Are you new to technology? Or a minority who comes from a non-technical background? Or maybe you’re worried you don’t have the right skills to land the role of your dreams?
Before becoming a technical recruiter at GitLab, Chantal Rollinson felt all of those things and struggled to find a job. Now, as a technical recruiter, her mission is to help place more developers from diverse backgrounds. She wants to help them find positions where they can utilize their skills and make great contributions to their teams.
Facing Imposter Syndrome
According to Wikipedia, "Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one's accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud."
Before moving to Seattle from Florida, Chantal had never heard the term 'software engineer,' but she was excited to explore a career in technology. Although she'd earned her degree from Ada Developers Academy, a software development school for women and gender diverse people, she struggled with feelings of inadequacy.
Minorities and people with different backgrounds, especially struggle with impostor syndrome because they often feel they do not know what a typical Computer Science graduate does. They can also have internal and external reasons for feeling inadequate.
Some companies, unfortunately, just aren't fully prepared to have team members from diverse backgrounds. Because many people in tech have never worked in another industry ever, they have no clue what it's like to work in other industries. As such, they are sometimes insensitive to team members and clients from different backgrounds.
Tips for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
The first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is being aware that it exists. Just knowing that everybody feels this way at one point or another helps. Even people who've been in tech for ten years still don't know everything and might feel uncomfortable about that.
Expand your knowledge
Chantal says instead of trying to know everything about one thing—which isn't possible—it's more useful for new developers to learn about a wide variety of topics. There will be future opportunities to dive deeper into languages or technologies.
Create a community
If you find yourself in a company not prepared for diversity, consider setting up an employee resource group (ERG). This can be a traditional club or a Slack channel for people who might have a similar background as you. Chantal believes that finding colleagues who have those kinds of similarities will help reduce feeling like a fraud.
Remember your value
Developers from diverse backgrounds must also remember that we all have awesome valuable information that we can contribute to whatever organization we're a part of.
Chantal says, “Walking into a building with people who have different backgrounds than you, people who look completely different from you, people who talk about things and you don't know what they're saying, can be really intimidating. I think it's very important to know that your experiences are valid… I know everyone has awesome, valuable information that they can contribute to whatever organization they're a part of.”
She believes the tech industry is starting to realize how valuable all these different opinions are. Having talent from diverse backgrounds can bring about small but impactful changes like encouraging the industry to use more accessible language (e.g., not always speaking in acronyms).
Job Searching Tips for Developers from Non-Technical and Diverse Backgrounds
Chantal—and most people from non-technical backgrounds—have difficulty landing their first tech job. This is because most recruiters only check if the most recent job or internship was in tech. Some recruiters are also dissuaded by non-computer science degrees.
Mitigating the hurt from rejection can be tricky. Here are some job search tips for software developers from diverse backgrounds.
Create a killer resume
Resumes should be easy to read and comprehensive. Chantal says new developers should care about their GitHub portfolio because managers review them before interviews. Some might even quiz applicants on their portfolios.
If you lack experience, have your resume and cover letter focus on your GitHub portfolio and volunteer work.
You might even want to consider working with a professional resume writer or reading books on resumes and cover letters. At Microverse, we know how important the job search process is which is why we offer support through our amazing career services team.
Track your progress
Unfortunately, most companies don't reply to every applicant, and some rejections might take more than six months. Keeping a spreadsheet of job applications can help you stay objective versus becoming emotional about the job search adventure. It can also give you a bird's eye view of where you're gaining traction.
Don't apply to multiple positions at one company. Search for the one that's the best fit for you and apply to that. If you're keeping track with a spreadsheet, you can use your notes to determine which companies and position titles are worth applying to.
Recruiters can tell when an applicant has prepared for an interview. Many technical jobs have long interview processes. Chantal advises applicants to use that time to read about and research the company.
Preparedness also includes activities like checking your internet connection before video interviews and wearing professional clothes, even for video calls. Chantal and other technical recruiters also appreciate openness and honesty from applicants. They can tell when an applicant is insincere.
Follow up after interviews and rejections. Recruiters and interviewers appreciate it and a quick email goes a long way in showing your appreciation for their time.
Applicants should interview the company as much as the company interviews them. The goal is to find a great role for yourself as well as becoming part of a company you’re aligned with.
Part of being proactive is determining whether to disclose your affiliation with a minority group. Chantal says knowing more about an applicant makes her want to root harder for them but, in the end, disclosure is a personal decision
Be kind to yourself
We can't spend eight hours a day job searching. Rejection is tough, but we can't be hard on ourselves. It's scary out there, but there are some awesome networks, like our community at Microverse, that can help you remain encouraged.
If possible, try to contribute to open-source projects. These look great on your resume and help you keep your technical skills current.
“Also, networking and volunteering - it’s hard, but is a great way to meet people who are in similar situations and those who might be able to help you up.” says Chantal.
As a technical recruiter, Chantal is most excited about projects that involve helping smaller communities. When you’re short on time, you can passively keep your skills up and expand your knowledge by watching videos like Microverse webinars.
Once you land your dream role, stay in contact with your manager to discuss your progress and career options. You're responsible for your career, so you should take charge of being able to track and prove to your manager that you're doing a great job.
Do you come from a non-tech background and want to know how to overcome imposter syndrome and increase your tech job search options? Watch the full expert webinar with Chantal Rollinson, a technical recruiter at GitLab, to learn more. And if you're ready to become a professional software developer, apply to Microverse's software development program below.