Meet Nico Krueper:


Nico's story is incredible. After working as a bus driver for 5 years, he recently landed his first professional frontend development job showing us all it's never too late to be the change you want to see in your life.

In this episode, Nico and I explore many interesting topics including,

  • Escaping the dreaded tutorial hell 🔥
  • Pushing your comfort zone to secure multiple job offers
  • What Nico's two-day interview process looked like 😱
  • Nico's tips for creating a résumé and portfolio that stand out (here's Nico's portfolio)
  • How Nico weirdly helped himself by helping others in the Scrimba Discord (??)
  • And more

Please enjoy 🙌

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

In case you'd prefer to read, we've transcribed the whole interview here as well.

Alex:
Welcome to Stories by Scrimba. Today, I'm joined by Nico, who, up until recently, and for the last five years, worked as a bus driver in Hamburg, Germany. However, Nico was unsatisfied with his job and wanted to change careers. So he took up his old hobby of coding with the goal of reaching a professional level.

Alex:
At the beginning, he struggled with tutorial hell and he didn't think he was ready to get a job. But in January, despite not quite feeling ready, he took the leap. He applied for jobs and actually got two offers right away. He accepted one of them at an awesome consulting company in Hamburg, basically his dream outcome. In this episode, we're going to dig into exactly how Nico did it. Today, I'm joined by Nico. Nico, how are you?

Nico:
Hi, I'm fine. How are you?

Alex:
I'm doing very well, thank you. It's so good to have you here. I was hoping we could start with some quick fire questions.

Nico:
Yes. For sure.

Alex:
Okay, so Nico, how old are you?

Nico:
I'm 34 years old.

Alex:
And where are you currently based?

Nico:
I'm based in Hamburg. Germany.

Alex:
What would you say is your favorite programming language?

Nico:
Right now, I would say it's plain JavaScript.

Alex:
Okay. Okay.

Nico:
Yeah.

Alex:
Why did you want to become a front-end web developer?

Nico:
Why? Fascinating. It's challenging and I can be creative. So I started out quite early in my life with HTML and CSS. Yeah.

Alex:
And what was your most recent job before being hired as a dev?

Nico:
I was a bus driver for round about five years.

Alex:
And tell us about your current job, Nico.

Nico:
Right now, I'm a front-end developer at the Homepage Helden. It's Homepage Heroes here in Hamburg. Yeah. Since first February.

Alex:
That's amazing, Nico. Congratulations.

Nico:
Thank you.

Alex:
That's an incredible transition from bus driver to full-time developer. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey from beginning to end? We want to hear it all.

Nico:
Yes, of course. The journey started back in 2004, I guess. I've learned some HTML and CSS and yeah, do some really, really small homepages back in the days. And since then, I had quite a few jobs. I was at Coke, I was at the army, worked at the kindergarten and yeah, the coding part were always there for me, so it's kind of hobby. And five years ago, I've become a bus driver. And after some time, I felt that this job doesn't fulfill me. It's not challenging. I don't have to use my head, so at some point, I decided to make my hobby to my new job.

Alex:
That's amazing. And when that moment happened, when you decided it was time to take a more serious approach to learn web development, where did you go? What was your first call of action?

Nico:
First call of action was to watch YouTube videos and code what they showed me. So, yeah.

Alex:
And where did you go from there?

Nico:
From there, I stuck in tutorial hell.

Alex:
Wow.

Nico:
So I decided to search new sources for me. So I take a few courses at Udemy, but same problem. At the end, I didn't learn so much more kind of a tutorial. And with the start of the career path of Scrimba, I joined Scrimba and this worked quite well for me.

Alex:
Nico, for people who don't know, what is tutorial hell?

Nico:
So you watch the video to code a website or just the navigation or something like this, and you watch it and you simply copy-paste what they write. And at the end, you have your product, your small navigation and it work, but you can't do it on your own. You really don't learn so much. And yeah, it's quite hard to get all things.

Alex:
So it's almost as if you can copy what's in the video, but if you were tasked to build something from scratch, you wouldn't so easily be able to do that. Am I understanding that right?

Nico:
Yeah. Right. You don't have the right thought process over coding.

Alex:
It's interesting you mentioned that because I only learned about tutorial hell fairly recently, and I still probably couldn't explain it so simply, but this general idea that you can follow tutorials, but you can't feel confident coding independently. How does someone escape tutorial hell?

