My Moment of Desperation

It’s been no secret that I’ve been struggling trying to find work.  Recently things started getting bad.  Personal issues, health issues, financial issues, pest issues (don’t ask), just issues.  I wasn’t ready to give up, but I was ready to do what I had to and put coding on the side.  I needed benefits, I needed money, I needed to start being able to support my family again.

So I stopped looking at developer jobs and started looking at where I could start working right away and get benefits.  I thought about going back to a collision shop, but that job would require 60 hours a week.  I thought about ways to possibly get back to Detroit, so that I could go work in a factory again, where I could just go in, do my 8 hours and get out.  Dallas is just too white collar and doesn’t even come close with manufacturing, but it does have an Amazon distribution center.  Turns out that Amazon offers benefits on DAY ONE.

I was about to apply to work at Amazon, not as a developer, but a warehouse worker making $12.00 an hour.  I’d at least have somewhat of an in at Amazon to move into development and most importantly, my family would have benefits, because right now, we’re one of the millions of un-insured Americans.

My plan was to just keep coding whenever I had time and continue working on my projects and side jobs.  Figuring that eventually I would flesh out my projects so much that there was no doubt whatsoever about what I could do.

I needed to try at least one last thing before I took that route though.  I’ve been on LinkedIn for some time slowly making connections.  I’ve heard of the power of LinkedIn and figured if there was ever a time to try, this was it.  So I wrote my final plea (see above image).

It wasn’t easy writing that, and I used every last character of the 1300 that LinkedIn allows on its posts.  I debated, hesitated, and almost didn’t hit that “POST” button, but I did.  Even though I figured it would only get a few dozen views at best, I had nothing to lose.  And there it was, out there for the world to see now, and I felt horrible.  I sat back in my chair, and broke down.  I tried to change my stars and fell flat on my face.  I failed myself, my family, and all those who’ve supported me.  Seeing it in print and announcing it to the world made it all real, and final.

But it wasn’t final, and the post got a little bit more than just a few dozen views.  It was gaining traction.  People from all over the country, complete strangers, were coming out to help me.  I tried to keep up and reply to everyone, but the response was overwhelming, and humbling.

People were sharing my post, asking for my resume, sharing my resume, commenting, liking, messaging me, calling me.  People on LinkedIn were calling out the city of Dallas to get me hired!

One person wrote a personal email to me.  A long, well thought out, and extremely helpful email.  An email that probably took at least an hour to write.  Written by someone I’ve never met, someone who’s successful and whose time is more valuable than I could ever dream of making in an hour.

Another person called me and spoke to me for at least a half an hour.  Spoke to me about ways he could help me, things I could do to get ahead.  This wasn’t a recruiter trying to place me, there was absolutely nothing in it for him at all, yet he offered to help me in several ways.  He even followed up with me several times and ended up getting me a couple leads through his connections.

A developer at a company I applied for contacted me, and later that evening spoke with me for almost an hour about different ways I could possibly work my way in to that company.  Again, a complete stranger, not a recruiter, not even a manager, just a developer on a team in a city 300 miles away from me.

I could keep going on and on.  Like one person commented, ‘People are overall pretty “good” and eager to help’.  Not just complete strangers, but strangers who I’m sure have different views, beliefs, etc., but none of that mattered.  I won’t get all political or anything here, but just when you think people no longer care about anyone but themselves, when everyone is so divided, they come out and surprise you.

And so the week went on.  I was getting phone interviews, screenings, taking assessments, coding challenges, meeting people, going to interviews, and was looking to have a very busy week this week.

But there was one person who contacted me and spoke with me on the phone late last week.  A person whose company was looking for developers.  A person who looked beyond degrees, beyond experience, and looked at what type of person someone is and what they’re capable of.

On Sunday, August 27th, I received an official offer from that person.  An offer for a position that just felt like it was meant to be, and on Monday, August 28th, I officially started working.

I’m not sure how he found my post.  I don’t think he was even within my 3rd degree of connections.  Someone shared or liked my post, that someone’s connection saw it, did the same, their connection saw it, maybe commented, another of their connections saw it, possibly shared it, and on and on for who knows how many connections, until it ended up on an electronic screen in front of a man in Florida who just changed my life.

