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What more do I need to do in order to make a realistic application for a junior developer?

 
Greenhorn
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Hi all. I'll try to keep this as succint as possible, but I'd really appreciate any advice that you are able to offer regarding how realistic it is for me to attempt to apply for a junior position, or if not, what other steps I should take?

I'm a self-taught programmer - I started 8 months ago, which I grant you isn't particularly long, but due to personal circumstances I've been able to devote an average of about 7-8 hours per day, pretty much every day.

Formal qualifications:

I've no CS degree - mine is a science subject, so the only thing I can offer up is the OCAJP V8 which I've just recently passed. I do intend to take the OCJP, but I'm not sure I can face it quite yet!

Experience:

Sadly none.

Factors against:

Im 41. I realise that there is some ageism abound, however I have no intention of dropping dead quite yet, and the way the UK is going the retirement age will probably be 307 before too much longer anyway.

Project:

Obviously I realise that I need to have something to showcase so I decided to write a web application that is a media server. The fictious scenario is that it could be used by a chain of pubs / restaurants etc to play their music to customers.

I've used Spring, Hibernate and JQuery

Functionality:

Users can create profiles, login and edit their profile.
Upload single songs, or entire albums.
If the latter then cover art is automatically downloaded from the MusicBrainz cover art archive.
Simple search function for searching songs, artists, albums
Pagination of returned data from search and profile pages that organises the returned JSON data into artists, albums and genres.
Play songs (or video for that matter) using embedded JPlayer
Friend system that allows users to access other's music collection - i.e. imagine two pubs / bars with similar clientele can share songs.

Does this seem reasonable enough?

I realise there's a lot of similar posts about the level required to go for a junior position, so I hope this isn't too cheeky to ask whether I'm at that level, still have work to do, or whether I'm just plain kidding myself!
Anyway, I'm rambling so thanks for reading!
 
Bartender
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What kind of work did you do previously? If you can sell your previous experience in a particular field e.g. finance, or in a given role, that may help to balance out your lack of experience in IT.

Also, numeracy is a very valuable skill in many areas e.g. finance, big data, statistical systems, scientific/engineering applications etc. Did your science degree give you these skills?

Finally, here in the UK the Civil Service is desperately short of developers and is also much more willing to recruit older applicants without the typical CS background. They also tend to value soft skills, often more than technical skills! Start looking for public sector jobs in your area or simply apply through general recruitment portals e.g. central government websites like https://www.civilservicejobs.service.gov.uk/csr/. Salaries are lower than in the private sector, but other benefits are good and they will usually pay for training, so this might be a good option for your first IT job.

At this stage you've got nothing to lose by putting a few speculative applications out there, and any feedback may help you to refine your approach next time.

Good luck!
 
chris webster
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PS Welcome to JavaRanch!
 
Steven Allan
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Thank-you Chris - I appreciate your post.

My degree was in Genetics and Microbiology, and I worked in a couple of laboratories and as a field researcher, followed by starting a degree in Medicine at Barts and the London. So, yes, I can certainly demonstrate experience in fields that absolutely require accuracy, good data-handling skills and numeracy.

I moved on from that and ran my own medical videography company, and then later on a medical supplies company. A mixture of recession and (genuine) bad luck killed this off - so hence needing a career change. Having tinkered on-and-off, to a minor degree, since the age of 8 with computer programming I figured that this is what I would most enjoy doing.

I'll check your suggested link, and, thanks again for the suggestion and your help :-)
 
chris webster
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Well, it depends on what kind of applications you want to work on, but there is a lot of money going into Big Data and genomics in the UK right now:

http://www.computerweekly.com/feature/Genomics-England-exploits-big-data-analytics-to-personalise-cancer-treatment
http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/research-technologies/2015/150213-pr-collaborations-tackle-bioscience-big-data/
http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/news/2390081/caredata-and-big-data-will-fill-dangerous-gaps-in-nhs-and-futureproof-it-with-genomics-argues-tim-kelsey
http://www.dundee.ac.uk/news/2015/dundee-to-lead-big-data-challenge-.php

If you're still interested in biological applications, you might want to consider orienting your skills acquisition towards "data science" and related technologies e.g. databases, analytics platforms, R/Python, Apache Spark, etc. You can find free online courses to start picking up some of these skills e.g. via Coursera, EdX and Udacity. There are lots of wannabe "data scientists" around, but far fewer with the scientific background to make sensible use of this kind of data. You may find your experience is far more valuable than you think in this market, especially in combination with even a basic level of IT skills with relevant tools.
 
Steven Allan
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Interesting. I'd actually not thought of that kind of area, which possibly seems a little slack of me - certainly a possibility, so thanks.

I guess I was viewing web application work as a favoured field, but then I'm certainly not looking to limit my options at all - anything goes really!
 
chris webster
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Well, it's your career so you need to decide for yourself. But with your background, I'd look seriously at getting into data science in a field related to your degree. There are masses of Java web app developers (everybody writes a Java web app at some point!), and plenty of good ones. There are (still) relatively few specialist bio-data scientists, and probably very few good ones who can do stuff like this http://bdgenomics.org/. You will probably be able to sell your existing background into this specialist market far more easily than you can compete with thousands of fresh young graduates who want to write bog standard Java web apps. Plus those data science skills are likely to be very transferable e.g. into the financial sector if you decided science doesn't pay enough!

