Hi Yusuf! 👋 Nice to meet you and welcome. Firstly, could you give us a little introduction and background about yourself?

Hey, thanks for having me! I’m a recent BSc Computer Science graduate based in Manchester, UK. I’m a React Native Developer at App Sapiens, working on building apps using JavaScript and the JAMStack. I enjoyed sharing my journey as a CS student on my social platforms, and now as a developer, to connect with like-minded individuals and receive support from the awesome tech community. If anyone is interested, you can find me on ‘yusufcodes’ across LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.

How did you decide you wanted to do a Computer Science degree, did you have a keen interest in tech when you were younger?

When I was younger, I was always intrigued by technology. I remember when I got my first laptop and seeing all of the desktop shortcuts that it came with, I had no idea what they were or what they did. So I’d sit around opening every single application, trying to figure out what they were for. I used to load my laptop with viruses from downloading random things, but quickly learned how to fix it too, so my curiosity with my early experiences led me to feel like I’d be interested in tech as I got older. I then studied Computer Science at GCSE and A-Level, and since I found it interesting, it made sense to pursue it at degree-level.

How did you decide what technologies to work with? What particularly attracted you to learning React Native, or was it a natural fit?

I was always interested in JavaScript, so I would experiment with it outside of university work when I got the chance. Once I understood the basics of the language, I then started with React in April 2020, which is the JavaScript library for building web apps, to increase my knowledge before starting the final year of my degree in September 2020. This was so I could apply the concepts to my final year project, where I built a web application using this library.

In February 2021, I started a React Native module at university, and also started my first React Native project at my part-time job as a Junior Developer at App Sapiens. As a result, I naturally started building apps using this library. The React knowledge I learned in April 2020 was easily transferable, as the concepts between React and React Native are the same, however the components that are rendered are different (where React is for web, and React Native is for mobile).

Did you use any other learning resources to supplement your learning during your degree? What are your favourite resources you’d recommend to people?

A large amount of what I learned came from university resources, however the things I learned on my own were purely from online resources. Below is a list of some things I found useful:

General web development resource which I’m always referencing. It has guides on various topics too which are beginner friendly.

The first course I used to learn JavaScript. This course goes over the core fundamentals of the language along with how to write in the language, which helps solidify your understanding of the language.

The first course I used to learn React. The fundamentals I gained here helped me land my first role in the industry as a React / React Native Developer.

There are plenty of fresh graduates out there looking for their first roles in software development. How did you find your role, what was your experience like?

I’ve written an in-depth blog post about this, but I’ll summarise how I got my first role below:

- Between 2018-2020, I was documenting my journey as a CS student and aspiring developer on Instagram, and made some solid connections.

- I became active on LinkedIn between 2019-20, also documenting my journey on here. Again, I made some good connections here.

- In August 2020, I posted to my network that I was looking for my first role in the industry, noting that it would need to be part-time because I was due to start the final year of my studies in September 2020.

- On Instagram, I connected with James Bedford who I also connected with on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jameesy/). James saw this post and shared it to his large audience.

My current boss, Tom Riglar (CEO at App Sapiens) saw this post, and reached out to me regarding the work they do with part-time developers. We setup a call where I talked about my experiences, and where he talked about what App Sapiens do. I then sent over my GitHub (yusufcodes) at the end as I documented a lot of my learning on there.

A couple of days later, I received a job offer of Junior Developer (part-time) to work alongside the final year of my studies.

To learn more about the work I do at App Sapiens, visit our company page.

How did you manage to balance working and your degree studies? How long were you balancing this for, and what challenges did you face during this period?

I started my degree in September 2017 and finished in May 2021, and I always had a job for this duration. For the first three years, I was working in retail. For my final year, I worked as a part-time developer. Balancing my job and studies was hard. It took a lot of forward planning, self discipline and time management. The main challenge throughout it was keeping my energy levels up - some days and weeks were very difficult. General things I did which helped:

- Begin coursework or studying for exams early

- Using Google Calendar to manage the time allocated to work, studying and then everything in between like sleeping 😂

- Make in-depth notes during the lectures instead of relying on doing it “later” (usually this won’t happen!)

This is another thing I’ve written about in more depth, you can read more here.

What one piece of advice would you give to any junior developers struggling with no hands-on work experience?

Document your journey online. Give yourself some exposure, because if no one knows you exist, it will be harder for them to hire you! I think it is a great way to let future employers “get to know you” before you even get to the interview stage. Networking online (and in person once we can) will benefit you more than you may think. I recommend having some code online for people to see, such as a GitHub account. Whatever you’re learning and building with, post it there. Even if it isn’t perfect - most of my GitHub stuff certainly isn’t perfect or pretty, but I believe it showed the willingness to learn and experiment to my current employer.

What are some of the biggest benefits you’ve found to building in public? Did it help land your first role?

I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve always been into content creation, and I’ve met loads of great people in the tech community as a result. It did indeed help me land my first role (as detailed above)! Being active on social media gave me an insight into what technologies people were working with, and before I was a developer, seeing insights into the industry helped me gain a good perspective of the industry in general.

Where do you see your career in 5 or 10 years time?

Honestly, I’m not sure. For the moment, my goal is to feel settled in my early full-time career that I’m in now that I’ve finished university, and figure out what I enjoy. From here, I hope to be able to have a clearer idea of where I’d see my career further down the line. It’s exciting that in 5-10 years, roles that don’t exist may well be around then!

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