Advice: Getting a Clojure Job as a fresh graduate in 2021

Hello I’m Zachary, a final year Computer Science undergraduate based in Singapore :singapore:

I will be graduating in late August 2021 and am hoping to land a remote job doing Clojure.

I realise that my location does not really do me any favours - be it for timezone or administrative reasons. But does anyone have any advice to offer to a soon-to-be fresh graduate like myself?

(Trying to take a path less traveled and job searching in general is admittedly quite daunting)

Shotgun theory is your friend. Watch job post sites, on here, reddit, indeed, wherever people post job openings. Apply to all of them. Worst case is they tell you “no”. Eventually you’ll get one of them.

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I started out as a grad in Singapore, joining a European bank where I eventually introduced Clojure and happily continue to use it primarily (amongst other things).

If you are fixated on a remote Clojure job then I can’t offer much advice. That said, as a grad, I would focus on being a generalist first, be proficient in various technologies and understand the trade offs. Opportunities to work in Clojure will inevitably come if you keep your eyes open.

I graduated in 2016, but then moved to Beijing as a stay-at-home husband until 2018. During my time in China I managed to read a lot of books, many technical, and some of those were Clojure books. I wanted to learn functional programming and eventually decided that my first functional language was to be Clojure.

Then when I returned to Denmark, I initially had some anxiety due to the “gap” in my CV (I did work part time in a startup during my time in uni, though). I started applying for jobs as soon as I came back home. Getting an interview was quite easy (offers too), so I was able to wait a few weeks until I could find a Clojure job in a small startup.

Unfortunately, that first place wasn’t for me (it was 4 days remote every week and I really didn’t like going remote as my first “real” job), so I quit soon after and found another Clojure job straight way (a big public sector project).

Then after a of year and half I quit that job, not really expecting to find another Clojure job close by any time soon. My new job was in NLP research, which is a field I’m really interested in, so that was enough for me. However, once I started working here, it was apparent that I was basically the sole developer/architect/designer on every single research project I was put on, so it was no big deal for me to stick with Clojure. So now I’m writing Clojure code in academia and the total independence really suits me well :wink:

All of my jobs have been 15-30 minutes by bike from my home. I live in Copenhagen and the bicycle is the preferred way to get around here. If I wanted to go remote, I could probably find a Clojure job anywhere in Scandinavia fairly quickly.

I realise now that was just retelling my own entry into the labour market, but sometimes knowing that jobs are out there is all you need. Applying for a Clojure job is not any different than applying for any other job. It helps to have open source projects on your github page too.

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Hi @simongray ! Yeap, I do agree, knowing that jobs are out there definitely helps! That being said, your experience definitely does still build onto my assumption that making Clojure a career direction is in some sense, region locked :sweat_smile:
Will definitely be more of a hurdle to overcome but your story does inspire more hope :smiley:

Wow! @gnarroway that really nice to hear! I’m actually in a similar position, I have an offer to join a bank to do software engineering, albeit a Singaporean one. Have heard they use Java for some systems but also Javascript and Python. My general feel, however, is that it will really be steep hill to climb to think about introducing Clojure, especially due to Singapore’s general conservative nature.

I suppose I’m not completely closed off and while I definitely have not accumulated enough general experience yet, I do think I have taken the time and steps to expose myself a fairly significant amount (at least at this stage).

Have been trying to figure out which path would be better for me. To pursue stereotypical (especially in the environment of singapore) general path, which would mean not really taking direct steps towards a Clojure role in the future (not gaining as relevant an experience as I could be) or trying to take a Clojure role which might not appear as good (as a good general role) in the short term.

I think that’s the opposite point I wanted to make. My point is that despite “region-locking” my career, I have not have any trouble finding a job where I use Clojure.

As a fresh graduate your main challenge is not having anything to show for. This is where you want to make sure you have some open source projects to show your skills.

Now that you mention it, I can see the point in your post.

Yeap, you are right! :slight_smile: Need to be able to showcase as much experience as I am able to, despite being a fresh graduate.

