This week, for the last podcast episode of 2019, Abbey chatted with freelancer and content creator Jessica Chan - known as CoderCoder on social media - about how she got into tech and started her educational website and YouTube channel. Jessica grew up around computers, and her mother was a software engineer. But she didn't take a serious interest in coding until a bit later in life. After studying photography in college, she held a series of odd jobs before taking a contract data entry position. That data entry job happened to be at a small web dev shop, and while she was there she learned the basics of the trade. Once she'd honed her beginner's skills for a couple years, she got her first proper job as a web developer working for a small ad agency. She jumped in the deep end, learned a ton of new skills on the job (most of which she taught herself and figured out by googling and asking questions on Stack Overflow), and gradually got over her intense feelings of imposter syndrome. “When you’re going up against these people who have degrees in computer science and engineering, it really creates strong imposter syndrome. And unfortunately I think the only real cure for imposter syndrome is simply time. Just learn one new thing every day and in time you’ll keep progressing in your skills. Just try to make incremental changes and improvements.” Jessica realizes that part of her difficulties in learning how to code came from the fact that there weren't as many resources out there online when she was learning. The bootcamp explosion hadn't happened yet, freeCodeCamp didn't exist, and it was a lot harder to figure things out. But she pushed through. And she gained some important perspective on learning to code - which, she admits, is really, really hard. But after sticking with it for a while, she learned something important: “Over time, I learned that if I just spent time googling, asking people, finding and reading documentation, I knew I’d be able to figure out pretty much anything. So that realization that I could teach myself was a big confidence boost.” After about four years with the ad agency, she moved across the country and started working remotely. Which led her to realize she wanted to be her own boss. She also started her educational website and blog, Coder Coder, around that time. “I felt really passionate about coding – I really love web development. And I think seeing how many other people were struggling learning – I was part of these groups for newbie coders and I saw all these questions I had when I was learning to code. So it stemmed from my desire to help beginners and add my own voice and style to the other resources out there.” To give herself more time to work on the site and her side projects, she decided to strike out on her own and get into freelancing. Now, Jessica writes articles for her blog and other sites (including Developer News), posts tutorials and info on Instagram and Twitter, and has lately started live streaming on YouTube. She focuses on CSS, responsive web design, and other web dev topics. One of her goals for the coming year is to grow the YouTube channel and work on creating super high quality videos with her video editor/animator husband. And she's working on another huge project: a course on responsive web design for beginners. She has all sorts of fun ideas about how to make it engaging, so be on the lookout. In this episode, Jessica discusses so many valuable skills developers should have, like how to teach yourself to code how to beat imposter syndrome how to be your own mentor how to work with clients as a freelancer how to get the most out of online tutorials and how to tackle the job hunt among many other beginner-friendly topics. Regarding the job hunt, and building your portfolio, Jessica offered this perspective: “First of all, focus on learning the basic skills. Then once you have the skills to create portfolio projects, that’s a huge thing that can help you even if you don’t have actual clients. You don’t have to have an actual working website - but you need to be able to demonstrate to a potential employer what your skills are. Because if they can’t see what skills you have, why would they hire you?” And she's all about encouraging new developers to keep going and not give up. She knows how hard it is to learn to code - again, it's really hard - and she offered a treasure trove of helpful advice (like setting sustainable pace for your learning, having realistic expectations of yourself, and finding an online community). You can find Jessica on Twitter here: Check out her website here:  
On today's episode of the podcast, Abbey chats with software engineer Jackson Bates who lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. Jackson used to be a high school English teacher, but gradually taught himself to code and landed a pretty sweet gig as a React dev, partly by chance. Today he works part time as a developer, part time as a stay at home dad, and volunteers his time with various open source projects. Finding his way into tech Jackson grew up in England, and studied English in school. Although going into education seemed a logical choice, he dabbled in other fields - like working at a prison cafeteria - for a while before landing a teaching job. That first job had some unpleasant aspects, and he began to doubt if teaching was for him. After moving to Australia to be with his wife, he started dabbling in basic HTML and CSS. Even though he continued