Career Change on Maternity Leave: How Kynnedy Learned To Code, Became a Code Reviewer, and Landed Her First Developer Job
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🎙 About the episode
Meet Kynnedy 🇺🇸! She recently made history as the first student who found a job through Scrimba's Discord! She originally wanted to be an air traffic controller, but ended up working in hospitality. After she became a mom, Kynnedy decided on a career change. And she succeeded! 🎉
In this episode, you'll get handy tips on how to learn better and make whatever you're learning stick. Kynnedy shares what she did right, but also what she did wrong, as well as her approach to creating a more memorable developer portfolio. You'll hear her story about learning enough about front-end development to go from zero to becoming a code reviewer on Scrimba in only a few months. Plus: how to know you're ready to apply for jobs, and how how to code with a baby.
🔗 Connect with Kynnedy
- How Kynnedy got into coding (02:00)
- Bootcamp vs a self-directed route (04:03)
- Learning to code while being a new parent (04:57)
- Kynnedy's path and learning style with Scrimba (05:49)
- Dealing with self-doubt when learning to code (06:58)
- How to choose projects for you developer portfolio? (09:38)
- How Kynnedy knew she was ready to start applying for jobs (14:22)
- How Kynnedy put herself out there... and got no results (14:57)
- Getting an interview through Scrimba's discord (16:00)
- Kynnedy as a code reviewer on Scrimba (17:42)
- Kynnedy's interview process (19:50)
- Coding advice for younger Kynnedy (25:48)
🧰 Resources mentioned
- Scrimba's Front End Career Path
- Gary Simon on YouTube
- Build and deploy your portfolio with Kevin Powell
⭐ 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 🙏
Alex Booker (00:00):
Hello, and welcome to the Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show, I speak with successful devs, about their advice on learning to code and getting your first junior dev job.
Alex Booker (00:12):
My name is Alex. Today I'm joined by the impressive Kynnedy. Kynnedy is a new mom, Scrimba student and recently hired junior dev.
Alex Booker (00:21):
This is actually a big success story for Scrimba and one we're really proud to share, because Kynnedy completed our Frontend developer career path. That gave her the skills and confidence to start applying for jobs.
I had just finished the Frontend course. I was like, I guess this is good as time as any. If I got the right opportunity and they were willing to mentor me, I would be ready.
Alex Booker (00:43):
As you will learn in this episode, it didn't go great at first, but Kynnedy persevered and stayed close with the Scrimba community, and was actually open enough to take on some extra responsibilities in our community, including reviewing other students' code.
I love it. It's just amazing to interact with the students on Scrimba. Looking at their code, I was like, this is where I was just a few months ago.
Alex Booker (01:09):
Now I'm not going to spoil it too much, but suffice it to say, when the opportunities eventually came, Kynnedy had a portfolio, a nice resume and some light technical work experience, reviewing other students code at Scrimba.
Alex Booker (01:24):
In other words, things started slow, as they. A snowball starts small, a boulder rolls slowly till it builds momentum. And then when the opportunities eventually came, Kynnedy was open-minded enough to identify those opportunities and of course, prepared enough to succeed.
They pretty much got back with me in a couple of hours. They set up an interview and I was like, this could be it.
Alex Booker (01:46):
This is really inspiring. We had a super fun chat, that I just know you're going to enjoy and learn from. You are listening to Scrimba Podcast. Let's get into it.
I wanted to be a air traffic controller. So, I actually got my degree in aviation operations, but it's hard to get into the field because it's a government job and they only really accept application once a year.
I kept just not getting the job, year after year, so kind of was discouraging.
I've always worked in the food industry. So, I was a manager at a hotel near Disney World, actually. That was kind of a fun time, but it wasn't really my passion at all.
I'm not really a people person, especially customer service. So, I always knew that I didn't want to stay in the hospitality industry, but I was just like, I had no clue what I was actually passionate about. It took me a little bit of time to actually figure that out.
When I was the manager at the hotel, I met my husband. Then about a year later, we had our son. So, I had a whole year off for maternity leave and that's when I was like, okay, I need to figure something out. There's no way I'm going back to working in a restaurant or a hotel. I was just so over it.
