From Doctor to Developer

From Doctor to Developer

πŸŽ™ About the episode

Meet Jefferson Tang πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί! Being a doctor is one of the most prestigious jobs out there, but Jefferson's coding itch would not go away! Enoramoured with web3 and the unlimited possibilities, Jefferson learned to code using a Web3 Bootcamp and Scrimba's Frontend Developer Career path. Now he works as a full-time developer at a Decentralised finance start-up! In this episode, Alex and Jefferson discuss the challenges of changing careers after 7 years of study. Other topics include staying motivated when learning to code and what Jefferson wished he knew at the beginning that would help him now.

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πŸ’¬ Transcript


Alex Booker (00:00):
Hello, and welcome to the Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show I speak of successful devs about their advice on learning to code and getting your first junior dev job. I'm Alex, and today I'm joined by a successful Scrimba student named Jefferson from Melbourne, Australia.
A year ago, Jefferson was working as a full-time doctor in a busy city hospital. Today he's working as a blockchain developer for a Web3 startup. He learnt front-end developments with Scrimba's front-end development career path, and then studied the backend part of Web3 at a Web3 bootcamp, where he found it easy to find a job as alumni would post jobs in the bootcamp's private Discord server.
As you know, here on the Scrimba pod we alternate between industry experts, like Ian last week who has 26 years of experience, and new developers alike. I think you'll relate a lot to Jefferson's fresh experience. Stick around to the end because I ask Jefferson all about how he found a job on a Discord server of all places. And more importantly, the crucialness of having a professional network, even as a beginner. Let's get into it.

Jefferson Tang (01:07):
I'm actually turning 30 this year, so it's been a very long and windy journey. And what I was doing before was I was a doctor, so I did the whole medical school thing for seven years, it's a long time. And I worked as doctor for three years. And it's a different background. There's not too much intersection with computers and whatnot.
But where the pivot in my mind happened was during COVID. I started spending a lot of time by myself and having time to think about things. And I just realized that, hey, I grew up playing a lot of computer games, always pretty comfortable with the computer. I was pretty strong with maths and physics in high school, but I never pursued it beyond introductory university courses. And I think I started looking at why I'd gone into medicine in the first place. And when I was straight out of high school, I was pretty young. I didn't really know what I wanted to do. Everyone around me was doing it and my parents were Asian immigrants who were very heavily fixated on me becoming a doctor.
I guess for people who have immigrant parents, that's a pretty strong [inaudible 00:02:06] force. But yeah, along the way, I made some friends who were working tech the whole time. I never really understood what they were talking about, but I just enjoyed hanging out with them. And I guess one of the things that prompted me to switch to coding was I realized that somehow I'd always naturally gravitate towards hanging out with them, sometimes a lot more so than people in my own field. And I also did a few coding related tasks in my twenties, which I really enjoyed.
So I founded a medical related blog earlier on that I grew to about 10 medical student volunteers, and also really enjoyed when I was doing medical research one time when there was this clutch statistical analysis with R which I did when we had an unexpected deadline and the statistics professor that I'd worked with wasn't available at the time. And that was the part that I enjoyed the most of the medical research, figuring out that coding task last minute.
And then so fast forward to COVID, I was doing rotation in a rural hospital. Didn't have really any friends or family or fun things to do around me really. And the tech friends that I mentioned, they had a Discord, they invited me to it. And I had no idea what they were talking about, but I guess this time I was really determined to understand and what they were talking about. And at this time there was this blockchain movement called DefiSummer and I had no idea what Defi was, but I spent a lot of time teaching myself about it, trying to understand what the heck it is.

Alex Booker (03:32):
Decentralized finance, right?

