Meet Benedicte Bellika:

When Benedicte returned from her pregnancy break, she was shocked to learn that her university had stopped teaching the class she hoped to resume!

After weighing her options, Benedicte made a brave decision to pursue web development.

At first, it was overwhelming. Benedicte didn't think she was smart enough.

She repeatedly questioned if she could do it and wondered if she would have to return to retail. Deep down, she knew that wasn't an option because of Coronavirus.

18 months into the journey, it became very tiring.

Companies still weren't responding to her applications, and it made her want to quit...

Less than 2 months later, she got a phone call.

It was from a huge newspapers in Norway (VG). "You're HIRED," the manager said cheerfully!

In this interview, I spoke to Benedicte about

  • How Scrimba and the Frontend Career Path helped her find success
  • How to become invincible to rejection
  • What to do when a job requires "2 years minimum experience" or a degree 🙄
  • The specific details of her coding tasks (could you do them??)
  • Her unique interview experience where she did pair programming on a Google Hangout but wasn't allowed to type any code 🤔

Want to learn frontend development and secure your first technical job like Benedicte did? Enroll in the Scrimba Frontend Developer Career Path 🎉

In case you'd prefer to read, we've transcribed and lightly edited our favourite parts of the interview here as well:

Alex from Scrimba:
You're listening to Stories by Scrimba. On this podcast, you'll hear motivational stories from junior devs who have recently gone on to secure a job. Today, I'm joined by Benedicte. Benedicte is a really inspiring woman from Norway. She was building a career in retail. Up until last year, I think, she'd never written a single line of code. Now, she's employed by one of Norway's biggest newspaper companies as a junior dev. What you might find surprising about Benedicte's story is that when she was offered the job, they explained to her that her technical skills weren't actually mindblowing, but her attitude, eagerness to learn, and communication skills sets her apart from the competition. This is a dream scenario where you get paid to learn. This company is investing in her development as a developer, no pun intended. This is the story about how Benedicte changed career, raised two kids while learning to code during a global pandemic, and now earns to learn at one of Norway's most recognizable newspapers. Today, I'm joined by Benedicte. Hi, Benedicte.

Benedicte:
Hi.

Alex from Scrimba:
So good to have you here.

Benedicte:
Yeah, it's great to be here.

Alex from Scrimba:
The reason why we're chatting is because I saw on Discord you recently got a job offer as a developer.

Benedicte:
That's right.

Alex from Scrimba:
Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Benedicte:
Well, first of all, I applied for a job there. It's called [Vega 00:01:43], and it's one of the biggest newspapers here in Norway. So I applied at it. I found it by accident, actually, in the console. Yeah, and I got first a code, I don't know what it's called. A code task, is it? So I had to make a memory game for them to get an interview. So they went through my code and they really liked it, and so I went through my first interview with them, and I just went through the code and explained what I was thinking and stuff like that. He asked questions of what I would do differently if I had the chance, and he said that he will be in contact with me for a second interview if it went well. And obviously it did.

Benedicte:
So I went to the second interview, where I had to code with another developer on the team. What I really liked about that was in some interviews you have to code, they give you a task in the second interview and you have to code for them. But actually, here, they made it really comfortable. It was not any pressure because you just had to come up with a solution and the other developer had to write the code for you. So you could only just think about what kind of solution you would do for that task. It made me feel really relaxed, because I don't code well under pressure. So it was a very nice experience and they liked me a lot, and they said that I communicated well with them. And that was kind of, I'm sorry. Two seconds.

Alex from Scrimba:
No worries. You were saying about how they liked you and it made you comfortable.

Benedicte:
Yeah. They said that I communicated really well, and that was what they were looking for, how well I could communicate with others on the team. And then when I was done there, I waited for around two weeks, I think, because they had other people to go through as well. On Monday, I got a job offer there, and they said that my technical skills weren't probably the best, but they saw a good potential in me. They liked very much how it could communicate the code with others as well. So that's kind of what pushed me through. So yeah, I don't know. Do you want to know more about the company, or?

Alex from Scrimba:
I think that's amazing. What I'm hearing from you is that when you interviewed, there were two parts to it. There was the technical part, and there was the soft skills, the communication side of things. What would you say to someone who perhaps isn't sure about the value of communication skills? I think that when people start out, especially letting to code, there's this idea that the better developer, the better coder you can be, the more likely you are to get a job, but those communication skills is so important.

