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🎙 About the episode
Meet Danny Vogel 🇩🇪🇪🇸! Danny is a lawyer-turned-developer who decided to switch careers after ten years in law! In high school, he thought he could never do maths and picked a different path. It was meeting his wife, who is a software developer, that made him stop seeing coding as something unachievable, and the search for a better work-life balance that made him start learning. When he quit his job, he focused on coding. But nobody was responding to his job applications. Danny then went to a developer meetup in Barcelona, where somebody gave him wise advice...
In this episode, Danny shares about his coding journey and the struggles along the way. You'll learn how to approach projects, why a "shotgun" approach might work for you, and why it's better not to work remotely if you're just starting out. Danny also talks about his experience with Chingu.io, a platform that pairs you with other developers to create group coding projects, and how he's benefited from joining it. Ultimately, you'll find out how Danny landed his first dev job, even though the company didn't advertise the job he's doing now as a junior position!
🔗 Connect with Danny
- Danny always liked computers but never saw himself as a coder (02:26)
- Is coding more about letters or numbers? (03:03)
- Danny went into law, studying in Barcelona and New York. How did it feel to switch careers after ten years? (03:45)
- What made Danny learn to code? (05:22)
- Did Danny’s wife, a developer, play a part in his decision to learn to code? (06:10)
- Coding and law are often misrepresented in movies and on TV (07:20)
- How Danny learned to code (07:45)
- Frontend vs backend (08:43)
- Was learning to code hard? (09:14)
- Community break with Jan the Producer (10:35)
- How Danny knew it was time to quit his job in law (12:21)
- What was Danny’s approach to looking for dev jobs (13:47)
- Danny went on a meetup and got a great piece of advice (15:09)
- Danny also joined Chingu.io - what is it? (20:38)
- Group projects vs. solo projects (21:49)
- How Danny’s projects helped him land the job he now has (22:26)
- Shotgun approach! (23:06)
- People often talk themselves out of applying for jobs not classified as junior (24:07)
- Give yourself options! (25:35)
- Quick-fire questions: Danny’s wife, coding to Muse, and videogames! (27:07)
- Danny’s interview process (30:12)
- What’s HackerRank, and why you should be prepared for it (32:45)
- How Danny felt when he got the job (37:01)
- Does Danny’s experience in law help in his new role? (39:13)
- Should new developers work remotely or at the office? (41:43)
🧰 Resources Mentioned
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Danny Vogel (00:00):
On the one hand, the feeling that it all had paid off came when I had those apps on my phone, because even if it never really worked out, I could say, "You know what? I gave it my best shot and I created something that I'm proud of." That was already a big validation for me, that I'd not wasted my time, essentially. But then that someone was paying me; that obviously made me feel a lot better as well.
Alex Booker (00:17):
Hello and welcome to the Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show, I interview developers about their advice on learning to code and how to get a job in tech. I'm your host, Alex Booker, and today I'm joined by Danny Vogel, a lawyer turned developer based in Barcelona.
After working in law for 10 years, Danny realized coding pays the same, but with greater flexibility. Since it's something he dabbled with at school, Danny knew he enjoyed the idea of coding as well. Back then, he wasn't actually sure if he had the right kind of aptitude to be a coder, but many years later, inspired by his wife's story, who's also a developer, Danny realized coding might not be so far out of reach after all. He devised a steady plan alongside his full-time work for a period, but when he saw the light at the end of the tunnel, he quit his job to go all in on coding, except no one was responding to his job applications. That really motivated Danny to go to some local meetups and participate in a coding group project where he got some wise career advice from a senior engineer that turned the tide. In this episode, Danny will share that advice with you. After eventually connecting with some companies, Danny learned more of his law experience transferred than he first realized and was very recently hired as a front-end developer. He's joining us today to tell us how he got the job, even though it wasn't even advertised as a junior position.
We'll get into it in just a moment, but every now and again I do like to ask quickly upfront, as not to interrupt the episode later, that you please engage with this podcast if you enjoy it. Sometimes when you're creating a podcast, it can feel like you're sending something into a black hole. We see the numbers going up, but that's not what we find fulfilling. We find helping you fulfilling. So if you could leave a review, share this episode with a friend, or your friends, we'd really appreciate that. The more help we get sharing the episode, the bigger and better guests will agree to come on in the future. Thank you. Here's Danny.
Danny Vogel (02:26):
So growing up, I always liked video games specifically, and I started playing around with computers a lot. And I was always the go-to guy to fix any computer issues my family was having, but it was never obvious to me that I would actually work in that field. So here in Spain, when you choose your career path in the last few years of high school, you choose whether you want to do letters or numbers. I always thought I was more of a letters guy, and I thought that software engineer and any kind of engineering degree required a lot more numbers than I was comfortable with or willing to do. So I can't say I really saw it, and it always felt more like a hobby to me. So no, I can't say I ever saw myself as a programmer, coder, developer.
Alex Booker (03:03):
That distinction between letters and numbers is interesting, because I honestly couldn't answer which one I think programming is, because obviously you're writing letters as you type code, and it is a language, so I would probably go towards letters, but then it has those mathematical roots, I suppose, that might group it in with numbers. Now you're working as a developer, what do you think?
Danny Vogel (03:22):
There's definitely math in there, but it's nothing, I think, anyone that can at least do basic math can't handle. It definitely does help, but I think it also, at least in my limited experience for now, it seems like something that's for very specific work. And then these days, you can always just ask ChatGPT for help.
Alex Booker (03:40):
Yeah, on the maths part. That's probably something it's really good at, to be fair, because it's quite deterministic.
