Total tuition for most students will go from $4,250 to $4,875.)

This change will be effective April 1. If any students want to switch from a per-class to a discount plan, this would be a good time to do so!
 

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Student Project Feature: Breakout Game Clone

Course: Intro to Programming

Project: Work in teams to build a website/app

Amount of Training: 5 weeks of Intro to Programming

Languages/Tools Used: JavaScript, Bootstrap, HTML, CSS, SeamlessLoop, FL Studio (music)

Team Members: Will Johnson, Neil Larion, Matt Rosanio, Michael Smith

Project Description

A breakout clone using JavaScript and the HTML5 canvas element. Breakout is a video game where the object is to bounce a puck across the screen breaking all the bricks in each level. Breakout was originally designed at Atari with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs delivering the first prototype in just 4 days. Fitting since, with our project we only had 4 days as well.

 

What was the inspiration behind the project? 


The inspiration came from this talk. The speakers go over "Game Juice" in a breakout clone of their own. We thought it would be fun to try and replicate as many features in game as possible.


What are some challenges you faced in developing the project?


Collision detection was probably the hardest part and took the longest to put together. Beyond that- it was challenging, albeit rewarding, learning how to write and organize code properly instead of just using something that worked but was bulkier, and harder to rewrite later down the line. 


What kind of discoveries did you make while developing the project? 


We learned that 4 days is not enough time to get in all the features we would have wanted in the game, but it was enough time to build a solid prototype we were proud of and enjoyed playing. We also learned that simple things in the game like sliding in bricks from the top of the screen or power ups to the player paddle are no simple task when coding them.

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More than Just a Tech Conference: The 2016 Lesbians Who Tech Summit Changes Careers and Lives

by Perry Eising, Epicodus Instructor

The annual Lesbians Who Tech San Francisco Summit is the organization’s marquee event and its most popular. Now officially celebrating it’s second birthday (the first one was more of a dry run, according to founder Leanne Pittsford), and getting bigger, better, and badder than ever, the Summit is a 3 day extravaganza of tech topics, queer and lesbian activism, self improvement, savvy leadership, community, socializing, dapper fashion, and great hair. Different than probably any other tech conference, the Summit sticks close to it’s roots in the community - events are almost exclusively organized in gay venues around the Castro.

Before my first Lesbians Who Tech Summit, and subsequently attending Epicodus, I was a freshly minted Green Card holder who had once had a tech career, ten or so odd years ago. After coming to the US on a student visa, I was severely limited in my ability to accept employment, and I was desperate for a leg up after finally receiving legal permanent resident status. When an acquaintance mentioned on Facebook that she had a ticket she couldn’t use, I didn’t hesitate. I cashed out my frequent flyer miles, ironed my shirts, texted my friend who had a couch I could crash on in the mission, and flew down to the bay. I wasn’t quite sure what I’d be getting into, but I ended up with a lot more than I could ever bargain for. Attending that first Summit changed my career trajectory and my life.

Taking it all in 🤓 #lwtsummit #lesbianswhotech via Medium

A photo posted by Beca (@8becks) on

This year, the Summit began on Thursday the 25th of February with a short address by LWT staff in the Castro theatre, before transitioning into a tech crawl of surrounding bars featuring events hosted by local tech companies. Given that this wasn’t my first Summit, there were many, many reunions before my crew and I left the crawl for some much needed dinner  - it was amazing to run into so many familiar faces who were equally excited for the Summit as I was.

Friday

Friday is traditionally the big day for presentations on the big stage, and this day didn’t disappoint. After one of my favourite moments, Leanne’s kickoff speech, the morning lineup began with an address by Tara Bunch, Vice President of Apple, and was followed Ramona Pierson, whose harrowing story of injury and ambition clearly impressed the crowd. The star of the morning, however, was the legend, the amazing Edie Windsor,  the legendary computer scientist for IBM, and plaintiff behind the 2013 repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and her lawyer, the slightly more understated yet equally impressive Roberta Kaplan. Together, with host Danielle Moodie-Mills of politini, Edie and Roberta explored Edie’s career at IBM, relationship to her wife Thea Spyer, and the story about how they came to be representing their case before the Supreme Court - and ultimately winning. It was an incredibly moving moment to hear Edie recount the process that impacted millions of people’s lives, including my own, in such a direct and transformative way, and the crowd went wild when the Edie Windsor Coding Scholarship was presented to several ecstatic winners.

Emcees Kiva Wilson and Sara Sperling did an amazing job of keeping the conference moving, while the dark intimacy of the Castro Theatre was punctuated only by the illuminated phone screens, trying to capture some of the power that lit up the stage. The Summit’s specially designed app came in especially handy, and created a way to connect and curate digital content. After the first round of speakers I lined up to get my book signed by Edie. Meeting her and Robbie Kaplan was definitely the highlight of my weekend.

The morning sessions took us through until noon, after which the crowd broke for several different lunch options. The committed stayed in the Castro, and I was lucky and honored to be able to present an ignite talk, which is a short, five minute presentation on the big stage, while others enjoyed events focused on space, the internet of things, art, technology, career growth and more. After my talk, I took the opportunity to take a walk around the Castro, and the area had become awash in signature blue lanyards flapping in the breeze. Over 1,700 of us were taking over the area, and we were seemingly everywhere! Walking down the street, I was enthusiastically greeted by fellow attendees, something that is not unusual at all for LWT. In fact, one of the most impressive tenets of the summit is how welcoming and genuinely community minded the attendees are. We headed back into the dark theatre for the rest of the afternoon, which featured a diverse set of presentations, including a pitch contest, a talk on overcoming imposter syndrome, and a fantastic presentation by actual lesbian rocket scientist Joy Dunn about her work with SpaceX.

