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🎙 About the episode
Meet Sylvialynn Favello 🇺🇸! Sylvia got exposed to coding accidentally: by watching online courses for fun after she took a break from work and studying so that she could have surgery. Today, she works at Docker! She will teach us how to stay on track even when our brains don't want to.
In this episode, Sylvia will give us her insights on how to recognize you're heading towards burnout, how to keep learning fun, and how to remain motivated. She also talks about working on her self-confidence and public speaking by participating in communities and Twitter spaces (the latter is also how she met her hiring manager!), as well as how she found a way to enjoy the learning process for what it is. Spoiler alert: you'll get many unconventional study tips, but they might work for you!
Alex and Sylvia also discuss programming with ADHD, why being a developer is rewarding, and how you can turn perceived failures into learning experiences.
🔗 Connect with Sylvia
- How Sylvia started learning to code because she was bored and wanted to learn... anything (01:48)
- Alex met Sylvia a year ago when she was joining Twitter spaces to work on her self-confidence and public speaking. Here's how it went down! (03:59)
- Why you should try different things until you find something that sticks (05:12)
- How Sylvia's dream about studying at Harvard turned into a passion for coding (05:53)
- How Alex got exposed to coding by watching videos from Stanford, and Sylvia's unconventional learning practices (07:09)
- Developers with ADHD and how programming can be stimulating (11:12)
- Ad break: Have you heard our show with Jessica Chan? Coming up next week, lead software engineer Katy Ashby.
- Sylvialynn's approach to learning and why you shoulud follow your cuiosity (15:27)
- Why you should always be open to tweaking your goals and plans (17:21)
- Finding motivation in challenges (18:39)
- Keep learning fun! (20:06)
- How to recognize and avoid burnout? (23:18)
- Why you should enjoy the journey, not the destination (26:44)
- When did Sylvia feel she was ready to start applying for jobs? (28:12)
- How Sylvia chose her portfolio project (29:34)
- Sylvia's approach to findind a job (spoiler: in the end, community is always important) (31:26)
- Why you should start working on your presentation skills right away (34:13)
- How to deal with mental setbacks in networking and socializing (39:16)
- Sylvia met a hiring manager at Docker in a Twitter space! (43:33)
- Are you an introvert... or an anxious extrovert (45:33)
- Sylvia's interview process at Docker (47:33)
- What is it like being an intern at Docker? (49:47)
- What's it like doing an internship remotely? (51:00)
- Technical vs behavioral questions for a Docker internship (53:12)
- How long did the internship last and did it come with a promise of a possible job opportunity? (54:46)
- Keep trying different things! (57:19)
🧰 Resources Mentioned
- How to speak
- CS50's Introduction to Computer Science on edX
- Mia Bala on Twitter
- Scrimba's Front-End Developer Career Path
- Sylvia's project, Blue Signal
- Scrimba Podcast: How To Learn To Code From the Free Content on YouTube, With Jessica Chan
- Scrimba Podcast: Communication skills for developers with Dylan Israel from Amazon
- Learn Python for Free on Scrimba
- Scrimba's Discord server!
⭐️ Leave a Review
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You can also Tweet Alex from Scrimba at @bookercodes and tell them what lessons you learned from the episode so they can thank you personally for tuning in 🙏
Sylvia Favello (00:00):
The moment I started like, "Okay, this is going to be a career," I already felt like I was behind and that made me overwork myself and almost hit a burnout. But I backpedaled myself and was like, "Hey, don't forget, there's other aspects to yourself beyond this. It's important to learn, but also make sure you're not neglecting other things in your life."
Alex Booker (00:20):
Hello and welcome to The Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show, I speak with successful devs about their advice on how to learn to code and get your first junior developer job. I'm Alex, and today I'm joined by Sylvialynn Hiran Favello, what a name. She recently got hired without a degree at Docker, which is one of the Internet's most beloved tech companies. And before that, Sylvia was studying to become a nurse. Now, you wouldn't believe it listening to this episode, but I first met Syl about a year ago when she joined me on a Twitter Space I hosted and basically she was pretty anxious.
It's remarkable because a year later most of Sylvia's success can be attributed to networking and putting herself out there. Sylvia has consistently gone out of her way to connect with other developers on Zoom. And you won't believe this, the way she got a job at Docker, or at least connected with Docker is by meeting a hiring manager during a Twitter Space Docker were hosting, truly coming full circle and turning her weaknesses into a strength. Sylvia's story is going to inspire you, but of course, this is The Scrimba Podcast. I'm relentless about getting into the nitty gritty details about things like how many jobs Sylvia applied for, what percentage of companies got back to her and what the interview process looked like. Let's get into it.
Sylvia Favello (01:48):
I was going to school for nursing and I was working as a assistant manager at a barista and I had to get surgery. And then during that time to get surgery, I needed a little time off because I'd been working nonstop to save up money to have the surgery. I'd been working holidays, birthdays and all that. So I was like, I wanted time for myself just to have a break. And so during that time I got bored and I was like, "Ooh, I need to learn something." So I went on YouTube. One of my favorite places to learn is on YouTube and I watched a video, and I hope I have his name correctly, by Patrick Winston, I believe. It's a lecture video on how to speak. And for some reason that kicked off a desire in me to continuously learn.
I forgot how much I enjoyed learning. No offense to all the people out there, but nursing just wasn't for me and it killed my joy for learning a little bit. So I forgot how much I enjoyed it. And then after that I was like, "Well, I need to learn something else. This is fun." I saw on TikTok that there's a thing called edx.org and through edx.org you can learn anything. So I serendipitously went on the website and I saw a stage and I saw all these red curtains and it looked very dramatic and very pretty and that drew me like a moth to the light. And so I clicked on it, had no idea what it was, saw that it was about computers and I was like, "I like technology." And then I just pressed play and that's how I got into coding.
It was a CS50: Introduction to Computer Science. And then I was like, "Well, let me just watch it. Have no any other desires besides learning for this currently." Because I have been somewhat of a flaky person when it comes to my career choices. And I've been known in my family to be the person in the family to switch constantly. I've wanted to be so many things, like a jack of all trades. I didn't want to bring up another thing and then possibly disappoint people and disappoint myself and do something again and then fall out of it. So I just learned it for fun until I realized I really enjoyed it.
