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Heidi Exove's Developer Trainee
People, Technology by Heidi Lammi-Mihaljov,

How I got an IT job as an adult learner

If you had told me two years ago that I would be working as a developer trainee in a dream-come-true job I wouldn’t have believed it.

Back then I was a 35-year-old with several degrees in my back pocket but none of them related to IT and I had no experience in programming. To be honest, I didn’t even know what programming was exactly.

Yet here I am today, writing code for a living and feeling like a valuable member of a software company (and of the whole society, really)! Here are my thoughts on what it took to get this far.

Detouring into employment

As mentioned above, I have studied quite extensively through the years trying to find my path into employment. I have a Master’s degree in English philology and vocational qualifications in horticulture and music. My previous studies have certainly taught me plenty and shaped me into the person that I am. However, in today’s labour market they have only made me qualified for temporary jobs, which has left me feeling uncertain about the future.

So once again, I jumped at the chance and started studying for yet another degree, this time in the field of IT, with one goal in mind: to finally build a career that could last into the foreseeable future. During my studies, I was also delighted to find programming to be really fascinating and intellectually stimulating which I had been missing in my previous jobs.

When after 1,5 years of hard studying I started applying for jobs I was highly skeptical yet truly motivated to succeed in landing in a junior or trainee developer position. Lacking relevant experience in the field, I wasn’t at all certain of my success, but I thought that if I didn’t manage to get employed yet, I’d get valuable experience for the future anyway.

In addition to being a beginner I thought that some companies might run a mile from an employee of my age. There are plenty of young talents with great potential amongst IT students so why would anyone choose me? I decided that if a company had a problem with my age, it would probably be a place where I wouldn’t want to work anyway.

Gladly my age was never an issue with some of the companies and as to my surprise I received quite many invitations to interviews and even several job offers. The offer that rose above the others came from Exove. I was offered a developer trainee position for the summer and, if everything went as planned, the possibility to continue working with them in the autumn after the trainee period while finishing my studies.

Lessons learned

Surely the ongoing IT boom and shortage of available professionals worked to my advantage in getting employed rather quickly. However, I learned that there are plenty of ways in which you can prepare for future job-hunting.

In addition, after almost three months of working as a developer trainee I feel that I am in a position to share some tips and insights that I have gained along the way both as as an adult learner and as an trainee in the field of IT. Maybe they will help someone trying to get their first job.

These are the valuable lessons I’ve learned on how to get the first job in IT:

1. Focus on studying

2. Learn thoroughly the basics and principles of one programming language

3. Build something of your own to show your programming skills

4. When coding, take breaks

5. Get a mentor or help from others

6. Mingle with people on the field

7. Prepare for the interviews

8. Get to know the company you are applying for

9. Don’t be too picky on jobs

10. Learn to google and to ask questions

11. Keep it positive

This was just a summary of the things I’ve learned so far. If you are interested in digging deeper on those tips, take a look at my other blog post 11 tips on getting an IT job.

I’d be fooling you if I said that it’s as easy as that! Actually, it was a lot of hard work but I got there. And all that I needed was perseverance, hard work and little bit of luck.

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