I need to also talk about all the military veterans out there.  For a long time I didn’t consider myself a veteran.  I didn’t retire from the military, I’m not a protected veteran, I didn’t see combat, I didn’t even leave American soil, but I did serve honorably.  That was enough for those I consider the true veterans, as they came out in droves to look out for me.  2 of the stories above were veterans.  And the company I now work for is also a Veteran Owned Business.

So how much traction did that post get?  I took a snapshot of the numbers right after I received my offer.  After 5 days it got 45,660 views (and just passed 60,000 as I write this), which to me is basically viral.  61 people reshared the post.  I went from only 79 views of my LinkedIn profile in the past 90 days to 1,337 with a 9600% increase from the week before.  My connections grew from around 380 to finally surpassing the 500 mark.

To put that in perspective, this blog that you’re reading right now has only been viewed 6,142 times, ever! In just 5 days that one post got 39,518 more views than my entire blog has received since it went live exactly 19 MONTHS ago!

An interesting view into who was looking at my post

Finally I just want to express my deep gratitude to everyone on LinkedIn.  My life just took a drastic turn for the better because of ALL of you.  To everyone that took time out of your day to help me, everyone that set me up with interviews, everyone that looked at my resume, everyone that messaged me, everyone that shared, liked, or commented on my post. THANK YOU!!!!!  I hope to never have to seek help like this again.  And will do whatever I can to repay all the kindness shown to me and hope that maybe I can be the one offering my help to someone next time.

The search continues…

Wow has it been a long time since I last posted. Some of you may be wondering what’s been going on, especially after that crazy long ass post I wrote up for Gearbox Software. Well, I’m sitting in Downtown Dallas at the Dojo right now and not on Main Street in Frisco, and both the DevOps and Web Developer positions are no longer listed over at GearboxSoftware.com, so clearly that didn’t really go as planned.

I have no doubt the post was seen by people at Gearbox. To help make sure of it I even tagged the HR Recruiter and the CEO to the post through Twitter and LinkedIn as well as the company itself. I got some looks at my LinkedIn profile too, but whoever they were, it only showed up as ‘someone at Gearbox’ when I checked.

I will admit that between the post, the tagging, the messaging, trying to connect on LinkedIn and even working out of @Nerdvana Coffee + Shop on the first floor of the Gearbox building, it was probably starting to appear a bit ‘stalkerish’. I always knew I was going to be toeing that line, and tried not to cross it, but in trying to go out of the box that’s not always easy to do. I’m not giving up on it though. I’ll keep on coding, getting better and making my portfolio as badass as I can. Eventually, I won’t need to write long posts to help me get a spot on the team and my work will speak for itself.

So what else has been going on. Well, without the structure of the Dojo it’s been tough to stay focused. There’s still the problem of having sooooo much I want to do that I spend more time than I should just trying to figure out what should get my attention at the time. There is the opportunity I have with Coding Dojo though that I spoke about and that’s what I’m mostly working on right now. I won’t get into too much detail about that right now since it’s still in process and there are other things in the works as well.

We did get a chance to get some time in with Coding Dojo’s career services last month though. The Dallas location finally got a new career advisor on staff full-time here and they sent someone over for a week from the Burbank (Los Angeles) location. During that week we mostly went over giving a 15 second ‘elevator pitch’ about ourselves, worked on our resumes, improved our LinkedIn profiles, and role-played through some mock interview questions. Both the advisor from Burbank and our new advisor here in Dallas were awesome and I really wish we had them available when my cohort graduated. That’s probably been the biggest negative about my experience with the Dojo, but now with the new advisor here the newer cohorts are going to be in a much better position.

Finally, in other good news, I got a nice call from a Recruiter on Friday about a new client they have that may be interested in hiring a jr. PHP developer that’s not too far from me. The company is going to be holding interviews next week and she put me into a slot. I’ve looked up the company and have to say that I’m quite excited about it. If they really are looking for a Jr. I think I have an excellent chance once I get in front of someone. Plus it’s in a business that I know at least a little bit about.