Suggesting “open source projects to show your skills” is not necessarily good advice:

  • Companies that value diversity and have a careful, double-blind resume review process will ignore GitHub projects etc because it takes a certain amount of privilege to be able to contribute to open source, above and beyond your job
  • Many hiring managers want to focus on the interview and evaluate each candidate based solely on that – and are skeptical about OSS since they don’t believe there’s a real paper trail to show you created that software and they’re often more interested in process than the end result (I ran across a thread on Twitter about exactly this topic just yesterday)
  • Some hiring managers use OSS as a yardstick to eliminate candidates: if you are posting code publicly and sending links to potential employers, then they can rightly assume you are proud of the code and think it is good code – so they will look at it with an extra-critical eye and look for flaws that would disqualify a candidate (I am in this category as a hiring manager).
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That seems quite backwards to me. Might the US (?) just be a bit weird about this…? The diversity and privilege stuff sure sounds idiosyncratic to the US. I know that the hiring process is much more formalised in the US too (from reading Silicon Valley people ranting about this on HN). All I know is what it’s like in my part of the world. I’m certainly not an expert on the US hiring practices (or Singapore’s), but I do know that different parts of the world have different norms.

Here in Denmark, having a bit of open source Clojure code in my github repo was (I think) a contributing factor to both the startup and the public sector project hiring me on the spot at the first and only interviews I had with them. Probably because no one really knows Clojure, so the talent pool isn’t particularly large, making me an obvious hire. Maybe if they’d had a hundred applicants they could afford to start filtering applicants based on supposed privilege and other - sorry to say - fairly irrelevant things.

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I’m pretty sure that you have a much better feel of US hiring process than me, so I won’t argue whether this is how US hiring process works.

I’m replying just to remind that the original poster is a student, and he is looking for the first job, and he is in SE Asia.
From a such US company perspective, what can such candidate show anyway? US university degree? NO. Previous US jobs (or any jobs)? NO. Other US-specific characteristics (eligibility for affirmative action etc.)? I guess not. I’m not sure that by diversity these companies refer to the same thing as the rest of the world would.

I guess that, from such perspective, open source projects either do count positively, or they don’t matter anyway since there are 10 other things that disqualify the (non-USA) candidate.

Another perspective is subjective. If I’d like to work in Clojure, I’m already very specific in things that I like and look for. One of these things might be a high regard for programming and open-source code sharing. I’d be proud that I created something interesting on my own, and I’d like to share it. Would I like to work for a company that counts this as a negative?

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I wrote this a while ago in response to a similar question, I hope it’s useful:

Let me first say two things:

  • I do understand that – in this particular case – we’re talking about advice to a student who is looking for their very first job.
  • I’ve been a hiring manager for close to thirty years, both in the UK and in the US – and I’ve hired new graduates into jobs in both countries.

In Zack’s case, getting involved with (other people’s) open-source projects is definitely a positive thing to do, if he has the time and energy to do so. I encourage everyone to get involved with OSS if they have the time, energy, and inclination. I encourage this as a way to improve your skills and also to get used to working with others and to gain visibility in the community.

I’ll be honest, until I saw Zack’s post here, based on his interactions on Slack, I did not realize he was a yet-to-graduate student – again, worth cultivating visibility in the Clojure community is valuable if you have the time, energy, and inclination.

The reason I jumped in with a caution about “open source projects to show your skills” is that it is very common advice from people who already have a job and (usually) already do open source software work, and I wanted to provide the important caveat that there are lots of reasons why a candidate may not have a body of open source work to show – but they could still be a great candidate and do well in the interview process and get a job based on that alone. We, as an industry, often fail to acknowledge that contributing to open source is a luxury that not all candidates can experience and we should not penalize those candidates because of a lack of open source projects.

That’s why, as a long-time hiring manager, if a candidate puts a GitHub link on their resume/CV then I am going to look over their code with a very critical eye and assess whether their published code indicates a level of experience and competence that is appropriate for what their resume/CV claims.

Are there hiring managers out there who actively prefer candidates with open source projects? Yes, but I think the tide is slowly changing even for them. Is getting involved with open source projects going to help your career overall? Probably, yes – but more for the experience you gain and the interactions with other developers, rather than just being a “checkbox” for your resume/CV.

I’ve been very fortunate in my career that almost every single programming job I’ve ever had has come about because of my network of connections: even my first programming job, fresh out of university, was through a relationship I’d built with the staff that ran the computing lab there. In fact, even my sandwich year – a.k.a. industrial placement year – as part of my Math/Comp Sci BSc course came about because of an indirect connection with one of the hiring managers there.

So my bias for advice to candidates is to participate in the community and develop a rapport with people – which might get you hired into roles that never even make it onto the various job listings out there…

This is some great advice! I’d add that for someone outside of major tech hubs, one of the best ways to do that is through open source projects.