Danny Vogel (03:44):
Alex Booker (03:45):
Okay, so you didn't go straight into coding. What did you do for a career in the first place?
Danny Vogel (03:50):
I was at a loss as to what I wanted to do exactly. The default, at least in my experience, was always just do business or law. In my case, I chose law. So I studied law for five years here in Barcelona, and after those five years I decided to take a Master's degree, which took me to New York, and that's where I spent six years; one year studying and then five years working as a lawyer.
Alex Booker (04:10):
If my maths are correct, without asking ChatGPT in this case, you were basically in law, studying or working, for over a decade.
Danny Vogel (04:17):
Yeah. I think it was almost exactly 10 years, actually, at least until I decided to start studying programming.
Alex Booker (04:23):
That's such a long time to be doing something. You're probably familiar with the ... I don't know if you'd call it a sunken cost in this case at all, but what I'm getting at is once you've gone deep down a path, it's sometimes hard to change path. There must've been something really nibbling at you to change careers and learn to code.
Danny Vogel (04:39):
It's funny you bring that up. I definitely thought about the sunk cost fallacy, or whatever it's called, a lot, because the legal career and the Master's and all that, it's not exactly the cheapest thing, so there was a lot of time and money spent. And the bar exam, for example in New York, is pretty intense and requires a lot of studying, so it's a lot of effort.
Alex Booker (04:55):
I've seen Suits.
Danny Vogel (04:57):
But no, it definitely occurred to me. I was like, "Wow, I'm just throwing that all away." I do think about it still, but I like to think of it as that it's not wasted. I had my career, I worked in that career, I learned a lot of valuable things, met a lot of interesting people, and it still gave me a lot of skills that I can still use in whatever I decide to do in the future. So I don't think of it as anything lost as opposed to just a different fork in the road.
Alex Booker (05:22):
What made you want to learn to code?
Danny Vogel (05:24):
Well, a lot of it was mostly just more practical. Basically, I wanted to ... well, more money.
Alex Booker (05:28):
Coders surely don't make more than lawyers. What?
Danny Vogel (05:31):
Well, at least in Spain, they definitely do. And I think even in the US, where you can definitely make a lot as a lawyer as well. I met my now wife in New York and she's always been a software engineer, so she was making salaries that are pretty close to at least what you could make as a lawyer in a top law firm. The difference is that a lawyer at a top law firm would be working until 2:00 AM, where she got out at six or seven. But then here in Spain, it's very different. I think here the salaries for lawyers are a lot lower and the salaries for software engineers are higher, because basically they need to attract people from outside. They need to raise their salaries so some people actually want to work here.
Alex Booker (06:05):
Were you learning to code before you met your wife who's also a coder?
Danny Vogel (06:10):
Alex Booker (06:10):
Do you think meeting her had an influence on what you decided to do?
Danny Vogel (06:12):
Oh, absolutely. So like I was saying, when I was in high school I saw software engineer as this thing that I just didn't have a head for, that I couldn't do. There was always this mysterious thing about it, like it's too fancy, it's too difficult, I can't do this, and I just put it aside. And then, when I met my wife and I saw what she did and I slowly started learning what it was actually like and showed a bit more interest, I guess I saw, "Okay, I can kind of see how this works." And then definitely when I actually started studying, then it definitely took a lot of that mystique away and I saw it as something more attainable.
Alex Booker (06:43):
There's something really powerful about that, how when you see someone else doing it, and maybe they just let you in a little bit and tell you a bit more about what it involves and what the job is like, you kind of realize, "Yeah, I can do this too." And just that belief is what you need to get started and go the distance, it sounds like.
Danny Vogel (07:00):
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I'm sure Hollywood had a play in it too, where you would see hackers, and they were always super nerdy types who were geniuses and tapping away at keyboards. You're like, "I don't know what they're doing. What are they looking at?"
Alex Booker (07:10):
Danny Vogel (07:11):
And now some of my friends see the code that I write and it looks super complicated to them, but then I'm like, "Well, like anything else, once you get used to it, this just says 'hello world', or whatever."
Alex Booker (07:20):
And probably you have the hardest time watching TV and movies, because when law is dramatized, I think they make up the most ridiculous things, and I know that to be true for coding and hacking.
Danny Vogel (07:30):
Absolutely. With Suits, one of the things that bugged me the most was how quickly things happened.
Alex Booker (07:34):
Danny Vogel (07:35):
Basically, one little case could take years before you even see a judge, and here they were like, "Okay, next day." I was like, "Yeah, okay."
Alex Booker (07:42):
So Danny, how did you actually go about learning to code?
Danny Vogel (07:45):
Eventually I felt like I needed to amplify it a bit more and I moved on to freeCodeCamp, did some of their exercises. I don't remember exactly how I found Scrimba, but I think it was around there, because freeCodeCamp was good with the exercises, but they were missing the teaching you the theory part, I guess. And then yeah, when I discovered Scrimba I felt like it had the best of both worlds. They gave you a solid basis in the theory, but then made you practice a lot as well, which I always felt that I was more of a practical learner, so that helped me a lot.
Alex Booker (08:43):
That was actually a question I had around what drew you to web development. For many people, it is that practical part, because compared to backend or data science or something, you really see the impact of what you're building. Did that draw you to it, or was there another reason, perhaps?
Danny Vogel (08:56):
There's still the option for me to eventually move to backend, or at least full stack or something, but I think in my mind, for no particular reason, front-end felt more like an easier entry point. And then I would see how that went, and then if I learned a bit more about backend, maybe I'd move there. But just to get started, it felt like an easier place to start.
Alex Booker (09:14):
How did you find the difficulty level of learning to code?
