How I got a job I was underqualified for

How I got a job I was underqualified for

It was one of the coolest tech startups in Kraków. I was a fresh junior software developer and people would often share their expertise not only on programming but also on product and design development at tech events. I dreamed of working there yet didn’t think I was experienced enough. In my freetime, I took a lot of photos and that’s how I met Josephine. She worked for the said company. We became friends pretty quickly because of our shared interest in  art. A few months went by and Josephine sent me a link to a job opening for a Ruby on Rails developer at THE company.

Excited at first, I quickly realised that my work experience was too short and too narrow to even send my CV.

The list of requirements wasn’t that long but already the first point made the situation clear to me:

  • 3 years of professional experience in Ruby on Rails,
  • good knowledge of ElasticSearch,
  • TDD,
  • knowledge of Agile and Scrum,
  • experience with billing APIs,
  • basic knowledge of JavaScript is a plus.

I’d been programming professionally for 1.5 years at that time. That was it. I thanked Josephine for thinking of me. I’m not qualified, I don’t know ElasticSearch, I explained when she encouraged me to send my CV anyway. A bit disappointed, Josephine invited me for an office tour and a cup of coffee, just for fun. Immediately, I said yes. She also mentioned she would like me to meet some people but I didn’t pay much attention to that. I imagined it as a friendly coffee chat. No strings attached.

When I arrived, the space felt like Hogwarts for computer engineers. There were prototypes and physical scrum boards everywhere, people were walking around the space to test devices. Even though the office was still in renovation, one could easily notice its great design. Josephine said hi and introduced me to the Head of People, HR and a Product Owner. We talked for an hour about their product, recruitment process and why I hadn’t applied. They ended an hour-long conversation with a how about we schedule a test drive for you next week? I couldn’t believe it. The onsite test - 8 hours to find a solution and code went well enough that I was hired. I was hired. I got the job. I couldn’t contain my joy!

Cool story, right? Credits roll and music from a superhero movie. Clap, clap, clap. That was just the beginning though. I ended up working for the said company for 1.5 years and it was great. Yes, I was underqualified at first but I learned a lot  and when my only teammate left, I successfully kept developing the billing, shipping and BI systems.

This experience transformed the way I think about job hunting it taught me that my previous beliefs had been utterly wrong. Curious? Let's go!

Job postings are full of words

According to an Hewlett Packard internal report, men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications but women apply only if they meet 100% of qualifications. There are a few problems here but I will focus only on the most basic one. Job postings are full of, pardon my French, bullshit. There is a huge difference between a technology stack and a person who will be successful at a job. Many hiring managers focus too little on the latter, creating job postings that are inaccurate and often confusing. Once I reviewed some of the job postings at Meta, Amazon and Microsoft, check it out to understand that even the biggest players have their job descriptions completely messed up.

As a result, women don’t apply enough even if they like the company or the position seems exciting. Countless times I have talked with another woman who was unsure if she should even send her CV because she had one year of experience or had experience but not exactly in a given niche. Many of those who decide to send their application after my incessant “Just do it, try it, what’s the worst that can happen?” got the job.

If you’re sad or disappointed that diversity on your team is non-existent, check out your careers website and answer following questions:

  • Are requirements longer than three points?
  • Do they describe a person or tech stack?
  • Do they encourage people to apply? Or
  • Are they gatekeepers?

If a thought comes through your mind that it is obvious that we don’t require all of the things, then know that it’s not obvious at all. Add it to the posting or delete not necessary points.

You don’t have the right qualifications, so what?

I hadn’t known about it before I started working in tech, but you learn a lot and most of the things on the job. Let me rephrase it. You learn by doing during your work hours. You read about software, libraries, tools while working. You don’t have to know everything on the first day of your work. It would be rather strange. Nowadays I would never reject a company because I don’t know all the tools in a posting. At the same time, I’m a bit sad to think about all the jobs I haven’t applied to because in my earlier days, I considered the requirements section as a holy scripture. Don’t repeat my mistakes. Take what you read with a grain of salt or even ignore job postings.

Apply for the role!

Don’t read the requirements, apply! In the recruitment process, your only job is to represent yourself, your talent, experience, your values. That’s it. Sounds too obvious? Maybe. Nevertheless hear me out. In the recruitment process your job is not to evaluate if you’re qualified enough. This is a hiring manager’s job. Don’t do their job. Having invested so much time and energy into a process, which can take even several weeks, you need to protect your boundaries. Act in your best interest.

If you like the company, their values and the job title looks appealing, apply.

What if you don’t get the job

Of course, it can happen that you don’t get the job. It is disappointing but it’s still better than not trying at all. See what you can learn from the experience. Maybe the hiring manager can provide you with actionable feedback. Maybe there were questions you didn’t know the answer to, and you could read some articles to polish your knowledge up? Getting rejected can be a positive experience.

Josephine yourself!

Without Josephine, I would have never gotten that job. Her support and belief that I was good enough to try created a life-changing opportunity for me. I don’t know about you but I tend to undermine my skills and often need an external push to shine. One go for it! can completely change the game for me. If this sounds familiar, be Josephine to yourself and josephine others to be brave.

Go get what you want!

If you agree or disagree, let me know, I'd like to learn from you. You can find me on Linkedin or  Twitter.