Getting your first job in engineering

Give value to the people you want to work with and get the job you want.

March 5, 2022
Last modified March 5, 2022

Introduction

I get asked by people who are brand new to the software engineering industry, “How do I get my first job?” I ask, “What have you done so far?” The responses are similar. I’m working on my portfolio or having coffee chats with random engineers online. I’m using Meetup.com to try and meet people.

This is not the way

All of the portfolio and coffee chats tasks are yak shaving. It requires lots of energy on your end, and you rarely get to your goal of getting your first job. The people you are talking to gain little from you in return. Most senior engineers or companies you speak to have no idea if you are any good. It can take a long time to figure it out. Many people are trying to get their first job in software right now. The response rate for new engineers enquiring for help or employment is not good. The probability of you getting your first job this way is low.

This is the way

If you want to get a job in engineering, you need to provide value to the people you want to engage with. You need to give it away and do it visibly to attract companies and people to you.

To gain visibility, Help the community and industry you are trying to break into , One approach is to spend time building on open source communities. Contributing to open source will give you a higher chance of getting that first job.

Follow the following guide to engage with the engineering community. First, you need to figure out what part of the engineering world you want to work in. I will answer the questions from my perspective.

  • What problems would you like to solve?

    • Improving developer experience problems, developer platforms and developer tooling
    • Working logging, metrics and dashboard software
    • Working on database software
  • What languages do you want to learn to write in? or are happy to write?

    • Javascript
    • Typescript
  • Does the project have the backing of a sponsor and is active. If it does not have the support of a sponsor, ensure it has lots of activity.

To answer your questions, Go to the advanced search in Github.com. Using my first bullet points, I search for a developer platform. The results bring back over 3000 results. I whittle it down. I narrow it to projects with more than 10000 stars and filter the language to be javascript.

I get “6 repository results.”

One of the results is BackStage. Backstage is an open platform for building developer portals. Spotify sponsors the project. It is very active. You can see how busy it is by looking at the number of commits per week.

Go to the issues page and filter on the good first issue filter. Find one that speaks to you.

As there could be any number of issues that could go in any direction, I will move past the solving the actual issue part as this is where the hard work by you has to happen.

Once you are ready to submit your pull request, ensure you have made it easy for the reviewer to review. Ensure the pull request is well written. Learn from the review experience, be open to the feedback you get, work with the reviewer to make their life easier.

Beyond writing code

Aside from Pull requests, join their Discord server/Slack workspace. Here is another place to interact with the other contributors.

Backstages discord is where you can contribute more than your code. Lots of discussions happen on this server. Some good channels are #support. Backstage users can be found in this channel. Helping them with their issues gives a lot of value to them and will help create a relationship.

#documentation, This is possibly the most accessible place to start. You help make improvements to the product’s documentation.

Epilogue

Spend a couple of months submitting code and being involved in the community, and you will make relationships with engineers. You will get better at engineering. You will have better content than a portfolio IMO to show on your resume as you were working on other people’s problems. Do these things, and one of the other more senior people in the community will observe your excellent work overtime and reach out when they have an opportunity for you.

Happy hunting. and if you need mentoring, feel free to book a meeting with us

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