Danny Vogel (09:17):
Alex Booker (09:41):
Were you doing this alongside your work as a lawyer, or did you focus full-time on learning to code?
Danny Vogel (09:48):
I mean, the beginning of my plan was basically, "Okay, I'll just start learning and see how it goes, but I'm not going to just give up on my career right away." That was a bit risky. So yeah, I was working full-time and basically just at nights, a couple hours, and maybe on weekends, I would do a bit more of the courses.
Alex Booker (10:04):
Do you have a sense for the kind of timeline from starting on Udemy to learning to code well enough that you felt like it was time to start looking for roles as a developer?
Danny Vogel (10:13):
Yeah. I looked up the dates recently and it was basically I started Udemy in September, 2021, and November of 2022 is when I decided to go all in and actually quit my job and study full-time so that I could actually go out and look for work. And then I got my job end of May of 2023, so all in all, it was a year and a half-ish.
Jan Arsenovic (10:35):
Coming up, Danny got a great advice at a meetup and then one day his phone rang.
Danny Vogel (10:39):
Well, first of all, I don't specifically remember applying for the job in the first place.
Jan Arsenovic (10:44):
Danny and Alex will be right back, but first let's take a look at your social media posts about the podcast. HS @HappySarahss, with two S's at the end, I have no idea if I'm saying this right, shared our episode on how to create a personal brand and why you need one on Twitter, or X, and wrote, "Love Scrimba Podcast too much. Respect and appreciate your team and colleagues learn from each other and build your personal reputation. Be open to feedback. Constructive feedback is a gift." Couldn't have said it better myself.
Nico @codelawani shared our episode with Swix on how to make your own luck and wrote, "Have you heard about the sniper and shotgun approach to applying to jobs? Well, if you haven't, I'm sure you'd find this podcast interesting. Damn, I try to listen to Scrimba Podcast every morning and this one was so insightful." Yeah, the episode with Swix was really great. I'm really happy you're finding it useful, and keep going through our archives. There's a lot of great stuff there.
And our final shout-out goes out to the person from United Kingdom who left us a review on Apple Podcasts. It says, "Great podcast, very helpful, five stars." He's a man of few words, but all of them are positive. If you would like to leave us a rating or a review in your podcast app of choice, it would be greatly appreciated. Every little bit helps and makes sure we can keep working on this show. If you would like to join the conversation on social media, you can always share what you've learned or give us feedback on Twitter, AKA X, or on LinkedIn. As long as your post contains the words Scrimba Podcast, we will find it. Thank you in advance. And now we're back to the interview with Danny.
Alex Booker (12:21):
It sounds like there was a point where you reached a certain level of momentum. I can just imagine that when you quit your job to focus on continuing to learn to code, you had this feeling of, "Yeah, I can do this. I can see the path. I can see the trees from the forest." You just needed that little extra focus period before you could start really applying and putting yourself out there for opportunities.
Danny Vogel (12:42):
I felt like I needed more time to fully absorb everything, because a couple hours here and there weren't working as well anymore. When I needed to get into something a bit more complex, like I was starting getting into React, a couple hours a day wasn't enough to absorb everything I needed to absorb to actually get started. But I definitely had the confidence to say, "Okay, I feel like I can do this. I just need to study more intensively, basically, and work on my own projects and prepare my CV and have something to show, like a portfolio." And basically I gave myself from November until January to really prepare a portfolio on my CV, and then January I started actually putting myself out there, updating LinkedIn and applying for jobs.
Alex Booker (13:16):
Did you feel a degree of pressure once you quit your job to make it happen, or were you feeling pretty confident?
Danny Vogel (13:22):
It was okay. I had savings and stuff like that, so I was comfortable in that sense. There was pressure towards the end. A couple of weeks before I actually got my job, or even got the call for the interview, I was starting to get kind of worried. I was like, "Okay, no one's answered any of my applications yet. I'm not even hearing back from anyone." I was getting pretty concerned. Also, the economy wasn't doing so well, so I was kind of worried in that sense. If I gave up and went back to law, would I even be able to find a job anymore? So there was definitely a bit of pressure.
Alex Booker (13:47):
As we know, and the reason you're here, you did find success in the end. I'm really excited actually to learn a bit more about how the opportunity came about. But maybe before we get into the specific opportunity you ended up succeeding at, you can tell us a bit about your job search in general. You mentioned a couple of things around not hearing back, and it was also quite a tough time in the economy as well. What was your approach to finding work as a developer? How did you go about doing it?
Danny Vogel (14:13):
First thing I did was update my LinkedIn. Scrimba's course on that helped me with that as well. It was part of a full bootcamp course towards the end, basically a lot of interview questions and updating your profile and that kind of thing. And also, I think the one thing that helped a lot was the keywords, like what to put in your header and your summary and that kind of thing.
Alex Booker (14:29):
Because your profile was probably orientated towards law at first.
Danny Vogel (14:34):
Yeah. That was a weird part for me too.
Alex Booker (14:35):
Yeah. Was it quite a monumental moment when you changed your tagline from lawyer, essentially, to front-end developer?
Danny Vogel (14:41):
Absolutely. A few people, at least my closest friends already knew, but I'm sure there were a few people on LinkedIn who were like, "Wait, what's going on?" I prepared my CV as best I could, I put some projects on there, and then I just started applying to everything that seemed junior-ish. So basically up to two, three years of experience even. And in the meantime, I just kept working away, doing courses, but also focusing a lot on my own projects for my portfolio, basically. And I started going to meetups as well here in Barcelona.
