Hot girl summer would not be complete without me sharing some big wins and even bigger announcements. These past few months have been exciting, challenging, and eventful to say the least. Thankfully, I’m happy to report my life has been completely redefined in major ways due to accepting my first full-time role as a Software Engineer for a local Austin, TX tech startup!
As an African-American single mother with a non-CS degree, this huge leap into tech brings forth so many new opportunities and gains. While some of us know the saying “it ain’t no fun ‘less we all get some” let me break it down for the folks at home who don’t know what that means. Outside of coding, a lot of my goals revolve around tech outreach and specifically motivating underrepresented groups in tech. So it is with my purest intent to write this piece in hopes to motivate others who may feel that Computer Science jobs are out of their league while also cheering on recent grads who are just a few more code tests away from landing their first CS job. Below are some helpful quick tips to keep in mind when you’re ready to join in on all the fun:
- Have clear goals about what you want and what you don’t want
Stay on your path and master your craft! There were many recruiters who looked at my previous background and education then settled on me being purely a designer although my goals aligned with doing both design and development. Stay the course, don’t settle.
- Know your worth
Have a plan. An outline so to speak of the job title you desire, the pay you desire, and all the other intricacies you are wanting from your next position. Write it out. Now ask yourself if you actually believe you can acquire all the things you wrote down. If the answer is no, then that is the same energy you are giving off to the recruiter who is viewing your resume, or browsing your online portfolio, or better yet sitting across from you in an interview.
I struggled with this myself at the beginning of my job search. I wanted a certain job title and pay but I didn’t truly believe I had accomplished enough to actually land that job. So, I went back to the drawing board and revamped my website, resume, blog, business cards. You name it, I improved it until I exhibited a certain quality that I knew employers I valued would take notice in. Also, in knowing your worth, be sure that you are giving your time and energy to the right people (or companies). Don’t burn yourself out by scheduling 20 interviews in a week when you know you’re not the slightest bit interested in half of those companies. Give your time, care, and attention to the opportunities you value.
- Add 20% then secure the bag
This tip came from a handful of women in tech who recommended taking your salary requirement and adding an additional 20% on top of that. The main reason they advised this is to close the gender wage gap. Research shows men are more likely to negotiate their salary, whereas women are less likely to negotiate. So, if the thought of negotiating makes you feel uneasy then just follow this simple tip of padding your asking price. If you’re okay with $60K try asking for $72K instead. Know your value, be confident!
- Do what you can and the rest will follow
Don’t be so hard on yourself if things are taking longer than you anticipated or things didn’t turn out the way you planned. Let go, breathe, and do what you can. Don’t burn yourself out before you get to your first payout.
- Find your support system
A support system is not limited to just friends and family. Some of the best support I received was from people who I regularly saw at the library I studied at or from commuters who constantly saw me chipping away at homework lessons while on the bus. Also, you can make use of social media to find groups you can lean on for support.
If you enjoyed those tips and want more then I highly recommend reading I know why companies aren’t hiring junior developers where you can gain insights on how to set yourself apart from the hiring pool. Also, be sure to comment below if you want a more in-depth view of how to get into the tech industry.
Last but certainly not least, I want to take time to acknowledge the people and organizations who had a major role in helping me land my first full-time Software Engineer role.
First, I’d like to shoutout my family that provided support to my daughter and I during this transitional period in our life. Big shoutout to my mentors Emmanuel Stinson, Lisa A, Will Turnage! Thank you to the staff and faculty at Highline College for acting as my extended family and supporting me every step of the way. A big round of applause for the #BlackTechTwitter fam! Huge thank you to Udacity and Grow with Google for the Frontend Web Development scholarship which challenged me and prepared me for my current role. Thank you to GitHub for inviting me to speak at GitHub Universe 2018 which was validating and inspiring not only for myself but for other underrepresented minorities in tech to see someone like myself being represented on a large platform. Big ups to Nipsey Hussle, Curren$y, Beyonce, and Megan Thee Stallion for giving me the musical willpower to keep it pushing. Thank you to Shante Austin and @BrittneyBall07 for being living proof examples of women who also redefined themselves within the tech sector. Last but not least thank you to the fam at Senseye for being an inclusive team that continues to welcome talent ranging from all backgrounds and Vettery.com for matching me with them! Notable mention to myself for sticking it through and taking the negative or critical feedback and flipping it into something constructive.