Landing your first Software Engineering role Part 2

Resume strategies and overcoming imposter syndrome

Sefunmi Osinaike
February 17, 2021

Did you enjoy reading Anam and Bhavan’s story in last week’s blog post? Hope so, because we’re back again to share actionable tips and advice for folks looking to begin their Software Engineering career. 

In today’s article, I spoke with Seun, who was very honest and candid about the strategies that helped her break into and succeed as a Software Engineer at Pagerduty.

Meet Seun

What role do you play on your team?

I am a full-stack engineer at Pagerduty. I build mostly microservices but I also do some infrastructure development. 

I pretty much touch everything that needs to go from designing to developing to testing and deploying applications to production.

What advice would you give aspiring devs trying to break into the role?

I would say that practice makes perfect. If you're looking at a job posting that you would like to apply for, look into what the requirements are, and try to do those things yourself.

If you want to be a frontend developer, look for tutorials on building a website, follow them and when you’re done, come up with your own problem. Build a website for your friend, for yourself, or just for testing.  

I find that when people follow tutorials, you don't really realize how much of it you don't ingest. When you're actually doing it yourself, that's when you learn a lot more and that's when it permeates a lot more.

By the time you've done a couple of these projects, you already know how it works and the tools that you need to use.”

What was the most helpful thing you did when starting as a dev?

The most helpful thing I did was ask a lot of questions. 

I asked everybody and anybody to help me go over my resume. I asked questions to understand what kind of projects and experiences companies were looking for. I looked at companies’ websites, their job descriptions so that I could demonstrate what experience they were looking for and then, I put it on my resume.

I also did a lot of projects and followed a lot of tutorials. I’d look at a job posting and try to figure out how I could do this and what I needed to do to acquire those skills. 

I think what's really helpful is having an inquisitive mind, pushing yourself to identify the thing that you want to do and try to figure out how to get there. Optimizing for learning is also a really big thing. So, try to pick situations where you learn more.

That made a big difference. 

One thing to remember is that there's nothing that you're doing that is unique. Somebody else out there has struggled before and has worked with a particular company that can give you some insight into their interview process.

If you are just starting out as a developer, working on meaningful projects goes a long way on your resume. Showing up with the same projects as the tutorial doesn’t give you the edge, it just shows you know how to follow instructions. You need to think outside the box. 

Beyond coding, a career in Software Development is about using your skills to solve problems. Leverage those around you to find creative ideas you’d be excited to work on. Having an external stakeholder will also keep you accountable so that you get it done and you’ll also have someone to give you feedback.

Attend the Winter 2021 Demo Day!

Our Co.Laborators have been hard at work for the past few weeks! Come hear from Product Managers, Designers and Developers on how their first time working within a real product team went, and see their shipped products in action!

What is something you learnt on the job that you didn't expect?

“I think the biggest thing I learned on the job is that not everybody has it all together. It's very easy to have imposter syndrome where you feel like you are the least talented or least clever. Especially when you are the one with the least experience.

But everybody else is just figuring it out. A lot of Senior Engineers don’t remember the simple things that you know. We are all valuable and we are all needed at the table and I think that took me a while to digest.

Regardless of how confident somebody may be talking, they may not know their stuff as much as you do. So be confident in what you know, be confident in your experience and be confident in your inexperience as well and sometimes that's also valuable to the topic of discussion.

Another thing is that, if you don't know something, your questions can actually prompt people to think about any biases they may have had or any assumptions that they may have made because you've brought a fresh mind to the table. 

Sometimes, when you don't know something and you ask a question, you make the team be more productive. The difference is getting the answer in five minutes versus doing the research yourself which might take you two days. 

Your time is the team’s time! So the less time you spend on something, the more effective the team is. So the more you ask questions that give you the answers quickly, the more effective you're actually making the team. 

It's just being yourself and being confident in who you are, and just know that not everybody has it all together. You don't have to deal with imposter syndrome. That is the biggest thing I learnt that I didn’t expect.”

Seun made a very valid point that isn’t talked about enough in the tech industry: that feeling like you don’t belong. But we’re here to tell you that you’re capable! You are where you are today because you have earned your place in tech and no one should make you feel otherwise. It is all about learning, growing, and embracing the unknown. While solving interesting problems of course! 

Overcoming imposter syndrome can be difficult though. Especially when you don’t have a group that you can easily reach out to about how you feel.

Having that safe environment is key. Being able to make mistakes, being able to learn and fail freely is absolutely valuable to your success. And having someone there to tell you, hey you got this, is sometimes the make it or break it factor between you cutting yourself short, or succeeding beyond your wildest dreams. Go find that community, and we guarantee it will be life-changing. 

Anyhow, we hope this was helpful. Stay tuned for the next part of this series, where we bring you more tips from Software Engineers in the industry. Let us know what you think and what other topics you’d like us to write about to help you start as a developer. You can also suggest folks who you think would be great to interview. We would love to tell their stories! 


Want to join the Co.Lab community as a Developer? Work through the highs and lows as a team and actually ship an end-to-end product? Gain confidence knowing that you’re capable, and have mentors work with you directly? If that sounds like something you’d benefit from, apply ASAP to join us! 

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