Tips & Tricks on How to Get Your First Job In Tech

I gave a talk last Thursday about getting an entry level job in tech for Pyvo, Brno's Python user group meetup. The talk happened online and is in English, but it's specifically about how to get an entry level job in the Czech Republic, in 2020. The market I describe may be very different from what you can experience in your region, and the advice I give could be irrelevant or just plain useless. You can find the recording of the talk at YouTube now, and the slides are published at my SpeakerDeck.

There has been a very fruitful session of Q&A at the end of the talk. Before start I shared a Google Document with the attendees, where they could ask questions by simply writing them down to a prepared list (anoymously, if they liked). I also encouraged them to share any notes there if they like, and I provided some links to stuff I'll be talking about. A handout I compiled from this collaborative effort follows. I also tried to provide short written answers for all of the questions.

Questions and Answers#

  • Q: Experiences with finding YOUR first job? :)
    A: I started with a part-time job during high school. First I joined the company to seal envelopes (30 CZK/h), but then they learned I know some CSS and HTML, so they promoted me to a junior web designer (70 CZK/h).

  • Q: Is it bad to have a “half build / project with bugs” project on my github?
    A: It's not! I preach freedom of what one puts on their GitHub profile. I preach your GitHub profile is your playground and you should not feel ashamed to have anything you like there. If someone asks you about a project on your profile, tell them truth: It's unfinished, it's something I made years ago and would do differently now (explain why and how), it's something you've been only playing around, etc. You can use the "pinned repositories" feature to make some repositories more visible. You can use the "archive repository" feature to signal that something is an old project you don't pay attention to anymore.

  • Q: Is it ok to apply for a job, which is looking for a junior, but in the post it says at least 2years experience?
    A: It's hard to say. Often even the companies don't know exactly what they want, and they're trying how experinced people they're able to get. I'd say that if you feel like you can compensate years of experience with good projects and attitude, you have nothing to lose if you try.

  • Q: Resources where to train solving technical tests/tasks?
    A: Here:

  • Q: Should you mention your education in your CV, even if it’s not IT-related?
    A: I think yes. Definitely mention any university-level school, if you have it. If you used to be a doctor, mention it. Of course, it doesn't make much sense to list all the dentist certificates you collected, only a high-level overview of your education. Also it depends on the company you're trying to apply to. If you're applying to a company which focuses on software for hospitals, your healthcare education is actually super relevant.

  • Q: Despite the COVID-19 context, should we accept remote jobs as juniors? I guess it’s not the best at the beginning:-(
    A: I've done some research and I asked both HR people and senior people about this. From the answers it seems that companies now hire even juniors remotely. Seniors claim it's not such an issue if people are able to communicate, jump on a quick call, and so on. The HR people were less amused, but had "what else can we do, it's the only way now, so we're trying to deal with it" attitude. As for whether it's the best start for the junior, I'd say it doesn't matter that much. Remotely joining a company, which is dedicated to help you grow, is much better than personally joining a company, which abandons you two days after onboarding and their seniors don't have time to answer your questions even though they sit next to you.

  • Q: Do you have some experiences with online freelance jobs? How to become freelancer? Is Freelancing recommended for juniors?
    A: I just wrote two new sections about it in my handbook:

  • Q: How Corona affected the job market? There are probably many seniors searching for job now - is it too bad? Do juniors still have some hope?
    A: I still see junior jobs advertised and I see juniors getting jobs. I don't think it's much worse than before. Juniors do still have hope :)

  • Q: Should you accept an unpaid internship?
    A: Depends on what you get from it. I think people don't properly value what they get for free. Even though you're junior, you'll still get some work done and even if symbolically, I think you should be compensated. It really depends on the conditions. If you want to gain some practice on a real world project, you can also ask around in nonprofit communities and do pro bono work, where your relationship, commitment, and compensation is very clear: you're a volunteer, you gain experience, you can stop or take a break any time, you make the world a better place. See also junior.guru/candidate-handbook/#internships

  • Q: Do you know a well-done tutorial / (online) course to understand how GitHub works, please?!
    A: I like the opensource.guide, which gives you the high-level basics of what Open Source is and how it works. Then I'd recommend to get a friend who has some experience with Open Source and ask him to give you a primer. I think it's the easiest way, because this stuff is just too hard to read from a manual, but perhaps one day I'll stumble upon something good and I'll start recommending it.