Alex Booker (03:59):
I can tell that you took what you learned in how to speak to hearts because I'm just loving listening to you describe your experience so far. And it reminds me that we interacted probably almost a year ago or something. You joined me on a Twitter Space, remember?
Sylvia Favello (04:15):
Oh yeah. I think it was junior software developers, how you got into it and stuff like that, if I remember correctly.
Alex Booker (04:22):
Yeah. Yeah. And instead of having seasoned speakers like Danny Thompson or whoever, I think we had the idea to invite various people who were interested in speaking on a Space for one of the first times. And if I remember right, you perhaps weren't feeling a hundred percent sure about doing that. Is talking in public and presenting and stuff something you've been conscious about pushing your comfort zone and improving on in the last little while?
Sylvia Favello (04:45):
Oh yeah. That has always been something of mine that I felt like I continuously needed to work on. And that was the first Twitter Space and I was so nervous. I remember I had my phone in my hand and I was pacing back and forth and I think that Twitter Space was perfect because it was with the catch that you can raise your hand or something like that if you wanted to speak without being called on. And for my anxiety, that was perfect.
Alex Booker (05:12):
And here you are a little bit later on a podcast just smashing it so far. By the way, I totally get what you're saying about trying out a few different careers and maybe some people would call that flaky, but at the end of the day, until you try a few things, how can you know what it is that you're passionate about and you want to do?
Sylvia Favello (05:28):
Right, exactly. That was my sentiment and that's what I've been trying to tell my sister because she's in a similar boat as I was and I'm just like, "Just try it. Don't have any expectations. Don't go in there being like I have to get from point A, to point B and if I do or if I don't, then I'm a failure." And I'm like, just have fun. This is your life. Do what you want to do and if it's something you want to do, go for it. And if it's not, just change directions.
Alex Booker (05:53):
Why did coding come into this? Because edX obviously has a bunch of different courses and videos, I think the idea is they basically record presentations and course lectures and things and cover a bunch of different topics. How did you arrive at programming?
Sylvia Favello (06:05):
It was the first video that I saw by David Malan. So this might sound a little pretentious of me, but growing up I came from a poor family and then on top of that I did independent study where I live. If you do independent study, you don't get your general education and if you don't get your general education, you can't go to a university right away. You'd have to go to a community college, get your general education and then try to apply for a more formal four year college. I had this dream or this aspiration idea that I was going to get into Harvard for some reason, even though I knew I needed general education and I always wanted to go to Harvard. And when I clicked on the edX, I saw a Harvard class. That's what really drew me to it, that and the fancy curtains. This sounds bad, but that's what drew me the Harvard. And I was like, "I'm going to be a Harvard student, I'm going to be learning from Harvard." That was a dream of mine. And then the class happened to be coding.
Alex Booker (07:09):
It's funny by the way, because my first exposure to programming was watching lectures on the Stanford YouTube channel. I watched this thing called programming methodology with Professor Mehran Sahami, just really opened my eyes about programming and I loved going into school the next day and telling my teachers like, "Oh yeah, I found these videos on Stanford about programming," because the thing is I wasn't doing good at school up until that point because nothing really captured my interest. And I don't know, I felt like after being kind of the dumb kid in class, it felt really awesome to be watching Stanford lectures. And not only that, but sort of remembering everything I was watching and genuinely taking a liking to it.
Did programming just seem like a great fit for you from the start? The one observation I could make early on is that clearly you love to learn and there's never a shortage of things to learn when it comes to programming. And the barrier's low as well. Maybe you watched some lecture on being a doctor, but you can't exactly teach yourself to be a brain surgeon by watching YouTube videos, unfortunately.
Sylvia Favello (08:06):
Yeah, exactly. So I definitely relate to feeling like the dumb kid in class because, well a couple reasons. One, my family thinks I have ADHD, undiagnosed, so my attention and my focus levels are terrible. But coding lets me have my attention everywhere in multiple ways. So for example, when I'm coding or when I'm learning, I have what I'm learning in front of me, but then I have three different videos playing on in the background and that helps me focus, even though that might sound counterintuitive.
Alex Booker (08:41):
Wait, so three videos playing at once or pause and tabs.
Sylvia Favello (08:46):
Oh, playing at once. So I'll have a speaker video playing in one ear and then I'll have a music playing in another ear and then I'll have a third one, one in the background just in case I want to go from lyrical music to instrumental music.
Alex Booker (08:59):
No way. And you just sort of play this almost like brown noise while you're working and studying?
Sylvia Favello (09:04):
Yeah, exactly. And that helps me stay focused because if I don't have any music or anybody speaking in my ear, I will lose all focus or all train of thought. And it really makes it difficult for me to focus on a task or a ticket or anything in general if I'm studying.
Alex Booker (09:20):
This is actually fascinating because you mentioned that your family think you have ADHD undiagnosed. You know that doing that isn't typical. Most people wouldn't do that or might even say, "Sylvia, that sounds really distracting. How do you get on with that?" But we all think and our brains all work a little bit differently and this seems to really work for you and help you focus.
Sylvia Favello (09:41):
Yeah, exactly. And then I do have dyslexia on top of that, and then my older brothers... I have two older brothers and three older sisters, all of them have ADHD and I was the only one that's never been diagnosed with it. I'm the youngest, so I was like, "Why go to a doctor and get it figured out?"
Alex Booker (10:01):
I find that a lot of developers either have ADHD or whether they're diagnosed or not, they sort of identify with some of the attributes. And there's also communities, there's a subreddit dedicated to programming with ADHD, and I oftentimes hear stories about people who struggled in conventional jobs, conventional schools, but something about programming really clicked with them and they saw the path. They were like, "oh my goodness, this is something that I can be really good at." And that lit a spark in them and they pursued it. But you're still perhaps a little bit disadvantaged in the sense that you aren't going through the traditional paths where everything is laid out for you.
Going the self-taught route, you have some advantages. You're going to have a unique blueprint and you're going to have a unique DNA when you come out the other end. Who knows what you can bring to the table that's original or sought after the perhaps degrees aren't catering for. But there's still a huge challenge about deciding what to learn and how to go about doing it. You watched how to speak video, but you moved on to something else on edX, but when you watched the programming videos you didn't. Why was that, and how did you go about doing it? How did you go about teaching yourself how to code?