So you do that Google search of, what can I do from home? What pays the most money without getting a college degree?
My husband told me about UI UX design. So I had actually started a bootcamp on that, but it just wasn't exactly what I wanted. They weren't teaching me to code or anything.
I'd heard about coding before. I thought it would be something I like because I like solving puzzles and that kind of thing. And just overall, I really love learning.
After about a month of the UI UX boot camp, I was like, okay, I don't like this. At the same time, I was actually on YouTube. I found Gary Simon, and I was following one of his HTML CSS crash course. That's where I first really started to code. That was, I think about August of last year. I think he mentioned Scrimba, and from there it's history.
Alex Booker (04:03):
Was it a difficult decision to leave the boot camp and pursue a self-directed route instead?
Yeah, a little, especially because me and my husband were both taking the UI UX boot camp. We just both hated it, and we'd already spent a couple thousand.
Alex Booker (04:20):
We both knew. We're like, okay, we're not following this. This wasn't for us. So, it almost felt like a relief when I found coding, because I was like, wow, this is it. This is what I really want to do. I'd never felt like that before.
I didn't have to motivate myself to study at all. Every spare moment, every time the baby was taking a nap, I was like, okay, time to code.
Alex Booker (04:46):
That's when you've really won, I think, when it feels like play almost. But learning to code alongside being a parent and presumably a first time parent, that is tough. That sounds really hard.
Yeah. It was really tough. My son, he cannot sleep unless he's on top of me and nursing. So a lot of times, I would have to have my laptop in one hand, and then he would be on my other arm.
I would be literally coding one handed, just because I wanted to get hours studying in. So, I have the new found skill of coding with one hand.
Alex Booker (05:23):
That is a good skill to have. But you're not worried for, his first words would be Flexbox or CSS grid or something.
Well, hey, I mean start him early, especially with all the requirements for jobs now. You need like 10 years experience at 18. Hopefully he likes coding.
Alex Booker (05:39):
That'd be awesome. You could be a coding duo one day.
He can code alongside me.
Alex Booker (05:44):
Yeah, wicked. Pad programming is the newest family bonding activity. I like it.
Alex Booker (05:49):
It sounds like you discovered Scrimba around this time. Did you jump heads first into the Frontend developer career path? Where did you start? At what point did you get involved with the Discord community?
Alex Booker (06:00):
At Scrimba, we do a few things, like the podcast and YouTube streams and stuff. I'm just kind of curious to learn how you approached it.
I think it was the end of August. I signed up for the pro membership of Scrimba, and then I just jumped right into the Frontend developer path because I really like... it gives me a roadmap of what I need to learn. Because it's can be super confusing when you're just looking at YouTube. You don't even know where to start.
So, I think Scrimba really gave me a good idea of what I needed to be learning and it kept me on track.
Along with the career path, I would do my projects on the side. It gives you extra practice.
What I did that really helped me with Scrimba is, I would code along in the Scrim. But then after the whole lesson was done, I would go off into my own VS code and do the project from scratch. I think that really helped me keep all the information in and everything.
Alex Booker (06:58):
I can't shake the feeling that you had this tenacity about learning to code. You were approaching it full speed ahead. Did at any point, any sort of self-doubts or imposter syndrome creep into it? Or were you just so laser focused on where you were going, it didn't even occur?
I mean, at times, yes, I had doubts, especially, I was tired all the time. I was a new mom. I was like, there's no way I can ever make it.
You always have this image in your head, of the hacker or coder as a super genius. So, it was kind of daunting.
I had days like that, but most of the time, I was just super focused on getting through the career path.
That's the good thing about the career path. It kind of gives you a end goal. You're like, okay, if I can make it through this career path, then I can find a job. It helps you keep focused, I believe.
Alex Booker (07:51):
A hundred percent. It's interesting, you said you love learning because I love to learn too, by the way. I have friends, and I've interviewed people who love to learn.
Alex Booker (07:59):
If you love to learn, you get pretty good at learning, I feel like, because you practice it and you understand a bit, how your brain works and things.
Alex Booker (08:07):
You almost build this confidence. Well, I've learned things in the past. I can learn something again. Does that ring true for you, at all?
