Thriving in Tech: Securing Your First Job, Leveraging Side Hustles, and Overcoming Layoffs

March 14, 2024
April 11, 2024
March 14, 2024


In this special guest issue, tech industry experts Matt Lawrence and Mike Karan invite Kyle Tryon (TechSquidTV), a seasoned developer who turned his tech journey from beginner to pro into a roadmap for others, offering an insider's perspective on tackling the tech industry's challenges. Through his experiences, discover insider strategies for landing your first tech job, maximizing side hustles, and rebounding from layoffs, providing valuable insights and practical advice to help YOU thrive in the tech industry!

Topics covered in this article include:

  • Securing and Preparing for Technical Interviews
  • Enhancing Your GitHub and Professional Projects
  • Documenting Your Tech Journey and Embracing New Technologies
  • Navigating Career Decisions and Alternative Job Paths
  • Transforming Challenges into Opportunities

About Kyle Tryon

Known in the tech community as TechSquidTV, Kyle Tryon has made significant strides as a professional software engineer and passionate educator. After earning an Associate's degree in Information Technology from ITT Technical Institute-Marlton, NJ, Kyle's journey of learning and sharing knowledge took a creative turn. His YouTube channel, TechSquidTV, boasts over one million views and showcases his evolving content range—from web development to tutorials on Adobe After Effects, Illustrator, and 3D modeling with Blender. This diversity in content highlights his commitment to providing accessible technical education and reflects his continuous learning path.

Kyle extends his educational outreach through his website and social media, where he freely shares code, experiments, and insights to inspire and assist others in their technological pursuits. A JavaScript enthusiast and a prominent personality in the Tech Twitter community, he is dedicated to guiding others into the tech world through his blog and YouTube channel. Kyle Tryon embodies the role of a mentor and educator, proving invaluable to aspiring developers globally!

How to Get Technical Interviews

The first step in a technical Interview is to get a technical Interview!

Applying directly through job boards, services like LinkedIn, or directly with companies can be challenging due to the competition with numerous other applicants and the presence of company filters designed to screen out resumes.

Kyle tells us that getting recommendations from professionals within the tech industry will help us streamline the process of landing technical Interviews! Additionally, building your online presence by sharing your work through content creation will not only help you stand out but will also help you expand your personal network, including connections with industry professionals, and bring many career advancement opportunities directly to you!

💡 Tip: Consider the benefits companies offer. Sometimes, a lower salary with superior benefits can be more advantageous than a higher salary with minimal benefits.

What to Expect from Technical Interviews

Technical interviews are a comprehensive test of your skills, from coding to problem-solving and collaboration. Kyle outlines what to expect, including multiple interview rounds, whiteboard challenges, and take-home projects. Depending on the individual companies, technical interviews might also cover data structures and algorithm questions, among various other topics. So, if information about the interview content is available, it's a good idea to learn what will be covered beforehand.

Outline of what to expect:

  • Several interviews
  • Whiteboard testing
  • Take home projects
  • Pair programming
  • Data Structures and Algorithms

Several interviews

I was hoping for a one-and-done interview to land my first tech job. However, Kyle advises us to prepare for multiple interviews. The last company he worked at conducted a six-interview process!


What are whiteboard interviews? Whiteboard interviews involve solving coding problems on a literal whiteboard in front of interviewers. This method tests your ability to think logically, articulate your thought process, and write code by hand without the aid of a computer. It's a way for employers to assess your problem-solving skills, understanding of algorithms, and ability to work through challenges in real time.

Take home projects

Some companies give you a take-home project to complete within a certain timeframe. Kyle shares that his previous company provided potential employees with a relatively straightforward take-home assignment to showcase their understanding of the product. The provided timeframe also aims to measure your programming skill level: it determines whether you can complete the task within the allotted period.

Pair programming

Kyle informs us that in addition to our programming skills, our ability to collaborate effectively with our pair programming partners is also evaluated during the coding portions of interviews.

Data Structures and Algorithms

While data structures and algorithms are more common in FAANG interviews (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google), they may come up during technical interviews at smaller companies, and overall, they are beneficial for you. (Think of them as good for your "dev health," like eating your vegetables! 🥦)

So, how can you get some hands-on practice? I recommend Edabit. Edabit is an excellent, FREE online resource for getting started practicing algorithms. I discovered this beginner-friendly site in my search for an alternative to LeetCode, which caters to more experienced developers.

In addition, you might also encounter behavioral interview questions, discussions about past projects or work experience, system design questions, and questions about specific technologies or programming languages relevant to the position.

