The Developer Apprenticeship

Just this January I started a year-long Developer Apprenticeship at Automattic. The Developer Apprenticeship is an opportunity to move toward becoming a developer full-time. I’m spending this year with the Jetpack crew.

Everyones path to get to the apprenticeship will be different – for me the current journey began just over a year ago when two team members on the team I was leading went through the application process (the first formal application round of this new apprenticeship program). This planted the seed, and from that point I focused on re-learning what I’d forgotten from several years back, and learning more.

I’ve had a few people ask me what courses I took and how I prepared, and that’s really what motivated me to write this post. I’ll start with a spoiler though – I don’t think the kinds of courses and amount of courses that I’d studied over the years were really what were most important in the end, but I will give a quick summary here.

I’m not sure my two years of Computer Science units at university are relevant here as it was so long ago (in the early 00’s) and I really don’t remember much of that. However, several years back I’d taken various Treehouse courses, including Front End development, Full Stack JavaScript, Web Design, PHP, SQL and WordPress development. I focussed on building WordPress sites and themes as I was then freelancing as a website developer. I also became interested in plugins, eventually building two that made their way to the WordPress plugin repository. Shortly after that I became a Happiness Engineer at Automattic and began to forget much of it, so had to re-learn what I had learnt before. Whilst relearning I also watched Front End Masters courses related to JavaScript and testing. I also found a couple of good first bugs on Github to contribute to.

When the next application round opened, I applied to the Developer Apprenticeship. I got through to the code project phase and worked through that, but in the end didn’t make it through to join cohort 2.  I spent the next few months trying to better understand how to write clean code, and understand design patterns and principles better. I rewrote one of the JavaScript files in one of my plugins, refactoring and cleaning it up. My first Jetpack PR made it into Jetpack 10.1. I also read Professional WordPress Web Development, and found it to be a really helpful and up-to-date guide. The CS50 Intro to Computer Science as well as Web Programming with Python and Javascript had also been recommended so I took a look at those.

I applied again in the following application round, my main goal being to communicate better than before –  partly to make sure I understood what was needed and also partly to make sure that I was sharing more about my approach and what I was learning. This second time around I made it through. If I was to share any insights (based only on my own experience) with anyone else who also may not make it through the first time, it would be to consider what impression you may have left. If you were reviewing yourself, what conclusions would you come to? Based on that as well as any feedback you get, how could you do things differently next time?

I’m only 1 week into the apprenticeship now and I know there will be a lot to learn.  I’m really grateful for this opportunity to work toward becoming a developer – something that was always in the back of my mind but I didn’t think possible for various reasons.

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