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Background: I'm a college student with almost 4 years at my first full-time job as a software developer. I'm pursuing a bachelor's degree, but since I started this job in my sophomore year, my graduation date has been delayed a couple years because my work schedule means I've had to take fewer classes each semester.

I've decided it's time to move on, and I'm hoping to get a job doing Python as I'm a big fan of that language. One of the postings I'm looking at is requesting "3+ years of experience with Python", and I'm not sure if I should consider myself eligible or not. On the one hand, I have zero professional/work experience with Python. On the other hand, I have 3+ years of professional experience in a different programming language, and Python was the first programming language I learned 6 or 7 years ago, so I consider myself quite familiar with it by now. Further complicating the matter is that I'm applying for this particular job through a web interface that simply has a drop-down for "years of experience" with no opportunity for me to clarify the situation.

My question is: Does 3 years of non-Python work experience plus 6 years of personal Python experience qualify me to say I have 3+ (or any) years of experience in Python?

Side note: I realize that there are many other questions on this site asking about applying for a job with no/only personal experience, but I feel that mine is on-topic and not a duplicate because it specifically deals with the question of how to quantify experience when you do have professional experience in related technologies.

  • Do you have any Github where you store some of your Python work ? – Vietnhi Phuvan May 30 '14 at 2:59
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    @Vietnhi Nothing online at the moment, but I have some samples of moderate-complexity work on my personal computers I could certainly upload. – eaducac May 30 '14 at 3:19
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    Good. You need to produce evidence (1) that you can program in Python and (2) that you write clean code in Python is clean. Does your code involve applying advanced capabilities in Python e.g. decorators, advanced numerical methods, etc ? :) – Vietnhi Phuvan May 30 '14 at 3:30
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It absolutely is appropriate to apply for the role.

The worse case scenario is that you won't be considered for the job.

Consider these scenarios from the employer's point of view.

Perhaps they need someone who knows Python inside-out , they receive plenty of applications, some from people who have been working full-time with Python for years, and so the employer favours those people over you.

But realistically - six years personal experience with Python, is plenty, it should be enough to get you an interview, if you portray it right. And then, they can grill you on your specific knowledge of python.

Additionally, perhaps what they're looking for, is someone who is smart, has common sense, is a good cultural fit, is motivated etc, all while having some experience with Python such that they don't need to train them from scratch. These are all qualities that you probably fit, and can portray yourself as fitting.

The fact that you're deliberatly considering this role, because it's a position you're passionate about, works in your favour, so put that in your covering letter.

Don't expressly draw attention to your lack of commercial experience with Python; rather - highlight what exerience you do have - six years is a lot!. Whether it's things you've worked on at University, or things you've worked on in your spare time, what they want to see, is that you're competent.

  • +1 for decisive yes. Honestly when I interview I'm pleasantly surprised if the candidate can code at all. Employers care if you can be productive with Python, not that you know every little quirk. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Jun 5 '14 at 20:16
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At my previous employer, I conducted all technical interviews, and this made me learn a couple things about interviews that would be helpful to know in this situation.

I complained to my boss and human resources about 100 times that the job description they were putting out was complete nonsense, written by a non-technical manager who wrote down the technologies that he THOUGHT that we used or were important. They did eventually fix it, but in the meantime, I interviewed dozens of candidates who applied with a completely useless impression of what we wanted. Just because something is on the job description, it may not be accurate.

I realized that a lot of people who applied didn't even bother to pretend that they had experience in what we wanted (or said we wanted). A lot of people had never even SEEN the job description, it was just shoved into their hands by a recruiter. I never held it against anyone, and interviewed them anyway, especially if they were going for a junior position. I care more about problem solving ability and intelligence than what someone thinks they know.

Even though we constantly put out feelers for something specific, I was willing to talk to pretty much anyone, and see if there was a place that they would fit, if they impressed me in the technical interview. We generally wanted people who were strong in Silverlight, WPF, C# and SQL, but sometimes someone would come along who was incredibly strong in just one of those areas, and I always pushed for that person to be hired.

Now, none of these scenarios may apply exactly to you, but what I am getting at is that you should not be shy about applying, regardless of what the job description dictates, if you are confident that you can do the job. Often, the person assessing your skills doesn't care how many years of experience you have, but rather what you can PROVE that you can do, right there and then in the interview. If you run into someone draconian enough to hold it against you that you don't have exactly x years in something, then you don't want to work with that person anyway, trust me.

  • I always had that impression of how job ads were written. I've seen openings that ask for PHP and Apache, as well as IIS and Asp.NET. It's obvious that the person who wrote the post has no idea about technical stuff, and has made me reluctant to submit my CV to them as I didn't take them seriously. +1 for pointing out the boilerplate buzzword-list factor. – rath May 30 '14 at 23:00
  • @rath it's perfectly valid for an employer to use both platforms. It may not be the same code base, but perhaps they support multiple products? – Brandon May 30 '14 at 23:55
  • @Brandon That's a valid assumption. The ones I'm complaining about probably do not (research shows) but want a "jack of all trades", overshoot and settle with someone overqualified, who ends up connecting LAN cables and troubleshooting MS Word for the rest of his days. Sadly the economy in the country I come from makes this a viable strategy. – rath May 31 '14 at 17:09
  • @rath for what it's worth we have code both in .NET and in PHP, each where it does the job better. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Jun 5 '14 at 20:18

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