As the day wore on, the presentations became more complex and moving, such as a amazing presentation on the implicit racism of mobile phone hardware, presented by the articulate and persuasive Samala, and the panel on leveraging your personal advantages, presented by Lisa Davis of Citigroup - it was her line on celebrating being memorable that had Twitter all fired up.

By the time we reached the evening keynote interview with straight-talker Kara Swisher of Re/Code and the closing words by Leanne Pittsford, the atmosphere had become positively electric - the stories presented on stage were so powerful and the atmosphere so charged, the cheers that punctuated the talks were so genuine, the calls for inclusion of women of color of transgender people were so relevant, so close still the struggle that so many of the speakers touched upon. It became very clear that you should never underestimate the power of a group as committed and focused as people who have been deprived of community.

Saturday

Saturday is historically the main day for workshops and career fairs, which were all informative and welcoming. The day was well attended and was packed with informative sessions and featured a friendly, enthusiastic, well staffed Career Fair featuring companies like Amazon, Twilio, Lyft, Nasa, Intel, Two Sigma, asana, IBM and more. Organizationally things broke down a little bit - sessions didn’t start on time, and meal schedules were missed - making it very clear how well the stellar LWT team had organized the previous day. Despite some organizational hiccups, I attended an excellent workshop hosted by Jess McPeake on realizing your full potential in life and work, as well as a great session on unconscious bias, presented by Clem Breslin and Dioganhdih Hall, where we discussed the stunning levels of gender inequality in tech. I also attended a panel discussion on code schools and programming education, before heading out early to close the day out with friends at some more social events.

Sunday

Sunday customarily features some closing events, but little official programming. It is the perfect time to get together with old friends and new co-collaborators, strengthen our community ties, make commitments to the future, and brainstorm ways and means to change the world - including creating a better, more just experience for women, queers and minorities.

Sunday featured a final closing party at Virgil's, and then it was time to leave a community that feels a little like family.

As always, impossible to say goodbye completely. After all is said and done, this is so much more than a tech conference. It is an opportunity to see one’s interests, hopes, desires and choices reflected in other people. It is a space for intergenerational mentoring, the likes of which do not take place in other queer and lesbian communities. It is a deeply political and passionate claiming of space and worth. It is a place of resistance against the rule of norms, and an insistent declaration of independence and resilience. It is the anvil on which clear eyed, hard edged, soft spoken radical entrepreneurs, achievers, organizers and pionesses are sharpened and encouraged. It is the arena and the celebration, the commitment ceremony and the victory lap. It is the LWT summit.  As I boarded the plane back up to Portland, I knew the summit had delivered what I had hoped it would - profound inspiration, steadfast community, and a unique opportunity to create with others. Until next year!

Want to see Perry's talk? Perry kicks off the round of Ignite sessions in the video below.

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CEO Search

First stand up in Epicodus's current location.

First stand up in Epicodus's current location.

By Michael Kaiser-Nyman, Founder & President

When I taught Epicodus's first class at the beginning of 2013, the school was just me and one class of 8 students in a small room in a co-working space. 3 years later, we have about 150 students, 18 staff, a 13,000 square foot office, and a dozen courses. We're the most affordable and accessible vocational coding school out there, and we want to make our education available to as many people as possible. That means opening up offices around the country, starting with Seattle and then another city later this year. From there, we're looking to grow from 3 to 30 locations in the following couple years.

One of Epicodus's first classes.

One of Epicodus's first classes.

The skills and experience needed to grow a company from zero to 3 offices are very different than those needed to grow it from 3 to 30. I'm very proud of what we've accomplished so far, and I also know we need a different kind of leader in the next stage of Epicodus's life. Alongside opening our next two offices, I'll be focusing much of my energies this year on finding a CEO to eventually replace me.

We're in no rush to bring someone in, and the most important thing is to find someone who shares our values of making education accessible, prioritizing long-term student success over short-term numbers, and taking the time to do things right. When we do find our CEO, I'll work alongside them for an extended period of time to make sure the transition is smooth for our staff and students.

I'm very excited about bringing Epicodus to the rest of the country, and I can't wait to see how the next chapters of our story unfold.

P.S. If you think you're the right person for the job, drop me an email at michael@epicodus.com. You should have experience leading a company, organization, or department with 50+ employees and $10+ million revenue/budget. We also have a stand-alone job description.

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Seattle Applications Are Open!

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With our 2016 courses officially underway, we're excited for what's ahead for the rest of the year. We just wrapped up our first full-time Intro to Programming course in Portland, and our PDX students are now studying specific programming languages and frameworks including PHP, JavaScript, C#, and CSS

What's next on the horizon? We added a bunch of new course dates for our Portland campus and opened applications for courses at our Seattle location. Our first Intro to Programing course in Seattle will launch on June 6, followed by C#, JavaScript, and .NET.

Each language or framework is its own course and will run for 5 weeks. Courses will generally run back-to-back. You can mix and match 5-week courses to learn the programming skills that meet your needs. On each course page, you'll see that we've made some recommendations about course pairings. After applying to Epicodus, all students will be placed in our full-time Intro to Programming course.

For a full breakdown of our courses at each Epicodus location, check out the Portland Courses and Seattle Courses pages.

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