How I Went from Researcher to Junior Front-End Developer in 5 Months

5 minutes

Learning to code so that you can land a job in tech can feel daunting. That’s why we’re sharing inspiring stories from Codecademy’s community — to show how people like you (yes, you!) can embark on a learning journey and end up with a totally new career. We hope these stories serve as a reminder that there’s no single path to a more fulfilling work life.

Today’s story is from Dominika Wojewska, a 34-year-old Junior Front End Developer living in Poland. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here — and be sure to share your story here.

Why I chose to learn to code

“Before I was a researcher working in academia, doing a PhD in biochemistry. I really wanted to work in a pharmaceutical company or do something with drug design and development. It’s not only very difficult to get such a job, but if you want to work in the lab, you have to relocate to physically be there. I didn’t want to do that anymore. I just want to live anywhere in the world that I like and find a job that is mentally stimulating and fun [that I can do] remotely.”

How I made time to learn

“I started to learn to code sometime around May of 2022 just for fun. I was learning during the evenings and whenever I could find some time.

What’s even better is to make time in your agenda to learn to code and work on personal projects. I recommend putting that into your calendar and stick to it, no excuses. Make a long-term learning plan, or a roadmap, and stick to it. Also be ready to make sacrifices: If you have a clear goal in mind, some of your hobbies will have to suffer, because the time and energy you have is not unlimited. Prioritize things and don’t rely on motivation — rely on discipline.”

Learn something new for free

How I saved up money to switch careers

“At some point, I just decided to quit my job to focus full time on learning how to code. I didn’t have anything lined up, and I ran into some financial issues, so I definitely do not recommend that to anyone. Even though I had some savings, it still was rough. If you plan to go this way, have savings that are the equivalent of at least half a year of your salary. You not only need to pay rent and buy food, but also spend some money on learning resources.”

Curious how you can make ends meet while changing careers?

Here are some tips from other learners who’ve pulled off the switch.

How long it took me to land a job

“It took me several months, roughly half a year, from November to April.”

How I got in the door

“I started applying to jobs immediately, but that was way too soon because all I knew was HTML and CSS. I knew JavaScript because I learned it from the Codecademy course, but I didn’t really know how to use it in a project. I definitely didn’t know any JavaScript framework. I was applying for anything that sounded even remotely within my brackets. Most jobs require you to know a framework and they require at least one year of experience. But how are you going to get this experience if you are not even able to land an internship? That was the most difficult thing.

I started getting interviews sometime in spring of 2023. I think it was mainly brute force that got me interviews. I was writing some projects — very primitive ones, to be honest — like a web page to some local service, or web page for a friend.”  

How I nailed the interview

“Some jobs require you to do a test task, and this one was surprisingly super easy. All they needed was just HTML and CSS, and some basic awareness of JavaScript. I even had second thoughts, like, Hmm that’s suspicious.

I think having previous job experience was a really good asset, because it landed me an interview at least once. Past job experience helps a lot, because people know that you are able to work independently and you’re not just the green freshmen.”

How I evaluated the offer

“I was just happy to land at a job because I know that finding the first one is so difficult.

I also did some research on the salary brackets, and this one was in the upper half — basically the same I was making in my previous job as a biochemist, so it was a great starting point. During the interview, I asked many questions regarding learning opportunities and any projects they have going on. The company provides access to a learning platform, and my direct supervisor said they treat every dev personally and guide them. They were starting to write a big web app for their clients, all of which told me I’ll have opportunities to learn and grow my skills.

They also offered a hybrid work mode: three days from the office, two days from home. For a junior dev that was pretty decent. After weighing pros and cons to get a better overview of what I’m getting into, I accepted the offer. What helped me the most was being realistic: This job is not forever, treat it as a springboard.”

Past job experience helps a lot, because people know that you are able to work independently and you’re not just the green freshmen.

Dominika Wojewska
Junior Web Developer

How day one and beyond went

“It was a mixed bag because I felt super proud of myself that I landed a job as a Junior Web Developer. It’s not even an internship, it’s a proper job. But the first couple of days were rough, mostly because I started mid-month, and I didn’t get proper onboarding until the next month started. I was just thrown in deep water, and it was like, Now you swim.

I was assigned a buddy who helped me massively. She was another junior front-end dev, and I was taking over her responsibilities while she moved on to work on that big web app. So whenever I had questions, I could go and ask her. On the other hand, I really didn’t want to bother her with too many too basic questions, so I figured out a lot of stuff on my own. And I gradually learned the ropes and the tech that was required (like Sass and BEM naming) after hours.”

What I wish I knew before I started learning

“I wish I had known how difficult it is to work on somebody else’s code. Even in front end, some people have different ways of structuring the project or different ways of writing the code, and some things that didn’t make sense to me.

Also, it’s possible to learn how to code and get a job in months, but learning takes time. You not only have to learn, but also you have to practice, work on your projects, and put those projects up on GitHub so others can find them. You should really have a good portfolio before applying for jobs.”

Learn like Dominika

5 courses

Not sure where to start? Check out our personality quiz! We’ll help you find the best programming language to learn based on your strengths and interests.

Want to share your Codecademy learner story? Drop us a line here. And don’t forget to join the discussions in our community.

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