Jefferson Tang (03:34):
Yeah. It's a massive rabbit hole and I still haven't found myself at the bottom of it. And through exploring that space, I came across a lot of solidity code and smart contracts, and I really wanted to figure that out. So first thing I did was I took this Harvard CS 50 course, which I learned about on the internet that you could learn to read code by going through it. It was really good for just the basic programming logic and concepts, but I still had no idea what was going on in web programming, and that was the area that I wanted to get more skilled at. Then I spent a lot of time pouring over solidity tutorials and documentation, and still had no idea what was going on. I was doing this crypto zombies tutorial, which was a really great interactive resource facility.
And it got to a point where it mentioned using the web free JS library and said that I should know how to use JavaScript before going through with it, which I had no idea about. And that's where Scrimba came in and saved me a later on. And yeah, massive gratitude to the resources at Scrimba. Yeah, at this point, I try to learn JavaScript by reading a documentation for a week, but there's a lot more going on in JavaScript than solidity, and the documentations are really dry so it didn't stick. And I got bit distracted by my work at this time, but I came back to it.
After that, I always felt a hole from not working on coding skills. So I came back to it half a year later, and that's where I found Scrimba. I was just looking for an interactive tutorial to learn JavaScript, I was willing to pay for it. And Scrimba just came across as being really modern, innovative, having really great human touch, having this depth of content and this structured curriculum that I was looking for, and really active, helpful community, and it's all for really affordable price. It's actually a much ... Going through, it's a much better educational experience than this coding elective I did in undergrad that would've cost $4,000-$5,000 nowadays, it's just a lot better value.
So I'd say if you're willing to put in the time to teach yourself, and you're not, say, fresh out of high school, Scrimba is in my mind, a lot better option. You get a lot better results for a lot better price. And yes, through Scrimba, that's where I learned JavaScript and React. There's a lot of JavaScript documentation and tutorials all over the web, but yeah, Scrimba is the place where it really comes alive and you have really friendly instructors for you. So I finished the JavaScript and React components of it, and I decided it was time to work on a project. So years ago I used a website builder called Webflow to build the medical blog that I'd done with some medical student volunteers.

Alex Booker (06:04):
Oh, that's what you used. Okay.

Jefferson Tang (06:05):
Because I didn't know about front end development then. It was ... I think I did it back in 2017. It was costing $600 in annual fees just to keep it on the internet.

Alex Booker (06:14):
[crosstalk 00:06:14] Really?

Jefferson Tang (06:14):
So I decided like the perfect challenge for me was to rebuild the whole thing in React. So I used the Netflix clone tutorial from Scrimba as a reference and I managed to get it done and get my first [inaudible 00:06:29] hub repository up. And now it's hosted on Get Up Pages, I happily cut up those $600 in Webflow fees thanks to Scrimba, so that was really awesome.

Alex Booker (06:36):
Glad to hear it paid for itself.

Jefferson Tang (06:38):
Many times over. And then the next thing I did was I joined a remote Solidity bootcamp posted by Consensus. It's a well known brand in this space, it's had a lot to do with establishing the Solidity ecosystem. And one of the listed requirements was basic JavaScript and Get Up skills. So yeah, I think I would've been lost without going through the Scrimba course, because the final assessment also involved doing a lot of heavy React, and I think a lot of people had trouble with that during the bootcamp. So for me, the sort of turning point from just trying to learn the code and then become confident in a code was going for Scrimba and the bootcamp.
Pretty much that back to back in about six months, and having that sort of live cohort experience, getting taught by and interacting with web developers and being able to get projects done to a standard I was happy with, that sort of cemented to me that, hey, I can do this at a competent level. There's actually a huge ecosystem that I can take part in. And I ended up finding my first coding role through the bootcamp Discord channel, the jobs and opportunities channel. And I went for one of those and had an interview with the founder, and it's been pretty happy sailing since.

Alex Booker (07:43):
I just find it so fascinating, first of all, that when you're in high school in particular, you're 17, 18, maybe a little bit older, and you're asked to make decisions that will inform what you will do for the rest of your life. And in the case of being a doctor, do you sort of regret going down that path, because clearly you always had this passion for computing and it sounds to me like it was almost nagging at you for the time that you were studying medicine and hanging out with people and seeing all the cool things and the lifestyles they were living?

Jefferson Tang (08:13):
I think I had collided with computer stuff time and again, but nothing really caught me that much, got me that obsessed until I came across the Defi and Solidity stuff. The university I went to was very traditional. It was very much about that traditional, prestigious sort of picture. It's very much about the medical students, law students, engineering students, and there wasn't that much of a culture of computer science things, at least back then.

