Episode 132 – Learn to Learn Efficiently to Land the Best IT Jobs with Jennifer Bland
Jennifer Bland is Phil’s guest on today’s show. She is one of Google’s Web Technologies Developers Experts, who has had a long tech career. Over the years, she has been a developer, consultant and project manager.
Now she works as a senior software engineer for Stanley Black and Decker. But, Jennifer also spends a lot of time and energy working in the community enabling under-represented groups to become successful in IT.
(1.06) – So Jennifer, can I ask you to expand on that brief intro and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Jennifer starts by explaining that she is, currently, a senior software engineer for Stanley Black and Decker in Atlanta. She is very proud of being a member of one of the most active Women Who Code chapters in the world. Fairly recently, Jennifer has started to provide technical training for others.
(1.55) – How did you get involved with Women Who Code? Jennifer discovered them while preparing to attend her first coding boot camp. In preparation, she needed to complete 6 weeks of pre-course material. To get the work done she attended one of Women Who Code’s Coding Jams. From then on she just kept attending their events and meetings. Today, she is on the Leadership Committee for Women Who Code Atlanta.
(2.57) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Jenifer says that is – “create a public presence”, something that is really easy to do using the internet. It could be as simple as creating your own twitter account and tweeting about tech.
Blogging, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook can all work too. Attending meetups and conferences is a good idea too. You can easily record a few videos while you are there and post them. When you do that, people will start seeking you out at these events. Normally, you will also start to be invited to speak.
(4.48) – You mentioned Twitter, are there any other platforms you would recommend? – LinkedIn is an important one. It creates an opportunity for you to write articles and share them worldwide. Pinterest and Instagram can also work although they are more geared towards sharing content via pictures. YouTube is excellent too.
(5.39) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? And what you learned from that experience. For Jennifer it was not a single moment. It was a 6-month process that she went through. Basically, she had joined a company without working out what the work environment would be first.
The company had reached out to her as a result of her public presence and offered her a great salary and benefits package. Initially, she said no. But, a few months later they asked again and she said yes. That meant leaving a company she was happy working at.
Unfortunately, that was a big mistake. The work environment at her new firm was incredibly poor for the entire 6 months she stayed there.
(7.18) how do you go about assessing the work environment in advance? Jennifer starts simply by googling them and talking to people who are already working there. She also tries to reach out and find out what their turnover rate is like. High turnover is a big red flag.
(8.09) – Phil asks Jennifer what her best career moment was. Jennifer says that it was becoming a Google Developers expert, at the end of last year. Being one of the few picked out of a field of hundreds of thousands of developers was a huge achievement. To gain the award you genuinely have to be an industry leader and someone who contributes significantly to the community.
Plus, to apply someone who is already a Google Developer expert has to nominate you. Then you go through multiple layers of interviews.
Here in the USA, there are only 16 Web Technologies Google Developers. So, it feels especially good to be one of them.
(10.11) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? Jennifer finds the pace of change to be very exciting. She reflects on the fact that she graduated before IBM introduced the PC and got her MBA before the internet became available. So, she has seen huge changes.
This frenetic pace of change means that new doors are opening, all the time. As a result, an IT career is highly rewarding.
(11.20) – Phil shares her enthusiasm for the rate of change. He goes on to ask Jennifer what she feels about the way in which the devices and software we are using is evolving so much. Jennifer agrees this is exciting too. In fact, the thirst for new devices is helping to drive change within the industry. The fact that people want Alexa style devices to do more, self-driving cars and other devices are pushing developers into new territory.
(12.35) – What drew you to a career in IT? Jennifer explained that the first time she was drawn to an IT career it was using the Commodore 64 that piqued her interest. She spent months putting it together and learning how to do it. That is what got her into programming.
(14.19) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? For Jennifer, that was, invest in yourself. In particular, invest in learning the skills that enable you to continually learn new things.
The world of tech changes at a very fast pace, which means that you have to keep up. You need to be able to learn new languages fast, and be able to adapt to fresh implementation and working methods. You need to be able to ride the waves of change.
(15.42) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Jennifer says she would focus on honing her ability to learn tech skills as fast as possible. Coding boot camps are an excellent way to do exactly that. You can learn to code in 3 to 6 months instead of spending 4 years getting a college degree.
Taking the boot camp route also means that you avoid building up 50 to 100K in student debts. After just 6 months of participating in a camp you can get a job. Within a year, you will have created a brand new career and be about 3 years ahead of your peers.
(17.14) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Right now, Jennifer is focusing on try to get as many women and underrepresented groups into tech over the next 4 years, or so. Then she thinks she will retire again.
She wants to help these groups of people to have the skills to earn good money. Working in IT makes it easy to find relatively secure employment, something that these demographic groups desperately need.
(18.11) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? For Jennifer that is easy. The ability to network easily has helped her enormously. It has opened many doors for her, which has, in turn, enabled her to open doors for many others.
For example, she was able to give the resume of a lady she met at Women Who Code to her manager. That woman still works there today. That networking moment benefited everyone involved, for many years.
(19.38) – Phil asks Jennifer to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Jennifer says that if you want to work in the IT industry, you have to accept the fact that you are going to have to change jobs a lot. Very few successful IT professionals stay in a role for more than 5 years. To progress, you need to create the opportunities, which, most of the time means being willing to move to another company.
(3.24) JENNIFER – “Take the time to create your own public presence. It will benefit you so much in the long run.”
(14.23) JENNIFER – “Invest in learning the skills that will allow you to learn these new technologies that are coming out.”
(15.21) JENNIFER – “Invest in yourself, this will enable you to ride the waves of change to new and secure better opportunities for yourself.”
(16.32) JENNIFER – “If you complete a six-month coding boot camp, you can get a job.”
(17.07) JENNIFER – “I would definitely focus on learning tech skills as quickly and efficiently as I possibly could.”
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ratracegrad @ratracegrad
Personal Website: https://www.jenniferbland.com/