In a 2018 opinion piece for CNBC on the future of work, the author said something profound. “The future of work won’t be about degrees. More and more, it’ll be about skills. And no one school, whether it be Harvard, General Assembly or Udacity, can ever insulate us from the unpredictability of technological progression and disruption.”

    We couldn’t agree more. The modern workforce has entered an era where real-world experience and tangible skills are worth more than a degree. Aimed at budding software developers, this article will showcase a few methods that up-and-comers can use to cultivate experience and become employable.


    Passion Projects
    One of the best ways to gain hands-on experience as a beginner is through developing a passion project. Ideally, a passion project should combine your interest in coding with another strong interest. Let’s say you love to read or, perhaps, you’re into aviation. Just those two interests alone will easily generate dozens of worthwhile project ideas. For example, maybe you could create a website that allows users to easily save and view quotes/passages inspired by the books they read. Or maybe it’s a smartphone app that displays a plane’s destination as it flies above. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

    Open Source
    You can also build real-world experience by contributing to open source projects. But unlike a passion project, many open source projects have thousands (or millions) of users, thus the quality standards are elevated. While intimidating at first, this shouldn’t be a turnoff. Producing clean, reusable code on a consistent basis is a prerequisite for becoming a professional developer. As any senior programmer will tell you, contributing to the open source community is one of the fastest ways to earn your stripes.

    Freelancing provides yet another opportunity to gain hands-on experience as a beginner. Also called gigging, working as a freelance developer means you provide your services to companies as a contractor rather than a full-on employee.

    Thanks to the ever-changing tech landscape and the industry’s talent shortage, demand for freelancers is expected to balloon in the coming years. Where up-and-coming programmers are concerned, freelance opportunities afford the chance to build skills through temporary projects. While working gigs, you’ll develop everything from proof-of-concept apps for entrepreneurs to projects deemed too small for businesses to take on in-house.

    Furthermore, freelancing provides an avenue for you to discover your particular niche. Far too often programmers fail to crossover into the “expert” category because they seek to become a jack of all trades rather than a master of one. Experimenting in different domains at the start of your career is recommended, however, you should quickly discover the one (maybe two) area(s) you most enjoy and become exceptionally proficient. A specialist is infinitely more valuable than a “one-size-fits-all” developer.

    Techtonic & The Techtonic Academy
    For some, the Techtonic Academy has proved itself a lucrative destination for cultivating experience. Founded in 2016, our apprenticeship program removed the barriers to entry for many, allowing us to find talented programmers of all backgrounds. We then work to shape them into problem-solving engineers, ready to tackle tough business challenges. Along the way, our students gain real-world know-how by contributing to complex projects for our clients. Upon completion, our grads possess highly sought-after, in-demand technical skills. What’s more, throughout the duration of the course, students earn a living wage of $15 to $17 per hour.

    As the first software apprenticeship in the nation to be approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, Techtonic Academy provides 2,000 hours of education to each apprentice. The journey begins by bringing students up to speed with foundational web technologies like HTML / CSS, Javascript, and Git. From this launch point, students go on to broaden their expertise by picking up React, NodeJS, in addition to web interfaces, cloud-based technologies and much more. In the end, we graduate full-stack engineers who are ready to be hired by our clients or become the latest addition to our in-house development team.

    Regardless if you’re self-taught or have a degree in a different field, we strongly encourage any motivated, fully-committed individual who’s interested in a career as a developer to apply to our academy.


    If you’re interested in learning more about Techtonic please CONTACT US today! Techtonic is the premier partner for developing onshore, commercial-grade software. We’ve also developed a unique method to simultaneously close the talent gap that exists within technology, by tapping into a new and highly diverse workforce. Our model is pioneering the way clients develop and hire top talent, and we’d love to work with you!

    AUTHOR – Nate Aswege