How I became a Shopify Developer: Jocelyn Dunkley
Welcome Jocelyn: When was your first exposure to code?
My first exposure to tech in general was in 8th grade when I took an engineering class. What I remember the most was developing my own 3x3 cube puzzle. That was really fun! And the following year, I took an engineering math course which took me out of my element and felt overwhelming. But once I got into 10th grade, I was 16, and able to take my first programming class.
That opened up a whole new world to me. It was so flexible, you could do anything with it. At the time, I had various interests, I was a hardcore, classical musician & enjoyed learning new languages. I felt like I could incorporate whatever interest I had with programming and development.
Fascinating! Which instrument do you play?
Violin and viola.
Tell me about what happened after high school. What was your next step?
I knew that I wanted to become a software engineer, and college was a good pathway into that. So I double majored in computer science and German, which is why I ended up moving from the US to Germany.
The computer science degree gave me a strong foundation, but I really had to self teach myself in order to have an applicable skill-set in the real world.
Tell me a bit about the self teaching journey. What were some of your favorite resources?
The self-teaching really began after college. During college all my time was dedicated to my classes and working to pay my college tuition - so that didn’t leave much time for self-teaching.
I graduated in the height of the pandemic when the unemployment rate was at an all time high (2020).
I was applying to backend engineering jobs - but getting zero callbacks. So I decided to take a different approach and learn front-end development, as that had been something I wanted to learn for a long time.
Learning front-end development was gratifying, as I could incorporate logic and have visual feedback.
To learn, I took this really helpful course offered by the University of Helsinki called “Full Stack Open” which I can’t recommend enough. I learned the basics of Node JS, creating full stack applications, GraphQL - stuff like that.
That gave me the skills to land my first major freelance contract.
What were you doing in the first contract? How did it come about?
It came out of nowhere. This client reached out via LinkedIn and asked “Hey, could you help me build an MVP for my startup?”
I did that for 3 months and simultaneously picked up other freelance jobs. And the more I freelanced, the more I liked it. I was entrepreneurial and enjoyed doing my own thing. And I was surprisingly successful at it! So I wanted to keep going with it.
Let’s chat about Storetasker. How did you find out about it? What's your experience been like so far?
When I was getting more involved in the world of Shopify, I reached out to a couple freelance developers in the space, including Erin Vaage - who’s a freelancer on Storetasker. She introduced me to Storetasker and once I had rebuilt my portfolio, I applied!
It's been a really good experience. The clients are very high quality. It's been really easy to communicate with everyone and I haven't really had any unruly clients experiences yet. So I’m super happy with the experience.
Ha! Hopefully never. Whatever happens, myself and the HQ team have got your back. So what is it like to be a freelancer? What are some learnings since you started on this path?
My first year in freelancing, I took on as many projects as I could and made a lot of money. I was in a scarcity mindset - afraid to not be able to sustain myself as an independent, but in the end, the opportunities exceeded my expectations. So the big change for me in the past few months has been to reset my values for my business. I want to limit the number of clients I take on and really build a sustainable business.
Last question: What’s your advice for younger developers?
I see this advice a lot, but “just start” is very applicable.
When people are starting to freelance, they usually bring a very “corporate” mindset to freelancing. “I must fulfill x prerequisites in order to succeed” or “I must behave in a certain way in order to build a career” - but freelancing is not like that at all.
Build up a portfolio, put yourself out there, and just start. You’ll figure it out day by day from there onwards.
And one more thing: When you’re first starting It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a large pond. Go find your first jobs in small facebook groups or communities and tap into your network, don’t go to the large platforms like Fiverr where you’ll be a nobody.