💡 Tip: If you use AI to help solve problems during the creation of your projects, make sure you understand how the provided code works because you may need to explain it during an interview.

How to Prepare for a Technical Interview

Now that we know what to expect during a technical interview let's explore effective strategies and practices to ensure you're well-prepared! Key topics we'll cover in the upcoming article sections include:

  • Enhancing your GitHub profile
  • Developing projects that showcase professionalism
  • Documenting your learning journey
  • Staying up to date with the latest technologies
  • Determining if you should quit your current job
  • Alternative ways to get your foot in the tech industry door
  • Turning unemployment into opportunity

Judging a Developer by Their GitHub

Although it's unfortunate, within the tech industry, others will look at your GitHub activity and use it as a gauge of your productivity. This common method of filtering may dismiss you from job consideration, preventing your resume from even being reviewed!

So, do your best to be consistent on GitHub so that you can earn plenty of the highly sought-after green squares! 🟩🟩🟩

Since others will size you up by "judging a book by its cover" when they review your GitHub, why not make it as appealing as a book cover?

The image below shows my optimized GitHub profile, which helps it stand out. It's not difficult to do, and you can customize yours by following the FREE resources I used created by industry experts Eddie Jaoude and Jesse Hall!

You can optimize your GitHub by:

  • You can pin up to 6 of your best repos
  • Customise the look to help you stand out
  • Utilize GitHub actions such as automatic updating of your recent articles
  • Visually display the languages and tools you use via colorful icons
  • Add widgets to display things like your current GitHub stats
  • Add links to your socials
  • And much more!

💡 Tip: Mirroring repositories from other services to GitHub showcases more work and boosts your activity graph, making your profile more attractive to employers.

Build Projects that Portray Professionalism

Kyle suggests developing a fully featured application and advancing it as much as possible through the development cycle. Consider incorporating testing, establishing a CI/CD pipeline, and creating contributor documentation. The aim is to construct a project that showcases professionalism, your coding skills, and your ability to manage a repository.

Additionally, numbers and graphs are universally appealing because they provide measurable statistics. Consider creating an open-source project that allows you to compile such data. You can track metrics like repository stars, merged pull requests, and releases.

Creating an open-source project also serves as a way to acquire necessary team collaboration experience. Before securing a developer position, your journey has likely been solitary, involving online courses, coding projects, and consuming tech-related content through reading or listening. Since your soft skills and collaboration skills will also be evaluated during interviews, an open-source project is an excellent way to gain this required experience.

A CI/CD pipeline is an automated process that enables continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) of code changes. It involves automatically building, testing, and deploying applications to streamline the development lifecycle.

Document your Learning Journey

Kyle points out that a common interview question is to "describe a time you faced a problem and how you solved it." He suggests keeping a personal blog, as it becomes an invaluable resource, offering a wealth of information to share on demand for this question and similar scenarios!

Creating and maintaining a personal blog will provide you with many benefits. From reinforcing what you learn to provide hiring managers with insights into your capabilities, the opportunities it brings are boundless!

Benefits of a personal blog include:

  • Documentation of your code: Keep a record of your coding projects and snippets for future reference.
  • Reinforce what you learn: Writing about new concepts helps solidify your understanding.
  • Understand the topics better: Teaching concepts through blog posts can deepen your comprehension.
  • Build your online presence: Establish yourself as a knowledgeable entity in the tech community.
  • Create opportunities for yourself: A well-maintained blog can attract job offers and collaborative projects.
  • Display your passion: Show your enthusiasm and commitment to technology and learning.
  • Prove your discipline: Regularly updating a blog demonstrates dedication and time management skills.
  • Provide hiring managers with samples of your work: Offer tangible evidence of your skills and problem-solving capabilities.

💡 Tip: Having a personal blog can prove to be a valuable resource, as it can provide reference materials during interviews.

Embracing the Latest Technologies

Many seasoned developers often lean towards tried-and-true technologies and shy away from newer ones like AI. As an up-and-coming developer, embracing the latest technologies can put you ahead of the curve, giving you a competitive advantage in the job market!

I'm currently pushing my React skills beyond what I already know by pair programming with AI to build an entire Star Wars Ahsoka website! I have successfully built components, functions, dropdown and hamburger menus, learned about best coding practices by file separation, and even added YouTube videos by implementing libraries, and I'm just getting started!

AI is not just used as a pair programming tutor. You can harness its power by building AI-powered projects! You can get started learning how to do this with FREE AI courses by Scrimba!

