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​​How to Gain Coding Experience

If you’re looking to break into the world of coding and programming, firstly – congrats. It’s an exciting, fast-paced and fulfilling industry to be part of. Our coding bootcamp students always worry that it will be tough to find a coding job with no experience. And the reality is that yes, it will be difficult. But the good news is that it’s definitely achievable. There are several ways to gain coding work experience and build your skills in order to woo a future employer, even if you’re just starting out.

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Here’s a quick breakdown of what we’ll cover: 

Get coding work experience by contributing to Open Source Projects

Open source coding projects are software development projects that are publicly available for anyone to view, modify, and contribute to. These projects are typically created and maintained by a community of developers who share a common goal or interest in a particular technology or software application. 

The main characteristic of an open source project is that the source code is freely available to anyone who wants to view it or contribute to it. This means that you can examine the code, learn from it, and even modify it to suit your own needs or to fix bugs. You can also contribute your own code to the project – making improvements or adding new features.

Contributing to open source projects is a great way to gain coding work experience, even if you don’t have any previous experience or a programming job. By working on real-world projects, you can learn new coding skills, collaborate with other developers, and build your portfolio. Plus, contributing to open source projects can help you stand out to potential employers, as it shows that you are passionate about coding and willing to work on projects outside of your regular job. 

1. Choose a project 

Look for an open-source project that interests you and is beginner-friendly. Good starting points are projects that are marked with “beginner” or “help-wanted” tags on platforms like: 

GitHub – a widely used platform for hosting and sharing code. It’s great for developers to showcase their coding skills, share their work, and collaborate with others on open-source projects.

CodeTriage – a platform that helps open source projects grow by getting new contributors. It suggests beginner-friendly issues from popular open source projects.

First Contributions – a platform that helps beginners make their first open source contribution. It offers a list of beginner-friendly projects, tutorials on git and Github, and guidelines on how to contribute.

Up for Grabs – a website that lists projects which have curated tasks specifically for new contributors. 

Make sure you choose projects that align with your interests and skills because it can help you stay motivated and invested in the development process. It’s also important to choose projects that are within your skill level because otherwise, you may become frustrated and discouraged. On the other hand, working on projects that are too easy may not challenge you enough to grow and improve. Find the balance that works for you!

2. Familiarise yourself with the project 

Once you have identified a project, take the time to read the documentation, starting with the ReadMe.md File. Take time to understand the code structure, and learn about the project’s purpose and goals.

3. Look for issues to work on 

Identify issues or bugs in the project’s issue tracker that you feel confident tackling. Some projects may require adding new features or improving documentation. Start with small and well-defined issues to gain experience and confidence. Then, you can take on bigger projects and even become a core contributor to the project.

4. Contribute to the project 

Once you have identified an issue, work on a solution and submit a pull request. A pull request is a mechanism used by developers to propose changes to an existing code repository hosted on GitHub. Be sure to follow the project’s contribution guidelines and standards.

5. Engage with the community

Engage with the project’s community by asking for feedback, discussing your ideas, and collaborating with other contributors. Being an active and engaged member of an open-source community can help you gain valuable coding work experience and make connections in the coding community.

 

Build Your Own Projects

Another way to gain coding work experience is to build your very own projects. This might sound daunting at first, but if you follow our step-by-step process, it’s totally achievable! What’s great about building your own projects is that it allows you to work on something that interests you and showcase your skills to potential employers. Here are some steps to getting started:

1. Choose a project

Start by identifying a problem or need that you can solve with code! Working on a project that is within your skill level will allow you to gradually build your skills and confidence without becoming overwhelmed or frustrated. It’s important to start with smaller, more manageable projects and gradually work up to more complex ones as your skills and experience grow. Coding forums are a brilliant way to get help from the coding community. There are also plenty of tutorials, articles and documentation out there to help you along the way. 

2. Plan your project

Take the time to plan your project by: 

  • Defining the project requirements
  • Outlining the user experience, sketching the designs (if relevant)
  • Breaking down the project into smaller, manageable tasks

3. Choose the right tools and technologies

Online resources like 5 Steps for Choosing a Technology Stack for Your Project and this YouTube tutorial on How to Choose the Right Tech Stack for Your Project can help you prioritise which new tools and technologies to learn. 

4. Code your project

Now break down the project into smaller, manageable tasks. Follow best practices, such as version control, code testing, and code reviews, to ensure your code is high-quality and maintainable.

5. Showcase your project

Once complete, it’s now time to showcase the project on platforms like GitHub, LinkedIn, or your personal website. Be sure to provide a brief description of the project, its purpose, the technologies used, and any challenges you may have faced or overcome as well as what new things you learned. 

Documenting your step-by-step process while you undertake the project can come in handy when you are interviewing for a role. Especially when answering the question “Give me an example of a project you built from start to finish and what challenges you may have faced.”

