Kevin Mwangi, who’s based in Nairobi, was already a senior developer with a degree in computer science when he enrolled at Microverse in 2018—a decision which initially confused some of his family and friends. “They wondered why a senior developer with nearly fifteen years experience was going back to studying code,” Kevin tells us.
Kevin’s Learning Experience
Kevin is candid about the fact he expected to ace the course—only to find his younger coding partner, Sava, sailing through the curriculum with much more ease. But he saw this as a chance to up-skill.
“I wanted to go back to basics, build the foundations, and learn.”
Soon he was learning new coding languages and thriving in the challenges. He notes it was an intense process at first, but an exciting one. Working with Sava was especially useful; the two kept each other accountable, offering support and motivation when required.
Kevin was also drawn to Microverse for the global perspective the course offers. He wanted to test his skills against the global market and increase his chances of being hired by an international company, and that’s exactly what happened: he now works at Microsoft in a local team in Nairobi.
Though he’s usually based in an office, like a lot of people he’s been working at home for most of 2020—something his experience at Microverse prepared him well for. Recently, when Kevin noticed his team was struggling with the transition to remote work, he suggested they do a version of Microverses’ ‘Coffee and Code’, an informal meeting that offers a chance to connect and talk about work issues in a relaxed and sociable way. This is a great example of the way Microverse trains you not just to work as a developer, but as a remote developer in the real world. Then when you join a company, you have direct experience and become a real asset to the team.
The Interview Process at Microsoft
Having a great LinkedIn profile with a professional headshot and online portfolio played a key part in Kevin getting his job at Microsoft. In fact, they approached him after finding him via LinkedIn. And they weren’t the only ones: Amazon and Google got in touch in the same way. Companies scour the web looking for talent to employ—so Kevin advises you create and keep a professional online presence, and be ready to engage when companies reach out.
The coding challenges Kevin completed at Microverse actually mirrored the tasks he had to do during the interview process for his role at Microsoft. And the interview process wasn’t just about code: the latter stages included very targeted behavioural questions—something Kevin believes he wouldn’t have considered preparing for if it weren’t for Microverse.
“As well as being an engineer, companies want to find out if you’re someone people can work with.”
After several months and six rounds of interviews (two online, and four in-person) Kevin was offered a position on the Windows team. He remembers the call clearly—and how he stayed calm while not accepting the first offer. “This was something I’d been advised to do at Microverse, but it was tough!” Nevertheless he negotiated a great deal and accepted the third package he was offered. “It ended up being a really good decision,” he says, adding that his current salary is around three to four times the market salary for the role, and two to three times what he was earning before he joined Microverse.
Working at Microsoft and Cultural Fit
As well as being well compensated financially, Kevin has found there’s a strong culture of support at Microsoft, where he was given a six-month onboarding process with all the resources he needed. “The company culture is rooted in mutual support, and you’re not expected to know everything right away.” He notes how developers at all levels benefit from this because, like Kevin himself, you can have years of experience but you can’t know everything in such a wide-ranging and fast-moving industry.
Asking questions is also encouraged in his team, and it’s something Kevin advises you keep in mind wherever you’re working.
“If you’re working for someone, they probably know more than you, so they expect you to ask questions—and if they don’t, or if they punish you for asking questions—that’s a red flag.”
This is something you can get a sense of during the interview process. “Find out what a company’s onboarding process is. Ask questions, specifically: What's your process for taking on new hires? And, What will you expect from me in the first three months? Their answers will give you an insight into the company culture and if you’ll be supported and able to upskill and grow there.”
Dealing with Imposter Syndrome
Even when you’ve been writing code for over a decade, you can still get imposter syndrome because there’s always something new to learn. Interestingly, over the course of his career, Kevin has come to recognise imposter syndrome as a positive signal: “It means you’re doing complex stuff and challenging yourself.”
This links to something we often hear from companies who tell us how they value humbleness in their workers, because it shows they’re more likely to ask questions—especially useful when working remotely. Asking questions is how we learn, and it makes us less likely to make mistakes.
The Journey of Life-long Learning
If Kevin had to impart one final piece of advice, it would be that you foster a passion for learning throughout your career. When he first joined Microverse, he knew four programming languages, and graduated with another three under his belt. Now he knows around twelve. “You need to keep widening your net,” he says, “that way you maximise your choices of where you can work and which opportunities are available to you.”
He also adds that there’s an acute shortage of engineers at Microsoft, and that they are always looking to expand their team. “You don’t need to master every skill, of course, but those who show they’re adaptable and can fit into different roles stand out.”
Finally he recommends that as you navigate your path as a developer, you follow your own interests, this way you’ll stay motivated and interested in your work.
“Be open minded, put yourself out there, and focus on building your skills.”
To date, Microverse has enrolled full-time students from 100+ countries, received applications from more than 200 countries, grown to a team from 12 countries, and helped our alumni from around the world land life-changing jobs.
Microverse is an online school for remote software developers, where you pay nothing until you get hired. If you’re ready to change your life by becoming a global software developer with Microverse, get started here.
** Please note, Kevin's answers have been edited for clarity. To learn more about Kevin and his experience with Microverse, view the full Webinar here.