Benedicte:
Yeah. So what I think is great from this experience is that I was like those people that thought that, "Okay, I have to know this perfectly because if they ask me something and I don't know how to code it straight away, then I won't ever get a job." But what I learned from this is that as long as you have the thought process and you know how to communicate it well to other developers as well, it's really important to know how to communicate in this role, because you will be working with other people. So you just have to get out of your comfort zone.

Benedicte:
If you don't know how to explain code to others, then my biggest, what will I say? My biggest tip for you is that you write a code and you try to explain it if you have anybody to explain it to. You should try it. Even if they don't understand, because it's just really good for you to explain it to others and make it as simple as possible, so even a non-developer could understand what you're doing. So I think that's a really good skill to have. As I said that, my interviewers said that my technical skills weren't the best, but I pushed through with that I had a good communication skill.

Alex from Scrimba:
There's a lot I really want to dig into here, like how you found the job by accident in the console. I'm curious to know what opportunities this company is giving you. It sounds like if they love your communication and your attitude, it sounds like they're willing to invest in you as a developer and help you level up your technical ability. I really wants to get into that. But just for context, would it be okay if you told us a little bit about your background, I know your communication skills are great. I imagine that might have something to do with your previous professional experience. So maybe you can take us through that journey of your previous career and how you transitioned into technology.

Benedicte:
Yeah. So I started, as I talked to you about before as well, I started in the retail business. I started my career in a phone sale. Do you call it that? You obviously have to have communication skills because you're talking to people all the time, and you have to sell them things. So I started that when I was 16, and then I worked my way over into retail. I thought, "Wow, I really want to do this further," so I started a bachelor's degree in retail management. I went there for about one year and then I got pregnant. So since I had a really bad pregnancy at first, I struggled a lot. So I missed a lot of classes. My doctor and I agreed that I had to take a leave from school, because I couldn't finish it either way, so I wouldn't have passed my exams or anything.

Benedicte:
So I took a pregnancy leave and I got my child in April when I was supposed to have my exams for the second year. About four months later, I got pregnant again, and I got my second child in May the year after. So I was actually supposed to graduate that year and have my bachelor's degree, but instead I was a mother too. Actually, about maybe two years later, they dropped the extra degree from the school completely because it wasn't enough appliers to study. So kept me thinking, is this what I really want to do? Because if I go back and I take two more years and I actually have to go back to my old job, I don't feel like it's worth the time. It's a private school, so you use a lot of money just to take like those two years. So I talked to my boyfriend and I was like, "I don't know what I want to do with my life." He actually has a bachelor's in interaction design, is that right? Do you call it interaction design?

Alex from Scrimba:
I think that sounds familiar, yeah.

Benedicte:
Yeah. So he had been through different programming languages and stuff in school as well, so he opened my eyes to that path, and I thought to myself, "Wow, that seems really hard, programming and developing." In my head, I thought that you have to be super smart to understand those things. I can't be a developer because in my head I wasn't smart enough to do it. But he gave me a site, I can't remember the name of it right now, but it had a tutorial of basic HTML and CSS and a little bit of JavaScript. I found myself really enjoying it. I thought that, okay, so I searched a little bit online and I found a one year course in a college here in Norway in front end development. I thought I can use one year, because if I don't like it, it won't be the end of the world because it's just one year. I don't have to commit to it completely like if I do a bachelor's degree, then I'd have to do. I don't have to do three years, which you have to go three years to get your degree.

Benedicte:
So I thought about it a lot and I thought, yeah, why not? This seems really interesting. And I really enjoy this as of now, so I will just try it out. It actually went that me, my boyfriend, and his brother studied front end development in the same class. So I had a lot of help from him, and I think that's what pushed through the year as well, especially when corona came and we had to be home. It was really comforting to have him there so we could talk to each other and go through. He was in the same class as well, so he knew exactly what I was struggling with and stuff like that. Yeah, I really enjoyed my first year, but when I was done I felt like, "Okay, am I job ready?"

Alex from Scrimba:
Good question.