Alex Booker (15:08):
Danny Vogel (15:09):
Alex Booker (15:38):
Yeah, I like that a lot. I think there's a huge amount of value in it, because as a developer, your job isn't necessarily to know all the answers. It's to know where to find the answers if you need them. And just by absorbing that kind of information at a meetup, it'll help you narrow in on something when you need it. And besides, you'll probably pick it up just by being around. How did you feel about your first tech meetup? It can be a slightly intimidating environment for most people. Maybe the social part, sure, but if you're not a professional developer, you might get the sense that you're infiltrating it somehow, and it's your first chance to see how you can converse and network with other developers.
Danny Vogel (16:15):
I definitely had a bit of imposter syndrome. It was a bit nerve-wracking. I felt like the most clueless person there, for sure. But then again, I don't know, everybody was very friendly and they were happy to answer questions, and I also made the effort to speak to the people that worked at the company that was hosting the meetup, just to get a sense of were they hiring juniors, or what were they looking for in a junior, that kind of thing. And that also helped a bit to learn what kind of skills I should focus on. For example, if they were more interested in testing, or did I know what object-oriented programming was, or that kind of thing.
Alex Booker (16:45):
What was the best piece of advice you got while networking at the meetup, if I could put you on the spot?
Danny Vogel (16:51):
No, for sure. And it was great, because this was from the first meetup as well. One of the talks was from the head engineer at Honeypot, and I spoke to him afterwards and he was very helpful because obviously he's ... So Honeypot is a website that helps you find a job, but the way it works is the company actually looks for candidates. So you just make your profile and put your skills on there and then you just wait to hear from companies that are interested in you.
Alex Booker (17:13):
So you don't apply like you would on LinkedIn. You make a profile and then the companies come to you.
Danny Vogel (17:17):
Yeah. They do the searching, so it's comfortable in that sense, but I still get the feeling that might be trickier for your junior developers.
Alex Booker (17:22):
Yeah, there's a few platforms like that. Hired.com I think is another one. Definitely worth making a profile and seeing what you can glean as a new developer.
Danny Vogel (17:30):
Absolutely. My philosophy was always the shotgun approach. Whatever you can apply, just send it out. And if it works, great. If it doesn't, no harm done.
Alex Booker (17:38):
What advice did that person give you?
Danny Vogel (17:40):
So he was telling me the thing that you should do for your own projects to get people interested is just to work on something that helps you. So a tool that could make your life easier in some way, whether it's a to-do list or a calendar app or whatever it is. I don't remember the specifics, but he made some sort of tool that helped him analyze data or organize the data in some way, and it was just for himself.
So that was his advice, to just work on a project that is for me, and then I can then show off. And I think that was really good advice and I think that definitely helped to get me exactly where I wanted to be. So that inspired me to create my 'star app'. It's called Game State, and it's just an app for saving the video games you've played and the games that you want to play, kind of like a movie-watching app. And it connects to a database, an API that just has all the video games. I pull data from there so you can search, then you can add a game to one of the two lists, whether you want to play it or you've already played it. You put the date, whether you're playing it, whether you dropped it or whether you beat it. You can add a little comment by the date. And then there's a nice list with filters and organized by year and that kind of thing.
Alex Booker (18:39):
That sounds so sweet. I think when you described it, I imagined maybe a [inaudible 00:18:44] app, kind of like a Notes app, but [inaudible 00:18:47] is all around games and stuff. But it sounds like you actually connected this to an API as well, so you could probably just search the game and pull in the game information, save the games you played, create a wishlist almost for the games you want to play. Are you a big gamer then? Is that where the motivation came from?
Danny Vogel (19:02):
Absolutely, yeah. The way I had done it before was I just had literally a Notes app, and I had a new note for each year. And I would just say the games I played as I played them, basically, just to keep track of what I played and what I forgot, and for no particular reason, just to look back every once in a while and be like, "Oh yeah, that was fun." Or maybe go back and play something. But also, if I saw a trailer for a game that I liked, then I would save it there, just to not forget about it. And then I figured, "Why not?" I was getting tired of the specific Note app I was using as well, so I figured, "Why not create something that I would actually enjoy, that I can modify to my liking as well?" And that's how that came about.
Alex Booker (19:37):
You still use it?
Danny Vogel (19:38):
Yeah, every day.
Alex Booker (19:39):
That must be a good feeling, man.
Danny Vogel (19:41):
It is pretty great. The thing that made it really nice too was the course from Scrimba about making web apps that feel like mobile apps. So I did that for my app as well, and now I have this icon on my phone. So every time I open my phone, I have it right there on the homepage. So I have my own to-do list app and my Game State app, with my own little [inaudible 00:19:59] there. And every time I see them, it's just kind of like, "Nice. I made that."
Alex Booker (20:03):
I like that a lot. This advice to work on projects, I think that's fantastic. I'm glad you could share that with us as well today. And the Game State app sounds sick as well. Were you tempted to code something with your wife, since she is a developer as well?
Danny Vogel (20:21):
We discussed it a few times, and we have a couple ideas that we're considering, but we both have jobs now, so there's that too. But we might start working on it someday. They have an app here for the kindergarten that our daughter goes to. It's just an app that keeps track of how many times they ate, did she take a nap? They post pictures up there. And we thought creating something like that might be fun, like a better version for it.
