Embracing failure as a developer part 1: Failing at my first developer interview

Nick Hollins
5 min readJul 2, 2019

Dear developers, The more you fail, the more you succeed.

Image from techrepublic.com

How I end up landing a developer (DevOps) interview Without applying.

So I have been learning web development for about a year now and I have learned a lot of things during that year. I felt like I knew enough to start applying for jobs but I was still hesitant. For some reason my gut was telling me maybe I am not ready yet so I did not apply to any jobs. Out of nowhere, I was contacted on LinkedIn by the director of operations saying that my resume aligns with what the company was looking for (KEEP YOUR LINKEDIN UPDATED PLEASE!). The company is a pretty well known company in the city so I was excited of course. My initial thought was maybe I do have what it takes to become a developer right now. Somehow imposter syndrome kicked in and I somewhat downplayed my skills by telling the director that I am instead looking for an internship because I am in school and I am still learning lots of things which could have been a mistake but at least I was being honest. To my surprise, the director was fine with that and still wanted to interview with me for a FULL-TIME position and not internship, so I had to double check my skills making sure I didn't accidentally put something on there I didn't really know but everything checked out which was: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, basic PHP, basic MySQL, and some more simple things you learn from a intro software engineer course. Not to get off topic but the job description on LinkedIn said a bachelors degree in computer science was required, and when I asked about it he told me that it is not really a requirement which is why you should always apply anyway in my opinion. long story short, the interview was scheduled.

How I failed the interview so miserably.

I had a week before the interview so I wanted to do more research on the company because I was sure that would be one of the questions that would be asked. Before I go further I think I should mention that I had absolutely zero knowledge on what DevOps is, how it works, all that(I still only have a basic understanding of it now). I figured he seen what my skills was so I probably will be fine if I was to get hired. So the interview begun and the first question was “What do you know about our company?” EASY! I gave him a extremely descriptive answer about what the company was about, what I liked the most about their operations, even how I think I aligned with the company vision. By the way, that is one of the easiest questions you will get in a developer interview so take advantage of it. Literally after that question everything went downhill. The next question was about a PHP framework symphony and creating routes. It was like he asked me a question in a foreign language because I had no idea. So I had no choice but to honestly say “I am not familiar with it”. Next question, “How familiar are you with Git?”. I heard of it but I never used it and I explained that to him. At this point I am stuttering and nervous and it was showing. Overall there was a lot of questions dealing with back end languages, file systems, and more stuff I didn't know at all.

How that interview made me successful even after failing.

It’s not hard to assume I did not get the job. I knew nothing about DevOps so I am still a little confused as to why I was contacted, its not like I lied on my resume but whatever. Me failing initially had a devastating affect on me. It was so bad that I stop coding for almost a year other than school homework (Which I learned is the absolute worst thing you can do after failing a interview). Now that I am back learning software development I Learned a few things that I should list:

1. If you beat yourself up over failing one interview you are in for a big surprise.

I can not name a developer who got a job on his first interview. I am not saying it is not possible because it definitely is but I just do not know one.

2. Failing is apart of the process, embrace it.

I actually love writing code and getting a error because it forces me to dig deeper and learn more. Well it’s a Love/Hate relationship but you get the point, the more you fail the more you learn and the more you learn the more you succeed.

3. Always remain calm during the interview.

When you are nervous it shows and it is not good. Just relax. If I could go back and redo that interview I think I could have possibly got the job if I went about it the right way but I was so nervous I didn't know what to say.

4. If you do not know something try to make a connection of what you do know to what you don’t know.

An example of this would be when I was asked about symphony. If I would have known it was a PHP framework I would have expanded on my knowledge of PHP and tried to make a connection. Its the same is someone asking about React or Angular, even if you don’t know them but you know JavaScript it will not be hard to learn it.

5. Make sure you have a LinkedIn and make sure it is updated.

My first interview ever was the DevOps interview and I was contacted. I didn't even have to contact them so that should say enough about LinkedIn.

6. Apply to jobs even if the requirements says you need a bachelors degree.

Most times you do not need a degree and a lot of times it also says “or equivalent experience”, so do not get discouraged and apply. When I got my interview I did not have a bachelors and I still don’t even though I am working on it right now.

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholas-hollins-6081b2153



Nick Hollins

Developer. Writer. Creator. Always learning. Feel free to email me: hollinsaquile@gmail.com