To make landing an internship or a first job as a junior developer as painless as possible, IT students should take after art students when it comes to creating their portfolio, said Raimo Seero, Chief Technology Officer of Uptime.
Seero pointed out that although there is a need for thousands of new developers, finding your first job or internship can still be difficult, as many companies often look for specialists with at least a couple of years of work experience. At the same time, taking one’s first steps in the sector is not made easier by the fact that the resumes used by developers at the beginning of their career often only list their name and 1-2 unrelated work experiences, meaning it is difficult to understand their actual skills.
Although not a lot of experience is expected from a junior developer or trainee, any achievement that can highlight a sincere interest in the sector, or the skills learned at school, will make it easier to find your first job.
“This means that IT students and self-learners should approach the problem at hand like art students,” he said. “Art students start building their portfolio from day one – no matter how small the project, it will be added to their portfolio, as such helping any potential employer see what can the person actually bring to the table.”
According to the CTO, those who wish to work in the IT sector should take the same approach. “When looking for an internship or a junior developer role, a person usually doesn’t have work experience in the field, and if after three years of studying they can only show that they have acquired theoretical knowledge of programming but no real hands-on experience, it is almost impossible for an employer to understand what level they are really on,” he said.
“One of the good ways to populate your portfolio is definitely all kinds of school and student projects,” said Seero. “For example, if a group of students created a new Moodle module as part of their course work, it is something that could be added to the portfolio. Just explain which part you built, what approach you took for it, and what was the result.”
Another good way to show off your practical experience is through hackathons and other side projects. “If you for example took part in an event where you wrote the codebase to control a robot created by the rest of your team, it’s an ideal way to show a potential employer that you can put what you’ve learned in school into practice,” he said.
Uptime’s CTO also highlighted smaller self-made applications that could be created just for fun or to test a programming language you’ve just learned in school. “The application you create doesn’t have to be beautiful, it doesn’t have to work very well, and it doesn’t have to be presentable. What is important is that you have tried to create something, have gone through the process, and have learned something from it,” he noted.
One clever way to ensure that you have enough motivation to complete projects on your own is to set yourself a time frame, such as creating one application per semester. “If you don’t have any ideas, it’s worth contacting your lecturers or any IT company and asking for a project recommendation. In 99% of the cases, they will be happy to give you some ideas. If you are particularly lucky, they will agree to provide feedback after the project is completed,” he said.
According to Seero, the most important thing is that a junior developer would be able and willing to show that they are enthusiastic and really have some skills that could be further refined during the internship or actual work. According to him, what matters is not how prestigious or sexy the projects you’ve worked on are, but that something has been done.
“The fields of art and IT are very different, but it seems that following the lead of art students would be beneficial for young developers,” said the chief technology officer. “An art student comes out of school with a long and thorough portfolio. If an IT student could even meet this achievement halfway, they can be sure that finding their first job or internship will be much easier.”