Alex Booker (20:38):
I saw in your Scrimba Discord post that you used a website called Chingu.io, I think I'm pronouncing that right, which gave you experience working in a team. Can you tell us more about that platform? It looks interesting. This
Danny Vogel (20:51):
This came from another user on Scrimba. His name is ... well, Mist was his username at least. He mentioned his website once and it seemed interesting, because what they do is hook you up with other developers that are just interested in creating something, and they have what they call Voyages. So every few months they start a new Voyage, and it lasts ... I think it was maybe six weeks, or eight. And there's sprints inside the Voyage, and basically the idea is to create something as a team and do it all using agile methodologies and using a [inaudible 00:21:20] and all that. I think that was super helpful to just get a real feeling for how it would be to work at a company as well. Yeah, it was a great experience. In my case, I actually joined a group that had already started. So they had already made the plan of what they wanted to create, which was a crypto dashboard in my case, but I hopped right in. I think they were around in their second or third week. And yeah, we just finished creating that dashboard together using React and [inaudible 00:21:43] Design and CSS in general, I guess. And Firebase authentication as well and all that stuff.
Alex Booker (21:49):
What made you want to commit to that, rather than code another project by yourself?
Danny Vogel (21:56):
Well, mostly the idea of learning more about how agile Scrimba methodologies work. Also the idea of ... well, because having created a few projects at that point myself and being in control of everything, I thought it was really interesting to see how we could work on separate components and then we'd have to figure out how to link them together and make them work with each other. I thought that was interesting to see as well.
Alex Booker (22:14):
That's not the kind of experience you get by yourself, is it?
Danny Vogel (22:17):
No. And then also the conflicts that can arise from that, and maybe disagreeing with how someone does something. Or also seeing how they do something and being like, "Oh, I guess that's another way to do it. That's interesting."
Alex Booker (22:26):
So obviously you learned a ton about collaborating on code through that process. Was there anything about it that could count as networking or career advice that helped you get the job you're working now?
Danny Vogel (22:38):
Well, the app itself, Crypto Dashboard, combined with the video game app that I've made myself, was basically the summary of what my job is now, which is working at a blockchain video game company. So the combination of those two things happened to lead exactly to ... I mean, personally I was more interested in the video game part of it, but blockchain and crypto is just very interesting from a developer standpoint as well. And those two apps were what apparently really stood out to the people that ended up hiring me, because that's the kind of profile they were looking for.
Alex Booker (23:06):
This sounds like a really nice segue into the role that you're working. I read that the position you applied for wasn't advertised as a junior position. Can you tell us more about that and what you think they wanted to see from a candidate that meant you got the job?
Danny Vogel (23:21):
Well, first of all, I don't specifically remember applying for the job in the first place.
Alex Booker (23:25):
You really were taking the shotgun approach, it sounds like.
Danny Vogel (23:27):
Yes. So what happened was basically, yeah, I would just be applying to jobs, left and right, and one day I just get a phone call and they were like, "Hi, we're from this company," and I'm like, "Which one? Who?" So she told me the name and I'm searching my emails, looking for that confirmation email you get when you apply for anything. Usually it's like, "Oh, thanks for your interest," blah, blah, blah. But I couldn't find that either, so I was very confused. But then I saw the company and I was like, "Okay, it makes sense that I would've applied to this company, because it's blockchain, video game. Yeah, that sounds interesting to me." But I saw the job posting, yeah, just a front-end developer, and they just asked for I guess more general experience. They didn't specify how many years you needed to have or anything like that, so I figured I had a decent shot.
Alex Booker (24:07):
It's interesting, because some people would look at a job ad that doesn't cite a number of years of experience, but by virtue of the fact that it's not classified as a junior role, they might talk themselves out of applying to that position. What would you say to that?
Danny Vogel (24:21):
I would say not to. To be honest, I don't think I saw very many jobs that didn't have an experience requirement, so it was hard to say, because I saw both sides. Some people were just asking for a front-end developer and then they were asking for five years, or they would ask for junior, but still three years of experience, and I found that conflicting. So basically I would say to focus less on the amount of years and more on what the skills are that they're asking for. So if they ask for React and maybe Tailwind or some testing, if you feel like you have at least two or three of those, then I would say go for it. If you can show off what you've done and show them that you're a capable developer and that you have skills that they could be interested in, then I would say go for it. You have nothing to lose, really.
Alex Booker (24:59):
I agree with that 100%. I think that's very wise advice. I don't think you should ever talk yourself out of something. You should let them talk you out of it, if it makes sense. If that's the way it's going to go, that's the way it's going to go, but you're not necessarily qualified to judge your own experience. And if you shut yourself off to opportunities because you talk yourself out of them, you don't end up in a position like yours, Danny, where you end up getting the role because of a great ... I was thinking of the word coincidence, but what I'm thinking is that there just happened to be that synergy where the company was aligned with some of the projects you'd worked on while you were learning. That must've been something they were really interested in.
Danny Vogel (25:35):
And just because you mentioned the luck and synergy, the other piece of advice that I got, not for coding, but for my law career, was one that I thought was very important too. It's kind of just basically the saying about you make your own luck, but the way he phrased it was ... this was my former boss, I was a paralegal when I was first starting out, he just said that basically you have to give yourself as many options as you can. So basically at the time I had done my Master's degree, and my plan really was to just do a year in New York and go back to Barcelona. But what ended up happening is that I got this opportunity to work there under this practical program that was still part of the Master's, basically, but I hadn't applied for it yet. So then my boss gave me a lecture and he says, "Why would you limit yourself like that? Even if you didn't think you were going to stay, you should still keep that option open for yourself in case an interesting opportunity arises." So I think that's very important, and I think that's also part of why I put myself out there and went to the meetups and decided to do the Chingu collaborative project, just to get as many skills and options under my belt as possible so that what I want can come to me.