Nico:
Just stop to watch tutorials. Think what you want to build. Example, the navigation. And think what you need to get to the point where you have your navigation. Write it down and try it out and if you are stuck, just Google. Don't watch a video. You have to understand what you're doing and what you need.

Alex:
A hundred percent. And where did Scrimba come into this for you, Nico?

Nico:
First of all, the career path, it's well structured for me. So I'm kind of person, I need something well-structured to get to the point. And every lesson is some little piece of something you want to learn. And along the video, you can code with the instructor. You have the [inaudible 00:07:14] and you just don't sit there and watch; you are actively coding.

Alex:
So you actually jump in, you get involved and you think independently, right?

Nico:
Yes, you're right.

Alex:
I know, Nico, when you were taking the front-end career path, you had a study group, is that right?

Nico:
Yeah. Yeah.

Alex:
And so for anybody listening who might not know, at Scrimba, when you take the front-end career path and join our Discord server, we offer to pair you up with some other programmers learning to code, following the front-end career path, to help each other, make new friends, bounce ideas around. This all takes place on Discord. What was your experience like with these study groups, Nico?

Nico:
My study group wasn't that active. There were one or two people, they be active. My experience with the community is it helps you out. If you are stuck, you have a problem, you can ask anyone. If nobody knows what you're searching for, everyone is helping you out and everyone is searching. And so I guess everyone is learning. And one important part for me was every time someone gets stuck, I tried to figure out what they are looking for. And that's a big part of the learning, to understand the problem and search for a solution.

Alex:
Oh, really? That's fascinating, actually, because you're the second guest on Stories by Scrimba. It's awesome to have you here. And funnily enough, [Ostaya 00:09:06], who we interviewed most recently, she had the exact same strategy in that she would always try and find people to help on Discord. Maybe even more than she asked for help. Why do you think that is?

Nico:
I guess it gives you a good feeling and yeah, one big reason for me is doing things on my own helps me so much to learn and understand everything. And I guess if you're alone, you have some coding problems and you are looking for solutions, but if there is a community, there are so much more coding problems that maybe you've never found out.

Alex:
I love that. And at what point, Nico ... and this is a big question that I see a lot of people ask, either directly or indirectly, but when do you know, and when did you know that you were ready to start applying for jobs as a developer?

Nico:
I didn't know. The applying process, I didn't feel that ready, but I thought, "I have to do this." Yeah. Take the opportunity and look where I be.

Alex:
I hear that. And I agree, but I want to better understand. Why did you feel like that was the right thing to do? And when I mentioned people ask this indirectly, what they often say is something like, "Oh, I want to start applying, but let me finish this side project first," or, "Let me work on my resume for a few more weeks. Let me just get this one more certificate." And it's almost like procrastinating and I understand, it's a scary feeling. So it must've been something quite serious that drove you to just start applying.

Nico:
Yeah. I thought for me, yeah, "I can just finish this project," but I knew that there will be another project that I want to finish. And one big point for me is, I have to leave my comfort zone and I thought people in this field could teach me so much more things as a professional. So yeah, I tried it and it worked out.

Alex:
A hundred percent. When you decided it was time to start applying for jobs, what was your strategy? How did you go about creating your resume? Did you create a resume? Did you create a portfolio and how did you get in touch with companies?

Nico:
My approach ... I've created a resume, tried to stand out, just not a normal resume. So yeah. Well designed, let's say. Nice photos. Nice colors. Yeah. Yes. I have a portfolio with some of my work and links to my GitHub with just more work. And my strategy, I want to stay in Hamburg, this city. So I googled agencies and companies and applied to them. So I don't search for jobs at some websites for jobs.

Alex:
And so your approach there, was it to ... when you find an agency, some of them have LinkedIn pages with jobs listed, others have career pages. Did you mostly just apply through their websites and send over your resume and your portfolio? Or did you perhaps take a different approach?

Nico:
I applied. Yeah. Some via LinkedIn and from just via email from their site.

Alex:
Do you have some impression of how many jobs you applied to?

Nico:
Roundabout 25. Yeah. And I got three invitations.

Alex:
Nice.

Nico:
And out of these three invitations, I've got two job offers.

Alex:
I think that was a very good ratio, personally. How do you feel about that?

Nico:
Overwhelmed. I never thought that I would get a job so fast.

