Software Dev Career in SF Bay without a Bachelors in CS, I'm Floundering
July 15, 2015 5:17 PM   Subscribe

What can I do better to get a paid internship or an Entry level Position with limited work experience, a Psych Degree and an Associates in Systems Programming?

I feel like I've gotten to a certain point, but now I'm spinning my wheels, and I'm not sure where to go to to get traction and move forward.

Where I am:
I got a Psychology Degree at UCSC. I then, after a few years of low paid or unpaid work in statistics, I realizing my current prospects were slim and I liked coding, went to Community College and got an Associates Degree in Systems Programming. For the last two years I have been intermittently working freelance, mostly front end design or front end web development (Angular and JQuery ).

I feel I am equal to at least a programming bootcamp graduate. I'd like to say college grad, but I haven't written a recursive descent parser, or turned regular expressions into a finite state machine, or written a compiler. They usually don't test those abilities in interviews though.

I can handle reasonably hard interview questions without having memorized the answers, though maybe slower then some if it's on a white board. I got to an in person interview at that Big Company in Mountain View, and while they don't usually give feedback, the recruiter gave it to me for some reason. I heard that I got the concepts and understood the questions wekk and was close but didn't write stuff fast enough on the board. I used C. Java, C++, or Python might have been faster to write, I suppose, but I don't know them as well.

My best programming language is C, where there isn't much demand for a junior dev. I'm okay at Python, Perl and Javascript, and could be ok with Java or C++ if I reviewed past work. I am learning Go atm. I have a github with specific side projects listed on my resume. In addition to my own stuff, I'm contributing to Open Source , specifically Git (So far only a documentation fix, but I have some code I'm working on).

Things I've tried or am trying:
*Worked on the promise of payment and employment to revise broken 90's code into a unit tested back end and database and full stack web app (In Perl ). Guy didn't pay. So not doing that again, except maybe for a non profit to build my portfolio/resume.
*Attended a Hackathon and Built an Android App with people. Seems super fiddly and complex, but I could probably do Android dev if I pushed myself.
*Joined the Hacker Dojo to network. I used to be more active there but the place has changed a lot (members don't decide stuff anymore), and there seem to be less opportunities for a new developer to network.
*Have regularly updated resumes on Dice, Monster, and Career Builder. Updated LinkedIn.
*Sent out resumes to jobs I think I might be able to to do. I rarely hear back.
*Had friends and acquaintances refer me. This is where I've gotten my interviews mostly, so I think my resume must not be impressive.
*I just bought a well reviewed book on Django 1.8 and I can work through it.
*Post and commend on Hacker News. I've gotten one interview from that.
*post and comment on Stack Overflow. I've gotten one interview from Stack Overflow Careers.
*Gotten Invited to join Hired. I could finish my app, but I think my resume is weak. Maybe after I have a few django projects to point to at least.

Really, I just want that first job or internship that can be the work experience that I need so people will stop passing me over. It can be a shitty experience, as long as it moves me forward somehow. It would be nice if the interview wasn't about any specific framework or tool, but on general programming ability like Googles. I'm not sure which companies that would be in the Bay Area. Before funding, nobody pays me. After funding, they hire Senior Devs, which I'm not. And the Big companies mostly want people with a CS degree for junior positions. And for internships it seems like everyone wants you to be currently in a four year college or grad program.

I could explore broader changes like a second bachelors, going to grad school or a bootcamp, but that feels like it could be another question.

Anyway, any thoughts, specific companies to apply to, information about getting hired without a degree/internships without being in school. FWIW my github user name and email are both at my Mefi user name.

Thank you.
posted by gryftir to Work & Money (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Learn python (or Ruby, or JavaScript, or...) to the point where you can use it in interviews. C is a lousy language for doing most coding interviews. (Someone I know tried to solve some commonly-asked coding interview questions in C just to see if it was possible. Despite the fact that he is fluent in C, and already knew the correct solutions to the questions, he still came very close to going overtime.)
posted by phoenixy at 5:41 PM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So, with tens of thousands of employees, obviously the interviewing at the Big Company in Mountain View can be highly variable. However, I worked there for quite a while and interviewed tons of people. And I'm not sure that I voted against anyone for not writing fast enough on the board. So I wonder if that was either a weird anomaly with the people who interviewed you, or the recruiter inaccurately relayed the reasons for the rejection. We definitely did reject people who were slow at solving problems, didn't seem to understand how to wrap their head around the whole task, etc. But that's a bigger picture issue than just writing code on the board. Basically, I'd say don't put too much weight into that feedback because I think it's either erroneous or anomalous.

I agree with snickerdoodle that you'll likely do better by focusing on something more specific. Make sure it's something that there are jobs for. I am an expert level C programmer, but in today's job market, it wouldn't help me much. And once you've figured out the specific thing you're targeting, really learn the technologies popular for that thing inside and out. Knowing trendy js frameworks like Angular is great, and if you want to really focus on frontend, then dive into it head first. Make sure you're an Angular expert, and also learn about React, Backbone, Ember, etc. Know the newest css, ecmascript and html standards by heart. Understand responsive design, and be able to talk about browser compatibility, progressive enhancement, etc. Or if you don't want to focus on frontend, that's fine too, but pick something and stick with it.

I don't think most companies will hire you as an intern unless you're a student or a brand new grad, but maybe I'm mistaken. I know that none of the interns I've ever worked with have been out of school for any significant period of time. But the specific degree you have shouldn't be a huge hindrance. I have worked at not only the Mountain View company but a couple of other similarly famous companies, and many of the best engineers I worked with had degrees in stuff other than CS (or sometimes no degree at all). Not having a CS degree might make it harder to get your resume noticed by a screener or recruiter, but once you're past that step, if you can prove you have the chops, it shouldn't be a big deal.
posted by primethyme at 7:44 PM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Are you applying for any contractor jobs? It's an easier way for both you and the company to see if it is a good fit. A fair amount of people get hired that way and a lot of people only work as contractors.
posted by gt2 at 9:52 PM on July 15, 2015

Nowadays tech careers require ultraspecialists, rather than jack of all trades, and you seem to be a bit of jack of all trades, which means you are looking in the wrong area.

With your skill set (a bit of everything), IMHO you need an IT department in a NON-TECH company, that needs internal web development for intranet and stuff like that.

But again, you're not quite specialized for that either, as those tend to deal with some oddballs. They may still be on ASPX (or godforbid, classic ASP), Cold Fusion (CFML), or old .NET stuff. Some may be on Ruby on Rails or Java Struts. Some may be interfacing with CMS, and there are bazillions of them. Some may even have home-rolled solutions that they expect you to make sense of or even rewrite / port.

Personally, the best board for tech jobs is still DICE. I know it's a bit of passe, but it's still there.

Never hurts to have a good LinkedIn profile either. AND AND Social networks, and cross link them as well as to stack exchange and other stuff.

Hope this is of some general help.
posted by kschang at 11:17 PM on July 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: It sounds like I need to pick something, and become an expert in it. Not sure what.
posted by gryftir at 12:45 AM on July 16, 2015

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