Alex Booker (26:33):
Yeah. You never knew what was going to happen. Maybe at the Chingu and one of the Voyages, you work with someone who gets hired a bit ahead of you, they could intro you to the company. Maybe at the meetup, it just so happens the company hosting it is also hiring junior ... like, okay, that didn't happen, but you never could know those things. You have to try and see what happens. And then what did actually end up happening is that one of the companies you applied for, as you maximized your chance to get lucky by applying for a broad range of jobs that were reasonably relevant and you didn't talk yourself out of, that created the opportunity to get the call back a few months later, it sounds like.
I want to learn a bit more about the interview process and how that all went, but what do you say we break up the interview a little bit with some quickfire questions?
Danny Vogel (27:16):
Alex Booker (27:17):
Didn't tell you about this, did I?
Danny Vogel (27:19):
No, you didn't.
Alex Booker (27:23):
What is one learning resource that has been the most impactful on your journey, learning to code?
Danny Vogel (27:27):
Alex Booker (27:52):
I'm pretty sure she's going to listen to this and be really proud of you, so shout-out to Danny's wife. What is your favorite technology to use at the moment?
Danny Vogel (28:00):
I would say Vue. So obviously I was studying React, because that's just the most popular framework and the one that most jobs exist for. But my company happens to have chosen Vue as their front-end framework, and at first I was worried, but it turns out it just felt a lot more comfortable for me and I really enjoy working with it. That and Tailwind. I enjoy Tailwind a lot too, which I didn't have a lot of experience with.
Alex Booker (28:20):
What about technology that you have seen and you're interested in learning more about?
Danny Vogel (28:25):
I just read about it yesterday. It's React, the server-side components. Server-side rendering and React server components, I think.
Alex Booker (28:31):
Yeah, that's like a whole new world, isn't it?
Danny Vogel (28:33):
Yeah, and it seems to be gaining a lot of traction and popularity, so even though I'm not doing that with Vue, I want to keep up to date with what's going on in React.
Alex Booker (28:40):
Ooh, I like that answer, because instead of just learning a new technology, you're learning essentially a pattern, an advanced topic for a technology you already know. That's really cool.
Danny Vogel (28:49):
Alex Booker (29:06):
Danny, what music do you like to code to?
Danny Vogel (29:08):
I listen to a lot of lo-fi beats and hip hop, that kind of thing. Just kind of chill, rhythmic music. But then sometimes, when it gets a little frustrating, maybe something a bit more rocky. I'm a big fan of Muse.
Alex Booker (29:18):
I've got a special question that I've added to the quickfire just for you. I want to know what your favorite game is at the moment.
Danny Vogel (29:25):
Well, at the moment I'm playing Stardew Valley again, because I just wanted to relax and chill with something comfortable and nice. If you don't know, it's a farming sim game. It has a very nice cycle where you just plant your crops, water your crops, and then pick your crops and sell them, that kind of thing. It's very relaxing, and it felt like the right thing at the moment. And before that I was just playing Tears of the Kingdom, the new Legend of Zelda game, which is amazing as well.
Alex Booker (29:47):
Stardew Valley, I love that game. You're right, it's so relaxing and peaceful. The music, the atmosphere. There was a point when I was learning to code that I would quite like to play quite easy games like that while watching Pluralsight modules in another tab or something, or another screen. I don't think that was the best way to do it. I think I probably didn't retain much of that information.
Danny Vogel (30:12):
Yeah, I was going to say, I would be way too distracted in either one or the other.
Alex Booker (30:12):
All right, so I was keen to learn a bit more about the interview process. You gave us a bit of a teaser, I feel like, because you told us that they phoned you up. They were like, "Danny, we liked your profile." You were like, "Who is this?" And then once you looked it all up, you were like, "Yeah, this makes sense." But yeah, what was that phone call about exactly? And maybe you can tell us what were the steps in the process?
Danny Vogel (30:31):
So this all happened within one week, so it was all very quick. The first call was from HR, and they just introduced themselves and said they received my application that I didn't remember sending and just asked about my general interests. They were very generic questions, like, "Oh, so you're a developer. Are you interested in video games?" I was like, "Yes." And yeah, I don't think they were very complicated questions. She just basically wanted to make sure that I was a real person and capable of having a conversation.
Alex Booker (30:56):
Yeah. No red flags, basically.
Danny Vogel (30:58):
And then she explained what the next two steps would be, which would be a video call with a COO who would basically be my boss if I was hired. And then after that, assuming that went well, a technical interview would be the last step. So that second call with the COO was a bit more in depth, but still more general conversation kind of thing. Just more specific to what I was doing as a programmer, what my interests were, what my career path was, that kind of thing. I was a little bit surprised that they definitely didn't care that I used to be a lawyer and just made the switch, that kind of thing. I mean they didn't care in a bad way, is what I'm trying to say. It did come up, but they had no problem with it at all.
Alex Booker (31:33):
They weren't deterred, to say the least.
Danny Vogel (31:35):
Exactly. So that was nice and gave me a bit more confidence as well. And he was very excited about my video game app as well. He seemed very interested because he was using a similar thing for movies, so he was like, "Oh, that's pretty cool." And it was nice to see that as well.
Alex Booker (31:47):
So the first step was the interview with the HR person, the second conversation was with the COO where they weren't drilling you on technical stuff, it doesn't sound like so far, but just to have a conversation about your interests and your projects and things like that before moving on. Is that right?
Danny Vogel (32:03):
Yeah. And explaining a bit about the company and what I would be doing if I was hired. And then since that went well, the next step was going into the office to see the office and see what that's like.
Alex Booker (32:13):
Is it a hybrid role or an in-person role?
Danny Vogel (32:16):
So I happened to find the one job that is fully in office.
