Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ruby on Rails Interviewing (Part 2)

I was SO naive at interviews and the whole interviewing process as I walked into my 2nd interview which was with a really cool company in D.C. that I was dying to get hired by.

The hopes of getting hired quickly faded as the lady interviewing me started off like a cop that has just pulled you over for speeding: "So Mr. Kemp, you say you know Ruby on Rails and front end development... is that correct?" This was to be my first glimpse of how recruiters mainly don't care about you, they care about selling you as an attractive candidate to companies whether or not that involves telling the company you are something you are not.

The interview went downhill pretty quickly after that as I tried to explain: " Well I have "roughly" 1 year of RoR experience, and I know some HTML/CSS, but I wouldn't call myself a front end developer. I'm a looking for a junior level position, where I can contribute to the team and also learn and grow."

The lady responded in a voice that sounded like sand paper and every word was spoken with a staccato emphasis: "This position requires a MINIMUM of 3 years experience, we were HOPING for a mid level developer, do you think YOU fit that job description?

Needless to say the next 10 minutes were spent with me trying to say that no I didn't fit the description, BUT that I thought I was clear in my resume that I was looking for a junior position and was flexible on the salary and really just wanted an opportunity and that I would work my butt off to learn.  I also said I thought my blog could back up my determination.

"Blog? What blog???" she responded. Whoops some people think working hard, studying every night, and writing a blog are great and should be talked about in an interview...other people who interview you (like I just found out) think a blog is a fun hobby but really has NOTHING to do with anything about getting hired at company x.

I think she tried not to roll her eyes, and in all honesty, she was very professional just not very personable. She wished me well and assured me that I would be getting a call from the technical manager soon. That was 3 months ago, I guess she forgot :-)

That was not the only time recruiters would try and set me up. I met with one recruiter at a VERY well known and respected company that I am sure you would recognize the name if I mentioned it here. After talking for a while and doing a phone screen with a client she represented, her phone 'dinged' she said "Oh, excuse me for just one second." A second later she says in a very pleasant voice "You know I have another GREAT opportunity with an awesome company in Leesburg that wants a senior developer, that pays pretty well, what do you think about that?"

After picking up my jaw from off the floor, I said: "Wait, remember I said I have ONE year of RoR experience, that's NOT a senior developer, I'm looking for a good fit as a Junior developer.' The recruiter responded with: "Well, I don't think that should be a problem, I think "senior" is a loosely held term in the industry, no one expects you to know EVERYTHING. It couldn't hurt to try an interview right???"

I very politely declined and left but I decided right then and there that I would not be interviewing for any jobs that she sent me from then on unless the job description CLEARLY said "junior position".
I was again at a VERY low point on the "interview frontier journey". I thought to myself as I left: "What EXACTLY do companies expect you to know as a junior developer? Am I just wasting my whole Summer interviewing for jobs that I will never get?"

Thankfully you know there is a happy ending to my story and I learned a lot from all those "bad" interviews that helped me know what I was looking for and what a good fit for me would be.

More to come on the interviewing home front. Right now I am totally psyched to be 3/4 of the way done with writing my book, I will let you know more as time goes on. I promise not to do too many shameless plug ins for the book, I really want my blog to be about transparency and helping others and not about selling.


Monday, August 26, 2013

5 things I've learned in the first 26 days of being a junior developer.

I apologize for not blogging for a whole week, life is flying by!

I promised to always be open and honest about my experiences in trying to get hired as a junior developer and my experiences every after learning the ropes to hopefully one day becoming a really good/senior developer.

5 things I've learned in the first month of working as a junior developer are:

#1 Being slow sucks, and shortcuts are king!

If you can find anyway to make things quicker or more productive, do it! No excuses, I am about 30-40% faster and more productive with my time since starting at ZipList, from just opening and saving files to sending emails, everything happens fast and you need to be faster!

#2 No one knows EVERYTHING, no matter how good you are!

I honestly believed at one time, that maybe one day if you tried hard enough and worked long enough, you could basically never have to look stuff up. I think the truth of it is, if you never look things up, you must not ever be learning anything new. At the speed at which everything on the web is constantly changing, you just have to get good at learning new skills and acquiring knowledge fast.

#3 Developers need breaks!

I thought walks were a complete waste of time. I mean, I AM being paid to work, not walk. I have come to the conclusion now though, that no one can stare at a screen all day and give his/hers 100% best without taking a short break to give your mind a chance to breath. It's not lazy, it's being productive. Something I struggle with, because if I'm feeling stretched or behind, the LAST thing I want to do is to take a break. Breaks are for wimps right?...maybe not :-)

#4 Working as a developer is like working at a Library... only quieter!

I didn't know what to expect changing careers and starting out as a junior developer, but I was am still surprised at HOW quiet it is. No music, no noise, just the sounds of fingers stroking the keyboard with an occasional chuckle from a developer as a funny picture is posted in the IRC (the developer chat room basically). It's not bad, just different.

#5 I have to eat less!

