My first job as a Web Engineer, from doubt to fulfillment

This is what you’ll typically find in the ‘requirements’ section of a tech job vacancy:

“Has strong knowledge in several languages, is “full-stack”, is able to create strong architecture, scalable and flexible, has experience in understanding large and complex code bases, must be proactive and organized, has a great team spirit …”

It scared me too at first. That’s why I thought it could be interesting to share my experience with you in order to demystify tech jobs for juniors.

Dealing with student fears

At the end of engineering school, I had to find an internship that would possibly become my future job. I was not confident in my skills, I felt as if I couldn’t do anything. The only experience I had was from the projects I did at school. How could I compare that to coding for a real app used by millions of people?

From a general engineering school, not everyone was really into code. Some went on to project management jobs or to be junior managers for tech teams. I didn’t feel I was ready for that kind of job at 23. But even if I didn’t feel like a big shot in code, I liked the creative side of it.

To find a job that could really motivate me, I tried to focus on things that really mattered to me in life and my big passion is music. I think this is the big thing when you are about to start your career. You will spend most of your time at work, what will all those hours count for at the end of the day?

Once you work this out, job-hunting will be much easier. You will have the opportunity to be a part of a sector that you are passionate about and that means something to you.

It was a friend from school who made me take the leap to send my resumé. We used to play music together and we both ran the school music club. He was older than me and when he finished school he went to Deezer. He told me it was really cool but that I needed strong technical skills. When I had to look for my final internship, an announcement on came up that matched my skills perfectly. I contacted my friend who told me that he worked with the team that were hiring. So I decided to apply.

But how can you make a difference in a room full of people who are more experienced? Of course you have to know the basics but you will quickly realize that soft skills are as important as hard skills.

This was actually the case for me. My manager was torn between me and another candidate who answered tech questions perfectly and was a very confident coder but who was not really into the music world and seemed less willing to learn. My honesty during the interview, in particular when it comes to admitting I don’t know something, and my genuine interest in the product convinced my manager that I would be the right fit for the job in the long run. So she chose me.

Joining Deezer as a Junior

A developer is vital to any team that wishes to carry out a project successfully. It’s a creative job that gives you the opportunity to design project features and transform ideas into realities. How cool is that?

Ok, so you found a project you want to contribute to, you are convinced that being a developer is awesome, but how do you get a company to hire you?

As I said before you will have to know the basics of the languages you will work on and some common concepts in web engineering (such as design patterns, Object-oriented programming and Inheritance, etc). But they will mostly expect you to be curious and motivated to learn. You haven’t picked up any outdated habits, you are a fresh mind and your future manager will be able to teach you how to code as he does.

What you will learn from your team

Your manager will show you his way of working and how to navigate the workplace. He will also encourage you to take pride in your work. My manager came down to my level and treated me as her equal to encourage me to share, discuss and challenge her ideas. These discussions helped me get an idea of my manager’s guidelines. The more you integrate your manager’s guidelines, the more you will be able to challenge them. You will then be able to see improvements in the code base, you will be more efficient during code reviews and you will be able to apply your manager’s feedback to your code efficiently. Knowledge sharing is the key to building a consistent code base over the years, even if people come and go.

You will not only learn from your team, you will bond with them too. I have a lot in common with my team, some of them are the same age as me and they make everyday at the office more enjoyable. We organise a lot of events like dinners at restaurants, barbecues, or team Hackathons; we had the last event at our Bordeaux office and we spent the weekend together! They are now really good friends of mine.

What a junior brings to seniors and a team

Having a “junior” in a team is an advantage and your manager has as much to learn from you as you from him. Your manager will explain things to you that he has been doing for years, sometimes automatically. If you ask him questions, he will have to explain his process. In some cases, you might be able to point out how a process the team has used for years could be improved or updated. The team will discuss the point and it will be an opportunity for you to ask questions and discuss technical issues. Even if your question doesn’t lead to any changes, it’s always good to question every process you don’t understand. It lets the team know that the process is still up to date and helps you understand why things are done like this. Ultimately it’s a great way for you and your team to make progress!

This sums up my experience at Deezer so far. I know it’s not universal and everyone’s career path is unique but the last factor that will help you feel comfortable in your team is the people. You can be in a company doing amazing things in the sector you love, but if you don’t get on well with your team it won’t work. It’s the same with your mentor. More generally, you need to choose a company whose values match yours so that your time and energy goes towards something you deem worthwhile. I’m glad to have found a team that fulfills all the criteria and makes this first job so enjoyable.