Navigating the Tech Industry: A Guide to Breaking In

Full-stack development has become a highly sought-after skill set for businesses of all sizes and industries. In fact, a report by Indeed (2023) found that Full-Stack Developers are ranked at the top of the ‘Best Jobs of 2023’ list, taking into consideration factors such as compensation, job flexibility, and the number of available job openings. If you’re interested in breaking into the tech industry but are unsure of where to begin, this article is perfect for you!

To begin with, you may be curious about the role of Full-Stack Developers. Their responsibility is to manage both the front-end and back-end development of web and mobile applications. Likewise, assisting companies in establishing an efficient and user-friendly online presence. Front-end work primarily involves designing the user interface of an application. Back-end tasks are related to data processing and storage, security, and other server-side functions.

While this may sound enticing, you may feel disheartened if you don’t have a technical background or a Computer Science degree. The good news is that you can still break into the tech industry without these conventional qualifications. A few years ago, I set out to do just that and would like to share some tips that helped me land my first job as a Full-Stack Developer.

Your objective should be to construct a portfolio of projects that demonstrate your abilities to potential employers. They are more interested in your skill set and whether you can accomplish the task than your credentials. But what exactly do I mean by projects? These should be complete web or mobile applications that you have developed yourself, based on any idea that piques your interest. You could create an application to monitor your workouts or a website to locate dog walkers in your vicinity. Use your imagination; the sky’s the limit!

Your technical arsenal

To build a foundational understanding of programming concepts and languages, it is important to become familiar with JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and Python. These languages are simple to learn and have extensive documentation available. Many affordable courses are offered by websites such as Codecademy, Udemy, and Udacity. Additionally, excellent YouTube channels such as Web Dev Simplified and Programming with Mosh offer great tutorials. Don’t worry too much about which courses to take; the goal is to get started and begin gaining experience.

The next step is to delve deeper into data structures and algorithms, HTTP basics, databases, version control, and back-end and front-end frameworks. I suggest finding a data structures and algorithms course that strikes a balance between length and content, as it can be a complex field with many intricacies. For learning HTTP basics, a concise YouTube crash course should suffice. In terms of databases, it is important to be proficient with SQL and its management systems such as PostgreSQL or MySQL, as well as MongoDB. Familiarizing yourself with ORMs like Sequelize for SQL and Mongoose for MongoDB can also be helpful.

Programmers at the desk, programming on the laptop in the tech company.
The Agilno office in Split, Croatia

When it comes to version control, Git and GitHub are essential tools for coordinating, tracking, and hosting your code. I recommend taking a look at freeCodeCamp’s Git and GitHub for Beginners Course. Finally, becoming proficient in front-end and back-end frameworks is the bread and butter of full-stack development. React is the most popular front-end framework, although Vue, Angular, and Svelte are also widely used. It’s best to choose one framework and master it before adding another one to your skillset. For back-end frameworks, it depends on whether you prefer to work with Python or Node.js (a back-end runtime environment for JavaScript). If you choose to work with JavaScript and Node, I recommend learning Express.js. Alternatively, if you prefer Python, then mastering Django is a great choice.

Building a portfolio

Your projects can be personal or professional, but they should demonstrate your ability to develop full-stack applications. Your portfolio should include both the front-end and back-end components of each project. But don’t forget to include relevant documentation or technical specifications. While building applications, you will inevitably come across issues. This is where you can leverage one of the greatest assets of the tech industry: the community. You can find answers to all sorts of questions on platforms such as StackOverflow, GitHub, and even Reddit. If you don’t find what you are looking for, don’t be afraid to ask. After all, we are standing on the shoulders of giants!

The best alternative to self-learning

In case you are someone who prefers formal training, just like me, you might want to consider enrolling in a Full-Stack Engineering Bootcamp. These are intensive programs that last around 3 months. They take you from having a basic understanding of programming to being industry ready. Yes, industry ready in 3 months! Good programs cover all the basic technologies that make up the full stack. They also provide support to help you build your projects. They even have a careers team dedicated to making sure you find a job after you graduate. I recommend you look at Codeworks and Hack Reactor. These programs are not cheap but can be a fantastic investment, as long as you are willing to put in the work.

Building your network

Sooner or later, you will be looking for a job in a new field, so chances are you don’t know many people in the industry. This is why I recommend you dedicate a few hours a week to building your professional network. Polish your LinkedIn profile and start reaching out to people that work in companies you might be interested in. Building a professional network will help you learn about job opportunities, receive recommendations, and connect with potential mentors. I cannot stress this enough: your greatest asset when it comes to finding a job is your network. Build it wisely.

Soft skills are underrated

While technical proficiency is essential for Full-Stack Developers, soft skills are also highly valued by employers. Communication and problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to work in a team, are all critical traits that you need to develop along with your technical arsenal. Emphasize your soft skills on your resume. Also, during job interviews, showcase your ability to work collaboratively and effectively with others.

Final words

To sum it all up, getting a job as a Full-Stack Developer without a technical background or computer science degree is a real possibility. Although it requires a lot of effort and dedication. After all, this is one of the highest-paying careers in the tech industry and thus requires people to possess a broad set of skills. With persistence and hard work, you can land your dream job as a Full-Stack Developer and become part of today’s thriving tech community!