I am one of those fortunate junior developers who found their first job remotely two weeks after graduating from a coding bootcamp. (Thanks Northcoders!)
I had a tech test which was to make a React-Native mobile app that consumes an external API. "Bonus points" for testing and inline validation - they say bonus points, I hear minimal requirement.
I have never used React-Native before and had 3 days to complete the task. I had used React though and also Flutter so at least I had an idea about mobile development. I learnt to use React-Native and learnt to test front-end with Jest and built a Guardian news search app:I started learning the new tech and making the app with the mindset that I didn't really care if I got the job or not. I would learn some cool stuff that I had wanted to learn anyway and I'd have a new piece on my portfolio. I was very conscious that this was the very first job I applied to in a competitive job market in the middle of this coronavirus and lockdown malarkey.
This approach took a lot of pressure off and in the end I felt confident in my app design, code structure, and test coverage. It made me feel very proud of it and got me to the next stage.
I had a webcam interview with the techie people of BankiFi and I had to demo what I made. I answered a bunch of questions about the code and my approach, how I tested, what I tested etc.
I used to think I was a confident interviewee in my previous life as an accountant. I would have known what the interviewer wanted to hear (since I also used to interview), I'd know the technical phrases to use to prove I knew what I was doing. Hell, I understood the questions!
But not this time. This was my first ever tech interview. My first ever tech test. My first ever experience in the real world out there as a future software developer.
I felt confident in my skills and my drive but I didn't know what questions to expect, what to even prepare for. I was madly going through Codewars katas and was terrified of any coding theory questions. Thankfully I got none of that. I built an app in 3 days after all and rightly that was enough to prove my skills.
The last round was then another webcam interview with the CEO and the COO of BankiFi.
Big titles sound scary at first, especially for someone like me with 12-years of corporate-bureaucracy-background-baggage. But you know when you chat to someone and it just feels right? That's how it was. Down-to-earth people who are interested in you as a person and you're not just a number, not just a body doing work.
So I got the job.
It was the first job I applied to and man, does it feel like it was the right one! I know I am lucky, fortunate and I am really grateful. I also am acknowledging that I have been working so hard to get here.
The Friday before starting remotely my Team Lead dropped off my brand new laptop in person(!). We had a super quick, socially distanced encounter, acknowledging we were real people in these unreal circumstances.
With my laptop, I found a little handwritten note that included some login details and overall just welcoming me to the company. I mean WHO DOES THAT?! And why doesn't everyone? After all, it's always the little things.
The Social Aspect Of Starting Remotely
Starting (and working) remotely is not easy. You miss the social interaction, especially at the beginning when you are just getting to know your new colleagues. At BankiFi we have a semi-obligatory 30-minute coffee break on Zoom, EVERY DAY, where it seems that the one great rule is that we don't talk about work. We talk about new recipes, our kid's Zoom birthday party, cycling and much more. Then we continue the good habit with some drinks every Friday afternoon on our On-Nomi call.
A day hasn't passed yet when I didn't have at least 3-4 people (of a team of 8) dropping me a message/call to just check in and see how I was getting on or ask me if I needed anything. More than anything it's weird for them as well to have someone starting remotely who they've never met in person so we're all in the same boat.
After surviving my first week - which was made easy with the support I received - it's safe to say that I already know more about a couple of my colleagues than some past colleagues I had worked with for much longer.
Work Work Work
Day one was just to get familiar with everything. I had a number of calls and video meetings with people, introducing me to the company and the products.
On day two I got my first ticket, wrote my first whole 6 lines of code and made my first pull request (for the non-techie people, ignore this paragraph).
I then spent the rest of the week creating the initial plans and wireframe of what I will be coding and working on in the coming couple of months.
Adapting To A Very Different Company Culture From What I'm Used To
My opinion matters.
That is just as scary as it is exciting but definitely not something I'm used to as a former accountant of big(ish) companies. Having to get creative is not an accountant trait for sure.
When I'm told to go away, plan and pretty much design something on my own it raises some questions for my accountant mind. Where's the person on the top of the chain telling me what to do exactly?
While I'm thrown into the deep end I am also told that I am trusted and if there's any obstacle in my way I am free to say it. I need help? Say it. I need anything I wasn't given? Just bloody say it!
I used to manage people. I was (mid-)management. This should really not be new to me at all. But things just don't work the same way at big organisations where you don't normally have a say.
But let me tell you, it makes me feel free and it makes me feel valued.
I am finally treated like a grown-up.
I start and finish when I feel like, as long as I'm doing work. And man, I want to do work! I don't have a desk-time tracker on my laptop, no one reports me to HR if I log in 2 minutes late, I don't have to clock in and clock out with my fingerprint. (Yup, that's a thing.)
It will definitely take me time to strip off past anxieties of corporate culture but hell, I'm looking forward to it!