Jacob Johnston is the founder of Flight, a company that has hired several Epicodus graduates. Here he shares his experience in software development and advice for new developers.

What does Flight do?

We help early-stage entrepreneurs and innovators bring their apps to market. Our primary offerings are technical guidance (pre-CTO kind of stuff), software engineering, app development, and team building. We also provide other startup-related services, such as branding and identity workshops, graphic design, and market research.

What do software developers do at Flight?

The majority of what we do is greenfield work, which is always more exciting than maintenance. Software developers may do anything from designing an elegant algorithm to calculate the most useful place for text in a randomly shaped polygon, to creating an intuitive user experience by implementing hover effects and animations that guide users, to writing back-end services, to simply styling up some HTML. Our goal is always to find people who love what they do and find work for them that they will love doing. You get much better code out of excited developers.

What do you look for when hiring junior-level software developers?

The main three things I consider are grit, self-guidance, and enthusiasm. By grit I mean that they have the requisite sticktoitiveness to hammer up against a confusing problem and not give up or beat themselves up or complain that their own brain is just not good enough. By self-guidance I mean that they can get a big-picture understanding of our goals and know what to do next when they finish something. I don't like to watch over people's shoulders and keep them on task. I want developers, designers, and engineers who will actively pursue the best activities to align with company goals even with limited guidance. I probably don't need to explain enthusiasm. I only want to work with developers who want to work. Dragging your feet about coding is a red flag, but so is just failing to show your excitement about difficult challenges.

Why does Flight hire Epicodus graduates?

I have a bias towards self-learners as opposed to university computer science types. I taught myself software engineering and I'm always eagerly exploring new tools and technologies. I find that a lot of more experienced developers, especially those with a computer science background, tend to get easily stuck in their ways. That just doesn't cut it in the modern world of software, especially JavaScript and web development. If you're not keeping up with trends and best practices and useful libraries you'll fall behind. I don't want to hear about how much you like version 1.x of a platform and why we should never upgrade because the new one is just so icky and different. I've also just had really great experiences with Epicodus grads. Those who make the cut tend to really excel.

What advice do you have for Epicodus graduates interested in working at a company like Flight?

I'd suggest keeping busy and finding lots of interesting projects of your own to work on. That could mean getting involved in open source projects, asking your friends for ideas, or just implementing a project you kept thinking about. Analysis paralysis is a real danger. Don't get started then tell yourself "oh no, I am in way over my head, I need to go back to the books". Continuing to study new materials is crucial, but I've seen too many developers stop cold when they realize they don't know everything, and start reading tutorials instead of writing code. Some companies will hire you based on a strong resume and a good interview. Book-learning might help you answer standard coding interview questions. That doesn’t cut it with Flight. The only way you'll get in the door is to show me code you actually wrote yourself, and explain what you did, how, and why. No whiteboard. No technical interview questions. I just want to see your code and hear how you talk about it. I'm sure more employers will follow suit with time.