Benedicte:
Yeah. I didn't feel like my skills were good enough. I had learned a lot, but it was a really intensive year. So we just scratched the surface on different languages and stuff like that. So I was like, "No, I don't feel job ready at all. I will apply to jobs even though I don't feel qualified, but I want to be prepared as well. I want to really know what I'm doing." Because if I get a job interview and I'm just sitting there like, "I don't know what this is," I don't know why I got the job interview at all. So actually, [Pierre 00:13:11] from Scrimba, he was in our class and talked about Scrimba.

Alex from Scrimba:
Really?

Benedicte:
Yeah, because our teacher used Scrimba as a learning platform. He used it to record his classes and stuff like that. So we used it a lot during the pandemic, actually. So that's why I found out about you guys in the first place. I think by the end of the summer, the same year that after I graduated, you've got the front end course if I remember correctly.

Alex from Scrimba:
That's right.

Benedicte:
I think you launched it in August or something.

Alex from Scrimba:
Summertime, yeah.

Benedicte:
Yeah. I was like, this is perfect for me, because I can go through everything from scratch. I feel like I would benefit a lot just to go through it all, and especially to have it by a different teacher as well. Also in English, I feel like that's a huge plus that it was in English, just because you use a lot of English words when you explain the code in Norwegian. So yeah, I felt like I really got a much deeper knowledge of it all and could see a little bit better how it all was put together. So I felt like that helped me a lot during my job search as well, because I got a lot more confident in the code I was writing as well.

Benedicte:
But what I will say is that if the other students are watching that, even though it's a great tutorial, you shouldn't depend on it too much. Because I feel like, especially when I got other job interviews, they usually gave me a code task first. By doing that, I actually learned a lot. Because in many tutorials, you get told what to do. So you won't have to think for yourself, because they usually ask you to write a four loop or do this, and then you get, "That's what I have to do." But you don't exactly know when it should be used, and you learn that by doing projects of your own.

Benedicte:
Yeah. So that's what I usually did as well, because I felt like you learn a lot more by putting those exercises in real life, and you have to think for yourself and you have to solve it all by yourself. So that's when the learning process really sets in and lets you know, I have to do this. And of course, you have Google. You can search Google a lot or go back to the tutorial videos if you're stuck, stuff like that. So I felt like that really helped me in my job process as well, because when I did all those tasks, I didn't always get an interview, but it was a really good learning experience. I felt a lot more confident that what I wrote, it wasn't the most cleanest code. You could see that it was a junior developer that did that, but just to have to think for yourself, I think that's a very good learning tip.

Alex from Scrimba:
So Benedicte, you said when you started programming, it looked so intimidating, really hard. How do you feel about it today? I know a lot of people can relate to that. They might be early on in their journey and thinking, "I'm just not getting this stuff. I've been it for weeks, maybe months, and I'm really struggling." Can you relate to that feeling and how did you overcome it?

Benedicte:
I can relate to that 100%, because I went through a hard time in, yeah, probably around November or December, because it's been half a yeah since I was finished with my school. I got a B on my exam, so I was really happy about that, but at the same time I felt like, "Okay, I'm going nowhere. I'm not learning anything." I felt like I had just sunken down into a hole, because I didn't get any interviews. I didn't get an answer on my applications. I felt like, "Okay, what's the point? I have used one year of my life, and now I have used a half year as well by doing the Scrimba course. I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. All the things I've done has not been enough."

Benedicte:
So I had to take a break from it all, actually. I quit searching for jobs. I quit watching videos and I was just like, "Okay, do I have to go back to retail business? Is it just not meant for me to be a developer?" So I had to sit down around around New Year's Eve, I think, with my boyfriend and just talked through it all. He just asked me, "Okay, but why did you start this? Why did you do it at all if you would just want to quit right now?" I had to go deep into myself and just think about, really hard, why am I doing this? Why did I start this journey at all?

Benedicte:
I thought about how fun I think it is and how hard it is at the same time. That's what makes it fun, because when you finally crack that code and you finally learn, that I understand it now, you get such a good feeling from it. I felt like this job was meant for me, because I feel like it's safe. The job market is very good right now, even though we're in a pandemic. It's not easy to get a job, but at the same time, it's more jobs out there than in, for example, the retail business. I have two kids as well that I have to think of, and I want a stable job that, what should I say? That even though what kind of things we deal with in the regular life, all this pandemic as well. You see the tech business is thriving right now, because they don't have to shut down. They can work from home.

