What hunting for a tech job has taught me

Topics covered by this post.

Woman with scruffy hair and makeup. On floor with typewriter in sea of screwed up paper. Blank stare, sipping whiskey glass.

The Woman Returner Survivor's Tale

I was really pleased to kiss goodbye to 2017. Having started job hunting back in May, it’s been the most soul destroying, confidence sucking past 8 months I’ve ever had to endure.

My teenage kids don’t need me at home now, I’m ready and excited to be making my entrance back into the workforce. I may have been nurturing my boys but I still kept working throughout.

I started out full of optimism, with awards and industry recognition under my belt to validate the work I’ve done during my time remote working. I’ve continually updated my skills through a mix of online learning, classroom based learning and on-the-job experience. Together with two friends, I’ve created a food tech startup and stepped up to the role of technical co-founder. I still continue to work on this greenfield project which has already gained attention.

And yet:

1) I’ve just been playing at it

As a remote working ‘mother’ I’ve not been doing this seriously, my experience is worthless in the eyes of the tech industry.

2) I don’t have any ‘commercial’ experience

My clients I’ve worked with as a freelance developer don’t count. Nor does working as part of a startup team. Not really.

3) I shouldn’t set my expectations high

I should expect to earn between £20-£25k and stick closer to home, don’t apply to London.

4) I won’t understand complex projects

I’ve just been building ‘mom-and-pop’ websites of only a few pages. A large company that’s spent tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of pounds on a complex site (that I won’t be able to understand) won’t let me work on it in case I break it. Yes, I actually had that said in a conversation with a recruiter last December.

I’ve learnt that there are some really bad recruiters out there who seem to think I’ve spent my time in front of a computer covered in cake mix and wearing a pinny, but thankfully I’ve also discovered some high calibre recruiters worth talking to who’ve encouraged me to persevere.

Hit the ground running

The most common thanks but no thanks, we won’t be taking your application forward conversation is that a company is looking for someone who can hit the ground running. I’ve found that comment interesting enough to look it up in the oxford dictionary.

Hit the ground running
Start something and proceed at a fast pace with great enthusiasm.

Hello? I think what they really mean to say is that sadly it seems that the tech industry has a much wider problem in general, there is a real shortage of senior tech talent. The knock on effect is that junior roles generally require at least ‘three years plus’ experience and an unrealistic sound working knowledge of a whole heap of technologies and frameworks. There’s very little manpower available to support the intake of more junior positions, so where will the senior developers of tomorrow come from? I now realise how wrong I was when I originally wrote my piece for the Guardian. The tech industry is great if you are carving your own path, but try breaking into an employed role and it’s a different story. I know I’m not the only one banging on doors and this isn’t a gender issue, these doors just aren’t opening for anyone.

This isn’t a quick win. I’m now playing the long game, forging relationships with in-house talent acquisition managers, finding out what companies really want and what I need to add to my bag of tricks. I’m making sure I’m on shortlists for when the next intake starts. It’s paid off to speak direct with companies at job fairs. Being able to talk face to face has proven much more effective against that unconscious bias and no, I’m not referring to just being female here, but about my age and being a woman returner.

2017 has tried to tell me that I’m unemployable. That I’ve committed career suicide. 2018 is the year for me to show it otherwise and nail that job in tech. To dig deep and muster up all that determination, passion and resilience I have. To prove those right that said I won’t hit the ground running. Because I know I won’t just hit it, I’ll absolutely smash it.