Bending over all day shoeing horses day after day sucked, BUT now that I'm sitting on my butt hour after hour day after day, I need to eat less :-) I've gained 3 pounds since starting at ZipList,  and I thought I WAS eating less, apparently not enough less :-)

Monday, August 19, 2013

How to use Captured.

No, I'm not recommending this to make money or anything like that, that is not what this blog is about, this blog is about chronicling my journey to become a Junior Developer and then on the road to becoming an expert in the next 5 years or so.

Captured is a really cool app in the Apple store, it costs $3 bucks, but it is well worth it. I hadn't ever heard about Captured until I started working at ZipList, where EVERYBODY looked at me like I was an alien from mars when I said: "What's Captured?" They scoffed at me, "It's THE way to send something like a picture or note really fast, and you can highlight it with these cool arrows."

I still honestly wasn't that impressed, I mean I've seen people drool over an old crappy Linux machine, and I'm thinking: "Yeah,... I'll keep my Mac", but honestly after answering 30+ emails today from Users asking questions about ZipList, it was a lifesaver for time and clarity.

By the way, the only command I use is "command+shift+6" that's al you need, the rest is automatically generated for you!

You may or may not send a lot of email, but for me it's been an awesome help. I SO enjoy learning everyday more and more about: The web, coding, Css, Html, all sorts of tools. Heck I learn a lot just sitting at lunch and listening to all the developers talk :-) There is no comparison to this sort of work life versus the shoeing life...LOVE IT! -Josh

Friday, August 16, 2013

Alfred, Screenhero, ColorSnapper, and Gimp!

It's been so crazy this week at ZipList learning so many new things I can hardly remember all of them to tell you. I totally recommend to everyone that if you are learning to program to get "Alfred" it's a free Mac app and is 100% better then the finder window in Mac for finding things quickly and effectively.

I also recommend setting up LOTS of bash shell aliases to everything not just a couple commands because it's all about speed and efficiency when you're working at a company it's about getting things done well and as quickly as possible not wasting time, it helps to have lots of shortcuts. I'm still working on a lot of mine :-)

The best thing of all I have learned about has been "Screenhero" it's a free app that allows you to literally go on to the other person's computer. You can go on their computer and the user will see two arrows one is your mouse and one is the other person's mouse. It's great for working with people remotely especially if there's something that I don't understand and need help with, it's a quick fix on any and all errors I am totally going to use it pair programming from now on.

I'm learning quite a bit about responsive web design which is awesome! I  bought "ColorSnapper" which was the best four dollars I have ever spent! I totally recommend "ColorSnapper" for finding colors quickly and very easy-to-use. It copies the colors you click on to your clip board, it is a lifesaver if you're doing anything CSS related.

I even been using Gimp some this week resizing images, cropping, and scaling I don't know much about Gimp, but it's been great so far. Tomorrow is officially my last day of shoeing horses hopefully for the rest of my life :-) I have one trim to do tomorrow and then I am having a " get spoiled day".

My wife Elisha and I are going out on the town, an hour massage, then shopping and getting some books to celebrate the end of shoeing/goal accomplished! Tomorrow should be a fun time I can't wait!

The entire team at ZipList has helped me grow so much in the last week, I swear working one week full-time is like studying a month and a half on your own! I'm not keeping track of hours anymore because it would be silly, but I still plan on keeping track of what I'm learning and roughly how long stuff takes and things like that.

Learning to code is like a giant puzzle with about 1 million tiny pieces I feel like right now I've got the border on the very edge of the puzzle almost completed and I can now look inside and go wow look at all the rest there is to learn... I love it!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Ruby on Rails Interviewing (part 1)

Since I am happily hired now, I thought I would spill the beans on my interviewing experience. Now all the things I say, none of them apply to my current employer Zip List.

When I first launched my site Josh's Site after 6 months of training/studying RoR, I was immediately offered 2 jobs on day 1. One job offer was for $40K the other for $35K. I of course passed. It took the next 2.5 months to finally get hired at an awesome company, but along the way, there was a TON of other interviews. In the stories you read I won't use the real companies name, as I don't want to offend or possible hurt my employment chances if I were to need them down the road :-)

The good news is, I averaged  around 3-4 phone screens per week and 1-2 second interviews, and usually I landed a final interview every 2 weeks. The first thing I learned was that recruiters will try to knock down your price if you don't have a degree saying things like: "How much?....oh, I don't know, you're going to be a kind of a tough sell without a degree...are you "flexible" on salary?"

Thankfully my mentor the great +David Bock gave me a warning that this probably would happen, and to stick to my guns, he evened helped me figure out what ball park figure I should be asking for.

Thanks to +Americo Saviñón I started a LinkedIn profile and per his recommendation made sure to list several key words like: "Ruby", "Rails","Ruby on Rails". Between LinkedIn,,  and I was getting around 20-25 emails a week from recruiters asking for my resume in word format and more information about my background. Half of the jobs would require relocating to another state which I didn't want to do.

