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I've been learning web development for a while and will soon start looking for a job. Unfortunately, opportunities are very scarce where I live, so I'll have to look elsewhere. So, I'm thinking about working as a remote developer, but I'm not sure whether that's possible, especially given my lack of experience. I also heard that competition is fierce for remote dev jobs with no geographic restrictions. So I have a few questions:

  1. Is working as a remote dev a viable option for a junior developer?

  2. Is it a good idea to earn some experience through remote web dev internships? Would such remote internships be easier to find than remote dev jobs?

Edit: I wouldn't mind taking an unpaid internship at all or getting formal education (e.g. MSc). Also, I got a positive response today from a company that I contacted a few days ago. They told me I can definitely work with them remotely as an intern. However, from your responses, it seems that the most important issue is not whether one could get a remote position/internship (even though that matters too), but whether that's a good idea to begin with.

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    I can't think why anyone would want to hire a remote junior level dev, perhaps as a freelancer if you don't mention you're just learning and price yourself cheap. I've seen a few like that.
    – Kilisi
    Apr 18 '21 at 21:48
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    Think about it. Training someone is going to be difficult when it's done remotely. I'm not saying it's impossible to find something like that. In this business, very few things are impossible. But it's going to be quite difficult. You'll need a good portfolio or family connections or the ability to work onsite when the pandemic is no longer a problem. Apr 19 '21 at 2:29
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    I think getting paid internships remote as a junior is going to very difficult to convince a company to take you on unless you have an extensive web portfolio and ideally qualifications. I know my company (and others) are currently taking on remote graduates for junior roles but they are expected to live near the offices they are applying for. Apr 19 '21 at 10:49
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    Where are you based?
    – simbabque
    Apr 20 '21 at 17:45
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    Regarding your edit, I would say go for the remote internship if you can. It'll only be a few months so even if you don't enjoy it or learn much from it, you've got little to lose by trying and some work experience is always better than no work experience. And for what it's worth, I know from personal experience that remote internships can absolutely be worthwhile - I was fortunate enough to take part in Google Summer of Code as a student and it was really useful.
    – Withad
    Apr 22 '21 at 9:57
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I run a team of trainee and junior developers in a software company in London. Since the pandemic started, we have moved to fully remote, and we have hired two new entry level developers in my team, and a few more entry level (less/non-technical) across our organisation. They are still mostly based at a distance that will allow at least occasional travel to the office in the future once that is save, but the idea is to stay remote for at least a while longer.

In general, it is very possible to work fully remotely as an IT person, at any level. Of course your team needs to support you, and the company needs to be set up to do that. It is definitely hard if you're the only person being remote, but if everyone is - regardless of if they're all in the same city or not does not matter.

You've not told us where you are based, so I will assume you want to work in the same country. Working abroad is always much harder, and out of scope.

From a company/mentor point of view, my experience so far has been that onboarding people completely remotely is hard, and very different to a personal onboarding. Working with them is very different. I find I can spend more time with each person, because I now schedule individual time slots, so we are much more mindful of what we do, and how we do it.

The actual work, such as pair-programming, is not much different than when you sit with someone in the office. Some bits are easier, others harder. I can use VSCode and LiveShare to click around in their code, or (and one shouldn't do this) change it, which is great. But if I want to draw a diagram, things get tricky and usually involve holding paper up to the camera.

Some people here have said that working remotely for your first job/entry level is bad, because you can't meet people. I mostly disagree with this. I think there is truth in that it is super different to being in the office. You miss out on gossip in the traditional way. There is no kettle/water cooler conversation. Maybe no table tennis if you have that, or going out for lunch with your coworkers. So team building needs to happen in a different way. But I do not think that it means you end up with fewer social skills.

If you are someone who is fine using IRC Slack or Discord all the time, and you end up in a company that is mostly similarly minded, you will thrive. Yes, you will loose out on tea rounds, but that's OK. Working from home is possible.

As for the kind of company or type of job you should go for, that is hard to answer. I would personally never try to get a completely unpaid job. Your time is valuable. You are worth something. Giving it away for free is never great.

There is going to be a lot of information here on Workplace, as well as all over the internet, on how to get an entry level developer role. This information hasn't changed. The advice I give to people I meet through codebar.io, in a nutshell, is this:

  • If you have no university degree, companies (in the UK) need convincing.
  • If you have the time, build a portfolio. Learn things on your own.
  • Look at resources such as roadmap.sh to pick stuff to learn.
  • Use freecodecamp or coding challenge websites such as hackerrank or codewars to practice.
  • Put stuff on your github/gitlab account.
  • Learn how to use git properly, write good commit messages, make PRs to your own stuff rather than just push to master, and maybe create issues too rather than just hack away.
  • Build a portfolio website.
  • Make a StackOverflow account and participate (I love reading applicants' questions and answers on here, super useful as a hiring manager).
  • Be prepared to be turned down a lot. Some HRs just look at degrees. The good companies look at what you can do instead, so don't give up if you don't get anywhere immediately.