Benedicte:
I know that a lot of people has lost their jobs, very much so in retail because they can't have anything open right now. They can't work at home as well. So yeah, so they have a really difficult time. I think that a lot of people has really opened up their eyes to why we have to have things more digitalized, and so I felt like when we were in this pandemic as well, I felt like, "Wow, this is really the right direction for me," because I feel like you won't find as stable a job market anywhere as in technology.

Alex from Scrimba:
Yeah. Well, we've gone from the most volatile job market than retail, where all the stores have closed, to one of the most stable where everybody is going to the internet. They need to use apps. Someone has to build those apps and websites, how about you?

Benedicte:
Exactly. So I really just went through a lot of thought process, and just picked myself up and started again. Yeah, just two months later, I got a job. So it's really great, but I can really understand people if they don't feel like it's working out for them, because I've been there myself. It's really hard to pick yourself up, I think. If you're in that, I think that it's really great to just take a break from it all and just really think about why you started in the first place, and motivate you to keep going or stuff like that.

Alex from Scrimba:
For sure. Find your why, that reason why you're doing it, and then yeah. It was like you were digging for gold. You were just one pickaxe swing away from the gold and you just took a break, and when you came back, you broke through.

Benedicte:
Yeah, exactly. So yeah, I think that it's really important to just, as you said, to remember the why. Why you got started in it all and why you wanted to change your job or stuff like that.

Alex from Scrimba:
I love all this insight, Benedicte. I know it's incredibly valuable. Can we maybe delve into the specifics? It's okay. Oh no. Listening to this back is quite funny. This is just a quick editorial note to say that Benedicte spilled her coffee, and we thought it was funny. Back to the interview. Okay. So we found our intro clip, yeah? Don't worry about that.

Benedicte:
Doesn't get better than that.

Alex from Scrimba:
No, but seriously, Benedicte. I'm loving all your insight. I think it's so inspiring. I was hoping we could dig in a little bit to the specifics about your job application process, because you mentioned that towards the end of last year, if I understand your timeline correctly, you started applying but you weren't really getting responses, let alone interviews. What changed?

Benedicte:
I don't know exactly. I think that maybe I was just lucky, because I just sent my resume, and do you call it a cover letter?

Alex from Scrimba:
Yeah, yeah.

Benedicte:
Yeah. Before Christmas, I had maybe two job interviews. I got like code tasks and stuff, but I didn't get-

Alex from Scrimba:
Sorry to interrupt. Just out of interest, how many applications did you send to get those two or three interviews?

Benedicte:
I don't know. When I first was done with my, I had hoped to say degree, but it's not kind of a degree. But when I was done with school, then I probably sent a lot during the summer, but I don't have the specific number. I tried to apply for everything that I felt qualified for. What I think is intimidating when you search for a job is that usually under the qualification, it says that you either have to have a bachelor's degree or a master's degree, or you have to have the two years plus experience in work related. So that intimidated me because I was like, "But I only have one year. I can't compete with these people that have a bachelor's degree, when they have three years."

Alex from Scrimba:
What did you do?

Benedicte:
I applied for it anyway. I didn't get a response, but as I was thinking, the worst possible outcome is that you get a no. It's not going to get worse than that. You get a no and that's it, and then you just move on to the next. Some people won't even answer you. But that's kind of, I have to say, the charm when searching for a job, but that's just how it is. It will be that way, I feel, either way, if it's retail or if it's the technology business. You probably won't get an answer at all for some job ads, but that's just how it is.

Alex from Scrimba:
Tell me about a company that you got the job application from, or the job offer from, sorry. Because what I think is interesting is how they acknowledged that, "Benedicte, you're a great person to work with. We love your attitude and your communication skills. We're hiring you knowing that your technical skills aren't," it's the opposite. The other company was saying, "You don't have enough experience." This company's saying, "You have enough for us to see potential and invest in." How did you find that company? You said you found it in the developer tools console or something? Where did you go from there?