Alex:
No way. Tell us about it. Let's take the company you work at today because maybe it's best just to focus on that one. You send your resume. When did you hear back from them and what was that process like from there?

Nico:
I sent them my resume and after a week I got the invitation. So I went to the company and talked with four people of them for roundabout one and a half hours about me, about my path. Yeah. And just get invited to a second day. And on the second day, I've got some coding challenges and a template that I have [inaudible 00:15:16]. Yeah.

Alex:
Can you tell us more about the coding challenges, specifically?

Nico:
Smaller JavaScript challenges. Just the simple ones, like Scrimba teach on their job-ready path.

Alex:
That's good.

Nico:
Yeah. It was a simple template so I have to call it responsive. [inaudible 00:15:45]. Yeah.

Alex:
So by template, you mean they gave you a sketch file that you had to turn into a ...

Nico:
Yeah. They gave me a pre-made design that they already had ordered and sold. So I would say professionally designed. Yeah.

Alex:
And did it have a navigation?

Nico:
Yes. A splitted one.

Alex:
Oh, wow. They didn't make it tough on you.

Nico:
Yeah. Yeah.

Alex:
Well, it's a good thing you escaped tutorial hell and started thinking through things like how to build a navigation step-by-step, per your own advice earlier in this interview. I like it.

Nico:
Yeah. It's so important to get out of this tutorial hell and use your heads and start smaller and implement smaller ads and the bigger project [inaudible 00:16:45].

Alex:
How long would you estimate it took you to turn the templates into a responsive website?

Nico:
With the break, six or seven hours.

Alex:
Interesting. Did they give you some kind of a timeframe? They might have said, "Nico, we expect you to spend this much time on this," or did they just say, :Hey, we'd like to see your result by this date. Send it to us."

Nico:
Yeah, I got a time limit to 6:00 PM. And at the end of the day they looked at my work. [inaudible 00:17:34].

Alex:
Oh, I see. Was it like an onsite thing, then? Like, you went to their office and they gave you the day to turn it-

Nico:
Yeah. Yes, yes, yes.

Alex:
Huh, that's really cool. Okay, so you showed them your solution. Did they offer you the job on the spot, Nico?

Nico:
No. They called me later the next day and offered me the job.

Alex:
That must've been an incredible feeling.

Nico:
Yes. It was really incredible. And it was one or two days before Christmas.

Alex:
Hey, that's awesome. Yes!

Nico:
It was a nice present for me.

Alex:
Totally. Lovely Christmas present. And what a great way to start the new year. What has your time been like so far at this company, Nico? How are you finding it?

Nico:
It's amazing. It's so much new people, so much new stuff to learn. And the whole professional thing around it, like meeting software, version control software server structure. Yeah. It's quite much, but I love to do it.

Alex:
Yeah. I bet. There's always so much to learn when you join a new team. I know Ostaya was saying something similar in our previous interview, how she recognized a lot of the code, but maybe felt like she could be going faster. I know that was specific to her, but also, there's so many things you can't anticipate, like collaborating on the same code base, for example. Every team has different processes. I'm wondering, does your team use a methodology like Agile or something and does that have some challenges associated with it?

Nico:
I can't say it right now. They work with ... I guess it's Agile. I'm sorry. It's so much.

Alex:
No, not at all. And I will debase. I'll message you in a week or two, maybe a month. And you'll tell me, "Alex, all those things, it's like second nature to me by now."

Nico:
Yeah. I hope so. I know that this will be.

Alex:
Nico, thank you so much for taking the time. It's been fantastic to get to know you a little bit. I think your story is super inspiring. I can't wait to share it with the Scrimba community. Is there anything else you would like to share? For example, advice you wish you had when you were starting out or maybe a tip or something like that, for anybody who might be listening?

Nico:
Some things I would like to know before. Yeah. There is not only one solution to a problem. You can do your problems so many different ways. One really important thing is to start and do it on your own, not just copying a tutorial. If you want to do a tutorial, watch it, take out any part and try it on your own. Yeah, just [inaudible 00:21:21] every day, even if it's just for 10 minutes.

Alex:
Absolutely. "Perfect practice makes perfect," I think is the saying, and just showing up every day is half the battle. If you show up consistently and be kind of good every day, one day, I'm sure you'll be a great developer. Nico, thank you so much.

Nico:
Thank you so much for the invitation.