Add the project to your portfolio and share it on social media and coding communities such as Mozilla’s Developer Network, CodeGuru, Women Who Code and Developer Circles to get feedback and exposure. Building your own projects not only helps you gain coding work experience but also demonstrates your passion and initiative to potential employers.

 

Participate in Hackathons and Coding Challenges.

Hackathons and coding challenges are great opportunities to gain coding work experience and build your skills. These events bring together programmers, designers, and other tech enthusiasts to collaborate on projects and solve problems. Participating in hackathons and coding challenges allows you to work on real-world projects, network with other professionals, and showcase your skills to potential employers. 

Many companies also sponsor these events and use them as a way to recruit new talent. So it could be a win-win for you! What’s more, many hackathons and coding challenges offer prizes or recognition for the best projects. 

Share your hackathon or coding challenge experience on your personal website and LinkedIn page; outline the goal of the challenge, the process, what you learned and the results. This can definitelyl help you stand out to potential employers.

Look for hackathons and coding challenges that are beginner-friendly and match your interests. There are many platforms that host hackathons and coding challenges, such as Devpost, Kaggle, and HackerRank.

When selecting which hackathon or coding challenge is right for you, think about these tips:

Choose the right challenge 

Look for challenges that are beginner-friendly and match your interests. Make sure the challenge allows you to work with a technology or language you are familiar with or interested in learning. Our 3 Day Coding Challenge is the perfect example of an introductory project to coding.

 Form a team

Consider forming a team with other beginner developers to collaborate and learn from each other. You can also join an existing team that shares your interests or skills. You can find team members to collaborate with, from online communities like CodeOp’s Women+ in Web Development and Women Who Code.

Plan your project

Take the time to plan your project by defining the project requirements, outlining the user experience, and breaking down the project into smaller, manageable tasks.

Use available resources

Take advantage of online resources and tutorials, like those we’ve mentioned above, to help you learn new tools and technologies. You can also ask for help from mentors, judges, or other developers in the hackathon or challenge community.

Practice time management

Managing your time is crucial in hackathons and coding challenges. Plan your time wisely, prioritise tasks, and focus on delivering a working solution by the end of the challenge. 

Follow best practices

This can include version control, code testing, and code reviews, to ensure your code is high-quality and maintainable. This will also help you learn and improve your coding skills.

Network and learn

Take the opportunity to network with other developers, mentors, and judges in the hackathon or challenge community. This can help you learn from other developers, gain feedback on your project, and potentially even get hired.

Document your lessons learnt

Writing down what you learn helps you retain that knowledge and serves as a reference for when you encounter similar problems in the future. This allows you to demonstrate your skills and experience. It can also be especially valuable when seeking employment opportunities in the tech industry.

 

Freelance for Companies or Volunteer for Nonprofits

Another way to gain coding work experience without a job is to offer your services as a freelancer or volunteer for other companies and non-profit organisations. Many companies and non-profit organisations rely on technology to carry out their mission, but some may not have the budget to hire full-time developers. By offering your coding skills, you can help these organisations while also gaining valuable coding work experience. 

Identify the non-profit organisation or company

Look for those that align with your interests and values. You can search for organisations online (Linkedin is a great place to start) or through volunteer matching websites such as VolunteerMatch.org , Idealist.org , DevelopForGood.org and All for Good.org

Identify their needs

Reach out to the organisations and ask about their technology needs or technology problems or pain points that they need help solving. They may need help with building a website, creating a mobile app, or automating their operations.

Offer your services

Let the organisations know that you are a beginner developer looking to gain coding work experience and would like to volunteer or freelance for them. Offer to work on a project at a reduced rate for 1 – 2 projects to gain experience and build your portfolio. Once you have gained that experience you should charge full price for your services. 

Communicate your skills

Explain your skills and knowledge to the nonprofit or for-profit company. You can provide examples of your previous projects, coursework, or any online presence to showcase your abilities.

Be flexible

Non-profit organisations often have limited budgets and resources. As much as it is important to be flexible in terms of timelines, schedules, and communication methods, do not burn yourself out. Find a balance between work, family and ensure you are getting sufficient rest.

Collaborate and learn

Collaborate with other developers in the Non-profit organisation or company to learn new skills and techniques. Working with designers or other developers through pair programming will help you improve your coding skills and work more effectively as part of a team. 

Pair programming is a collaborative software development technique where two programmers work together on the same codebase, sharing one computer and taking turns to write code and review each other’s work. This can also be a great way to build your portfolio and showcase your skills to potential employers while making a positive impact on the community. 

 

Attend Meetups and Networking Events

Attending meetups and networking events is a great way to connect with other coders and potentially find coding work experience opportunities. This will give you the chance to meet other professionals in the industry, learn about new technologies and trends, and potentially find work opportunities. 

