Work As Front-end Developer In Finland

This is only my own story. I hope you find something helpful. But be aware the information can be out-dated and a little subjective.

First job when I am a student

I actually spend 7 years studying industrial design and user experience in university. Not a strong background for software development. But I did have some courses of programming and found I am really into it. So I have already decided that I will find a software development job after graduation.

In the first year of my master study, I found a part-time developer job in Helsinki. A very small but nice startup. The technology is not very modern: jQuery, PHP, MediaWiki (worse than WordPress development in my opinion). But I do learn a few important things that school doesn't teach:

  1. JIRA. Almost every company is using it for project management.
  2. Git. Write meaningful commit message. Review pull requests of others. Merge conflicts. Manage releases. Do hotfix for production server.
  3. Tests. For web development, there are unit tests and integration tests.
  4. Containers. Vagrant and Docker are popular for complex tech stack.

Yes, the first job is so hard to find for a student. You probably won't have many choices. Maybe the job is not very interesting or well paid. But try to find something you can learn from experienced developers and the whole team.

Another thing I learned from this job is that I am more into front-end technology than back-end or server operation.

It is very important that you pick the direction you are most eager to explore. For a student, full-stack can be a trap because you won't get enough time to digest so many skills. If you have one skill super good, you can definitely find a good job. Then you can extend your skill set in real projects.

Just my personal opinion…

Before graduation

Start to check job market one year before you graduate. In Aalto University, we have CareerWeb. I find it the most useful job search platform. Other job websites are not very friendly for students (3 years experience, etc.).

I find the most popular keywords of front-end jobs are Angular and React. So I made a small site with Angular as my portfolio. I actually got a React job because the employer think Angular and React are very similar.

Usually we don't have much work experience before graduation. Even though I did some part-time jobs, I cannot put the project details in my portfolio because of NDA. So personal project is a very good way to make you a portfolio.

Don't need to make too many. Two are enough:

  1. The first can be a typical (a bit boring) website with login, some listing, search and shopping cart. No need to be fully functioning. It is just a prove that you know the structure of a web application.
  2. The second can be something out of box. For example, an impressive 3D animation with WebGL. A funny game. Or, a cool AI tool to swap your face and your cat. It shows that you have creative mindset and full of potential.

In my three year working experience, React should be the most important font-end skill in the job market of Finland and probably the EU. If you want to become a front-end developer, React is your key. As long as you have some programming experience, you can learn React in three months.

Of course, you need basics of HTML, CSS, JavaScript. But you don't have to know every details.

The first adventure

My first full-time job is from Aalto CareerWeb. It is a small IT company. I had a meeting with two co-founders in a cafe. We talked about my work experience and some JavaScript technology. Then they said, I am hired. My salary is 3000€, average level for a junior developer.

I was doing only front-end stuff in the first year. Dive deep into React, TypeScript, and webpack. The second year I started to do some back-end development: GraphQL, Express.js, MongoDB, AWS. Though it is exciting to learn new things, I soon find the limitation of this job:

  1. Doing bad practices a thousand times is worse than doing good practice once. For example, Redux is state storage that is shared across the app, but you shouldn't use it everywhere and make components not reusable.
  2. Here is no good platform for discussion. There are more experienced developers but you might catch a very good idea sometimes. The team should allow open discussion, and not keep saying: we don't do this and the talk is over.
  3. Cannot build connections. If you want to develop your career, you have to know many people from different companies. But my first job doesn't allow me to do so. I just do my own work everyday and rarely have chance to meet new people.
  4. People are leaving every month. Here are a lot of reasons for leaving. But it is clearly not a good environment for a long career.

So I decided to leave…

The second adventure

I get my second job offer with friend's reference. I sent my CV and talked with the CEO. Then I am hired. Salary keeps 3500€ and soon grows to 3850€. My second full-time job gives me much more connections in the industry, big clients, design agencies and software out-sourcing companies.

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