Sylvia Favello (11:12):
I'm a beginner in everything, so I would always pick up new things to learn, but it's that consistency or that commitment of taking what I'm learning and taking it for the long run, that's always been the hardest thing for me personally. And then for coding, I can't explain it properly I guess, but it ticks everything off. It's creative, it stimulates the mind. I love puzzles and research and when you get a ticket or when you're reading code, it feels like a puzzle at first you're like, "What's going on here? Why is this connected? Why is this not working?"
And then the whole having to research and learn new languages, that always seems to gravitate me towards it even more and more. And I love something about the nuance of it being so not tightly wound, but if you have a variable and then you can do whatever you want with it, essentially. That whole creative aspect towards it, it's just art to me. And I feel like coding in a way, it's like mathematical science art. So that what kept me towards it and I have no idea why I like it so much.
Alex Booker (12:21):
Sounds like you do actually.
Sylvia Favello (12:23):
Yeah, it's just like I keep wanting to learn it more and more and this is the first time this has ever happened for me where I'm actually sticking to a subject and full-heartedly loving every moment of it. I told somebody about it. I didn't want to be a cliché, but it is a cliché and I hated this whenever someone ever told me this, but it doesn't feel like I'm working. I don't feel like I'm working at all. You know what I mean? I'm just enjoying what I'm doing.
Sorry for the interruption, but if you are like Sylvia starting to learn to code from YouTube, we have a podcast for you. In August, we released an episode How to Learn to Code from the Free Content on YouTube with Jessica Chan.
Jessica Chan (13:05):
If you're trying to teach yourself coding and you aren't surrounded by senior developers who can help you, then you're kind of lost. When I first started, had this notebook that I would write down every single little problem that I would get stuck on just so I wouldn't have to do my hours of researching. Again, I try to remember what it was like being a beginner and so I do try to talk about problems that beginners might face. I felt like web development changed my life for the better and gave me a really great stable career and so I wanted to do that for other people. I run the YouTube channel Coder Coder.
Alex Booker (13:36):
What in your opinion is the best camera for YouTube?
I'm linking it in the show notes.
Alex Booker (13:45):
I will be right back with Sylvia in just a second but first, I want to pass the microphone to Jan, the producer of The Scrimba Podcast to ask you a quick favor on our behalf.
Hello, are you enjoying the show? Well, we would like to ask you to tell somebody about it. Word of mouth is the best way to support a podcast that you like. So if you're finding this episode informative, insightful, or inspiring, we'd be really happy if you shared it with a fellow aspiring developer, be it on socials, on Discord or in person. If you're sharing it on Twitter, make sure to mention Alex, you will find his Twitter handle in the show notes. He reads it all and he responds to it. We are a weekly show and we bring you interviews with recently hired junior developers as well as interviews with industry experts. Next Tuesday on the podcast, lead software engineer Katy Ashby.
Katy Ashby (14:37):
Looking back there were clues, but I definitely never thought I would be where I am today, probably not even six years ago and I've been a developer for just over five now. When I was younger I did dabble in a bit of coding. My dad works in IT, got me onto a HTML for Dummies book when I was about eight years old. From the ages of about eight till, I'm going to say even up to maybe 15, I was maintaining this website that I had. It was just a fun little thing that I did and then didn't really think anything of it. To me, it's a weird part of my history that I forgot about for years and years and years. Went through school, went through my GCSEs and A levels and then went to uni and studied physics so I wasn't thinking about coding at all.
That is next week on The Scrimba Podcast. And now we're back to the interview with Sylvia.
Alex Booker (15:27):
Talk to me about the pace at which you taught yourself how to code. How many hours a day would you dedicate to learning to code, and how would you otherwise approach your studies? Was it quite structured or did you just follow your natural curiosity to success?
Sylvia Favello (15:42):
So I'm very unstructured. I'm more likely go on the whim if I figured the more structured I am, the more of a box I put myself in. The expectations, the fear of failure, or just the whole rigidness of it makes me feel stuck.
Alex Booker (16:01):
Yeah, it's boring, right?
Sylvia Favello (16:02):
Alex Booker (17:21):
You have to find the thing that works for you and say you make a very specific plan for yourself, there's a couple of problems with that as a new developer. The first thing is that you don't know what you don't know. Say you set out to learn HTML and you make this plan, you say, "I'm going to learn HTML in 30 days, here are the courses I'm going to use." But then you realize that probably it makes a lot of sense to learn HTML and CSS together, but these courses you picked are so focused by going into such great detail about HTML. Actually, the stuff you're learning is so specialized, it's not even useful at this stage. You're just going to get bored, probably and it's not going to work. And why should you? Because every day, especially at the beginning of a new skill, you're learning so much new information and you owe it to yourself to tweak your plan as you learn new information, I think.
Sylvia Favello (18:07):
Yeah, I definitely agree. I feel like that makes it funner too. If you don't give yourself a high standard or such a rigid box to put yourself in, it allows you more flexibility, creativity, and just that freedom of just what it's supposed to be, which is it's just supposed to be fun for you. That's what I really felt like it was important. I wanted to keep learning fun for me and I didn't want to turn it into what I did in the past. I don't know what the proper word would be, but it just felt like I was being controlled by my own plan.
Alex Booker (18:39):
I think you're probably reflecting on your experience studying nursing. I have friends who are RNs and they describe the tasks as being really tough and you have to cram and study a hell of a lot to be successful at them.
Sylvia Favello (18:51):
Nursing was or still is one of the most challenging career paths I ever taken. It was fun nonetheless just because it was challenging and I'm the type of person, if you tell me I can't do something, it automatically makes me want to do it. There was two people, it was me and some other person in class and the other person in the class was like, "Oh, I'm taking anatomy and then microbiology," and those are in my college notoriously difficult classes. And the guy was like, "Oh, I'm taking both." And the people in the room was like, "Oh congratulations, you're going to do great." And I was like, "Me too."
A guy came up to me at the end of the class and he goes to me and says, "Well I don't think you're going to be able to do it. I think you might fail, so I'm very concerned for you." Out of nowhere he was like, "I'm very concerned for you, so I think you should really drop one of the classes. Maybe this one is too difficult for you so you should drop this class." And I just remember being like, one, I felt challenged. I was like, "I'm going to do this class. I'm going to get As in both classes." I got an A and a B, so that didn't work.