Alex Booker (32:19):
We'll definitely get into that. But yeah, tell me more about what came next.
Danny Vogel (32:23):
Yeah, just the technical interview. And the good thing about the whole not having remote work is that it's right next door to where I live.
Alex Booker (32:30):
Oh yeah? Decent.
Danny Vogel (32:31):
It's like five minutes away. It's actually halfway to my daughter's nursery, so I couldn't have asked for a better location. The technical interview was at the office, and what that involved was logging into HackerRank and doing one of their certifications.
Alex Booker (32:45):
So HackerRank is online coding tests and technical interview challenges.
Danny Vogel (32:49):
Alex Booker (33:15):
Some people, they drill Licode, Project Euler, HackerRank type of platforms, so that when they get the interview, they are warm, I suppose, or familiar. Was that something you'd prepared for, and how did the experience actually go? How did you feel at the time?
Danny Vogel (33:29):
So fortunately I had done a few, so I least knew the format and how everything worked, because it's not exactly the easiest thing to work with, I would say. But I definitely didn't do enough.
Alex Booker (33:39):
You can always do more.
Danny Vogel (33:40):
It was actually kind of tricky. The first one, I did see the path relatively easily. I did manage to get to a working point. But I think what happened in the end was ... just to explain, so the HackerRank, the way it works when it tests your code is it runs 10 different tests. So I had six or seven of them that passed without issues, but the other ones, the remaining tests, they didn't fail, they timed out.
Alex Booker (34:00):
Okay. So the function never returned or something.
Danny Vogel (34:03):
I think the issue was that I had maybe one too many "For" loops, or whatever I was using. I don't think it was an infinite loop, it was just taking too long for HackerRank. They had a time limit, basically, on how long they want to process your code. So I think it still worked. It just took longer than they wanted it to take.
Alex Booker (34:17):
So it wasn't efficient enough, basically is the point.
Danny Vogel (34:19):
Yes, basically. So I got to that point and I was like, "Okay, I'm kind of running short on time. I should start on the other one." So the second one I actually did not do very well on. That one was more confusing to me and I couldn't really figure it out too well. So I guess this is where a lot of luck came in. Basically I ran out of time. I actually went back to the first one as well and improved it a little bit, maybe got another test to work, but it was still timing out. But the second one was a little bit of a failure, or a failure, honestly.
So then the guy who was interviewing me, who ended up being my manager, I told him, "Okay, let's take a look." So I showed him the first one and he took a look and he at least was of the opinion that the code did work, that it was just timing out because of HackerRank's limitations, not because it was wrong, per se. But obviously it could be improved performance wise. And that was it. He actually never looked at the second question, which was the one that I had done badly on. And he was just like, "Yeah, okay, looks good to me. Yeah, we can move on. The HR person will give you a tour of the office," blah, blah, blah. And I'm just like, "Okay." Obviously I wasn't going to insist.
Alex Booker (35:17):
Wait, wait. When you say he didn't look at the second one, did he see that it hadn't gone well and was like, "There's no point going into it," or was he just like, "Actually I've seen the first challenge. That's all I needed to see."?
Danny Vogel (35:27):
I think it was more that, yeah. He was satisfied enough with how the first one went that he either forgot about the second one or he was satisfied enough with the first one.
Alex Booker (35:34):
We're not going to question that too much.
Danny Vogel (35:36):
Nope, definitely not.
Alex Booker (35:37):
We are going to have a tour of the office.
Danny Vogel (35:39):
Alex Booker (35:39):
But how did you feel at the time? It doesn't sound like the tour of the office necessarily meant that you were getting an offer. You could reason they do that to be nice or something. I don't know. Just to bring quite a cynical thought process to it, if he didn't look at the second one, that could actually be kind of a bad thing, because he might've determined that after the first challenge there wasn't any point looking at ... I'm just saying, we know that wasn't the case, but if you're in the position where you don't know, these are definitely thoughts you can have. So I'm curious how you felt at the time about your prospects.
Danny Vogel (36:09):
Alex Booker (36:19):
You can always do more. Yeah.
Danny Vogel (36:22):
And then I definitely recommend anyone who's still applying to do more. I was very upset at that moment, just myself, because I was thinking, "Wow, if I miss out on this job because I didn't do enough of these interview questions, that'll be really disappointing, because I feel like I could have gotten the job [inaudible 00:36:35]."
Alex Booker (36:35):
Yeah, yeah, that's a good point.
Danny Vogel (36:37):
Like you said, the whole tour of the office, it did throw me off a little bit, because it felt like I was basically in already, but I wasn't, because they hadn't confirmed anything. And every once in a while they would throw in, "You know, if we hire you." But at the same time, it felt like they had already made their decision, so it was kind of strange."
Alex Booker (36:50):
Yeah, I've been there before actually, where they're talking about future plans and are like, "Yeah, we're going to do this. There's a team summit coming up, if you are to receive an offer." How did the offer actually come your way in the end?
Danny Vogel (37:01):
The technical interview was on a Friday and then by Monday they called and told me I got it. So besides a slightly nervous weekend, it was pretty short, I would say. A pretty quick turnaround.
Alex Booker (37:11):
That must've been a pretty great feeling, especially combined with the tension of the weekend. How did you feel when you got that phone call?
Danny Vogel (37:17):
It was amazing. I was very, very happy just to get the opportunity after what at that moment felt like not that long that I had actually quit my job, gone full-time into studying. And in the end it was about five months. No, just really excited that the last two years had led to this moment. I was very, very pleased.