Yeah. I mean, in the past, I've actually taught myself Spanish. So, I kind of knew how I like to learn. I think that helped me develop my knowledge in coding and everything.
But mostly, I like to take in as much information as possible. That's why, when I was just trying to learn from YouTube, it was almost information overload. With the Scrimba course, it was kind of more streamlined.
Of course, I did still have my times when I went down a YouTube rabbit hole of different coding topics and stuff, but it can be kind of overwhelming, all the stuff you need to know.
That did, a few times, kind of stop me because I follow all these people on Twitter. They would say something about coding, that I had no clue what they were talking about. And it just kind of makes you feel like, oh God, I don't know anything.
Joining in the Scrimba Discord community, you see, okay, I'm not the only one who doesn't understand everything. Everybody's kind of like that.
Alex Booker (09:15):
I can remember that as well. You spend months learning, and you feel, eventually like you're making progress. Then you log into Twitter or wherever and you're like, wow, there's still so much left to learn.
Alex Booker (09:25):
But there always will be, either because you're focusing on a particular area of tech or because new things come out.
Alex Booker (09:31):
I think coding is for people who are not intimidated by keeping their skills up to date and probably not intimidated because they enjoy it.
Alex Booker (09:38):
By the way, I really like what you said about taking your learning off Scrimba. I thought maybe that could be a nice segue into your portfolio and the projects you build to support your portfolio.
Alex Booker (09:49):
We'll link it in the show notes, for anybody who wants to check it out. But could you run us through your thought process behind the portfolio?
Alex Booker (09:56):
Some people wonder if there's something they should prioritize. And then a very natural question that follows is, all right, what do I build to put on my portfolio?
I think for my actual portfolio, I started that when we did the... I don't remember which module in Scrimba it was, but they have a module where he makes a portfolio.
At first, I just kind of coded along with him. My portfolio looked exactly his. I'm not sure what the teacher's name is.
Alex Booker (10:24):
I think it might be Kevin Powell.
Yes. Yes. Kevin Powell. So yeah, mine kind of looked like his. So, I would show my portfolio to my husband. He gives me the most honest feedback. He was like, "No, it's boring. You need to change it."
So I actually reiterated on the design, at least 20 different times, to finally come up with what I had.
I would say, I probably spent about three weeks, just tweaking the design. Throughout the whole time, I was working on projects.
I think a couple of the Scrimba projects, I put on there as well, like the blackjack. I think I made Pac-Man on Scrimba.
But I went off on my own because I think employers like this the most, when you have your own personal project that isn't just you following a tutorial, because they can definitely tell if you've done it yourself or you're just following along with a YouTube video.
My main project I had, it was a React app that I made, kind of like a library, because I really like books. So it's kind of like if you know what Goodreads is.
Alex Booker (11:25):
Of course, yeah.
You can type in the book name, and then you add it to your library. But then I also made a reading goal thing, a progress bar of how many books you've read and stuff like that.
In the interview I had with the company that I'm working with now, he actually had me just walk through my code on that and everything. He really liked it because it showed that I want to do projects on my own and am able to complete projects on my own.
Alex Booker (11:55):
Coming up on the Scrimba Podcast, how Kynnedy made history by finding her job through Scrimba, something we've never done before.
I was on Scrimba's Discord. I saw that Per had posted about a US remote job. I think five minutes after he said that, I messaged him my portfolio.
Alex Booker (12:12):
We'll get back to the interview in just a second. But here's a quick reminder, that if you are enjoying this episode of the Scrimba Podcast, it would be awesome if you shared this episode with your friends or on social media or in your community, because word of mouth is genuinely the best way to support a podcast that you like and ensures we keep doing our thing. A big thank you in advance.
Alex Booker (12:34):
If you haven't already, it would also be great if you left a rating for the Scrimba Podcast, in Spotify or Apple Podcasts, depending on where you get your podcasts.
Alex Booker (12:43):
This is a weekly podcast that comes out every Tuesday, without fail. Next week, I'm talking with Shannon Brown, a technical recruiter.
Alex Booker (12:51):
This is what the Scrimba podcast is all about, learning from recently hired developers like Kynnedy, but also from the other side.