I also had several people on Twitter ask me how much I wanted as a salary and would I consider relocating. One offer almost had me packing up and moving. I decided to give the Northern Va area 1 more month and then if nothing still had finalized I would consider moving, thankfully it didn't come to that.

Hopefully that brings you up to speed on what I was doing/dealing with during that 2.5 month period besides working full time,  studying,  and trying to get hired. The hardest part doing this period of time was that it was Summer, and I was super busy everyday shoeing horses, and had a VERY hard time keeping up with my weekly hourly goals.

I am loving writing my ebook, I think I can speed up anyone trying to become a junior developer quite a bit, half of my problem was never knowing what exactly I should be working on, and switching back and forth wasting a lot of time. Anyway,  I'll keep you posted,  more to come on interviewing.


Friday, August 9, 2013

First Full Week At Zip List!!

One solid full week of life as a developer has come to an end! I am hooked like an addict! I love learning about everything IT/Web related.

A few Months ago I met for coffee with +Spencer Pingry , we talked for about an hour and he gave me some great advice that helped me on my learning journey. The one thing he said to me stuck in my brain, and I wanted to pass it along to you because I have found it to be 100% true.

"Studying 3 hours every night after your full time job and staying awake even though you're tired is very admirable, but there is nothing like being fresh and full of energy and getting to work with other developers 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. You will learn like nothing else."

I share that not to discourage you that you can't learn to code on your own, but to encourage you that once you do get hired, you will learn like NEVER before!

I hate to brag, but the Zip List team is top notch, the team is so smart there are literally "ninja coders", developers come in wearing capes! I mean, I can't help but learn at a super fast rate! I can feel my brain absorbing knowledge through osmosis as I sit next to operational wizards like +Steve Annessa , the man's a genius.

Anyway, you can see how much I am suffering at my new job/life as a junior developer :-) Don't give up peeps, keep coding, it does get better, much better!

I just hope no body realizes what's going on...I mean getting paid to learn to code, how is that legal :-)


Friday, August 2, 2013

Typing, Shortcuts, Speed

Wow, I thought I was getting almost okay when it came to typing, and finding stuff on my Mac. Since starting at Zip List, I feel like a BABY! My goodness these other peeps seem like they want to literally kill their keyboard!

I hunt and peck away and think: "Okay, not too bad speed" Then I look beside me and hear a developer typing so fast it seems like either him or his keyboard are on crack!  I haven't even BEGUN to mention all of these "black magic" shortcuts I see people typing into their machines, and I'm like: "Uh,.....what was that?"

I need to learn a ton of new things, but I really do think I need to learn some basic "Nano" just because it comes as a built in text editor on Macs, so no matter what, I would be able to open up a file and edit, save it and not be like:"Oh, you don't have Sublime, ... I can't help you."

I also need to learn short cuts better, and double my typing speed. Not just double the speed, but type while not looking down at the keys. I'll work on it and let you know how things come along.

Last but not least, I going to write an ebook on how to to get hired as a junior developer, even if you don't have a degree(like me) and start off with no experience. I hope to have the ebook done sometime in October.

If you have any questions, or thoughts that you think my be helpful to me, please shoot me an email at:


First week at Zip List

First Week at Zip List was AWESOME! Well, actually only 2 days, but seriously it was heaven on earth. I promised to always be honest with you, so I will tell you, it is EASIER when you finally make it to the "promise land" and actually get paid to LEARN!

I got a brand new top of the line Mac book pro and my own new keyboard, wireless mouse, and a brand new top of the line monitor, not to mention a kick butt awesome chair. The first half of the day consisted of getting everything set up and the second half of the day was spent trying to figure out how to adjust all the cool knobs on my chair, to get everything adjusted just right.

I did learn a lot of new things:

1. I Learned about Asana and got a basic overview.

2. I Learned about Pivotal Tracker and got a basic overview.

3. I Learned  a lot more about PATHS in Unix (PATHS are So tricky and confusing to me).

4. I Used NANO for the first time(it's built into Unix just like Vim, just type in "nano")

5. I Saw Google effects used for the first time, while attending my first meeting.

6. I enjoyed my first free company lunch(every Thursday).

7. I Learned about Lime Chat, how to set it up and use it.

8. I Set up my new work email, and learned how to use filters(after receiving 93 emails in what seemed like 5 minutes).

9. I Did my first test.

10. I Got my first paycheck!( I checked the mail today on my to go upstairs to my apartment, and lo and behold I had a check, and I had just finished my 2nd day!).

11. I had a kick butt awesome 45 minute talk/teaching on Html & Css by 2 great developers!I learned tons of things that I didn't know and it also helped me to understand WHY we do certain things.

Anyway, not to brag, just to encourage others on the "Learning To Code" path, it is really nice when you finally get hired so keep on keeping on!

I will try and be less of a braggart in the next post :-)

I still feel like I am in a dream, I mean, I get paid to LEARN all this cool new stuff and get to use top of the line technology while I'm doing it?....Sign me up!