This blog post is a sequel to the challenge I proposed in my last blog post, “15 Positive Arguments for Committing To The Self-Taught Developer Path”.
That challenge is called the MVP developer challenge. This will be a blog that structures out what I mean by this term, “MVP mindset”.
What Problem Does The MVP Mindset Solve?
We are fast approaching 2020, we are riding the wave closer and closer to a future where the old paradigm of possessing a degree from an authorized institution (with the exception of really specialized career paths like becoming a doctor, etc) in order to get a job will fade out of existence.
69% of developers that responded to Stack Overflow’s 2016 Developer Survey Results said they were wholly or partly self-taught.
Adopting an MVP mindset goes against the mainstream, status quo mentality that more is better and perfection is the goal.
How does this look like in the modern world?
For example, going to a 4-year university for a degree and getting into tons of student loan debt.
Actually, the enemy of an MVP mindset is adopting the paradigm that it will take longer to get what you desire.
This usually plays out in thinking you need the supreme qualifications (aka degree, etc), a specific amount of money for happiness, etc.
Who Is This Message For?
Anyone really, but the use case we will examine in this paper is how to apply this framework to becoming a software developer.
However, the MVP mindset can bleed into other facets of your life that involves goal planning, prioritization, decision making, and execution.
How Should You Use This Blog?
This blog post outlines the MVP challenge from my last blog post on the self-developer path in greater detail.
The key action takeaway for you is to go through each of the stages I outline in the MVP software developer challenge for your career shift strategy.
How Does The MVP Mindset Apply To Landing A Software Developer Gig?
Since you are spending so much time reading blogs, articles online; why don’t you protect your eyes with these cool computer glasses? 😉
Enough said. Now we will explore the MVP mindset from a software developer standpoint: landing your first gig.
What Is An MVP?
I love this quote: “An MVP is a down payment on a larger vision.” — Johnny Holland. In essence, you scope out what do you want to accomplish?
Specifically, what problem do you want to solve? Next, you attempt to tackle that problem in the fastest, viable way. Lastly, you learn from that process and repeat the cycle.
Essentially, you are adopting the mindset of a Product Manager who basically has to deal with creating a minimal viable product (MVP) on a daily basis.
This is a crucial step in the product development process since the MVP allows you to test the market faster and create a better product.
You are essentially building yourself up to be an MVP software developer as a self-taught developer.
You don’t need to boil the entire ocean and slap all the skills of a software engineer on your resume (this is not practical and realistic).
However, your goal should be to build a fundamental skillset in software engineering (frontend, backend, etc) and portfolize your skillset and test the market for feedback to iterate and improve yourself.
What Problem do You Want To Solve? And Why?
First, decide as a software engineer, what problem do you want to solve on a regular basis?
Do you want to get your hands dirty with the frontend or the backend?
This is crucial in helping you focus on building a specific skillset admist the overwhelming software engineer universe.
In traditional education, the trend is to swamp you with a ton of broad information and doesn’t help you specialize.
Even coding bootcamps suffer from this by marketing that within 3-4 months, you will be a “full stack developer”.
The results? You will be the jack of all trades but a master of none.
The more modest path is to specialize in one area out of the gate, versus trying to swallow the entire elephant.
Set Timely Goals for Learning, Creating Projects, and Job Search
Yeah. The title says it all. Create specific dates on your calendar for when your learning should end, when you should start and complete projects, and finally, when to start job searching.
If these goals don’t exist on your calendar. You already set yourself up to fail. This step will set you up for success.
I have some good practices on preparation in my blog post called “How To Prepare For Coding Bootcamp: My 18 Months Best Practices” for reference.
Specialize In One Thing
First, once you’ve decided on what path you want to specialize in, then set a timeline on how long you dedicate yourself to studying this area of expertise.
You can leverage affordable, value pack courses from software developers on Udemy or from their own product websites like Tyler McGInnis, Wes Bos, etc.
Prototype A Working Software Developer Profile
When you are about to start your capstone projects, create a compelling LinkedIn profile to gather inbound leads from recruiters based on the type of role you are aimming for.
If you are focused on the frontend, set up your LinkedIn profile keywords to reflect that of related job description jargon so that recruiters can find you on the LinkedIn search.
Complete Your MVP Portfolio
Next, set another date where you will start building your own projects on what you’ve learned to solidfy your learnings. Aim for at least 3 projects for your portfolio.
Conversely, it is possible to start testing the market with 1 project, but with steep competition in the SF Bay Area, I argue 3 custom capstone projects are necessary in most cases.
Test The Market With Your MVP
Lastly, plan a specific date where you will start testing the job market for a given time like 1 month to gather feedback and iterate to improve yourself.
This assumes that you will get interviews in that 1 month and you make it to different stages, and ideally, an onsite round.
Of course you can span this section for longer than a 1 month period to 2 to 3 months, but I recommend a smaller time window with specific outcomes you can measure.
A good programming analogy of testing the market with your MVP is like Console.logs when testing your code.
The whole point of using console.log is for feedback of what value the thing you’ve implemented or built actually returns.
Gather Market Feedback Based On Strategic a Job Searching Plan
Depending on how long you give yourself to test the market, you should use this as an opportunity to track your success based on your action plan.
For example, maybe your action plan is to get at least one onsite interview within a 1 month of job searching.
Then you can track the other interview opportunity stages that leads up to that onsite on a Google Sheet.
Next, you can measure the amount of resumes you sent out, how many companies you reached out to, and the types of companies you reached out to.
For example, you might want to start out purely applying for start-up companies and understand how that market reacts to you, etc.
Iterate Your MVP Based On Market Feedback
Now, based on the market feedback you received from your initial 1 month job search (or however long), gather critical comments from your interviewers on where you can improve (maybe you need more projects? Maybe you need to improve your fundamental programming language expertise? Or get better at data structures and algorithms?)
Then, devise a follow-up learning plan, project building (if applicable), and job searching strategy based on that 1st market feedbac.
Rinse And Repeat
Basically, if you feel that the market feedback you got is encouraging, meaning that, you were able to get a considerable amount of opportunties to the onsite stage; and, you’ve gather really good, actionable feedback from your interviewers, then you repeat this MVP process based on that stage of feedback.
Or Pivot And Move On To Next Thing
Or. Unfortunately. The worse case scenario (which you should definitely prepare for) is that becoming a software developer at this time might not be a good fit for you and you should plan accordingly for follow-up career paths.
Key Takeaways & Action Items
Champion The MVP Mindset As A Self-Taught Developer
Remember. The MVP framework is a down payment for your desired goal. It’s not going to be easy and the entire framework is designed for you to get real feedback for actionable improvements.
As a self-taught developer, you have to be extremely resourceful with your time and energy to even pull off being an MVP software developer.
Realistically, you will probably go through multiple cycles of this MVP process, until you finally land that first software developer gig or you pivot into another career path that you can apply some of your technical skills learned as a self-taught developer.
The road ahead is going to be hard. You might not succeed. The odds are against you. Be prepared for the worst. Be humble when you do strike success.
Here is one word of assuring, unfailing encouragement. This MVP challenge willl at the minimum solve one problem, in a pretty affordable, mitigated-risk way: the regret of not even trying.
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