How to Transition from Programmer to Mobile Developer
I meet a lot of people who are looking to make the transition from programmer to mobile developer. It’s not an easy leap to make. People find that even if they have some experience with creating mobile apps, it’s not easy to get interviews for mobile developer jobs.
If you are a programmer looking to make the move into a mobile development job, don’t lose hope! I’ve seen many people make the transition. I’m going to tell you how to get your foot in the door so you will eventually become a top mobile developer and you can write your own ticket.
It’s a lot of work to upgrade your skills and make new connections. But it’s worth it!
Being a mobile developer has lots of perks. You generally get to work in a flexible environment with the latest equipment, and it pays well. Plus with a shortage of mobile developers on the job market it’s easier to find jobs once you have some experience under your belt.
You have a head start as a programmer
As a programmer or web developer in the process of making the transition from programmer to mobile developer, you have a big head start because you already have the technical skills to quickly get up to speed with mobile development technologies.
But even with your head start, it’s not easy to land a job in mobile development because companies have some very specific requirements for mobile development jobs that are difficult to meet. Which is part of the reason this job pays so well.
Here’s what I’ve learned from some programmers and web developers who have successfully made the leap to a career in mobile app development.
Bridging the Qualifications Gap from Programmer to Mobile Developer
- Look for jobs where you can combine your present skills with some some mobile development skills. Like this job posting for example: http://company.zynga.com/about/jobs/north-america/software-engineering/software-engineer
- Look for job postings that demonstrate some flexibility in the skills requirements, like this one: http://www.stafflink.ca/jobs/sr-mobile-web-developer
- If you are a OO developer this will help with the transition. Many of the concepts with C++, Java or C# are similar to some of the mobile development tools.
- Understand that creating, testing and implementing a mobile app for millions is a whole different animal than the kind of programming you may be used to.
- The best time to network is when you are currently working.
- Learn everything you can about trends in mobile development. Learn about web apps, native apps, and web apps with native app containers like Facebook uses, and decide where you want to fit in.
- Go to every trade show, training session and awards show you can and build your network. Those people will become your allies if they get to know you and they understand your commitment to your work.
Strategies to Get Mobile Development Experience
- Offer to do an internship to prove yourself.
- Before you go to an interview, talk to others that have applied or work there to find out what kind of soft skills they are looking for.
- Get active on LinkedIN Groups, answer questions in forums and groups to show your knowledge and build your online personal brand.
- Retweet people and companies you would like to work for. They will likely follow you.
- Develop code libraries you can display, perhaps in a personal blog-portfolio website or on GitHub.
- Read the company’s blog to figure out their pain point. Comment on their posts. See if you can develop a prototype solution to address their pain point.
- Be realistic about the pay. First you need to get the job and prove yourself. Negotiate a back-end loaded compensation agreement based on you producing the code you know you are capable of doing.
Write an approach email
When you apply to jobs that you are not exactly qualified for, you need to quickly convince them why you are worth taking a risk on. Write an email that explains that you are making a transition from programmer to mobile developer. Say why you are interested in working for the company, and how they will benefit from hiring you.
- Mention that you have taken courses to learn the missing skills (such as iOS, Objective C, Android or Java)
- Mention if you have developed any apps on your own and provide a link to your work
- You might want to offer to do an internship
- Highlight the skills you have that set you apart such as technical writing, tech support, great communication skill.
- Mention your social media skills – this is very important to most startups and mobile companies.
- Talk about your participation in the mobile development community. Are you active in user groups, on Github or special interest groups on LinkedIn?
Template for an approach email
I’m an experienced object-oriented programmer with ________ skills who is looking to become a mobile app developer. I have been following your company on _____________ and I am very interested in contributing to your ____________ project. I would be happy to join your team in any role so I can have a chance to prove myself!
Here’s what I will contribute to your team:
- list items that you have that are on their requirements list – HTML5, PHP, CSS3, etc.
- list items on their list of requirements that you are currently learning, or that you have learned
- list any experience you have that is related to the job
Tune Up Your Resume
Add a section at the beginning of your resume that is similar to your approach email, and explains your strong intention to transition from programmer to mobile developer. Bullet point some concrete steps you are taking to make that transition a reality.
Are companies being unreasonable with their list of skill and experience requirements for mobile development jobs?