Learning to pair program with AI and build AI-powered applications will enhance your web development skills, turning you into a valuable asset that employers will eagerly seek out!

Don't Quit Your Day Job?

As I aim to transition into a full-time tech career myself, given the recent wave of layoffs in the tech industry, I wonder, Should I risk leaving my current job of 19 years?

I'm sure many aspiring developers are asking themselves this question. It's a tough decision that will ultimately depend on the individual and their situation.

Kyle wisely advises that if your main goal is to "make money" and you're not passionate about programming, then the tech industry might not be the right fit for you, as you'll likely not enjoy your job. The "🎸Rock Star⭐" treatment and rewards for developers have seemingly come to an end, and the tech industry faces the same everyday challenges as other industries.

However, if you are passionate about programming, Kyle tells us the tech industry will continue to have high-paying jobs for the foreseeable future. So, it can still be a lucrative field to consider for a career change when the job market improves and if you've thoughtfully evaluated the personal risks of quitting your current job.

Alternative Ways to Land a Tech Job

In today's competitive tech job market, traditional paths to employment aren't the only avenues to success! Having a game plan with alternative strategies can help you secure a tech industry position, even when conventional methods seem out of reach. Whether you're a newcomer to the tech field or looking to pivot your career, these alternative pathways offer valuable insights to help you navigate your journey.

Alternative pathways include:

  • Local jobs
  • Freelance
  • Non-tech position in a company that has tech positions
  • Building your personal brand
  • Networking

Local jobs

If you apply for remote jobs, you compete with the world. Alternatively, if you apply for a local job, you compete with the local community, which can greatly increase your chances of landing a job!

In a tech job market that's heavily focused on remote jobs, there's much to be said about onsite positions. So, a local onsite job may be your golden ticket!


How can you get your first job in tech when the job requires experience? Freelancing can help you overcome the catch-22 of needing job experience to get your first tech job! Some popular freelance platforms for developers include Upwork, Freelancer, Toptal, and Fiverr.

Also, consider working for free in exchange for valuable reviews, testimonials, or endorsements, which you can add to your LinkedIn and resume/CV. This strategy will help build your reputation and others' confidence in your capabilities, ultimately paving the way for paid job opportunities!

Take a non-tech position in a company that has tech positions

Another way to land a tech job is with the "Trojan Horse" strategy: initially securing a non-tech role at a company, aiming to transition into a tech position from within.

Kyle shares his experience working in Best Buy's Geek Squad, where he strategically networked with tech department colleagues while working in a customer service role. This networking technique expanded his professional connections, positioning him advantageously for a tech opportunity should one arise within the company.

Building your personal brand

You may be hired or fired, work as a freelancer, start a side hustle, launch a business, or pursue other ventures. However, one constant remains throughout your career: the value of your personal brand.

Your personal brand is your most valuable asset. It stays with you, consistently opens doors to new opportunities, and it remains solely yours, beyond anyone's reach to take away.

Tips on building your personal brand include:

  • Identifying a niche: Focus on a specific area of expertise and aim to become a thought leader within that domain. (Such as React, CSS, and UI/UX)
  • Being present: Actively participate in industry events and online forums to establish your presence and authority. (Conferences, Twitter Spaces, Discord, Livestream)
  • Networking effectively: Build relationships with the people you meet during events to broaden your opportunities and support system and to enhance your visibility.
  • Sharing your knowledge: Utilize various platforms to publish content that demonstrates your expertise and extends your influence. (It can be as simple as a Twitter post or as in-depth as an article, Podcast, or YouTube channel)
  • Showcasing your personal projects: Present unique projects that highlight your capabilities and passion, distinguishing you from others. (I'm currently building a Star Wars React website pair programming with AI)


I've seen it time and time again, and I also speak from personal experience. The tried and true method of securing work is through networking!

Once you have established your personal brand by sharing your knowledge, building projects in public within your niche, and actively participating in community events to grow your network, you become a member of a community. This community leads to new opportunities and acts as a support system and safety net for your career!

Brian Morrison, a developer in my network, was impacted by the recent layoffs at PlanetScale. He received overwhelming community support by sharing his "open for work" video tweet, testimonials, recommendations, and much-needed heartfelt words. ♥

Because of his networking, he secured a new job at "Clerk" within a few days, filling the same position title of Sr. Developer Educator, which he absolutely loves!

He wrote a Twitter/X article documenting the steps he took to get back on track, offering guidance to others facing layoffs.

