Step One – An Update

I received some good news this week. Lighthouse Labs, who I’ve been considering for retraining in app development, is offering a six-week pop-up course starting in mid April in Calgary at a significant cost savings over the eight-week intensive courses in Vancouver. I signed right up! It’s only introductory level, but it will help me decide if I should go on to one of the Vancouver courses. I have recently become aware of a number of business analyst positions where I would need to understand some programming, but in the day-to-day I would use more project management. Once I have completed the pop-course, I will consider whether to pursue a business analyst position or go on for more training. I finally feel like I’ve taken a step toward a career change.

I’ve been hemming and hawing for weeks over whether I should pursue web or app development and now I’ve settled on apps. Lighthouse has a great blog post, which influenced me a lot. Yesterday, as a gut check, I sat down with an app developer I know to get her take on it. Her input was that currently most web development is about the appearance of a website. Developers crop up in fields like marketing and graphic design. She believes there are tough technical challenges that should be addressed in web development, but they don’t have much focus or momentum (i.e. money). App developers are more likely to “get their hands dirty”, as she put it. The work is very technical in nature. That cements it for me. I would prefer to compete in a technical space rather than a visual one.

I grilled my app developer friend for details on the job market in Calgary, of which she had many. Companies that employ developers generally fall into two categories – those with their own app that the developers build and support and those that contract out their developers to build apps for third-party customers (my contact referred to these as “dev shops”). There are not many dev shops in Calgary, but more and more companies are hiring in-house developers. Calgary is a city built on networking. It’s yet another hurdle to people like me who are new to the city. It also creates a barrier to potential freelance developers. If a network is everything for your average employee walking down the street, it is really everything for someone who wants to freelance. It is very difficult to be successful as a freelancer in Calgary.

The job market sounds similar Boise and, I imagine, similar to other small cities. Good developers don’t tend to stay in small cities unless they have some sort of tie to them. Usually, unattached new grads will flock to places like Vancouver, Toronto, New York City and Seattle. There’s a much wider array of positions available in big cities, but there is also more competition for those jobs. App developers in places like Calgary tend to have more control over work/life balance due to the lack of competition. This is a perfect scenario for me! I want work/life balance! And I want it in a place where I can contribute to an up-and-coming tech sector.

All in all, I have cause for optimism at the moment and I can’t wait to get started!


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