Alex Booker (19:55):
Yeah, screw that person. You showed them.
Sylvia Favello (19:58):
Right? I was like, not only am I going to continue on, but I'm going to get a better grade than you. I don't know what grade he got, but he definitely challenged me.
Alex Booker (20:06):
I like your idea to keep learning fun though because when something's fun it comes easy, I think. And if you are a curious person, if you like to learn, it should always be possible to make learning fun for yourself. There's time for discipline and there's always things you're going to have to do I think that you don't strictly want to do. But oftentimes they're the same things that enable you to do the things you actually want to do because you earn a good reputation that affords you more autonomy. Maybe you're laying the groundwork to do something really cool afterwards. There's always, I think, a way to relate to it in your mind that keeps it fun and helps you stay motivated.
I've often beat myself up a little bit for not sticking to my plan. I used to love setting annual goals and when I realized annual was a bit too broad, setting a goal like learn to code in a year is not really a good goal because you can't exactly check in and make sure you're on the right behalf. So I started setting quarterly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals, whatever, making plans, all these ambitious 60 day transformations. Alex Booker 2.0, I used to write at the top of some notion documents or whatever I was using at the time. And so often actually I would fail and what that would do is cause me to feel a bit down and actually slow me down because now I wasn't feeling happy or motivated or I didn't have clarity of mind. And over the years I realized what matters more than any of those things is principles.
I don't have to be following a specific plan every day. I just need to be going in broadly the right direction that suits me. And say I'm tasked to do a project or say I know I need to learn something to get a job or to be successful, I realize there's probably seven paths I can take. Why not pick the one that's the most fun and engaging for me because I know that's the one I can sustain. Even though it might not be the most efficient thing. The fact of the matter is if I can sustain it for a month, if I can stay sustain it for two months, at the end of that journey, I'm going to definitely be further along than if I maybe went for the most optimal path but one that wasn't fun and I give up after a week or after 10 days or whatever.
Sylvia Favello (22:01):
I definitely relate to that because it's in a line of you have to learn some things you don't want to necessarily learn or find interesting, but if you follow that path where it is the most fun despite whatever other people's paths are, that's their path, that's their direction. I feel like when you're learning something new, especially if you're self-taught or you're doing a career change and just in general, it's really important to focus on yourself, your goals, what you find interesting, what you find fun.
If you are that type of person who really likes goals, really likes checking things off, if they're too broad, make them smaller, break them up into sub goals. And that way it kind of helps your mental model and your health in a way because that's a little bit what I started doing later on as I was learning. I wanted to make sure and I had a fear of not progressing, I was wondering, am I learning enough? Am I doing the right things properly or am I being stagnant in this area? So I started making smaller goals just to have a check-in with myself and be like, "Hey, am I at where I want to be, or could I do more, or could I do better?" But at the same time, making sure I'm still having fun keeping that balance.
Alex Booker (23:18):
As well versed as you might be at keeping things fun, maybe I'm shooting in the dark head, but there's always challenges I feel like. Did you ever feel or do you ever feel like, "Oh I just don't want to do this right now"? What would you do in those kind of scenarios?
Sylvia Favello (23:31):
There has been some days where I'm like, "Oh man." Like if you're stuck on a problem or you're stuck on a particular piece of code then it just doesn't work, or if you've had a problem before and then you come back and there's a similar one, you're like, "Oh man, do I remember how I did it last time?" What I would typically do is I have to give myself a break at that point and just close my laptop, move away from it and then do something else that I find fun because coding is a hobby and it's also my career, but it's not the only hobby that I have in my life. And I feel like it's important, and especially in the beginning for me particularly, the moment I started like, "Okay, this is going to be a career," I already felt like I was behind. And that made me want to overwork myself and almost hit a burnout.
But I backpedaled myself and was like, "Hey, don't forget, there's other aspects to yourself beyond this." Yes, it's important to learn, it's important to progress and grow and keep at it, but also make sure you're not neglecting other things in your life. If you're at that moment where you're looking at your coding or if you're studying and it's just not hitting right, or you just feel like you can't work on, it's important for you to allow yourself that break and forgiveness. If I can't do this right now, I'm going to close my laptop, I'm going to do something else for fun. Whether that's watching TV or reading a book, you haven't did, play video games, it's important to do other things.
Alex Booker (25:02):
It's impressive you managed to identify that you were on the brink of a burnout. Most people, they don't find out till it's too late. What were the early signs to you?
Sylvia Favello (25:12):
I've actually burned out in a prior job and it was the worst two years of my life, but it really taught me a lot. So in the end it was positive experience because at the end of the day if you're learning something, it's positive. It made me realize what my burnout symptoms are. For me in particular, it's not enjoying the task itself and you know you like the task. So I know I like coding, so if I opened up my laptop and I'm really feeling like I don't want to even look at it, that's a symptom. That's a sign. If I am working on something that takes me usually maybe a day, maybe a couple of hours and it's taking me a whole lot longer, the time is just extended beyond comparison, that's another symptom for me.
And then just my overall mood, I like to do a check-in with myself mentally. And so if I'm like my check-ins are a little bit lower than usual, I like to reassess and be like, "Okay, where in my life is this affecting me?" And then I'll kind of lay it out before me in a mental model and then I'll check myself and be like, "Okay, where am I focusing too much on? Where am I not focusing enough on?" Because this is your life, you want it to be better or you just want it to be happy as possible. So for me, it's important to have that mental health and just take care of yourself. And so if you feel a little bit of a degration in your mental health and your stability, that's when I like to pause and be like, "Okay, am I close to burning out here?"
Alex Booker (26:44):
Earlier you mentioned that at times you felt like you were behind and you were worried about moving too slow. These are telltale signs of ambition, but at the same time, sometimes I feel like that is opposed to good mental health because you are delaying your happiness until you achieve the thing you want to achieve. How did you manage to find sanity and happiness in the journey before the destination?
Sylvia Favello (27:07):
It still is one of the hardest things to overcome and something that I'm still trying to get better at. But one of the best ways I would say to enjoy the journey is... I love analogies. So I put it in a different perspective of a book. And when you're reading a book or when you're watching a movie, when is the best part of the movie or the book? It's not the beginning. The beginning is exciting, it's fun. It's not the end because you're a little bit sad that it's over, it's the middle. And so if you put your own life in that perspective, it's the same thing. The beginning is exciting, but the middle, that's where you grow, that's where you learn. That's the juicy stuff. If you think of it like that, you think of your life as a book, I started appreciating the journey.