Here are some suggestions for you to get started:

  • Tech Meetups related to your field of interest is a great way to meet other developers, learn about the latest industry trends, and gain exposure to potential employers. Check Meetup.com or Eventbrite for local tech events.
  • Startup Events can be a great way to meet entrepreneurs, learn about new business opportunities, and find job opportunities in a startup environment. For example: 
  • Startup Battlefield: A pitch competition hosted by TechCrunch, where early-stage startups can pitch their ideas to a panel of judges for a chance to win a $100,000 prize.
  • Demo Day: An event where startups pitch to investors for funding, hosted by accelerators and incubators such as Y Combinator and 500 Startups.
  • She Loves Tech Global Startup Competition: A global startup competition for women-led or women-impact startups, with a focus on technology and innovation.
  • B Dash Camp: A startup conference held in Tokyo, Japan, which includes pitch sessions for startups.
  • Africa Tech Summit: A technology conference held in Kigali, Rwanda, which includes a startup showcase and pitch competition.
  • The Next Web Conference: A technology conference held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, which includes a pitch competition for startups.
  • Career Fairs are a great way to meet employers face-to-face and make a good first impression.
  • Industry Conferences such as  Worldwide Developers Conference, AWS Summit Conference and Google I/O Conference and others related to your field of interest can be a great way to learn about the latest trends, meet other developers and industry professionals, and meet potential employers

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. Some people opt for business cards, but as long as you have one or the other you’re good.

For in-person events, it’s always great to prepare an elevator pitch that highlights your skills and experience. This is a concise and compelling introduction of yourself and your work that can be delivered in the time it takes to ride an elevator, typically around 30 seconds to 1 minute. The goal of an elevator pitch is to grab the attention of your audience, communicate who you are, what you do, and what you’re looking for in a memorable way.

 

Here are some easy steps to follow when preparing your elevator pitch:

1. Start with a hook

Begin with a sentence that grabs the listener’s attention and piques their interest. This could be a statement about a recent project you worked on or a specific skill you possess that sets you apart.

2. Introduce yourself

Give a brief introduction of who you are and what you do. Mention your name, your current role, and your area of expertise.

3. Highlight your skills

Use a few key points to showcase your technical abilities and achievements. This could be a specific language or technology you’ve mastered, or a project you’ve completed that demonstrates your skills.

4. Express your goals

End your pitch by stating your career goals and what you’re looking for. This could be a job opportunity, a mentorship, or a collaboration.

5. Practice it 

Once you’ve written your elevator pitch, practice delivering it out loud. Time yourself to make sure you can deliver it between 30 seconds to a minute, and practice until you feel comfortable and confident!


Here’s example of an elevator pitch: 

“Hi, my name is Jessica and I’m a recent graduate with a specialisation in React development. I’ve built a number of projects using React, including a responsive e-commerce website that integrates with a payment gateway. I’m excited to begin my career as a React developer and I’m looking for an opportunity to work with a company that values innovation and creativity. I’m particularly interested in exploring opportunities in front-end development or full-stack development with a focus on React. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to connecting with you!”

 

Have an Online Presence

Finding a tech job without any coding work experience can be challenging as the competition is high. However, you can increase your chances of getting a job by showcasing your coding work experience online. This not only demonstrates your skills and abilities but also shows potential employers that you are proactive and passionate about coding. The best platform for developing your online presence would be a combination of:

Linkedin

LinkedIn is a great place to showcase your skills and experience, connect with potential employers, and find job opportunities.

GitHub 

A widely used platform for hosting and sharing code, GitHub is a great platform to showcase your coding skills and projects. Employers often check GitHub profiles to assess a candidate’s coding abilities and experience.

Personal website or blog

This option allows you to showcase your skills, because you can share your thoughts on the latest industry trends and demonstrate your passion for software development. It allows you to present yourself in a professional way and stand out from the competition.

Online coding communities 

Stack Overflow or Reddit are great examples of online coding communities that can help developers establish their presence in the coding community, showcase their expertise, and connect with potential employers.

It is important to ensure that all online profiles and content are consistent, professional, and up-to-date to create a positive and lasting impression on potential employers.

 

FAQ

How do I gain real programming experience?

Answer: There are several ways to gain coding experience, including taking online courses, participating in coding bootcamps, contributing to open source projects, freelancing, and interning or volunteering at a company. It’s important to practise consistently and build a portfolio of projects to showcase your skills to potential employers.

Can you become a software engineer with no experience?

Yes, All it takes is a healthy level of ambition, hard work, foresight, and adaptability.

Gaining coding work experience may seem challenging, but it is definitely achievable with the right strategies and mindset. Contributing to open-source projects allows you to learn new skills, collaborate with other developers, and build your portfolio. Building your own projects not only showcases your skills but also demonstrates your passion and initiative. Participating in hackathons and coding challenges provides real-world experience, networking opportunities, and the chance to solve problems. Freelancing or volunteering for non-profit organizations allows you to help others while gaining valuable experience. Finally, attending meetups and networking events is a great way to connect with professionals and discover work opportunities. By leveraging these methods and staying persistent, you can gain the coding work experience you need to excel in this exciting industry.

So, don’t be discouraged—get out there, code, collaborate, and make your mark on the world of programming!