Benedicte:
I don't remember specifically. That was a hard word, specifically, what I was doing in the console. But I saw it says welcome to the console's gang or something like that. Do you want to get a job? And then it was a link to a job ad. I was like, "Well, that's interesting. I've never seen that before." So I clicked it and I applied to it, and when I got the interview, they actually said that they had it there because they weren't actually looking for someone right now. But since there were about, I think 10 people that found it in the console, that was like, "Okay, we will just go through with them and see how it is." So it was actually by accident that I found the job ad, because it worked. It wasn't on any other websites. It was only in the console.

Alex from Scrimba:
Can I just say something?

Benedicte:
Yeah.

Alex from Scrimba:
You mentioned that you were lucky perhaps to find this job, and now you're saying, "It's a coincidence that I found this," but what I see there is a pattern. When there's a pattern, that's probably not luck so much as you having a really positive attitude and putting in the work. Because if you came across that thing in the developer console a year ago, you probably wouldn't have been ready. But because you'd been paying so much effort in and pushing through, you are ready. So please don't say it's like. I think you're super hardworking and it's awesome.

Benedicte:
Thank you. So the first interview I had, I did a task before that interview and-

Alex from Scrimba:
Can you tell us about the tasks, Benedicte, if that's okay?

Benedicte:
Yeah. It was a memory game where you could pick the design yourself. You could actually do whatever you wanted to. They gave a guideline of things you probably could think about, like make it responsive or add in a timer or stuff like that. But they said-

Alex from Scrimba:
Oh yeah, I've seen this. It's on [Github Ray 00:29:00]. We can definitely link to that in the show notes, in case anybody wants to check it out.

Benedicte:
I've written the code a lot better now than I did.

Alex from Scrimba:
Okay. In the show notes of the disclaimer.

Benedicte:
Yeah, because I had to look at it when I was done and I was like, "Why did I do that? I could done it a lot more." So I said that actually in the interview. I said things that I would do differently, just so he knew that it probably wasn't the best code, but I could do better.

Alex from Scrimba:
How did you hear that you were through to the second phase, and what was that like? Was it on Zoom or in person? What did you talk about?

Benedicte:
No. Because of the pandemic, then we just had to do it via Google Meet. So I had both my interviews through Google Meet. What I really liked about the second interview is that first I was very nervous. I'm always nervous, but I was very nervous because he sent an email and told me that I was through to the second round, and that I would be coding together with another developer on the team. So I just sent him an email right away and asked, "Okay, but how is the process?" I didn't quite figure out what they wanted out of me.

Benedicte:
What kind of things were they expecting from me during this interview? I felt that that was the things that stressed me out a lot, because is it the way I communicate? Is it the way I write code? I didn't get a lot of information about that, so I stressed a lot. But when I came to the second interview, then it wasn't what I thought at all. They said to me that I would get a task, and I will just have to communicate with the other developer on the team what I was thinking. So we were just talking back and forth what the best solution for this type of task was.

Alex from Scrimba:
Help me imagine it. You were on a Google Meet call with another developer from that team, and presumably the hiring person was there too.

Benedicte:
Yeah. He was just like sitting in the background and watching.

Alex from Scrimba:
That's stressful.

Benedicte:
Yeah. That's really stressful.

Alex from Scrimba:
And you didn't need to worry about writing any code, so you could just talk to her on Google Hangouts and he or she would write the code.

Benedicte:
Yeah. What he said about that, I really liked that, because he said that when you get a task and they ask you to do this, write a code that does this. For a junior developer, or me as I don't have a lot of experience in that field., you get put on the spot and there's a lot of pressure as well under an interview. So you probably won't do your best. A lot of people, they do better under stress, but I get all like, "I can't do it. I can't do anything. What's a four loop? I don't know.

Alex from Scrimba:
We're programmers. We'll leave performing and pressure to athletes and football players and stuff like that.

Benedicte:
Yeah. So he said that. He knows that that's a lot of pressure to put on myself, and he said that he will do all the writing. What they expect from us is just that I communicate what I was thinking.

Alex from Scrimba:
What was the challenge they gave you?