Alex Booker (27:53):
I love the idea of thinking of your journey like a book and almost your own hero's journey. You maybe go along the adventure of a friend, you meet a mentor, then you go into the abyss, and you have some transformative experience and then at the end you return and you're not really the same person because you've gone through this whole journey.
Sylvia Favello (28:11):
Alex Booker (28:12):
So tell me, when did you start to feel you were ready to start applying for jobs and push your comfort zone a bit?
Sylvia Favello (28:19):
That's actually probably one of the trickiest things. I don't remember who exactly said it, but it was on Twitter and they said, "Apply to jobs before you're ready." And I was like, "You know what? I think the main important part is mentally, I don't think you're ever going to feel ready," if you're waiting for that signal of, "Ah, I feel really positive about applying for jobs." For me, I felt like that would never happen because I'm always thinking there's more to improve on myself, there's more to do before actually trying to apply to jobs.
So the fundamentals of what I felt like I was prepared to start putting myself out there was just made sure I had at least one project and then maybe something to show for it, just to make sure you have, I guess, your eggs in order. But on a mental or a learning standpoint, I would never, and I probably never would've felt ready, so I just took a leap of faith. And then again, I like analogies and quotes, but there's one quote that I like that says, "If you take a leap of faith, if you jump off a cliff, a net will appear. The universe will be there to catch you." And so that's what I did. I was like, "Well, someone's going to catch me."
Alex Booker (29:23):
Oh my god, that, I would not take that advice myself. I feel like I'd hit the ground. What was the project that you built just to give us an idea of where you were focusing and your skill level and stuff?
Sylvia Favello (29:34):
Alex Booker (30:25):
Sylvia Favello (30:29):
It was two or three resources. I bounced around between a lot of YouTube videos, but then main resources is their documentation on their websites. Those are really, really nice. I really love reading docs of languages, programming languages. That's like the first thing I would go to. And then the other thing actually was Scrimba. I bought the developer career path and that was what I was learning React with.
Alex Booker (30:52):
That makes me so happy to hear. I'm glad you managed to get some value out of Scrimba and the React courses.
Sylvia Favello (30:57):
Once I started getting to coding a lot of other people in my life who I never knew they were interested in coding before, they expressed their desires into getting into the field too. And the first thing I always recommend is Free Code Camp and then Scrimba. I tell them all the time, "Listen, you really got to check out Scrimba." My sister right now is learning Python on Scrimba.
Alex Booker (31:21):
Sylvia, I know you're getting up, I'm sorry we don't have a referral bonus for you, but-
Sylvia Favello (31:23):
Are you sure?
Alex Booker (31:26):
Sylvia Favello (31:48):
I would best describe it like when you're first trying to apply, like a black hole. You feel like there's no sound, there's no light, there's nothing. So I just immersed myself and all the Twitter Spaces in the beginning. And then I was looking at other people who also have gotten jobs lately. And then Mia Sabala on Twitter, she made a Discord community group.
Alex Booker (32:12):
I don't recognize her but we can link her in the show notes.
Sylvia Favello (32:15):
She created a Discord group, females and allies, Discord, people who can code and stuff like that. And she's an amazing person. She built this community of people who want to get into the field and we really leaned on each other where we were giving each other advices, asking for help and the Discord group is still on and they're always accepting more people. It's really great to have a small subset of community people who are either, A, in the same boat as you already in the field you want to be in, or are learning and they're two weeks in or a day into learning how to code. And so I really went to them for help, guidance, mentorship in a way. And I remember when I got a job interview, I asked one of the girls, Jennifer, "Hey listen, it's going to be on React. How do I prepare? How do I get myself ready?"
And then she told me, here's what I did, here's my tips and tricks. And so being prepared, I feel like that would really help when you're trying to look for a job interview. And then touching all platforms, I also think is very important. So Twitter, LinkedIn, and then putting yourself out there from a networking perspective and opening up yourself to meeting different people is very, very good. Because I feel like probably networking would be the best and ultimate tip that I would have in how to get a job in coding.
Alex Booker (33:42):
Yeah. Well this kind of ties back a little bit into the Space you joined me on and what we were reminiscing about at the beginning, because even though you hadn't done a Twitter Space or something before and understandably when you do something you've never done before, especially in front of an audience, it can be a little bit nerve wracking, so you push yourself and whenever somebody pushes themselves, that tells me that they have a strong belief about why this is going to be better for them than it is going to be worse. How did you think about getting outside of your comfort zone when it came to networking and stuff because I know a lot of people struggle with that?
Sylvia Favello (34:13):
One of the main things that pushed me into this was when you get a job, you're going to be in meetings, you're going to be in Zoom chats, you're going to be conversating with your coworkers and stuff like that. So what better way to prepare yourself for your future job than having a similar situation where you're going to have to speak, you're going to have to demo, present your work or even just communicating? Communication in software development is so important and I feel like the best practice is to start networking because you build up those relationships like you would build up your relationships with your colleagues.
You will start showing your work, your goals and your path from a networking perspective and then you're also going to be doing that once you get the job. So if it never ends, you might as well start now and you start early. And so that was a click for me. I was like okay, "If I'm not going to do it now, but I'm going to start doing it when I get a job, I might as well be comfortable and prepared. Why wait? Because I'd rather be the best version of myself when I have the job than try to learn on the job.
Alex Booker (35:17):
I just for some reason can't remember how good I was at socializing as a kid and a teenager and stuff outside of my friend groups. I guess I was always reasonably comfortable speaking to strangers as long as I had something to say. I wouldn't go up and strike a conversation for no reason. If I had a specific question or something like that... Think about it like this, you might struggle to go up to someone and start a conversation, but if you're in the desert with no water or map, you're not going to think twice before you interact with somebody.
But what I realized, and I'll just use the cliché quote because it gets the point across which is that it's not what it's who. And I sometimes joke that if Nickelback can become a rock band, you can become a developer because it's not about how good you are at music or how good you are at coding. There's a little bit. You can't be terrible. But a lot of it has to do with your ability to put yourself out there and increase your surface area, so more people can know about you, so your reputation follows you a little bit.