Shannon Brown (12:59):
Recruiters tend to come from a variety of backgrounds. You'll see recruiters that are coming from sales or coming from customer service, but very rarely, those backgrounds are technical.
Shannon Brown (13:09):
A big piece of recruiting in a technical space, is having knowledge of what you're talking about. So, being willing to dig in and really learn that job is important.
Shannon Brown (13:21):
We're often met with a performance guideline of, how many positions have you filled for the company? It's numbers, numbers, numbers, and that's where the distrust comes from.
Shannon Brown (13:29):
As a recruiter, if you allow those numbers to take over your focus, sure you're going to churn and burn through candidates. You lose that connection or that focus on the fact that those candidates are people, with lives.
Alex Booker (13:41):
That is next week on the Scrimba Podcast. Make sure to subscribe, as not to miss it.
Alex Booker (13:47):
Back to the interview with Kynnedy. What gave you this impression that employers can tell if you're just basing your work on tutorials?
I watched a lot of YouTube videos, I'm not going to lie, just about portfolios and what employers are like looking for. Honestly, in my actual interview, he kind of touched on that too, but it was mostly YouTube research. I do a lot of research on YouTube.
Alex Booker (14:12):
I don't know what people did before YouTube, honestly. Whether I need to change a tire or learn how to use arrow functions, it's a YouTube video almost every time, unless there's a Scrim.
Alex Booker (14:22):
At what point did you feel like you were ready to start looking for jobs? Was there that moment where you woke up and you were like, today's the day I'm ready to apply for jobs? How did you think about it?
I started applying in about January, which I had just finished the Frontend course. I was like, I guess this is good as time as any.
I wouldn't say I felt super ready, like I was some super coder or anything. But I was like, I think I have enough skills that I could... if I got the right opportunity and they were willing to mentor me, I would be ready. You got to get over the imposter syndrome a little bit and just put yourself out there.
Alex Booker (14:57):
What did that look like for you? How did you put yourself out there? I'm wondering where you found jobs to apply to? What was your strategy to get your foot in the door?
I did a bad job at this. I was quick applying on Indeed and LinkedIn. About two to three months, I was doing this. I didn't really get any responses.
I mean, I had a cover letter in my resume, and I would tweak my resume, but I was mostly just doing the quick apply. I wasn't networking as much as I should.
I did start posting a little bit more on LinkedIn, just about the struggles of trying to find a job. I would get a lot of connections from that.
People start talking to you. And actually, recruiters will start messaging you as well.
The recruiters would always message me and they would have these super high job requirements. I wouldn't even respond to them because I was like, I don't have these requirements. It just made me feel like I was like, oh gosh, maybe I'm not qualified.
Alex Booker (15:59):
But you pushed through, clearly.
Yeah. I was on Scrimba's Discord. I saw that pair had posted about a US remote job, looking for developers.
I think five minutes after he said that, I messaged him my portfolio. Right away, he sent my portfolio directly to one of the lead developers on the team, at the company I'm going to be working for now.
Alex Booker (16:22):
That's remarkable and maybe even historic for Scrimba. We're all about helping new developers learn to code and break into the industry, but being quite a small team and early company, we put so much attention into the curriculum, the modules and the community.
Alex Booker (16:37):
Tackling that part where we can connect students with employers, it's just an opportunistic thing.
Alex Booker (16:43):
I think the opportunity came about, somebody messaged Per. And of course, he was happy to share the job ad or the opportunity to connect, in Discord.
Alex Booker (16:51):
I'm just so excited you took the opportunity. Do you know what I mean? If you'd have talked yourself out of it somehow, or for maybe I'm not ready, this never would've happened. How crazy would that have been?
I know. I felt super excited. As soon as Per sent off my portfolio, they pretty much got back with me in a couple of hours. They set up an interview and I was like, this could be it.
I hadn't even had a interview, up until that point. So I was of course nervous, but I feel like I just had a really good feeling about it.
Alex Booker (17:22):
Why? Was there any indicators that you can reflect on?
Well, because I actually got a response.
Alex Booker (17:28):
That's a good indicator.