I don't agree with the fact that this is the state of affairs, and I also dislike that many senior people often get challenged on not having open source work when they apply for jobs. Try asking a hair dresser how much they enjoy cutting all their friends' hair for free on the weekend, and you see why. The main reason this is happening in IT is that the entry hurdle to this profession is much lower than for more traditional craft-related jobs. You cannot reasonably practice to be a plumber, carpenter or even chef at home.

This is totally possible, and totally a doable career choice. It might not be as smart as moving to the next bigger city, at least for a bit. But it's doable, and ultimately your happiness should be one of the driving factors behind your mayor life choices such as your career. So not moving because you like where you are might limit your options, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to have both.

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Remote junior positions and internships certainly exist - remote companies want to fill those roles the same as any other. There are fewer remote-only companies than there are office-based ones so that does restrict your options but it's not completely unviable.

It's easier to find remote jobs now than it was a couple of years ago, thanks to the pandemic. While many companies are only temporarily remote and will still want to hire locally, others (including big players like Twitter and Facebook) have committed to allowing remote work for any employee who wants it, even post-pandemic. That trend might not continue but it'll help you get your foot in the door right now.

It sounds like you haven't actually applied for any remote positions yet so my advice would be to simply do that and see where you get to. It costs you nothing but a little time and you'll get a feel for what employers are expecting plus some feedback on your CV and portfolio.

Also, this is mostly anecdotal, but I know several companies near me that are expecting a mix of remote and office work in the future. Something like 1 or 2 mandatory days per week in the office for meetings and then the rest remote. If there are places with more jobs that you can get to but wouldn't want to commute to every day, see if any companies there allow part-time remote work. That could expand your opportunities a little.

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Regarding being a programmer, unfortunately in general the situation is

  • It's incredibly hard to get your foot in the door.

  • Once you have a couple years experience, if you're good, everything's great, you make a fortune, and you get to wear pyjamas and play ping-ping all day.

It's a bit like being "a working musician" - everyone wants to do it, it's easy to do it badly, it's incredibly hard to get started at getting paying work, but once you have a few years experience it's all guns and roses.

People come on this site all the time who already have top degrees and are finding it hard to get started - how do I break in? How do I get that first job?

Unfortunately the only advice would be

(1) You mention your area etc. If you want to be a programmer, the least of problems is moving countries or cities. That's the least nuisance and sacrifice you'll have to make. Go ahead and move as needed.

(2) Sorry for the bad news, but it's crazy difficult for anyone to get started. Unfortunately that's the reality of the field.

In software,

  • there's an incredible excess, a glut, a flood, of beginners, inexperienced, and inexpert programmers.

  • there's an insane shortage of domain-skilled, naturally talented, highly expert, domain-experienced programmers.

Unfortunately that's the situation.

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  • How does this answer the question?
    – ojs
    Apr 19 '21 at 15:43
  • @ojs I see this more as an extended comment, challenging the frame of looking for remote only work - let's call it "frame challenge" :)
    – mishan
    Apr 19 '21 at 16:50
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As an experienced software developer, my recommendation is don't do this. Even if you want to, even if it's convenient for you, even if you "don't see another way" or whatever, just don't.

The reason is because you learn a lot being around other people. There's the old joke about "the problem in class, the problem on the assignment, the problem on the exam", and software engineering is a lot like that, except it's "the code you learn in class, the code you use in your personal project, the code you see at the office". As a junior dev, you'll see a lot of stuff that will make you go "huh?", and if you're working remotely, it will be a lot more difficult for more experienced engineers to resolve your issues than if you were there for them to walk you through it. And yes, instant messenger can resolve some of the issues, but it's simply not as effective.

So you can try find remote positions so you can live where you are now and hope it works out, but even if you can find them, you'll find yourself much worse off than if you were not remote.

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Is working as a remote dev a viable option for a junior developer?

Yes, it is viable. There exist people in the world who are junior developers and work remotely. For example, I see close to three thousand openings for "entry level remote web dev" on LinkedIn right now.

Is it a good idea to earn some experience through remote web dev internships? Would such remote internships be easier to find than remote dev jobs?

Yes, it is a good idea. Generally speaking, relevant experience is probably the biggest factor in getting hired. Remote web dev positions are not an exception.

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