Career Advice for a New Web Dev

So a few days ago, I sent out a simple tweet:

This was inspired by (and when I say "inspired by" I mean "copied from") a tweet by Kent C. Dodds late last week. I've already gotten a few DMs and I'm trying my best to help out, but this one was an area I didn't have a lot of experience in and I thought I'd share it to see what people thought. It was definitely something I wanted to share publicly and in a place where I wasn't constrained by Tweet-size. Anyway, here is the question that was sent to me.

I am a Master's graduate in Computer Science and working as a Web Developer at a startup. I currently live in REDACTED. My main area of interest is Web Development - mostly backend. I am looking for a job change and wanted to know how to prepare for interviews.

I wanted some tips on resume writing (how I can improve my resume) and some ideas on personal projects I can work on.

Also, my main drawback is preparing for programming questions - the Data Structure and Algorithms ones. What is the best way to study for programming interview questions?

There's a couple of things here, so let me try to tackle them one by one, starting off with the ones I need the most help with from my readers.

Resume Writing

So yeah, I've only updated my resume a few times, and every time I've done it I've used a basic Microsoft Word template. The best advice I can give is one an old friend (Nathan Dintenfass) gave me - be sure you do not undersell yourself. I've run my resume by Nathan multiple times and every time he's had to push me to highlight things that he knew about me that I was completely minimizing.

But that's all I really have. Again, I'd love to hear some advice from my readers on this.

Personal Projects

Now this is an area where I can definitely make some recommendations!

First off, I'm a huge believer in creating applications that already exist. What do I mean by that? Whenever I learn a new language, I almost always build a blog. I'm not trying to build anything commercial or heck even anything I'm going to share. Instead, I'm practicing a language by building something that is already defined. I don't have to sit here and think of an idea. I already know what a blog does. This lets me focus on implementation rather than innovation (hopefully that makes sense). I can't speak for other hiring managers, but I'd gladly look at a code sample of something like that as part of your portfolio.

While perhaps a bit harder to use as part of your portfolio, there are a lot of cool learning systems that have you practicing writing code. I wrote an article on this for Telerik: Tools to Learn JavaScript by Doing. My favorite of these is NodeSchool which has courses covering a variety of JavaScript topics. I'm not sure what exists like this for CSS or just basic HTML dev, but it's something to look out for.

Programming Questions

Sigh

So... yeah. I have "feelings" about this topic. I've pretty much decided I'll never work for a company that forces me to whiteboard code on the fly while someone watches. I failed the Google interview twice because of this and frankly I think it's bull shit. Somehow I don't believe my ability to help people learn is somehow tied to my ability to write a JavaScript Sudoku solver.

But...

My position in the industry is probably quite a bit farther along then the person who wrote me. (To be clear, I'm not saying I'm smarter, just that I've got a lot of history behind me. ;) The unfortunate truth is that you may not have much choice in this.

Eric Elliott has a great series of posts titled "Master the JavaScript" interview, and while (obviously) focused on JavaScript and not web-dev in general, I think it would be a great place to start. I don't see a way to link to that "series" on Medium, but start with this post and note the links to the other ones at the bottom: Master the JavaScript Interview: Soft Skills. You also want to check the rest of his posts as well. (Specifically, this one looks useful to: How to Land Your First Development Job in 5 Simple Steps)

Please Help!

As I said, this is not for me, but a woman in tech looking for help and while I was able to answer her a bit, I think more could be done. Readers - don't let me down!

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