  • Q: Are there in Brno some conferences, meets or anything else for practice english in IT?
    A: brnotoastmasters.cz, junior.guru/learn/#english Not IT focused, but nice english training sources:

  • Q: Is there a website or anything similar to Glassdoor which provides (IT) company reviews in Czech R. in regards to their pay, culture etc?
    A: atmoskop.cz

  • Q: Which companies would you recommend in Brno for Junior tech jobs? Start up, smaller or bigger corporations?
    A: junior.guru/jobs/region/brno/

  • Q: And which are the companies hiring juniors in Prague?
    A: junior.guru/jobs/region/praha/

  • Q: You said that bigger companies are more comfortable for juniors but won’t we learn more in a small company?
    A: Each has it's pros and cons. Highly depends on your preferences and how adventurous you feel. See junior.guru/candidate-handbook/#job-types and the chapters below that.

  • Q: Is it appropriate to offer companies to work as an intern for free?
    A: Last time I checked it's borderline unpaid work (illegal), but as it's borderline, it happens to exist. I'd prefer if even interns are paid. In some countries I heard it's totaly normal that interns are not paid at all. See junior.guru/candidate-handbook/#internships

  • Q: Is there a way to start with IT other than web development? It often feels to me like this is 90% of IT job market and everything, but maybe it’s just my “social bubble”. Maybe how I could get to something else?
    A: Web development is everywhere, because it's what the the world is currently excited about, and it's not so hard for newbies to start with it (unlike, I don't know, artificial intelligence?). There are other fields, where juniors come handy, perhaps less visible, but they do exist. Tech writers, SRE, DevOps, automation engineers, testers (developers of automated tests), data analysts, and more.

  • Q: what is appropriate or recommended to add to a junior's github? For example are Pyladies homeworks appropriate? Or is it better to skip that, and upload more "serious" projects?
    A: See previous question. I fight for the freedom to put anything you play with on your GitHub. If the question is about "what projects are good enough to serve as a show off during my job interview?", then PyLadies homeworks are okay for a start, but I'm afraid it won't suffice. Your own separate project, which you'll create, develop, play with, deploy, etc. is prefferable, as it clearly demonstrates what you can do on your own, what technologies you can tame, how you solve problems, what you're able to finish, how you can break down assignment into smaller tasks.

  • Q: Could it be said if it’s better for a junior to work for a company which has its own product vs for a company which is “hired” by other companies to create a project for them?
    A: Up to your preference, each has its pros and cons. See junior.guru/candidate-handbook/#job-types

  • Q: What is an appropriate salary range for a junior in Brno? What about Ostrava?
    A: There's not enough good data to answer this precisely. The country average is around 30 000 CZK. See junior.guru/candidate-handbook/#salary, perhaps also cooljobs.eu

  • Q: Same question for Prague (especially for a junior Data analyst)!
    A: There's not enough good data to answer this precisely. The country average is around 30 000 CZK. See junior.guru/candidate-handbook/#salary, perhaps also cooljobs.eu

  • Q: Start as a junior developer in an IT or non-IT company? In regard to learning opportunities and future progress.
    A: Similar to previous question. A non-IT company with an IT department is very similar to how a product company is arranged. See junior.guru/candidate-handbook/#job-types

  • Q: Which companies are the best teachers for juniors? In which company can a junior expect to learn best practices instead of learning to do things in the not so prefered way?
    A: Great question! I think even seniors with they would be able to answer this with some level of generalization. The truth is, there's no way how to know this with a system of some simple rules of thumb. This is what the interview process is for. You observe the company, look for red flags, company culture, attitude to teaching and mentoring, attitude to technologies, and then you decide, if it's the right place for you. In the Czech Republic, you also have additional three more months of the probation period to figure this out. Do your homework and prepare good questions for the reverse interview.

I didn't edit the questions, they're authentic questions asked by the audience, with all their grammar imperfections. The answers I share in this handout can be different from those I gave during the live questions as they're answers I'm typing now, not a transcript of what I said week ago.

Thanks to Simon Willison for the Google Document idea. Big thanks to the organizers for inviting me and thanks everyone for having me. I didn't expect so many questions and I'm very excited about such massive response! It was a very nice evening.