Alex Booker (37:36):
You mentioned that obviously the job market wasn't flourishing, shall we say. It's kind of hard to get a pulse on the developer job market sometimes, but obviously with things like layoffs happening and less job ads, it can be a bit deterring. And you also mentioned that at one point you had reason for pause, because you weren't hearing back like you hoped you might have. Was it a pretty validating feeling to get the offer, because for all the effort you'd put forth and the development you'd seen in yourself, sometimes it is somebody else saying, "Yes, you've done a good enough job and you're good enough that we want to hire you and literally pay you to write code and continue growing in this opportunity. We believe in your ability to keep growing." Did that feel great?
Danny Vogel (38:15):
Alex Booker (38:56):
Was it all worth it in the end, challenges and all?
Danny Vogel (38:58):
Absolutely. I'm very happy where I am right now.
Alex Booker (39:01):
Class, man. I'm so happy to hear it. So happy for you as well to get that opportunity where it sounds like it was a great alignment. And yeah, glad Scrimba could play a little role as well while you did all the hard work.
Danny Vogel (39:10):
A very big role. I'm very thankful for everything they've done.
Alex Booker (39:13):
Before we wrap up, I did want to ask you a little bit about how law and the industry you worked in before maybe helped you in your pursuit of a development job. We joked a little bit about the sunken cost fallacy and whether it was a wasted effort or not, but you felt pretty convinced actually that these things came with you as you took on this new adventure. I just wanted to ask what some of the things that you felt helped you from your previous experience were.
Danny Vogel (39:40):
So actually one of the things that I was told, at least that was a key factor in my hiring as well, was that them knowing that I used to be a lawyer made them think that I had a great attention to detail, and that was obviously as helpful for coding as it is for reviewing contracts. So that's something that I would say comes in handy, just being used to reviewing every line of ... well, in this case code to find the little semicolon that's missing or whatever it is. That's something that definitely came with me that is helpful.
And then otherwise, especially, for example, for something like crypto and also all the privacy issues and all that, I think just having a little bit of a legal background can also give you a moment to see if someone's plowing ahead with an idea for a new feature and you're like, "I mean, sure, but also we should probably talk to compliance about whether this is okay."
Alex Booker (40:22):
Yeah. And even just communication, like to politely disagree and have a constructive conversation around it, for example. That's not something you necessarily come out of school with. You bring that with you, I think, from your previous industry.
Danny Vogel (40:32):
Yeah, definitely. Knowing how to tactfully say something that needs to be said, that kind thing.
Alex Booker (40:37):
What about in terms of actually looking for the job? I have no experience in that area, but my impression is that it can be quite a difficult industry. It can be quite competitive in terms of getting roles.
Danny Vogel (40:48):
I think in terms of applying for jobs as a lawyer, I was kind of doing the same thing. I was taking a shotgun approach to everything that I was interesting in. And also, I had done quite a few interviews as a lawyer as well, so I was comfortable with the process and just being in that room with some other person and not being intimidated. I think that's definitely something that's helpful and that unfortunately, I feel like, is something that only comes with the experience of actually doing them, not something you can really learn in school as much.
Alex Booker (41:13):
When I first started doing it, I felt kind of uncomfortable, but then the more comfortable I got, I realized it's a two-way conversation. I'm not being interrogated. Just getting exposed to that I think helps you, and that will make you more successful in the interview process when you relax a little bit and learn how to navigate the environment. There are some tips and rules and ways of conducting yourself that make a big difference to your success, I think. Maybe even a disproportionate difference to your success. Sometimes your ability to interview can be valued a lot more than your actual technical skills.
Now that you're literally in that environment, I wanted to hear from you your perspectives about working in person as a junior and whether you think that you'd get the same benefits working remotely, potentially.
Danny Vogel (41:54):
It's hard to say about whether I would get the same benefit remotely, but I do have to say that being there in the office and being able to just walk over to whoever and just ask them the most mundane questions and maybe be a bit too annoying, but I've got to ask-
Alex Booker (42:08):
Danny Vogel (42:08):
I think that as a junior, it's definitely helpful. I sit next to the DevOps guy, and he's taught me a lot about deploying on Google Cloud and server architecture and that kind of thing. He's been super helpful, and I wonder if I would be as comfortable or if these conversations would just happen as naturally if we weren't right next to each other physically, because it's a different thing when I need to give him a call or Discord or Slack or whatever we're using.
Alex Booker (42:34):
It feels like there's more ceremony there. You probably wouldn't bother unless you felt like it was a really good use of their time. If you're already there in the office, you can see that they're not deep in work and deeply focused on something, or maybe just catch them by the canteen, for example. It's just really natural to ask a question or strike up a conversation and see where it goes.
Danny Vogel (42:53):
And also the just socializing aspect in general. Not even just about work, just chatting on the way to lunch or anything. I think that also helps to create those relationships that ultimately make you more comfortable with asking all the technical questions as well.
Alex Booker (43:04):
Yeah. And then there is the downside of the lack of flexibility, but since you live five minutes from the office, it's practically just a room in your house. If you need the bathroom, you can go home, practically.
Danny Vogel (43:14):
I could, basically.
Alex Booker (43:18):
I think it's pretty sweet. Danny, thank you so much for taking the time to tell us your story. Really appreciated it.
Danny Vogel (43:22):
No, thank you so much for interviewing me.
Jan Arsenovic (43:25):
That was the Scrimba Podcast. Thanks for listening. If you made it this far, please subscribe. You can find the show wherever you get your podcasts. Make sure to check out the show notes if you want to connect with Danny. You can also find both Alex's and my Twitter handles there. I've been Jan, the producer, and we'll be back next week.