This is my first response. This is going to be it, one interview and done. But no, I was like, I have the support of Scrimba, I felt like. Maybe he put in a good word for me. So I was like, I feel like I got this.
Alex Booker (17:42):
Well, yes. Lest we forget that, you took on some responsibility at Scrimba, as a code reviewer.
Alex Booker (17:48):
It's difficult to share all the contexts to people listening. But what it is basically, is an opportunity for students to share their projects with either a Scrimba teacher or a dedicated code reviewer, like yourself, Kynnedy. Well, I know that came about because you, again took an opportunity.
Alex Booker (18:05):
All the details aside, people can check out the solo projects and the code reviews, if they want to. I'll link some more information about that, as we recently rotate blog post on the subject.
Alex Booker (18:14):
You had the portfolio ready to go. So, when the opportunity came, you could use that to sort of demonstrate your skills. You kind of went out your comfort zone, I assume, a little bit, connecting with Gail and working with Scrimba.
Alex Booker (18:26):
Obviously then, when the opportunity came for Per to send your profile over to somebody, I don't know what the messages looked like, but I'm sure there was some context there about, hey, this is Kynnedy. She's a student, but also has these responsibilities.
Alex Booker (18:39):
Do you see what I'm getting at? I think it's so exciting for people listening, just taking these small, slightly uncomfortable opportunities, gets you closer and closer to where you're going every time.
Yeah. Well, it was actually crazy because as I said, I hadn't had any opportunities for two or three months of just applying. And then pretty much at the same time, I applied to be the code reviewer at Scrimba, and Per posted about the job that I'm at now.
It was just kind of crazy. I was like, I have all these opportunities at once. It just felt amazing. I was like, my hard work is finally paying off.
Honestly, with the code reviewing, I was like, I could do this for free. I love it. It's just amazing to interact with the students on Scrimba. Looking at their code, I was like, this is where I was just a few months ago.
I felt how much I had improved, from the beginning of Scrimba till the end, just by being a code reviewer.
I was like, yep, all these little mistakes that they're making, I used to make too. I'm probably still making some of them, but it's a constant learning process.
Alex Booker (19:44):
I couldn't agree more with you. I think for anybody listening, it must be so inspiring, I think.
Alex Booker (19:50):
The only thing that I want to dig a little bit deeper into, is the interview process itself. Obviously, you had quite a warm introduction to the company. They could kind of evaluate your skills a little bit, based on your portfolio.
Alex Booker (20:02):
What did that sort of interaction with the company look like? Did you jump on a Zoom call, and where did things go from there?
Per sent them my portfolio. Then they contact me the same day, to set up a interview. It was about a week from that day, and it was going to be on zoom.
I was of, course, super nervous. Pretty much that whole week, I was looking up developer interviews on YouTube and just trying to cram all the information in my head that I could.
But I think I kind of overprepared, almost. That can actually hurt you sometimes because it takes away how natural you are, talking with your interviewer and stuff.
But the actual interview, it was actually way more laid back than I was expecting. The guy, Andrew, who was interviewing me, first he started off by telling me about their company. And then he talked about his family life, how he got to be a coder and stuff like that.
And then I just jumped in and talked about my family life, my coding experience and Scrimba and everything. So, it was kind of natural. It was kind of like having just a normal conversation. I think that helped me a lot.
Then we did get into a technical discussion. Towards the end of the interview, he had me walk through a couple of my projects and talk about the code and how I got to each decision, to use a specific line of code.
So, I think that was where he really assessed my skill level. He could definitely tell I was a junior, but nowhere in the job description, did it actually say that it was a junior position.
I think the title is web application developer. So, I was a little nervous about that because nowhere it said it was a junior position.
He asked me the question, do you know what SQL is? I was like, I've heard of it. I've never worked with it, though.
He was like, that's definitely something you would have to learn for this job because our whole team is full stack developer. So, we would want you to be a full stack developer.
I made it clear to him that I was super motivated and I was actually excited to learn. I think that made a really good impression on him. We ended that interview on a really good note.
I think about a week after that, they emailed me again, to set up a second interview. This was going to be with the VP of technology or something like that. So, I was even more nervous because I was like, okay, this guy's one of the heads of the company.
