Calvin is a career shifter from the Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) Industry. His humble beginnings as a fast food crew, a hotel room attendant, and a kitchen aid made a huge impact on his work ethic and career outlook.
He now works as a Senior Web Developer in an Australia-based company, earning 6 digits a month while handling foreign developers.
In any career, as you go up the career ladder, the salary goes up too. Let’s get to know Calvin through his journey.
(Interviewed by Dana Diaz)
Building Skills to Build Career: From Bootcamper to Junior Developer
—— Before joining Zuitt, what is your education and work background?
Before I studied at Zuitt Bootcamp, I was actually a Hotel and Restaurant Management graduate. As you can see, my college degree is unrelated to the industry I am currently in.
When I graduated from college, I worked in different fast-food chains as a crew. I also worked in hotels as a room attendant (also known as a room cleaner). I also worked in the kitchen – washing dishes.
That time, I felt like I should be doing more. That’s why I decided to look for a job upgrade. I then decided to apply for a managerial position at a popular fast-food restaurant. I didn’t get the job because the recruiters told me that I am not fit for the job. I kept trying several times over but I always get rejected. And that’s when I lost hope in the food industry. I did not want to go back to the hotel industry because it was too much work. I was physically and emotionally drained. And with those jobs, I only get the minimum pay.
I then started thinking of different lines of jobs. I tried businesses one after another – medicines, stocks, and trades. And to me, it felt like if I would fail again, I don’t know where else to go after. I don’t know what jobs I can have if all things fail.
I went to Singapore with my mother to visit my brother who is a CTO of a company there. He is also a programmer. He and some of his programmer colleagues encouraged me to try and train to become a developer.
I only knew about TESDA certificates back then. I did not know anything about Bootcamps before. Someone from our business recommended Zuitt to me, and so my friend and I tried applying together.
—— How was your overall experience in the Bootcamp?
When I graduated as Zuitt’s boot camper, (not to brag), I was the top performer in my Batch, and out of the 8 Special awards given, I got 7! I wasn’t expecting that at all because my only goal back then was to at least get in the top 3 performers.
For the capstone creation, I knew I wasn’t good at designing so I lost hope with that part. But when Laravel and PHP came into the scene, that’s when I stood out. And one of the most memorable moments I had was when I discussed my capstone project with the class. I think that is one of the factors that made me a top performer – they find my capstone unique and funny. The theme of the capstone creation is a booking website and what I did was like an online dating booking app (inspired by Tinder but with booking). So it came out as something funny. Humor was also a factor I guess.
—— Any challenges?
I was challenged in the designing part of the capstone making. I am good at the Engineering part because I’m good with Full Stack, even now at my current job actually. And that is one of the techniques I have learned from Zuitt when it comes to designing. You can look at websites and pattern the theme colors for your project. And you’ll eventually get used to it.
—— Tell us about your job hunting/career search experience.
After Zuitt, I told myself that when I start looking for my first ever job as a developer, I should be okay with a minimum salary. What’s important to me would be the experience and the training that comes with it. And to be honest, most of the students who study Programming aim to get a big salary right away. But it’s not like that at all. You have to go through a journey and you have to work on it step-by-step.
So my conditions were: Enough salary, Start-up company, and I’ll get good working experience.
There are companies recommended by Zuitt but I also looked for jobs in Jobstreet. I think that my credentials were good because of the top performer award that I got. In just 2 weeks, after my Bootcamp training with Zuitt, I found myself a job. (Flowerstore.ph) My experience there was really good.
Although I had several interviews aside from flowerstore.ph, in the course of my job hunting, I had to go through application exams and different job interviews. One of which was I was asked to code on paper without using the Internet. That was a weird experience for me. I’m not sure what the logic was for that type of exam. It just makes me laugh thinking about that experience.
—— What makes a developer good?
Good developers should be good at Googling, and it’s never about memorizing codes.
How can you tell that a developer is good? For me, you can say that a developer is good if your codes are efficient and future-proof. You should be good at reading documentation. It’s not about memorizing syntaxes and codes.