One of the best ways to get a job is for them to know who you are before you walk through the door. And you do that oftentimes through networking, through creating content and things like that. For me, when I'm not feeling confident about something, the fear of failure or the idea of failing because I wasn't confident enough to go and talk to this person or make that connection, this is not a judgment, I wouldn't suggest you think about this yourself, I'm just being quite personal here when I say that I find that quite a revolting feeling and it really motivates me to push past and get out of my comfort zone a little bit. And that's quite an extreme way of looking at it probably, but we all have our quirks. The point I'm getting at is I've never regretted it and it's something that's enabled me to achieve all kinds of little successes over the years.
Sylvia Favello (36:55):
I definitely agree because when I first started doing the Twitter Spaces or even doing Zoom one-on-ones, my first Zoom one-on-one was at the Women's and Allies Who Can Code, the Discord group that Mia set up, and I was so nervous. I remember they set up a meeting to introduce yourselves and to meet others and it was a couple hours ahead of time and I remember the whole day I was nervous. I was almost not panicky, but I do have social anxiety. But I was like this is very important for me to overcome and to learn and so I'm going to take this risk and this chance for myself on myself and really just prove to myself, at least try it once to see if I can do it.
Once you do it the first time, the second time gets a little bit easier, the third time it gets a little bit easier and then you have those monumental moments in my opinion where it just changes something in you. So a changing moment for me was my first Zoom chat with Women Allies Who Can Code. My second one was the Twitter Space with Scrimba that taught me I can have a conversation with people outside of the community that I wasn't so familiar with.
Alex Booker (38:05):
You were like, "If Alex can do this, I can do this. It can't be that hard."
Sylvia Favello (38:07):
I was like, "Look at everyone is panicking and they're all so nervous but they're doing it. Why can't I do it? Let me push myself and challenge myself. Because if they're scared and they're nervous and I'm scared and I'm nervous, then we all can be scared and nervous together so let's just do it."
Alex Booker (38:21):
And then you joined the Zoom call and then you have this empathy with the new person in the group who is, you can tell visibly a bit nervous and quiet, and first of all, at the very least you would never judge them negatively because you were in their shoes a matter of months ago. And if you have the capacity, you might even go as far as to encourage and support them and that's a really nice thing to do as well.
Sylvia Favello (38:42):
Oh yeah, it's like you almost see a kindred spirit when you see someone else being nervous and a little bit panicky or shaken. If you can see the person, you'll want to smile and be like, "You're doing great." This is not as scary as it is. Or once you're done and you're over with it's not the end of the world. I understand it can be very nerve-wracking because again, for me personally, it was extremely nerve-wracking. But once you do it, gets easier as time goes by. It's building up a skill and any skill in the beginning is really hard to do at first.
Alex Booker (39:16):
Did you have any setbacks when it came to socializing and networking and meeting new people in groups and things?
Sylvia Favello (39:23):
I think a lot of my setbacks are mainly mentally how I perceived myself. A lot of the times I was thinking to myself, did I put out the best version of myself or not really the best version but me. I feel like it's so important for me when I represent myself, it's my true authentic self. And so after every conversation I would have with somebody, I always have a moment of reflection of did I give my authentic self? Was I being honest with myself? And then with that person and my setbacks were usually mentally overthinking, trying to remember if you ever have a conversation with somebody and it doesn't go planned out how you would like it. And you kind of replay the situation over in your head and you were like, I could have said this better or I could have said that better, those were my setbacks, being too hard on myself.
Alex Booker (40:14):
There are definitely communities like the Scrimba community where you can come in and you're guaranteed to have a welcoming and friendly experience. I'm sure there are other groups as well like the one you described. And I think if you're the kind of person who feels sensitive to this kind of rejection, it's probably a great idea to start in these inclusive, welcoming communities. And then as you feel a bit more confident and you realize that we're all flawed human beings figuring out stuff, you might get a bit more brave and start to venture out a little bit. But yeah, I'm curious to hear from you. Say you're in this position where you're not feeling so confident, what are some actionable steps you can take? Do you have any other communities or ideas in mind?
Sylvia Favello (40:51):
It happens a lot. So when I would feel insecure about my position or just in general in this space, in this career, a lot of the times I would like to lean back on my closest family and friends because it might be a little cliché, but at the end of the day, they're the ones who know me the best. So I feel like if you go to the people who know you the best and support you consistently and you can talk about how you're feeling and if you're feeling any type of isolation whatsoever, talking to them can put a different perspective on the situation, which I feel like really helps clarify a couple of things. If you want to build off of top of that, just putting yourself out there in other communities, there is no downside to that in my opinion. It always opens up to networking, meeting different people, communicating with different people.
I love reading, learning about different people and their perspectives and their lives and stuff like that. I loved psychology too when I was growing up. So meeting different people and how they interact, what their delivery is, how they like to conversate with people, I never take offense to their delivery per se because it's just always so fascinating for me to be like, oh okay, someone likes to be more blunt with their conversations or if I ask for help in a certain way, maybe someone is more of a take you by your hand and a nicer approach. But then there's someone who's very blunt and very like, "Oh it's this, this and this," but I come to appreciate all different types of deliveries and how people come to you.
Alex Booker (42:28):
You're saying how something might come across might not equal what their intention really is. It could just be the way they communicate or the mood they're in and it's not really a reflection of you anyway.
Sylvia Favello (42:38):
Oh yeah. For me, I like to have humility as best as possible and at the end of the day I always feel like any and all experiences with other people is a positive one. And so if you meet somebody that is newer to how you interact with other people, that's a positive experience because then now you have a different interaction with somebody you never interacted with before, and you can kind of build yourself and learn off of that. And I think the same thing is with communities. If you're so used to a Twitter community, you get comfortable, which is great, but then you're probably neglecting other awesome amazing communities out there that you can have a different way of interacting with. So I would say not limiting yourself to one specific community is very fun and important because there's just so many people and things to experience. So why limit yourself to one platform or one place?
Alex Booker (43:33):
One take away is that from your point of view, you can either try something and be successful or you can try something and fail, but then you learned something so you're successful anyway. So how did this opportunity at Docker come about? Was this one of the first jobs you applied to, and where did things go from there?
