Two coding students working on a code project together

We recently hosted a Code Conversations event on the topic of “How to get ahead in tech.” We were privileged to have Stefan Bauer, the CTO of WhereIsMyTransport who has interviewed literally thousands of developers, moderate a panel discussion with Tamlin-Leigh Duckworth, a developer at Fluenty IT, and our very own Renzo van Wyk, who heads up CodeSpace’s code coaching team. 

Here are the highlights from the discussion. 

There is no right way to get started in tech.

Everyone’s journey into tech is unique. There is no correct path, and it is okay if you take a winding route toward your desired tech career. In fact, if you started in a totally different field altogether, your rich experience and breadth of knowledge are valuable additions to your coding skills. 

Before working as a full-stack developer, Renzo taught English in Korea for many years. He has combined his experience in education and coding to help develop courses for CodeSpace. He noted, “We all have different stories, so we all have unique contributions to make to a tech team. My experiences from travelling abroad and working in other fields gave me soft skills and knowledge that I could transfer into my tech career.”

Tips to landing an interview and finding the right job for YOU. 

Interviewing at many places builds your interview skills, which is especially helpful for technical interviews. With each interview, you’ll only get better. Before landing her first role as a junior developer, Tamlin interviewed at four companies. Similarly, Renzo applied for countless positions, even ones he didn’t see himself in, to practise tailoring his CV and improve his interviewing skills.

A pro tip for landing a job interview is to reach out proactively to the companies you’d like to work for. Tamlin said, “When I was applying for jobs, I would visit company websites and look for technical issues or bugs. Then I would email the company and let them know about the bug and how I could fix it if I worked there.” Through this method, she could demonstrate her technical skills to the company before she even landed an interview. 

Stefan, who has years of experience hiring and building tech teams, mentioned that once you land that all-important job interview, it is key to research the company and role you’re interviewing for so you can tell them what you’ll add to the team. Stefan noted that he interviewed many people over the years who didn’t know a thing about the company, and it showed. Those candidates were not the ones he hired to join his team. 

Finally, remember to let your personality shine. Your coding skills are vital, but ultimately a company is hiring you as a person. Show the company how YOU can add to their team. 

To summarise: 

  • Doing lots of interviews is a good thing and gives you experience. 
  • Reach out proactively to the companies you want to work for. 
  • Before your interview, research the company you’re interviewing with. 
  • Let your personality shine.

Knowing your worth as a developer is fundamental when negotiating your salary. 

As a developer, you need to value yourself and what you can bring to the team. Don’t undervalue your skills by asking too little. Instead, ask for a higher number and negotiate if necessary. According to Stefan, it is important to be transparent about salaries in the tech industry, “Not talking about your salary is a win for the company, not for you.” 

When Tamlin was promoted at the beginning of her career, she didn’t know that a salary jump from an internship to a junior position isn’t incremental. “As an intern, I was earning R6000. When I was made permanent, the company asked me about my salary expectations. Because I didn’t know any better, I asked for R8000. Later, my manager pulled me aside, and she said, “How dare you undervalue yourself like that! You’re worth much more than what you asked for.” The company increased my salary to R9300, but according to my manager, I could’ve earned R11000 if I understood my worth as a developer.” Tamlin learned her lesson. When she landed her next job, she doubled her salary. 

How to work remotely as a developer. 

Many developers work remotely, but to be effective one has to have well-honed communication skills. 

Communication builds confidence and trust. For Tamlin, communication is the key to being a successful remote worker, “I think it was very important to stay communicating with seniors. In my current role, I was given a senior developer as my mentor. Every time I had any questions or I was struggling with something, I would go to him. That created a level of confidence and trust.”

Communication keeps you connected. Renzo shared, “Starting in a new team fully remote was daunting at first because I only saw my team once a week on screen. I only chatted with other new hires and my senior developer. I felt very disconnected.” One needs to be proactive about building communication habits that foster a good connection between you and your team. 

To succeed as a developer, especially remotely, find a productivity system that works for you: use something like Trello or even a simple notebook. Keep a schedule that works well for you and your team.

Remember that remote work isn’t for everyone, so find the work environment that best suits you.

Learning and curiosity are the keys to growing as a developer. 

Sign up to learn a new skill or technology when the opportunity arises. Stefan noted, “If I look at the engineers on my teams that are the most successful, they are the ones who are digging in and asking questions like, “Why is it this way?” They’re curious about the why.” 

Tamlin jumps at the opportunity to learn, “Always be keen to learn new things. The biggest growth jump I had when I started was when I was offered learning opportunities to do courses and boost my skills. I never gave excuses.”

When Renzo was a junior developer, he improved his coding skills by reading through the company’s legacy code, “I think there was a time in my first role where I would go through so much legacy code just to read it and understand the logic behind it. I was curious and eager to learn.”

Join us for our next Code Conversations event. 

We loved having Stefan, Renzo, and Tamlin share their experience with us at our Code Conversations event. Remember that you can sign up to attend our next event and experience advice from industry experts firsthand. You can stay up-to-date on the exact dates of our upcoming events on our Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.