I kind of freaked out a little bit. But again, it was for nothing because it was a super laid back conversation.
He told me about himself and more about the company, and then I just went over my background. We laughed a little bit. Which I think that when you have a laugh with your interviewer, it kind of pops the bubble a little bit. It just feels more natural.
With that interview, we didn't have anything more technical. At that point, they already knew my skill level. They were trying to just assess how motivated I was and if I wanted to learn.
I made it really clear. I think that's overall, what got me the job.
After that interview, it was almost two weeks, which waiting is the worst part. I'm like, just make a decision, just tell me.
And then they set up another, what I thought was going to be an interview, but it was actually just them offering me the job.
As soon as they got on the call, they're like, "Yeah. We want to offer you the position." I almost started crying right there, but it was super amazing.
Honestly, my interview process, I actually enjoyed it. I felt like I really got to know my interviewers, which I think it's important for your interviewers to like you on a personal level, because they're going to be working with you as a team. They want to make sure you function really well in the team.
That's almost more important than my actual technical skill. Because as I said, they wanted me to be a full stack developer. So, they told me, "We're going to give you all the resources, so you can become a full sack developer. We're going to get you classes and mentoring with the other coders."
So, I'm really excited for this opportunity because I feel like I'm just going to learn so much.
Alex Booker (24:22):
I totally relate to that feeling of waiting to hear back from a company. It's like this limbo, of I'm sure people listening can identify with too.
Alex Booker (24:29):
You're almost like, oh, are my email push notifications working? Let me check. You just check a couple of times, every hour.
Alex Booker (24:36):
Obviously when you go the news, that was just tremendous. We can speculate. But at the end of the day, their interview process showed how much emphasis they put on the collaboration and the person they're working with.
Alex Booker (24:47):
It was more heavily skewed towards getting to know you, beyond just verifying your technical ability. Which of course, you made it easy for them by preparing your portfolio. I think that's wicked.
Alex Booker (24:57):
So, what? You got the offer basically, and you're starting soon.
Yep. I'm starting next week. I'm just waiting for them to send me all my equipment. So, super excited.
Alex Booker (25:07):
Very cool that they're investing in you already, deciding you're a good investment because you have the frontend skills and you're well on your way.
Alex Booker (25:14):
But when it comes to SQL in particular, they're sharing resources with you and encouraging you to skill up in those areas.
Alex Booker (25:21):
I mean, for someone like yourself, who loves to learn, that sounds like a match made in heaven.
They're like, okay, you have three months, pretty much, to learn. I know I can do it. It's just scary. It's like, okay, you have three months to do it. If not, we might have to go another direction. I was like, okay.
That really puts the pressure on, but I work well under pressure. So, keeps me motivated.
Alex Booker (25:42):
I have every belief in you. I'm sure you'll do it. It's a shame we don't cover a SQL on Scrimba yet, but one day in the future, maybe.
Alex Booker (25:48):
I was wondering if you could go back to the beginning of your journey almost and speak to your former self, a budding junior developer, deciding whether UI UX is better or development, for you. What advice do you wish you had?
Definitely don't buy a $2,000 UI UX boot camp. I would start with that. I would just say, honestly, here's Scrimba. Here you go. This is all you need to make a career.
I would just tell myself, try not to focus on too many topics at once. Sometimes I would have a week where I was just focused on so many different topics. I didn't actually learn anything, especially at the beginning, when just feels like there's so much on your plate.
Alex Booker (26:39):
Yeah. You're the proof. Kynnedy, thank you so much for joining me on the Scrimba Podcast.
It's a pleasure.
Alex Booker (26:46):
That was Kynnedy, a recently hired Scrimba student. Thank you for listening. If you've made it this far, you might want to subscribe for more helpful and hopefully uplifting episodes, with recently hired juniors like Kynnedy and industry experts like Shannon, with whom I'm talking next week, in what will be Episode 64 of these Scrimba podcast.
Alex Booker (27:07):
You can also tweet me, your host Alex Booker, and share what lessons you learned from the episode, so I can thank you personally for tuning in. My Twitter handle is in the show notes. See you next week.