teaching high school English, Jackson couldn't tear himself away from coding completely. We’ve all got computers, but being able to write code and make your computer do something – once you learn to do that it becomes quite an addictive thing. I just loved the problem solving aspect and how creative you could be. Learning to code After about six years of teaching without all the proper Australian certifications, he decided to go back to school and get his masters. He budgeted a bit too much time for his studies, however, and ended up with six months before he was scheduled to go back to work. So he dove back into learning more about coding. And those teaching skills? They came in quite handy when he was teaching himself to code. As a teacher, you kind of understand what it really takes to learn something. When you’ve helped 11-18 year olds overcome really frustrating experiences in their own learning, you learn to give yourself a break when you hit roadblocks. You learn to put in the work that’s necessary, but you get a more realistic expectation of the timeframes involved to learn something. And he was hooked. He got through one more year of teaching before deciding to try to get a job as a software engineer. Getting that first tech job But the job hunt sucked. While this was no surprise, it was particularly demoralizing when he was rejected for the most basic role for which he felt quite overqualified. I always had it in the back of my mind that I was never really ready enough – and I know everyone always says oh I’ll just finish this certification and brush up my CV and do this course…we always give ourselves a million reasons not to do it, and really those reasons will always be there. At that point, a friend encouraged him to try out a new meetup group, just for the heck of it. So he went. And ended up meeting his future boss. You might get knocked back from things you’re overqualified for – but it only takes the right person to see you and decide you’d be a good fit for their team, and then all the rejections don’t matter anymore. You just have to keep putting yourself out there. A tentative follow-up email, a quick round of interviews, and an onsite later, he had the job. It was an excellent cultural fit, and he's never looked back. He gets to work on fun internal projects, support the data scientists on his team, and pick up new skills constantly. And he's even developed a refreshing perspective on debugging and facing challenges in his code: I really like working with broken code. Because you know staring down a bug until you’ve fixed it really gives you a better understanding of the whole thing that you’re trying to do. Even though it’s a bit slow, it helps it sink in a bit more. Now, 14 months later, he's learned a lot about different tech, Machine Learning, how to learn new skills, and what it takes to switch careers. It really is a long game that you’re playing. It’s easy to be discouraged, but people have made the change you’re trying to make. It feels impossible but people do actually do it. In this episode, Jackson offers valuable advice about job hunting, finding your learning style, dealing with imposter syndrome, and how to take chances - among many other things. Find Jackson on Twitter:
On this week's episode of the freeCodeCamp podcast, Abbey interviews senior software engineer and prolific content creator Ohans Emmanuel. They discuss how he got into tech, how he ended up in Berlin, what goes into writing a book, and how he stays focused through it all. When Ohans was young, he learned a very important lesson from his parents: you must take responsibility for yourself and your actions. He was lucky enough to grow up with a computer in the house, and gradually learned computer basics. In school, he studied engineering, but didn't learn much programming. So he had to teach himself. And it was hard. He lacked a community, had to struggle through things on his own, and felt like it was much harder than it needed to be. "I don't understand what it was - I was a smart student, but when I started to teach myself to learn how to code, that was the most difficult thing I had to teach myself to do. I was really on my own, I didn't join any groups. It was really just me trying to figure out the road map for myself. And that was really difficult." But having a supportive mentor helped. And eventually he started freelancing and teaching young adults how to code. He also began to fall in love with design and writing. As his passion for design grew, he began to appreciate its usefulness as well: "There is something about a front-end engineer who understands design. You see things differently. You can have meaningful conversations with the designers, and you have different opinions. You're not just building stuff - you understand how it affects the users." As Ohans learned more skills and came across more and more tough topics, he decided to research and then write about them. Again and again. He has written a number of free, full-length books about React, Redux, CSS, and many other topics. And his approach to the process is unsurprisingly organized and measured. "The first step is deciding what to write about. So I find a subject that is challenging or that I think maybe the community hasn't really explored. Or if I think that a lot of beginners are finding this subject difficult, it just makes me want to write about it more." "I'm really passionate about teaching things in plain, simple