Alex Booker (08:37):
Sometimes you do have to go down a path to realize that it's not the right path. But one thing that occurred to me is that being a doctor, by the way, is one of the most prestigious jobs out there and one of the most difficult to accomplish, just due to the number of examinations and how much you have to learn. Presumably you must have had quite a regimented study schedule and a discipline about learning and completing exams and things. I'm wondering if some of that helped you when you decided to start picking up coding?

Jefferson Tang (09:05):
It definitely did. Sometimes I see, say cons of software engineering on TikTok or something, and there'll be things like, you have to do a lot of study, you might get stressed out a lot, other things that I forget. But from my perspective, it'd be the same thing for me going down the medical pathway, and there's a lot more uncertainty. It's like something that you probably won't know unless you know someone going through it, but coming out of med school, it's quite rough the first five to ten years, you're always moving every year. You have to apply for a new contract every year, basically. You have to study for exams and they have high failure rates. So maybe one good part is I'm pretty desensitized to studying requirements and that sort of stuff.

Alex Booker (09:49):
If you are enjoying this episode of the Scrimba podcast, please do us at Scrimba a favor and share it with your friends on social media or in your community. Word of mouth is the single best way to support a podcast that you like, so thank you in advance. Next week, I'm talking with Austin Henline from LinkedIn about how to optimize your LinkedIn profile, who better to learn from?

Austin Henline Β (10:11):
I got a LinkedIn profile my freshman year in college. I kind of knew it was important. Most college professors tell students to get a profile, but don't teach them how to actually use it. And so I got on, got discouraged after a week, didn't know what to do. And then so I quit using it for about a year and a half. And then when the time came to start applying to internships and jobs, my resume was really good but as I was applying to all these positions, almost all of them were asking for my LinkedIn profile instead.

Alex Booker (10:40):
That's next week on the Scrimba podcast, so make sure to subscribe in your podcast app of choice as not to miss it. Back to the interview with Jefferson.
Tell me if I'm wrong, but I feel like coding probably felt easy compared to becoming a doctor.

Jefferson Tang (10:57):
The thing that was tough about coding that wasn't tough about med was med was very familiar. My whole university cohort essentially did it. Whereas with coding, a lot of it was by myself and it was, at least for the first six or twelve months, really foreign concepts. I just had no idea what was going on. It's familiar to me now, but it wasn't when I started. And there's also not that many people who I know have done the same thing, so it's not as comfortable doing it. Whereas when I was going through medical school, people would say like, hey, seven years is a long time. But when everyone around you is doing it, it doesn't feel that way.

Alex Booker (11:33):
You feel like you are where you're meant to be, because everybody else is there and going in the same direction.

Jefferson Tang (11:38):
Yeah. It's hard in its own way. For me, I just sort of feel like I'm going somewhere where there's no one else to really guide me. Whereas the thing with med is it's very prescriptive. It's very, next day you have to be doing this, the year after you have to be doing this, you have to be here, it's very predictable. There's a really well trodden path. Whereas I guess for what I'm doing now, not really.

Alex Booker (11:59):
It's just very interesting to me that what you're describing isn't like, "Oh yeah, I struggled to learn if statements," it was more about, "Oh, I struggled to reassure myself I was on the right path because I didn't have that promise of success, or that cohort like I did at university."

Jefferson Tang (12:15):
Yeah. It's very much the ... I guess for me the mental adjustment thing. And when I first started people talking computer science terms and game theory terms and economic terms that I had never been exposed to before, I think I went pretty crazy for the first three months.

Alex Booker (12:29):
Do you have any advice you could share of someone who is maybe at the beginning of their journey, and they're sort of nodding their head thinking, "Yes, this sounds like how I feel right now." What can they do to reassure themselves and have a better chance of success?

Jefferson Tang (12:42):
The thing that I'd sort of tell myself, first thing comes to mind is that there's actually good people out there. Scrimba is a really good resource, people that are really helpful. There are good teams and it does psychologically get so much better and easier once you get your first paycheck for coding. Yeah, once you get that first paycheck, it definitely does sort of validate everything you did. I mean, if I had to put it in the simplest words, just keep pushing. That's a bit clichΓ©, but as long as you make progress every day, then that's something to be happy about.
One thing I used to do was to every Sunday, just write a journal and detail the things that I had done, and I'd sort of amaze myself reading it. Because when you're in the day to day and there's so many people who are way more ahead of you, that's really easy to compare yourself to. And it's even worse when you're a beginner and just starting to learn to code and everyone around you seem so able. Yeah, just looking back every week helps to really cement that, hey, you've done something pretty well.