Check out general IT job sites like JobServe and any sector-specific sites, plus e.g. the New Scientist job pages, for potential openings and to get a sense of the skills and salaries in your target market, whatever you decide to aim for.

Best of luck!
 
Rancher
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Actually, have you considered non-programming jobs at technology companies

You can easily demonstrate that
1) You have extensive domain knowledge in the field of healthcare
2) You have a science degree so you have the head for analysis
3) You have experience running your own company.. which is tremendously valuable experience in the startup arena.. even if your startup failed.
4) You understand programming

You are a good candidate for a product management position, preferably at a healthcare IT company
 
Steven Allan
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Chris:

Definitely food for though, and thank-you again for all your ideas.


Jayesh:

Thanks for your reply. Interesting suggestion, but I decided to cease work as a doctor a long time back as I found the culture of the National Health Service in the UK quite unbearable, although there were many other more-important reasons. Also, this was ten years ago, and my science degree even longer so I couldn't possibly claim to be at the top of my game here and remember all that much about either field. However, I suppose it boils down to a pretty grim determination to take a crack at trying for a entirely new career in programming. That said, thanks again and it's not a suggestion that I will automatically discount :-)
 
Jayesh A Lalwani
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Cracking into programming has a high barrier to entry. You will be competing against people who have 4 more years of college than you and 20 years younger than you.

Programming is an applied science. It's not enough to learn programming. WHen you become a programmer, you have to understand the domain that you are trying to write programs for. This means, if you are succesful, you end up learning enough to get a assosciate's level degree some other domain. Being able to learn the domain is a skill that many programmers out of college don't have There is a huge demand in the industry for people who can blend programming knowledge with other kinds of knowledge. That is where your strength is. Yes, it's 10 years old. But I bet you can catch up on genetics much faster than a 22 year old with a BE can!

Even if you don't want to go into product management, you might want to think about using your strength to your benefit.

Based on your description of your demo application, you definitely qualify as a junior programmer. Perhaps somewhere between Junior and mid-level. If you have used the technologies well, you can definitely say you are a mid-level developer. You might want to have that project critiqued by someone in the industry. Generally, mid-level developers are "individual contributors". You can give them a design, and expect them to bang out code. Junior programmers need hand-holding. If you have done all that without help, and done it well, I would consider you mid-level.
 
Steven Allan
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Jayesh A Lalwani wrote:Cracking into programming has a high barrier to entry. You will be competing against people who have 4 more years of college than you and 20 years younger than you.

Programming is an applied science. It's not enough to learn programming. WHen you become a programmer, you have to understand the domain that you are trying to write programs for. This means, if you are succesful, you end up learning enough to get a assosciate's level degree some other domain. Being able to learn the domain is a skill that many programmers out of college don't have There is a huge demand in the industry for people who can blend programming knowledge with other kinds of knowledge. That is where your strength is. Yes, it's 10 years old. But I bet you can catch up on genetics much faster than a 22 year old with a BE can!



Indeed! I realise I've set myself a challenge. Challenges I like, and and am prepared to take on. Huge challenges I'm equally happy to take on. However, I'm grounded enough not to embark upon exercises in futility so I'm happy to listen to advice and make sure that my chances are realistic, even if they are difficult.


Even if you don't want to go into product management, you might want to think about using your strength to your benefit.



Definitely - good point!


Based on your description of your demo application, you definitely qualify as a junior programmer. Perhaps somewhere between Junior and mid-level. If you have used the technologies well, you can definitely say you are a mid-level developer. You might want to have that project critiqued by someone in the industry. Generally, mid-level developers are "individual contributors". You can give them a design, and expect them to bang out code. Junior programmers need hand-holding. If you have done all that without help, and done it well, I would consider you mid-level.



That's certainly encouraging! Aside from some of the JQuery, as I'd only skimmed through the Heads First book on the matter, it was all my own work and I managed to figured it all out myself. Not especially quickly though I have to say - but I managed to be able to look at the problems, the functionality I needed and work out how to implement it all.

Other than web applications I can trickle along quite nicely - for example on Stackoverflow I can understand and answer all beginner and homework questions of CS students! :-D And also many intermediate questions as well, and if I can't I generally manage to think of a way that I might tackle it - just as an exercise in getting used to problem-solving and thinking things out.
 
chris webster
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One last thought:

There are lots of 1 year Master's degrees in IT-related subjects at UK universities which aim to provide a fast-track conversion from a non-IT degree into at least a basic foundation for a career in IT. Many of these focus on particular application areas e.g. bio-informatics, financial computing, IT security, mobile computing, geographical information systems etc and there are a growing number of options for "data science" as well. Data science courses typically combine statistics, data analysis/visualisation and computing skills, and different courses may have a different focus on one or more of these areas.

Obviously it will depend on your circumstances and potential funding, but one of these courses could give you the fast-track you need to get into an interesting IT career.
 
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