language. So you take a difficult subject and you break it down. It's so much fun. And when you do this over and over, it helps a lot of people. And it puts smiles on my face." Now isn't that enthusiasm contagious? In addition to writing books and articles and helping kids learn to code, Ohans has a full-time software engineering job in Berlin. Deciding to make the move away from friends and family wasn't easy, but with their support he went for it. During the interview process, he learned a lot about job interviews in general and what it took to go through them successfully. He believes being good at your job as an engineer and being good at interviews are two very different things. Despite this, Ohans believes that anyone can conquer the interview process. And his go-to advice? "Just smile. It keeps you calm and makes the interviewer calm as well. They want to give you time and let you think. You're smart, you can do it - you just have to stay calm and figure it out." Part of Ohans' success is derived from his commitment to deep work and deep focus. He firmly believes that anyone can learn anything if they put their mind to it and have a plan. "I believe that the act of focus itself is a skill - just as much as you can learn to play the piano, you can learn to focus as well. And I think people really need to take their attention as seriously as possible. If you covet your attention, and take it like it's important, I think you'll be careful how you spend your time." In this interview, we discuss how he overcame the obstacles he faced when learning to code alone, how he got a job in another country, how he creates so much valuable, free content, and how he advises new developers to approach interviews, mentors, and many other tough subjects. "If you try something for a day and it doesn't work, go on and try it for a week. If it still doesn't work, try for two weeks. If it still doesn't work, re-evaluate what you're doing. If you still think you're heading in the right direction, try for another month. Or two months. And if you're still sure you're going in the right direction, don't give up - you're gonna get it.
On this week's episode of the freeCodeCamp podcast, Abbey chats with UX designer and musician Andi Galpern about how she creates engaging and unique experiences in the tech world. Andi shares stories about past jobs, how she started her company, her favorite moments from events she's produced, and how to break into the design market. Andi grew up in Florida and was first and foremost a musician at heart. Once she decided that she needed a plan other than becoming a rockstar, she picked up and moved across country to the Bay Area. After attending various tech events and taking photos, she started making connections and growing a network. In between regular jobs, she was trying to learn more about design - but couldn't find any meetups or events that fit the bill. So she started creating her own. And they were successful. After a while, she founded her company, Cascade SF, with the goal of helping other designers, product managers, and engineers learn more, meet other people in the community, and help each other out. As her strategy and process changed, so did her events. "I used to only get big name speakers. But now that I'm in control of the content, I help designers, product managers, and people in tech tell their stories. I help them design a program so they can share their knowledge and we can create more people like them. So it's more about creating new leaders, and creating content the industry needs." Andi kept learning more and more about different facets of design, and she shared many insights she gained along the way. "The product design process is holistic and a lot like life. We don't have to have all the answers, we just have to be willing to watch people try things out and grow and learn. There are no mistakes, there are only hypotheses and data and making decisions." Once her events grew large enough, and she started holding after work conferences, she realized the importance of a new skill: asking for what she wanted. "Asking for what you need or want can be really scary. But sometimes you're pleasantly surprised - you get a response back. You never really know unless you ask. But organizing a successful event requires much more than that. For Andi, it's all about the quality of the content. She does her research, figures out what people want, and then puts it all together. "Great design is about content first, so it's about comprehension. Make sure the purpose of the event is clear. You can continue to keep tweaking your design until everyone gets it immediately. You just have to distill it down into your one core message." "A big part of UX design is just making things simpler and more usable so people can enjoy their lives more." Now, hundreds of events and conferences later, she's running Cascade, working as a content strategist for growth at Adobe, volunteering with various organizations, dabbling back in photography and music, and dreaming of expanding her brand to different cities. In this episode, Andi shares advice on how to put on a successful tech event, how to survive the job interview process, and how to learn all sorts of design skills. We discuss challenges she's faced, solutions she's created, and why she loves pinball so much, among many other things. Find Andi on Twitter here: Find Abbey on Twitter here:
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