Seems I should have a lot more to write about due to my long absence but it sums up quite nicely (and can even be done so just by the featured image on this post – bonus points for you if you recognize it!). Soon though I’ll be posting a lot more and I have some good topic ideas, especially for prospective coding bootcamp students, so stay tuned!

P.S. I almost forgot one other big thing, me and several other Dojo alum’s have decided to organize our own Hackathon here in Dallas. It’s still in the early stages but we’re planning for a November event geared towards first-timers and newbies. More details to come in the near future!

Here I thought coding bootcamp was hard

While it was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, it was still so much simpler than what I’m doing now, which is trying to find employment.

In the bootcamp, there was really only one objective…learn.  Learn LAMP, learn MEAN, learn Ruby on Rails, learn algorithms, learn googling, learn Ping Pong, learn to learn.  The structure was simple, wake up, go to the gym, go to the Dojo, spend all day coding until the late evening, go home and repeat.  No outside life, no other obligations, and everyone around me knew where my focus had to be.

That’s all gone now.  Everyday is different, different objectives, different projects, different things to learn, different places, different responsibilities.  Ok, so the responsibilities aren’t really different, just back to the way it was before Coding Dojo.

I still need 12-14 hours a day to work on everything, but I have a family.  A daughter I barely saw for 14 weeks and a wife who was basically a single mother for that entire time.  I don’t have that time anymore and have to make up for it in other ways.  That means not going all the way to the Dojo for residency and saving the gas, the parking, and most importantly, the time.  The Dojo being new in Dallas the staffing isn’t there yet to make residency anything more than just being a place to setup and work on your own.  Meaning it wouldn’t be any more beneficial to go in anyway.

Here’s the other thing, the pressure is really on now, and from all angles.  Most of all there’s the financial pressure.  I managed to get that taken care of so that I didn’t have to worry about it while at the bootcamp, but now that well is all dried up.  I’m in a drought right and I need to find water to get it filling back up fast, especially since my family depends on it.

Trying to find employment is hard enough, trying to just be ready to find employment isn’t exactly easy either, especially in this industry.  First there’s the resume, which is now more important to get right than it ever has been in my entire life.  Then there’s getting my LinkedIn profile together.  You want to be a programmer?  Well guess what, you need a portfolio too.  But the portfolio needs projects…deployed projects.  Let’s not forget about networking, which means going to meetups.  Then throughout all of that you still need to keep learning and getting better in your coding skills.

All of that is what I’ve been doing this past couple weeks.  At least as best I can.  I’ve been jumping between tasks trying to put everything together to maximize my chances of gaining employment.  All the while fighting one aspect of myself, I’m a detail-oriented perfectionist.  Sounds like something that would be good on a resume.  Here’s the problem though, developing projects, creating profiles, writing a resume will never come out perfect.  There’s always going to be room for improvement.  Not to mention that some projects are MASSIVE undertakings that will take a LOT more than a couple weeks just to get all the features fully functioning, let alone perfect, which is again, impossible.

Fighting the feeling that what I have isn’t going to be good enough is hard.  Especially without having much experience in the same industry I’m trying to break into.  Especially since these things are the only avenue I have to try and impress potential employers, and more importantly, that one single company that I want to work for more than any other.

I’m finally on the next phase though as of today.  I got my resume together, got a couple projects deployed, setup my portfolio, cleaned up my LinkedIn and officially submitted my application to the company I want to work with.  In case you’re wondering what company that is, I’ll be revealing that within the next week in a very special blog post.

I can’t stop there though, as much as I want to work at that one place, I realize the odds are against me.  I need to get my resume out to other places and apply wherever there are openings.  I don’t have the luxury to be picky and wait too long.

Yup, coding bootcamp doesn’t seem all that hard anymore.

 

P.S.  You can check out my live portfolio here with links to projects and profiles.  It may not be perfect, but it’s a start and I’ll be improving on it whenever I can.  There’s also a copy of my resume on my LinkedIn.