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Highlighting a Co.Lab Alumnus’s Journey to Web Development
Have you experienced a point in your career where you paused and thought, huh…you’re comfortable? Too comfortable.
Alexander Calia came to that conclusion in 2020. After eight years in the IT space as a technical systems specialist, he realized his career growth was becoming stagnant. What he was doing leaned more towards the generalist side. He needed to specialize. It was time to level up.
And level up he did.
Alexander recently landed his first web-development role at Air Miles and this week would be his first week! Before this? He was one of Co.Lab’s very own developers in the Winter 2021 cohort. (Pssst—applications for the Spring 2021 Software Developer program is now open!!)
So how did he work his way to a dev role with no relevant work experience, and what were some of his learnings along the way?
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When a friend suggested having a go at web-development, Alexander said ‘why not?’
“Making things that people enjoy, whether if it’s a video game or a web-app…I just thought it was very cool. It was exciting to know that I made something or help make something that a lot of people are going to use – that was what drew me into software development.”
Similar to past Co.Laborators who quit their jobs to pursue software development, Alexander left his company at the time to attend a 3-month boot-camp full time. Alexander needed to learn the foundations of web-development and structured learning would be one of the better ways to help make his career switch smoother.
But it was the job-search that really tested his conviction and fortitude.
7 months until he finally found a developer job after boot-camp.
“Mentally, it was taking a toll for sure. I knew I was good professionally, but it was tough to prove that to a stranger on a resume or in an interview. There were some days where I wouldn’t apply because either I was feeling I wasn’t feeling good enough yet, seeing all those 3-5 years of experience required.
But I knew that I couldn’t give up. I was committed. I quit my job, I know that I don’t want to go back to IT. I spent the time and money so I’m not just going to give it up and just go back to what I was doing. I knew it was just a matter of the right place, right time.”
Alexander kept at his learning by practicing code, mock interviews, and improving his resume through the entire job-search process. He attended a hackathon to put his coding skills to the test and expand his network. He kept up with what’s trending in tech and what recruiters were currently looking for in the field to ensure that his skill-sets always stay relevant.
Still, it was hard to catch the eyes of recruiters when he had no prior programming experience, teamwork experience, and tangible products he speak to in his resume and interviews
I guess it was the right place and right time when Co.Lab came in.
Alexander’s team aimed to build a website for a non-profit organization, Community Fridges Toronto, to promote their mission and build brand awareness outside of the Instagram space. Having real stakeholders to build an idea for definitely drove up Alexander’s level of commitment to see this project through to the end.
“I was invested. I wanted to help them succeed. It wasn’t just a Co.Lab project anymore, I really wanted to help this organization get out there and spread the word.”
Check out Co.Lab’s previous cohort’s demos and see the CFTO website that Alexander’s team built! (https://www.joincolab.io/blog/an-exciting-demo-day-recap)
Alexander enjoyed that hands-on experience of working in a team, bouncing ideas off of each other and providing valuable input to the UX designer and product manager. Something he didn’t expect to learn but appreciated was seeing first-hand how product designers went through their process and how it passed down to the development stage.
Best of all? He could confidently speak to the product he helped ship.
“I was the sole developer on this project. I was the one making the tech decisions, the one who came up with the technical solution in terms of materializing the idea and design into a tangible product. Just getting that experience and coming up with something tangible is a confidence booster, and it was definitely going to help me in the interview process.”
The fun doesn’t stop there. To this day, Alexander’s team is still working on the website despite the program having ended. Talk about dedication!
That was one thing Alexander emphasized on when asked what advice he would give to those breaking into software development.
“Be confident in yourself. Know that you can do this and show the interviewer that you’re passionate and that you really want to do this. Believe that you’re capable of figuring it out eventually, because a big part of software development is really researching and learning on the job.
A lot of the time, especially in junior roles, they don’t expect you to know all the answers, but they expect you to find the answers. Don’t worry about not knowing, you’re going to figure it out. So be confident that you’re capable of doing the research, you’re capable of learning, and you’re capable of putting that learning to work.
It was also one of the reasons I joined the program. Co.Lab was definitely a confidence booster for me.”
And it was definitely the confidence Alexander exuded (on top of his knowledge and skills!) that attracted the hiring manager at Air Miles. A huge congratulations to our Co.Labator alumnus and all the best in his new role!
Alexander’s inspiring story is one of many Co.Lab has heard and shared with the community. Check out the You Belong in Tech booklets for more tales of trials, tribulations, and uplifting successes from software developers, product managers, and product designers with non-traditional backgrounds.
Want to share your story? Let us know!
By the way, Dameli, will be sharing how she went from being an accountant to a software engineer next Thursday. Want to join this FREE event and connect with some others? Sign up here: https://lu.ma/youbelongintech