The skills developers need to succeed in Toronto’s growing tech market: Q&A with Zoocasa CTO Endri Gjiri

Guest post by Penelope Graham, Zoocasa

Forget Silicon Valley – when it comes to the hottest tech job markets, Toronto is officially on the map. With 82,000 jobs added to the sector between 2012 – 2017, and global giants such as Shopify and Amazon potentially setting up shop, it’s no wonder the 416 came fourth in a recent Engel and Volkers ranking of the top North American tech centres.

In fact, the population influx as a result of today’s tech boom could even impact already-steep housing affordability in the Toronto real estate market, especially for condos for sale in downtown Toronto, close to the tech industry’s core.

This all boils down to higher-than-ever demand for qualified developers of all stacks; and while there are plenty of post-secondary programs and bootcamps to enhance developers’ skill sets and marketability, what truly sets aspiring coders apart in the eyes of hiring managers?

To find out, we sat down with Course Compare and Endri Gjiri, Chief Technology Officer at Zoocasa, to learn what CTOs look for in potential candidates.

How did you learn to code? Is there anything you would have done differently to accelerate your learning?

I learned to code from books and working on my own personal projects and, later, watching videos online. The only thing I’d do differently now is I’d take advantage of going to meet ups and gaining exposure in different communities to garner a better understanding of the real world. That’s something I only started to gain after working at my first job, and by then I had realized that working on my own, on my own projects, using my choice of technologies, is different than working with a team of people where there are a lot more variables at play.

What skills, programming languages, and frameworks should aspiring coders focus on in order to maximize their employment potential in today’s job market?

The most important skill for any developer is the ability and desire to learn and continuously be up to date with the latest technologies. The landscape is changing so quickly that if you lose that drive to learn you could quickly be left behind.

In terms of programming languages and frameworks, it’s good to know at least one for each category. For example, you need to know one front-end framework which can be React, Ember, Angular, etc. It doesn’t really matter which one you know because they are all similar and you can easily learn any of them if you already know one. At the end of the day you will end up using whatever the company that will employ you is using, unless you really love one particular technology and would not settle for working on anything else.

At a minimum, I’d suggest knowing HTML, SCSS, JavaScript, TypeScript, React, Go, Ruby & Ruby on Rails, and Docker. For the most part that is also the tech stack that we use at Zoocasa, though we use Ember instead of React as it is geared for building large scale applications. React, on the other hand, is easier to learn for new developers especially when they don’t yet have the support of other developers in a team setting.

When it comes time to submit job applications and take on “tech challenges,” what can bootcamp grads do to stand out among the competition?

When submitting a job application, one common mistake that applicants make is submitting a resume with multiple pages. Although it may seem impressive that you can fill a few pages on a resume, it actually makes it harder to scan for the important things.

What’s likely even more important than your resume is including a link to a personal website showcasing your projects, as well as a link to you GitHub account, where you can show recent activity.

That said, the most important method for employers to find the best candidates is to screen them with a “tech” challenge. If you’re put to the task, remember to start as early as you can, and anticipate that you may get stuck. Remember, just finishing the challenge won’t guarantee you the job – often, applicants make the mistake of stopping as soon as they get the code working. It’s even more important that the code works, is well-written, and is clean. Spend some time refactoring the code and getting it to a point where you would be proud to show it to someone else.

What are some of tomorrow’s leading job opportunities for developers interested in real estate and technology? Is this a growing industry for software developers?

The real estate industry is experiencing a big technology shift: it used to be that people would mostly rely on their real estate agent for information and guidance. Now, there are many websites and tools – Zoocasa included – that can empower users with data and information on listings, neighbourhoods, school zones, property estimates, and also help them find agents specialized in their area of interest so they’re ready when it’s time to negotiate and make an offer.

This has resulted in a great need for developers in order to build these features as fast as possible and be ahead of the competition. The demand for developers is not just scoped to the real estate industry but to almost any other industry where a lot of the operation is going digital. This demand can really be felt in how challenging it is to hire good developers as compared to other roles.

Zoocasa.com is a real estate company that combines online search tools and a full-service brokerage to empower Canadians to buy or sell their homes faster, easier and more successfully. Home buyers can browse condos, townhomes and houses for sale across Canada on the website or the free iOS app.

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