Benedicte:
The challenge was that we had to create, what is it? Select, a form with select where you could choose, what was it? I don't know the English words, but places in Norway. You could choose places in Norway. It had to be developed on their site, so they put me directly in their React app and everything. So I was like, "Oh my God, what is this? This looks completely Greek for me." Because they had already seen my coding skills, if I should say, in the first interview, so now they just wanted to see how well I could communicate it to others.

Alex from Scrimba:
For sure, and see how you think through problems maybe. Because I suppose you could have, in theory, found a memory game tutorial in the first one, whereas this time there was no room to. You just had to talk about how you would approach the problem. That's a skill of breaking a problem down and communicating it. So that sounds like a good, fair challenge to me. I'm really pleased to hear they put you at ease, because that means to me, it feels likely you're going to have a really successful start at this company because you can jump right in.

Benedicte:
Yeah. I feel like also that when you become intimidating to the person that you interview, you won't get the best side of them either. So I feel like they did a really good job with calming me down, and then I could show them how well I could do. If they pressured me into something or if I felt stressed, then I wouldn't have done a good job then at all. So I really love the process, and that they gave me, what is it? Constructive criticism. They said that my technical skills aren't at top, but they could see that they could work with me. Just that they could give me a chance and really saw potential in me, that's what made me love this job even more because I felt like, "Okay, you really took a chance on me. So now I have to prove myself and I can really shine as a developer now."

Benedicte:
I felt like, "No, I don't think I will get the job, but it's okay. I will just keep pushing further and stuff like that." So on Monday this week, he called me and he was like, "Hi." He had like a really long um, so I was like, "Oh no, here it comes." I think he did it on purpose though. But he was like, "Yeah. So how do you feel about a job offer?" And I was like, "No, I don't want it."

Alex from Scrimba:
What did he say?

Benedicte:
No, I didn't say that.

Alex from Scrimba:
Playing his own game, I like it.

Benedicte:
I was like, "Yeah, sure." He said that they had actually hired another junior developer as well, and she's also a girl, so that's really cool. They said that her technical skills are better than mine, but at the same time, I saved myself in with my communication skills. He feel like both me and her are very good for each other, because we can learn a lot from each other. So I don't know if maybe her communication skills weren't as good as mine, so that's why he'd feel like we can take a lot from each other in that perspective. They seem so chill and they wanted to give me a chance, even though they knew that my technical skills weren't the best. That just shows a lot about what kind of, what will I say?

Alex from Scrimba:
Culture, maybe?

Benedicte:
Yeah, what kind of culture they have at work.

Alex from Scrimba:
That was my impression, at least. It sounds like you've hit the jackpot in that you're about to get paid to learn, basically. Which considering your beginning with your degree and having to drop out, and then it's great now, but you get an opportunity to earn while you learn.

Benedicte:
I feel like it's great for maybe a lot of Scrimba students as well, to hear that your technical skills don't have to be perfection. You don't have to be super great to land a job, because that was what I thought. I thought that, okay, I have to go through this front end course and I have to know everything in this front end course to get a job. But this just really showed me that, okay, as long as your technical skills are there, they don't have to be the best, but the communication skills is really important as well. That was what I really learned about this journey to get a job, that you really should know how to speak for yourself and how to present things to others. So it's really great. I feel really lucky that they would even give me a chance. So I'm really happy about this workplace.

Alex from Scrimba:
When do you start, Benedicte?

Benedicte:
Next Monday now.

Alex from Scrimba:
Next Monday, that's exciting.

Benedicte:
15 February. So it's really exciting. I thought that I probably wouldn't start until the March 1st, but they're just like, "Hey, can you start next week?" I was like, "Sure."

Alex from Scrimba:
It took so long to get back to you about it, I feel like they're making up time now.

Benedicte:
Yeah. So what I'm really not nervous about, but since we can't go to the office and stuff, I'm really excited to see how my job will be because they can't train me, they have to train me over the screen. So I feel like it will be maybe a little bit more difficult, but I hope it will be a good experience as well.

Alex from Scrimba:
100%. Well, Benedicte, thank you so much for joining me. Your insight is spot on, I think. I'm super excited for you. Next Monday, I think the whole team at Scrimba is going to be rooting for you to have a good day.

Benedicte:
Yeah, thank you so much.

Alex from Scrimba:
I'm sure you'll be super successful in it.

Benedicte:
Yeah. Thank you so much. Hope I did good.