Advice for starting a career in the coop world

Hello,

My name is Henry and I’m hoping to get some advice on starting a programming/developer career in the tech coop world, and ideally a place to work.

I’m initially from outside the tech world, and coming into it I’ve found it difficult to find work that suits me. I can pick up technical skills and handle complex problems, but I’ve found so many tech companies to be engaged in unethical work, even in open source, which has put me off. There is far more room for ethics in tech coops, so I’m hoping to find work at one.

Quick summary of me as a dev

  • Known languages: C, Python, JavaScript, Rust (roughly).

  • Already worked on: libraries, desktop and web apps, some network work, GNU/Linux
    systems.

  • Broadly good at: considering details, like documentation and clear code,
    problem solving and spotting/anticipating bugs.

  • Looking for: full time work, or an internship to start with.

Why I’m here

Previously, I completed a PhD in theoretical physics, and whilst I was doing this I became interested in free software. Once I finished I switched over to programming.

I initially got an internship at Igalia working on the GStreamer Editing Services library (basically a library for video editing applications). This was renewed and then I completed more work as a freelancer until they ran out of money (about 10 months overall).

I think I did quite well during this internship. Once I got used to the code base I was able to add complex features and consider their integration and potential room for errors. I also spotted quite a few unknown/unrecorded bugs in the existing code from reading it, and I refactored some of it.

I was offered work but it would have been on an EME (Encrypted Media Extensions) plugin. I turned it down since I didn’t want my first gig to be on a controversial DRM feature.

I later found work at a small GStreamer consultancy, but when I started I found out that a lot of the team worked on surveillance technology (think streaming data for cameras) and with companies with military links, so I had to quit straight away.

This kind of put me back to square one, but I realised that I would want to work somewhere that either provides a uniform non-bad service, or ethically screens its business customers in some way.

I already knew that working at a coop would be my ideal, but it now also seems like one of the few places where I could fit in. The problem I am having at the moment is that I find it difficult to see a way in from my current position.

I was able to turn down the previous work because my partner has work and I had some savings, but I’m worried that I will eventually have to “settle” for working in an environment I consider bad before I can find work in a coop. And I’m worried I would end up stuck here.

Questions

So I have a few questions for the forum:

  1. First, I might as well ask, is anyone able to take me on for remote work? I’m open to doing a challenge of sorts to see if I can handle the work. I’m also open to a remote internship. Unpaid if it is short and has space for learning, but I would want to be paid if it is longer and would require fulltime work. I’ve already completed a PhD and a remote internship before, so I know how to manage my work and collaborate. I’m mostly hoping to work on a live project, have an opportunity to show people what I’m good at, and be able to gain some insight into the coop world.

  2. Is it unrealistic to expect to work in a tech coop and be able to work within what I find ethically ok? There are only a few such places, and I don’t know to what extent they can take on someone like me. Should I expect that I will need to have some industry experience and become more senior before finding work in the coop world?

  3. Is there any technology that you recommend I learn to improve my chances? A lot of the coops I’ve found are in web technology, so I’ve been learning more in this direction, and I’ve currently covered the front end foundations (JavaScript/HTML/CSS) with two web apps to showcase this (they are hosted here https://github.com/henry-wilkes). I’m looking to either work on more web apps using React, or creating JavaScript-light web-pages, building a website within some framework, or working on the server side from scratch. So its currently quite broad.

  4. Do you recommend working as a volunteer on a open source project? I’ve not really found many website-based projects. Also, I’m worried it could be a time sink when I need to focus on finding work.

  5. Do you have any advice when it comes to connecting to people within the coop world and learning about opportunities? I get the most nervous about initiating new relationships so I’ve ended up being disconnected.

2 Likes

Hey, welcome to the forum and co-ops!

I was involved in our last dev hiring round and while I can only go on the brief amount you have posted here, we considered people with your level of technical skill. In terms of what next, we don’t ask for any particular technical skill but instead look for an all rounder who can learn - and I think a lot of places have that attitude. [ But we aren’t hiring Dev’s now and won’t be for a while. ] I just wanted to post quickly to offer some encouragement for applying for jobs you see - jobs are posted on this forum, so keep an eye out and go for it :slight_smile:

1 Like

Thanks for the reply. It helps a lot!