That’s why I got confused when that test was given to me.
—— Tell us about your experience applying for jobs outside the Philippines.
When applying for jobs outside the country, or any remote work jobs, I think their standards are not as high as we expect it to be. They did not give me an exam. I think it was more on being good at marketing yourself as a developer.
I’m very strong-willed and that helped with my growth. When I was still a Junior developer and did not have much experience, I was already applying for Senior roles.
Most Junior developers don’t want to get out of their comfort zone. Even if we have some work experience, they don’t try out applying for higher roles like I do. Because I know what I want for my career growth, when I apply for jobs, I always look at the salary first. The mindset of other developers is they think they might not be able to perform the assigned tasks well. When I apply for jobs, I first worry about getting in. Checking what my job responsibilities come second.
So within 8 months, I was already doing mid-level developer roles and my salary was already at 6 digits. I guess I was just lucky enough.
It’s about being strong-willed and knowing how to market yourself. Everything is learnable.
—— As a Career Shifter, how will you compare your past job to your current job now as a developer?
Comparing the employers in the fast-food industry to the tech industry, the former doesn’t value their employees much. This is based on my experience. That’s why they’re fine if they give you a little salary. If you resign, they’re okay with that because it’s easy to find a replacement. But what I realized is that developers are in-demand and are more of value to employers. It’s harder to find developers with the skills that the company needs. That’s why employers are the ones looking out for you and your skills.
In the IT industry, they base on your outputs unlike in the HRM industry, you really have to do task after task for strict 8 hours. Working in HRM, I got used to working really fast and I applied that attitude in this field. Sometimes, I have an 8-hour type task that I can work on for 4 hours. If that’s the case, I try to look for more jobs. My past jobs had a big impact on my work ethic now as a developer.
Climbing Up the Career Ladder: From Junior Developer to Senior Developer
—— How do you approach the skills you need to learn as you go on?
I do self-study after work, even during work. What’s good about the IT Industry is that professionals help each other out. In my experience as a developer, that’s the kind of environment they have. You will not work alone. It’s always teamwork. If you do not know something, they’ll gladly teach you. If they don’t know something, you’ll teach them. It’s always giving and take. Being willing to learn, and knowing how to work with teams as a developer should be a huge part of your growth in the field. Developers work with teams. You would need to learn non-stop in Tech.
—— Tell us about your first job as a developer.
Flowerstore.ph – I was a Full Stack Web Developer there. I learned about React.js and Laravel. I do Front-end and Back-end. We did deployment. What’s good about my work experience here is that the company is a startup.
I’m really lucky that I worked for a startup as my first developer job. Their old website was Shopify and it was a little limiting for them. I, including 3 other junior developers and our Senior developer, was able to create a website from scratch. We also created a CRM system for tracking orders using Laravel. So that was my experience.
Working from scratch and working from a startup is such a significant experience for me as my first job. New projects build more experience. Unlike in other companies where your job is to do maintenance only.
That’s why now when I look out for new jobs, I share my output from this company.
—— Tell us about your mid-level experience as a developer.
I had mid-level experience but as a junior developer 6 or 7 months after working with flowerstore.ph.
It’s also a startup company in Singapore where my brother was the CTO. I did a freelance job for him and it was already triced my salary in my previous company. And of course, I grabbed that opportunity. This was the start of my career growth. My mindset was that there are only a few skilled developers and that makes them in demand.
So my job here is almost the same. The company sells 2nd-hand phones and they export them to other countries. I only had a month and a half of work experience here. It was prior to the pandemic, and lockdown, and because of this, they had to shut down the company, and I had to look for another job.
And because of this, I told myself that I must look for global clients having experienced a tripled salary in Singapore. I tried looking for jobs in different countries with the same salary rate. And that’s when I got my next job at ACOS, an Australia-based company. I was super blessed during the pandemic. I believe it’s really in the mindset of telling yourself that you deserve that figure.
In ACOS, this is where I really experienced being a mid-level developer. I was also very well-trained there. It’s a stable company with procedures. It’s my first time not working in a startup. This company has flows and processes. They’re really strict and organized. They follow a system. But this was also just freelance work for me.
