My name is Jonathan Moran and I’m an IT & Digital Recruiter here at Chroma. This article is based on a subject that I’ve given a lot of thought to recently. As a recruiter who spends his working week interacting with software developers I’m full of admiration for the job they do and whilst I understand the fundamentals of programming, I make a point of telling candidates I’m not a “techy” person and I can never vet the quality of their code and it isn’t my job to do so. This article is based on my view as a recruiter and not saying any career path is better or worse.
When I entered the world of recruitment two years ago after previously working in tech businesses as a marketer, I assumed that most software developers had taken a computer science degree, before joining a graduate scheme at a tech business. I thought that anyone that was self-taught was simply a hobbyist and wouldn’t be taken seriously in a commercial world in the same way as me making a very tasty shepherd’s pie isn’t going to win me a Michelin star!
As I started to meet more lead developers and hiring managers, I noticed something that is quite unique in this industry; they made a point of telling me if I find a school/college leaver that has been coding since their early teens they’d love to meet them as much or even more so than a computer science graduate. There are however some important points to consider in each case.
Employable Self Taught Developers
Due to the skills shortage, most tech businesses have had to adapt and started to be creative when searching for the best talent, in my experience those that have not yet woken up to this are missing out on an untapped talent pool. However, if you’re considering trying to get employment with no commercial experience your CV almost becomes secondary. Some larger employers offer apprentice schemes for school leavers, but smaller employers are going to want to see some code. As a recruiter when I speak to someone with no commercial experience that wants to get into development, I have a couple of questions.
I recently placed a self-taught developer who dropped out of college 4 years ago to start work as a developer. His salary at his new job is nearly 50% above the national average despite his tender years. When you click on his GitHub account it’s a wall of green projects – he literally codes every day. Whilst this is an extreme example of what can be achieved as a self-taught developer if you can’t show some code or portfolio it’s going to be a challenge to get work.
Some employers still stipulate (rightly or wrongly) that a relevant degree for junior roles is essential. A lot of employers value the foundation and structure that graduates receive over a three year degree. It would be wrong of me to comment on the technical pros and cons of this route as I’m not technical myself. I have however given some thoughts from my experience as a recruiter.
This is the first part of a short series of blogs about the best route into software development. I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts and experience on this topic.