[This post was originally posted by HackerYou Alumni Emily Porta to her personal blog. You can view it here.] I asked the amazing Hackeryou alumni community to chime in on what the months after graduating from the program have been like for them, whether they're freelancing, working at a company, or a little of both. Their answers, including mine, are below! A special thanks to our contributors: Vanessa Merritt, Margaret Reffell, Logan Greer, Julie Jancen, Jessie Willms, and all the other Hackeryouians who volunteered.
What's it like to work at...a small agency?
Logan Greer has worked at Zync Communications as a Developer since July 2014. Zync is a small agency with 14 people.
What's it like to work at...a large agency?
Julie Jancen has worked at Powered by Search as a Web Designer and Front-End Developer since March 2014. Powered by Search is a large internet marketing agency with ~60 people, including off-shore staff and team members who work from home.
Q: What are some key skills you need to have for your job? A: Tech-related skills:
- Strong UX/UI skills,
- Strong typography and layout skills,
- Familiar with current web standards, cross-browser issues, coding XHTML HTML5 and CSS3,
- Ability to design/wireframe bold, responsive websites that work on all platforms and browser
- High proficiency in photoshop, illustrator, axure, omnigraffle, google apps, ftp client, Wordpress
- Strong verbal skills and writing skills… including good grammar,
- Ability to interpret instruction and output high quality work based on that,
- Keep learning new trade skills… stay on top of new web trends,
- Manage deadlines,
- Manage client personalities
- Be aware of project budget and scope creep
What's it like to work at...a large product company?
Vanessa Merritt has worked at Telus Digital Labs as Front-End Developer for almost a month, and has a four month contract. Telus has ~50-100 people in the Digital Lab and thousands across the corporation.
Q: What’s the development team like where you work? A: Mostly contractors with loads of great experience. The Toronto Team works closely with the Vancouver team (more permanent employees are in that office, from what I understand) so there is lots of teleconferencing. Currently there is a team from Nascent working in the toronto offices on the overhaul of the telus website. So, there are lots people different backgrounds and experience. Q: What are some key skills you need to have for your job? A: Tech-related skills: HTML, CSS, SASS, Git, command line. Non-technical skills: working on a team, time management, general office etiquette :) Q: What are you working on right now? A: We are working on a Web Standards Guide to be used internally in order to keep web development on brand. Q: What new technical things are you learning? A: More SASS, working with code written by others. I’m also using a new CMS I’ve never used before (Statamic). I will have opportunities to shadow senior devs as they work on short sprints as well. Q: What’s the best part about working for your type of organization? A: Loads of people around to learn from. I applied for this job as a junior developer because I knew I’d have support from more senior devs, as well as my fellow juniors. Q: What’s something unique about working at Telus? A: We have the ability to work from home a few days a week. There is also a reasonably priced gym and outdoor eating area for employees. Q: What personality traits fit best at the kind of place you work? A: A balance of being hard working but with a good sense of humour. Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to get a job at a large product company? A: Have a willingness to learn and be a great team member.
What's it like to work at...a small startup?
Emily Porta has worked at Shift Health Paradigms as Front-End Developer for almost three months. Shift, a health tech startup that makes a product called Tickit, has eight employees.
What's it like to work as...a freelance developer?
Margaret Reffell has worked as a freelance Front-End Developer for just under three years, and wishes she did it sooner!
Q: Do you have a business name? A: I currently operate under my own name Marg Reffell as a Sole Proprietor, but I’ll be changing structures to incorporate soon, so I guess I’ll have to pick out something a little catchier :) Q: Do you have a typical location you work from? Set hours? What’s the breakdown of your day like? A: I work from home and coffee shops at the moment. I have tried shared working spaces, but I often have to hop on skype for quick conversations with clients, so I feel more comfortable doing that at home where I don’t bother anyone. As far as hours, I know many freelancers who draw a line in the sand between work and personal life, but my line is very blurred. I’m very selective with who I work with, so I really love my clients! I’ve been to their houses, I’ve met some of their families and I’ve even celebrated launches with them (and a glass of bubbly). I also keep my own life and schedule intact by having a pretty solid daily routine. I’m an early riser, so I typically get up at 7ish, check emails, train, make breakfast, then work until about 4pm. Although, on product launch days it’s not unusual for me to be working until 1:00am. Q: What are some key skills you need to have for your job? A: Tech-related skills:You have to be a bit of a “jack/jill of all trades” because every project has a new set of technical challenges. I find this is why it’s especially important to surround yourself with a “virtual team” of experts. I’m always asking for help, but I’m also always giving out free technical help whenever I can. Freelancer Karma, ya know? Non-technical skills: Ah, I feel like these are just as (if not more) important than the technical skillsets required. I work primarily in the development of e-commerce and membership sites so I would say the biggest and most valuable soft skill is asking the right questions. It’s important to get to the root of the clients business goals, and then find the appropriate software you need to build them something they need to move their business forward, rather than something they think they want. Establishing trust and realistic goals with your client is a key to success. Q: What’s your tech stack? A: Working as a freelancer, you often have to learn programming skills as well as a lot of 3rd party software that’s frequently used by online businesses. Here’s my Tech/Software stack
- CRM’s (Mailchimp/Aweber/Infusionsoft)
- e-Commerce (Paypal/Stripe/WPe-store/WooCommerce/Infusionsoft/Shopify)
- Membership Platforms (Wishlist/Sensei/Optimize Press)
- Stay on top of tracking your invoices and expenses - there’s lots of good software for this.
- Establish an equation or system of how you price your products before you enter freelance. Don’t undersell yourself. It’s easier to start at a higher rate than it is to start low and increase rates on your clients.
- Trust your gut and know when to say “No!” to a project. I recently said no to a $20,000 project because it didn’t feel right. Am I crazy? Maybe. Am I happy? Yes!
- Create an expiration date on project proposals. My proposals are required to be accepted within 30 days. Otherwise, I reserve the right to re-quote and possibly increase rates.
What's it like to work as...a little bit of everything?
Jessie Willms has worked as a designer/developer for two months. She currently works for iPolitics.ca, who cover federal politics and public policy issues in Ottawa with
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