Sylvia Favello (43:49):
How I got introduced into Docker, it was the third... Well, it wasn't the third job I applied for, it was the third job that initiated a interview with me.
Alex Booker (43:59):
How many jobs did you apply for overall then?
Sylvia Favello (44:01):
Overall, I think maybe 25. And then how I got the opportunity to get an interview with Docker or just presenting myself to Docker was that one of the hiring managers for Docker, they were doing a Twitter Space on behavioral questions and I was like, I need practice with speaking.
Alex Booker (44:25):
I should have turned into that Space, damn it.
Sylvia Favello (44:27):
Yeah, it's an amazing Space. And I was like, this is only beneficial and one, it's going to help me speak publicly. Two, it's going to help me with my social anxiety. And then three, it's going to get me used to how conversations might be happening in job interviews. And I've had job interviews outside of software development, but I've never had a job interview in software development where I'm talking to somebody. And so I was like, "I'm definitely going to be joining this Space." It was on Saturdays. The first two times I just listened in and then I felt like I'm not participating enough.
So I was like, next time I'm going to join. I'm going to answer some of these questions. And I think the next Saturday I literally put my hand up for every single question and I was like, "I'm just going to keep asking these questions." So that's kind of how I got into Docker because one of the people who was hosting it, Sean, he was a hiring manager for Docker. And in that way I serendipitously, thankfully introduced myself or at least networked in a way for that opportunity.
Alex Booker (45:33):
By the way, are you more introverted or extroverted would you say?
Sylvia Favello (45:37):
I'm so introverted. I think people think I'm extroverted, but that might be how I present myself, but I need a charge for my social batteries every single time I have any interactions when I go on the outside world, I need a battery.
Alex Booker (45:53):
A battery bank, right?
Sylvia Favello (45:53):
Alex Booker (45:54):
Well no, it's just interesting to me because going back to the early days of The Scrimba Podcast, I spoke with Dylan Israel. At the time, he worked at Amazon and he does code mentoring. He's been a Scrimba teacher. He said this thing what I've never forgot, which is that he's not an introvert, he's an anxious extrovert. It resonated with me a little bit and you reminded me of something which is you did the perfect thing. And we should have spoken about this before really when we spoke about putting your toes in the water, just listening before you put your hand up, that's a great idea. But then once you got past that initial risk of failure because you asked your first question, oh my God, I'm still alive, this went fine. You felt like you had permission it sounds like to just keep asking, and you loved it, it sounds like as well. And so that's where the question comes from.
Sylvia Favello (46:38):
An anxious extrovert, most of the times my first thing is feeling anxious but always wanting to communicate with other people. Probably going to steal that. That's a good one.
Alex Booker (46:48):
I was like, this is me. I felt attacked for a second, but anyway. Oh my gosh, incredible. So you did essentially network and the thing I just absolutely love and I just love it when things come full circle on The Scrimba Podcast is say you'd never done that Twitter Space with myself and Scrimba, for example, or say you... And it's got nothing to do with me, just to be clear. It could have been any... the point as you pushed your comfort zone and everything you did led to this moment where you were involved and then you were feeling prepared to put your hand up and you also had understood the importance of reaching out and connecting with people. I can't help but feel like it came full circle a little bit when you connected with Sean, who just checking his profile says he's the director of engineering at Docker. What was he like? "Sylvia, great points. Do you want a job?"
Sylvia Favello (47:33):
I wish. That would've been easier. I went on Docker and I've always been a big fan of Docker and every time I got advice for getting a job, they say, go for a company you really feel aligned with. So I went on their website and I saw their mission statement, and I always say this to everyone I meet, but for me personally, the jobs I applied for were centered around other software developers. So I always had an obsession with other software developers and when I saw their mission statement, and it was almost a hundred percent or actually a hundred percent aligned with everything that I was going for... One of my favorite books that I've ever read is Ready Player One, and it's about this guy named James Holiday. And so my goal in my life that I always wanted to help is help facilitate other James Holidays in the world.
And I felt like Docker is in that space where they help facilitate this creativity that other people have and really gets people's projects out there and that's where I want to be. It makes me so happy to be able to be a part of it. And so I was looking at their jobs and their careers and I saw that there was internships, and one day Sean posted a job listing and he was like, "Hey, if you want to work for me." And it was a software developer job, but it was out of my experience and I just made a comment and I said, "Hey, I didn't apply to this one, but I did apply to that internship one, wink, wink." And then it got the ball rolling.
Alex Booker (49:03):
In my mind, Docker is very much about backend and DevOps and stuff, but you were doing front-end development. Did that ever cross your mind?
Sylvia Favello (49:10):
Not really. I wasn't really thinking too much. I feel like when I'm looking for jobs and stuff like that, I typically just see if I'm aligned with that company and the company's mission and then test the waters on the company culture. And I don't really think beyond if the language aspect match mine, like front-end versus backend and stuff like that because for me, I'm more of a full stack software developer. So I started learning C first, and then I just pivoted more towards the front end. But if I had to make that change towards the backend, I would've full-heartedly been like, "Game! Totally."
Alex Booker (49:47):
What does an internship mean at Docker?
Sylvia Favello (49:49):
It's just an opportunity to learn. They're not texting you. They're asking you, "Hey, do you like this place? Would you like to see how we do things?" There's no pressure or anything behind the internship. It's just basically a mutual, "I want to learn from you." And then they're like, "We want to also learn from you." And I think that's one of the greatest things about Docker is they're always looking for feedback and they're always trying to see, "Hey, is this a good internship?" And it is. It was still to this day, one of the best experiences I've ever had and I still am having a great experience.
And the internship was just a nice way of getting introduced into the company, the company culture. And I'm not a college graduate from a computer science perspective, but that never came up into a conversation, never once came up into the interviews. I didn't have to put a check mark of, did you graduate with a computer science degree? When I told them that I didn't come from a computer science background, no one ever said anything. So from my perspective, the internship is just a way to you to introduce yourself and them to introduce themselves and kind of see where that relationship will take you.
Alex Booker (51:00):
This was all happening remotely or in-person?
Sylvia Favello (51:03):
Alex Booker (51:03):
What was that like for you? A lot of people wonder if doing their first junior developer job or internship remotely is a good idea because you miss out on a little bit of that camaraderie, those serendipitous opportunities just to sit next to someone. People sometimes wonder if the communication barrier is higher online.