"I started making content and networking a priority in 2019, and have always referred to it as “building a war chest” for when I needed a job. I knew that in time, it would help me tremendously, and this was exactly the moment that it came in for me. The friendships I’ve built along the way due to my content, meeting and talking about life, or helping with projects were now coming in to help ME."
- Brian Morrison

Brian's advice to YOU is, "Create content, network, and build in public!"

💡 Tip: Consistently using the same profile picture across various platforms enhances your recognizability, aiding in personal brand development.

Turning Tragedy into Opportunity

While facing a layoff can be disheartening, unlike many other careers, your skills as a developer can unlock numerous opportunities to generate income while you search for your next job. You might even do so well in these efforts that returning to a traditional job becomes unnecessary!

Some alternative income options for developers include:

  • Freelancing: Offering your development services on a project-by-project basis to various clients. (Freelancing can also fulfill the "experience" needed for developer positions, as mentioned before)
  • Building a SaaS product: Creating and selling access to a software application that serves a specific need or niche market. (Florin Pop's iCodeThis is an excellent example of a SaaS product)
  • Creating paid courses: Developing and selling educational content or courses that teach programming skills or technologies. (Create and sell courses on platforms such as Udemy and Podia)
  • Charging for mentorship: Providing personalized guidance and support to less experienced developers for a fee. (Become a mentor at a service like MentorCruise.)
  • Technical writing: Write articles or blogs for publications that pay contributors (Such as I do 📝)
  • Content creator: Producing and sharing multimedia content like videos, blogs, and podcasts that educate, entertain, or inform an audience, often within a specific niche. (Seek sponsorship, Ad revenue, and financial community support)
  • Developer advocate: Promoting a company's technology and supporting its user community by creating documentation and tutorials and engaging with users through social media and conferences. (Pursue a paid advocacy role for tech services you already use and trust.)
  • Launching your own business or offering a service: Establishing a company or providing a specialized service tailored to meet the demands of a particular market or audience. (Create and start your own business idea or service, such as Kyle's newly created DevRel service!)

Kyle's DevRel as a service provides an all-encompassing DevRel service, leveraging his extensive skills as a Software Engineer, Educator, and Content Creator. He offers a range of services, including screencasts, animations, writing, and code development, which are aimed at enhancing developer relations and content creation. His offerings, suitable for various platforms, include everything from short social media clips to in-depth tutorials and SEO-optimized articles. With over five years of experience in coding, particularly in CI/CD pipelines and SDKs, Kyle is adept at creating custom applications and automating development processes. TechSquidTV's bundle packages are designed to cater to diverse content creation and developer outreach needs!

💡 Tip: As it's common for developers to switch jobs in pursuit of increased earnings, being laid off can present an opportunity to secure a job with higher pay than your previous position.

Kyle Tryon's Links

HTML All The Things

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Whether you want to land your first job in tech, earn income through side hustles, or get back in the game after a layoff, the most effective way is to make yourself visible. You can accomplish this through content creation and by growing your professional network!

You can stand out from the crowd of applicants by getting recommendations from industry professionals in your network. A recommendation from someone within your network can speed up the long hiring process and help you secure a technical interview. Technical interviews might involve several stages, including whiteboard challenges, take-home assignments, pair programming, and questions about data structures and algorithms.

Since people in the tech industry often judge your productivity by your GitHub profile, make sure to accumulate plenty of green contribution squares to demonstrate your active coding. Also, customize your profile to help it stand out!

Consider becoming a content creator to help build your online presence and document your learning. Not only will this make you a better and well-known developer, but it will also provide hiring managers with insight into your technical skills! Also, embracing new technologies will give you a competitive edge in the tech job market!

When working on projects, push them as close to a finished product as possible to demonstrate your ability to create applications ready for real-world use. Additionally, contribute to open-source projects to gain experience working in a tech team setting. This not only showcases your technical skills but also your ability to work well with others. Remember, during interviews, your soft skills and ability to collaborate are just as important, making this an excellent way to acquire the necessary experience!

Exploring local jobs, freelancing, and taking non-tech positions in tech companies can be great alternatives to landing a full-time tech job and can assist in you gaining an actual tech role position from being hired from within!

As a developer, you have a skill like none other! You can find ways to make money through freelancing, developing SaaS products, technical writing, and content creation. You may become so successful in your endeavors that this can become your new career, removing the need for traditional employment!

Let's connect! I'm active on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Written by...
Michael Larocca

Front-End Web Developer | Writer | Musician

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