Getting Social with our Maker alumni family

The second floor was buzzing during our first Maker Social alumni night! We invited students from all past cohorts to stop by and catch up – it was pretty cool to see a cross-section of the community that have learned with us over the last three years.

After drinks were flowing and folks settled in, Ella hosted alumni panel discussion featuring students from different past cohorts:

  • Irwin Chan (August 2015 cohort)
    Developer at DEMAC Media

  • Brock Whitbread (March 2014 cohort)
    Front-End Developer at Hashtag Paid and Part Time Instructor at Bitmaker

  • Stella Kim (October 2013 cohort)
    Web Developer at LookBookHQ

Each shed light on how things have gone for them since graduating from their Bitmaker cohorts.

Jumping into pro-level coding

On giving advice to new junior developers, Irwin suggested committing to learning one language thoroughly. "My education and work centres around Ruby on Rails. There's so much built-in functionality and capacity for expansion, which means that you simply can't know it all. Being immersed in this counters the presumptions beginners sometimes have, which is that you already know everything."

For Stella, the biggest hurdle to clear when starting out was understanding the development practices of her new workplace.

"Hopefully you'll also make a positive contribution by making improvements to those practices," she said. "A shining moment for junior developers is not just picking up the material you’re given, but being able to make new contributions to your team."

Additionally, Brock suggested seeking guidance from senior developers, as this greatly benefitted him in his first workplace. "I tried to absorb what they were doing and follow their best practices. Having guidance like this helped me determine and narrow down what I wanted to learn still and things that I really needed to know."

The matter of salary

It can be difficult to negotiate a salary when you’re embarking on a new opportunity, especially when you’re new to the process. The first time around is the hardest. The panel’s consensus was that things get easier after getting the first experience out of the way.

When Brock was pursuing his second development job, he was encouraged by his girlfriend’s brother (who’s in the industry) to aim on the higher side. “He recommended that I look up what the market [rate] is in Toronto, then shoot a little higher than that to land in the right spot.”

Goals and motivators

Ella asked alumni to share their goals and how they're working to achieve them. Irwin's stance was pretty to the point. "If you want to survive, you have to progress! Having an interest in what you're doing, a passion, that's helpful."

"A major driver for me is wanting to be able to form my own stances on things, said Stella. "Once you realize that there are multiple ways to solving problems - which is common in web development - you want to be able to formulate your own opinions on the direction to take."

And as for future goals? Though not interested in starting a business himself, Brock tries to keep a few ongoing app ideas in mind. "I try to stray from what I already know well with my own projects, which becomes a personal challenge. I frame it to myself as 'I want to build this thing, but I want to learn more while I do it too'."

We want to send out a huge thank you to our entire alumni base, as well as everyone who came out the other night! Your amazing work in the real world is why Bitmaker has such a great reputation. It’s a delight to be your launchpad and help you get your goals off the ground.