My second developer job application

After my first unsuccessful developer job application with a very large company, I decided to try something different for my next attempt. I applied for a position as a junior JavaScript developer with a very small startup called Circular Wave, and to cut a long story short, I got the job!

Gong

I couldn't make it to London myself to bang Makers Academy's ceremonial gong, as is customary when a graduate gets hired, so my coach Sam banged it on my behalf, and I couldn't think of a better person to do so.

Application process

The process of applying for this job was very different to my previous attempt. Whereas the previous position was with one of Makers Academy's hiring partners, this one isn't, and was simply found on a public job site. For full disclosure, the position was actually brought to my attention by Will from the Makers Academy team, a fact for which I'm hugely grateful. Once I'd applied for the position I was in regular contact with the co-founder of the company. This was a nice change from what I've seen from larger companies, where you tend to bounce between hiring departments and HR people. With such a small startup all contact took place directly with the company founders themselves.

A small startup with a big vision

The startup in question, Circular Wave, was founded in order to create products and services that aim to resolve some of the problems the NHS is currently facing. The company was co-founded by an ex-doctor, who upon experiencing those problems within the NHS first hand, decided to do something about it. He took some time out from work to teach himself to code, and together with a friend who is an experienced developer, founded the company.

After checking out my CV and GitHub profile the Circular Wave team sent me a tech test to complete at home. The test was conducted in Vanilla JavaScript, meaning only JavaScript, no additional frameworks. I was given a purposely broken code base and instructed how it should function, if some of the code wasn't missing, requiring me to write my own functions to fill the gaps. Of the code that was present, several bugs were purposely introduced too, which I would have to find and fix. Initially I was a bit overwhelmed by the test, especially because the Makers Academy course primarily taught the Ruby programming language, with a comparatively small amount of JavaScript, and the test relied on the knowledge and implementation of some of the more nuanced features of the language. However my training soon kicked in and I began to break down the problem line by line, in the computational thinking manner that the course has instilled in us, and slowly the functionality began falling in to place. I completed the test in a little over three hours, and I still have no idea how that time compares to others who completed it.

An invitation to interview

After submitting my tech test and waiting for a day or two I was told that Circular Wave wanted to invite me for an interview. Being a brand new startup whose only staff at the time were the two founders, Circular Wave don't currently have an office, and as such my interview was scheduled to take place at a restaurant. The interview was really informal, the most relaxed interview I've ever experienced. It didn't take long for me to realise that the two co-founders were great guys, and what really struck me was both how well they'd done their due diligence and market research in planning the product, and how passionate they were about it. For the first half of the interview we discussed standard interview type questions regarding my experience, plans for the future, etc. Even though the questions came thick and fast, the encounter still felt more like a friendly chat than a job interview.

Proceedings then turned more technical, and my tech test submission was opened on a laptop. I was asked about my code, to step through it line by line and explain how it works. I honestly wasn't expecting this, I'd kind of assumed that the technical assessment had already been taken care of, but it absolutely makes sense, after all Circular Wave had no proof that I even sat that test myself, I might have had somebody else complete it on my behalf.

Analysing my code did bring up something pretty funny about my solution. At one point I'd implemented a complex 30 line function that I was pleased with, it certainly worked as I intended. However once I'd stepped through it and explained how it worked, I was told that the exact same functionality could have been implemented in only 1 line of code! While I thought at first that this would be detrimental to my chances, I was told it was actually a good thing, because it demonstrated that I'd genuinely thought about the problem for myself and solved it methodically. It also strongly suggested that I hadn't just copied my answer from the internet, because no experienced JavaScript programmer in their right mind would use the technique I employed, unless perhaps they were getting paid by the line!

Afterwards I was told that I'd be given a few small coding and logic challenges to solve. Most of the challenges were based around specific features of the JavaScript language, and while I solved the majority there were some questions that I couldn't answer, which were attributable to my lack of experience with JavaScript rather than my problem solving abilities. One particular challenge was a language-neutral logic problem, which I solved in around a minute. I was unsure whether I'd solved it quickly enough, when I was told that several computer science graduates (each with at least three years' coding experience) had been interviewed for the same job already, and none of them had managed to solve that problem at all! I mention this not to boast, but to illustrate how effective the Makers Academy process is when compared to a more traditional education.

The entire interview took two and a half hours, and I left feeling that I'd done pretty well. I felt that on a personal level I'd got on well with my interviewers, and that my logic skills were good too, however I was aware that I'd fallen down on some of the JavaScript specific questions. I did however come away knowing that this was by far the most exciting company I've experienced (not just in the tech world, but in my entire career), and I was incredibly hopeful that I'd be successful.

A long wait

The wait to discover my fate was an agonising couple of weeks, because Circular Wave still had several other people to interview before they could make a decision. However when I did receive the phone call, it was exactly the answer I'd been hoping for! Interestingly Circular Wave were looking to employ two junior JavaScript developers in identical roles, and the other successful applicant happened to come from my own cohort at Makers Academy! The Circular Wave team said that of all the applicants they'd seen, the Makers Academy graduates were by far the most passionate, the best problem solvers and the most keen to learn.

The end of a chapter

And with that comes an inevitable conclusion to this chapter of my story. Makers Academy does work. Four months ago I was still working at my non-coding job with no real coding experience to speak of, and now I'm actually employed as a developer.

I'm very grateful to Circular Wave for giving me this chance. I'm aware that several more experienced developers had applied for the job, and still they chose to take a risk on a brand new developer. I'll now make it my priority to become as experienced as possible, as quickly as possible, so that I can start to help them realise their vision.

I still have a bit more to say about Makers Academy, so I'll be writing a retrospective post in the coming weeks. But for now, it's time to celebrate!