Sylvia Favello (51:18):
I think it depends either A, on the person or B, on the job. But for me personally, it worked out really well and I still feel like I get the help and the communication that I need. And then the learning opportunities at Docker or just in general is really fantastic. But I would recommend people, if they really want to get a job where they want to have an opportunity to learn in that way to get an in-person job. But don't let the remote part for a junior engineer scare you because there's ways to combat it, if that makes any sense. You can either have a conversation with somebody being like, "Hey, I'm new. This is remote. I'm a little bit nervous about not having that much of opportunities to really learn here or grow. So can we set up a pairing programming session one on one? Can I just pop in and we have a Zoom chat, and can I watch you code a little bit?"
Really creating those opportunities for yourself to learn I think is very important. And knowing that you can do that, don't sit there in silence and wonder whether or not an opportunity is going to be presented to yourself. I think it's important to create those opportunities when you're working. So I'm a full advocate to go to my colleagues and say, "Hey, can we pair program on this?" Or oftentimes they ask me, "Hey, would you like to pair program?" During coding reviews, I like to really reflect on those coding reviews and see where I can learn, where I can grow. Then you can make a list of are things coming up every coding review that you could work better on? And then I'll take that and then I'll ask somebody, "These are the areas and where I need help. Can you give me some advice, or can you teach me something, or is there resources that you would recommend me to learn?" So I think creating those opportunities is the best thing you can do, especially from a remote job.
Alex Booker (53:12):
What did the interview process look like for the internship?
Sylvia Favello (53:14):
I keep saying it's one of the most positive experiences, but it was and still is one of the most positive experiences that I ever had. Each interaction that I had with everyone just facilitated and clarified, oh my God, this company, I really, really want to work with, which was both exciting and equally terrifying because if I didn't get it, I think I would've been crushed.
Alex Booker (53:36):
Oh, I know the feeling.
Sylvia Favello (53:40):
Every time you have a great experience, I was like, "Oh man, I really love it. This is amazing." And on top of that, and I tell everyone this, but the puns at Docker, I love a good pun that just carried me on through the interview. I was like, "The people are nice. The interview process, I never once felt uncomfortable or nervous." It felt very almost calming and soothing, which never happens for me. And I was like, this feels like destiny here. Even after the job interview, I sent everyone a postcard with a whale on it and I made a pun and I said, "I can't contain my thanks." So it was such a great experience.
Alex Booker (54:18):
What kind of technical questions did they want to know? Were the behavioral ones too?
Sylvia Favello (54:21):
There was a little bit of behavioral ones just like how well can you correlate your past experiences with experiences that you possibly could have with the company. And then the technical questions were mainly fundamentals. So whatever language you are learning or applying for, they're just making sure you're fundamentals but I feel like that's every job interview.
Alex Booker (54:46):
How long did the internship last? And was there a job guaranteed at the end or were you still a little bit unsure as to whether they would take you on full-time and hire you as a software engineer afterwards?
Sylvia Favello (54:58):
So the internship, it was 12 weeks, I believe. And I think I was too afraid to ask about whether or not a job opportunity would be available at the end because I was just having such a grand time that I didn't want it to end. And I felt like asking would break the glass in a way I was afraid of rejection or there's a possibility of no. I was like, I wanted to live in my little bubble that I was in and I didn't want to ask. But for the internship, and I think that's for all internships, it's with the thought or the initial idea of you're testing the company out, they're testing you out, and at the end of their internship if you're still not going through schooling or if you're off schooling, there's always a possibility for you to have a job.
Alex Booker (55:46):
At least she knew how long the internship was meant to be. What happened in the weeks or even the week maybe if you were holding out before the internship ended, did you have some idea about what was coming next?
Sylvia Favello (55:55):
That's when I was extended an offer to move from internship into a full-time position. So I was never left to worry or wonder, am I going to be offered? Am I not going to be offered? The timeline felt very nice, very relaxed. It didn't feel like it was too close to the crunch time or I was left hanging. It wasn't like that at all. It just felt like when the job was offered, it felt like at the right moment and the right time. I think that it was the nicest way to do it that way.
Again, I think the whole internship was amazing. I don't know how other companies do internships because this was the first one that I ever did. But it was an amazing experience and I really learned a lot and I'm still learning an incredible amount of information every day. So I think starting off in an internship for me was the best possible way I could have landed a job. And then once I was able to move into that full-time position, it just felt like a natural gravitation. It didn't feel forced and didn't feel scary. It felt like yeah, this is where I'm meant to be.
Alex Booker (57:00):
Just incredible, Sylvia, and I'm so happy for you that you found this perfect alignment. People sometimes tell me that they feel lucky because of the way things transpired, but I think luck is when hard work meets opportunity and you definitely put in a lot of hard work. Just in closing really, is there any ever advice you can offer to new aspiring developers listening here today?
Sylvia Favello (57:19):
I'm terrible at advice, but if I was to give advice to myself, I would say just to keep persevering, keep trying different things and really look at different opportunities and challenge yourself, not every day, but every other day, and really go for what it is that you're passionate about. And like you said, sometimes it is about luck, but sometimes opportunity presents other opportunities for yourself. And so I think the most important thing, and what I would tell everyone is just keep doing what makes you happy as cliché as that is, and find ways to challenge yourself at the end of the day.
Alex Booker (57:59):
Sylvia, thank you so much for your advice and thank you so much again for joining me on The Scrimba Podcast.
Sylvia Favello (58:04):
Thank you. I was really nervous, but I had a really great time. The conversations just flew by, so I really appreciate it.
That's it for this episode of The Scrimba Podcast. We will be back next week, and in the meantime, if you made it this far, please subscribe. You can find the show wherever you listen to podcasts. Check out the show notes for all the resources mentioned in this episode. I'm also linking the episode with Dylan Israel that Alex mentioned, but bear in mind, that was a very long time ago and let's just say that the podcast didn't really sound as polished like a year and a half ago. Anyway, if you're already subscribed to us, please consider leaving us a rating or a review on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. It really helps and we love reading what you think about the show. The podcast is hosted by Alex Booker. You can find his Twitter handle in the show notes. I'm your producer Jan, and we will see you next Tuesday.