—— Tell us about your experience with freelancing as a developer.
About freelancing? I would say that doing freelance work for other countries is better because of the salary. I wanted to take the same steps as my brother did and immigrate but I realized that it’s still better to stay in the Philippines. The cost of living here is cheaper and at the same time, you benefit from foreign salary rates.
There are many people asking me about my freelancing job and I always recommend Zuitt. I recommend that they also study in a Bootcamp. It’s all worth it – especially the tuition. You’ll totally gain it back.
And also in IT, jobs are abundant especially when your credentials are really good. That’s one of the great things about the Industry. This freelancing work that I did was a big stepping stone for me to enter US companies, especially landing my current job with Pictureworks.
—— How did you land a job as a Senior Developer?
I really wanted to have a stable part-time job. That’s why, at first, I did a contractual for 3 months in Pictureworks. I had good earnings doing part-time and sidelines. But eventually, I had to let go of one and chose to stay with Pictureworks.
My responsibilities as a Senior Developer include handling team members. Each team has modules or systems to handle. So for example, a module will be assigned to me and I am in charge to distribute tasks to my Junior developers. Before distributing, part of my job is to study each task before assigning it to a specific Junior developer. Also, if consultations are needed, there are times that I also have to do the coding – especially on critical tickets. I have a much bigger responsibility. I have to know what my team members are doing or coding.
In this company, I really felt how valued I am by my employer that’s why I chose to stay here. And finally, this is my full-time regular job. I gave up on other side jobs to focus on having a work-life balance. Years ago, I was super motivated to level up because coding is really my passion.
Career Upgrade Means Salary Growth and Value Growth
—— Are there any new pieces of training that you would like to tap into?
I still watch out for more work experience but I plan to take AWS certifications. That’s what recruiters are looking for these days. Your certifications add up to your value as a developer.
—— What kind of jobs do you look for next?
I’m just really planning to get more experience. I plan to look for remote work jobs in European companies because the salary there is big. I need to be more confident. I know I have been talking about salary all the time. Anyway, I just really love what I do. It’s a plus that developer jobs really pay well.
—— What is your biggest learning in the transition?
Always look out for your co-workers. Never make them feel that they do not belong on the team. Do not neglect them. If they have questions, always answer them. If you don’t, they’re more likely to become demotivated with their work. In this field, communication and teamwork are really important. When I became a Senior Developer I realized that helping one another is really important. I am handling an all-foreigner team and I hope I could have a Filipino Junior Developer soon!
—— Any message that you would like to share (word of wisdom)?
- To those who are working their way up the career ladder as a developer…
Just like what I said earlier, you have to take courage. If you don’t get out of your comfort zone, you will never grow as a developer. Nothing will change for you. My mindset is to first think about how I will get the job. When I get the job, that’s when I’ll think about the job that I will do for the position. Like they say, “Fake it till you make it!”
And if you don’t get the job, that’s okay! Nothing will happen. If you get the job, you will gain experience. Never underestimate yourself. Do not demotivate yourself. What employers want to see in you is your confidence.
- To those who are interested in career shifting…
There are many people asking me on LinkedIn about Zuitt like: Is Zuitt good? Or will they be able to get a job after their training? And of course, I tell these people that I had a good experience with Zuitt. It’s worth it and you will really learn.
You have to ask yourself if this new career path that you will take is what you want or your passion. Cause if there will come a time that you get stressed with the job, you might give up on it right away. When you think about how good the salary will be, you must think about how the journey will take you too.
- To our current boot campers…
When studying, do not lose hope. There will come a time when you feel like you are stupid. We have this what we call the “Imposter Syndrome.” Even when you’re so good at doing what you do as a Senior developer, there will be down moments when you feel you are worthless just because you’re not able to do some tasks. It’s normal! Don’t worry.
But do not stop studying! Keep going. Do not dwell on it and motivate yourself. Once you get through it, your growth will be continuous. Studying code does not happen overnight.
(End of Interview)
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