Alex Booker (13:41):
Let's talk a little bit about Web3 and Solidity a little bit, if you don't mind. It's really interesting that was the thing that stood out to you and it seemed to light a spark in you. What do you think is so about the Web3 movement?

Jefferson Tang (13:57):
I guess it's that there's no bounds to creativity. That's the most exciting thing for me. Some people like this, some people don't. I guess I do. But it's sort of whatever someone can imagine, you can go do it. And people have all sorts of crazy ideas. That does have its bad side in that there is a big pool of bad actors. And a lot of my first six to twelve months in the space was learning how to navigate that because you certainly don't really navigate that in university or med school. A lot of people don't like it because of that. But I guess for me, yeah, why I get really excited is there's a lot of really raw entrepreneurial energy in there that I've never experienced before. So for me coming from a medical background, everything's so dictated by authority and protocols, you have no real incentive or freedom to experiment with some idea you might have.

Alex Booker (14:52):
Is it a good place, do you think for new developers to look for jobs?

Jefferson Tang (14:57):
My personal advice is people should do what they're most passionate about rather than following what the trend is. That sounds like a roundabout answer, but that's how I got into medicine in the first place was sort of pursuing what seemed like the most easy social status thing when I was young. Whereas with coding, I couldn't really talk to anyone at work about it, but it's something which I innately felt a lot of drive and passion for. So I feel like it's not so much whether it's Web3 or I mean, there's some dichotomy with Web2, Web3, that sort of thing. But I think what's most important is someone to pursue what they're most interested in. If that leads to Web3, then [inaudible 00:15:36] so better to it. But I think Web3, it's quite different from what university would tell you the world is like, and it was really different from my experience beforehand. It's a place where before jumping into it, you should sort of see what the space is like and if there's something that can really drive you there.

Alex Booker (15:55):
Do you think it's a fair statement to say that Web3 is quite a new thing, therefore there are lots of emerging technologies which could be really exciting, and there's lots of room for experimentation, and there are no winners yet. It's very early, right? So there's a lot of exciting opportunities is to define the future of the web, if things do go that way. However, because it is quite early, there are not so many established companies with lots of budgets who hire and on board junior developers, and maybe that's why a university whose reputation is somewhat predicated on whether their students get hired or not, that they want to teach the most in demand and hire-able skills, ergo we're going to look at just core computer science concepts and maybe some web application technologies and things.

Jefferson Tang (16:40):
Definitely. I'd sort of agree with you in that it's sort of a very emerging frontier. There's a lot of things to be done. There's a lot of software development, front end things, a lot of apps to be done. But it is a place where there's not really ... It's quite young, so there's not really established pathways, and things are constantly changing as well. It's a polar opposite to medicine where everything's very much ... It's pretty much been that way for 50, 100 years. You can't change it no matter how much you want it to be different.

Alex Booker (17:11):
And human bodies aren't changing fundamentally in our anatomy every year, but the web arguably is nowadays. Wow, that's really cool. And I love your advice to just follow your interests, because we don't need motivation or a pomodoro timer, or a time tracker to play video games for hours on end, because we're intrinsically motivated to have fun. If you can make your learning feel as close to fun as possible, probably that means, pursuing the thing that's exciting to you, and just trust that more things will transfer than you think. And if you can put yourself in front of an employer with such self-direction and passion, there's always room to sort of rework things.
And you never know, you might sort of stumble into an opportunity. I think it's really cool, it sounds like you did a sort of six month intensive experience where you did the Solidity bootcamp as well as Scrimba to learn the front end parts. And then you described that you had a Discord channel, right, for the bootcamp, and there were some jobs going and things. Maybe just to set the stage, what is it exactly Jeff that you're doing now? What is the company? What is your job there? What kind of things are you excited about?

Jefferson Tang (18:19):
So it's a blockchain insurance company called Solace in decentralized finance. There have been a lot of hacks, right? And insurance is a pretty underdeveloped portion of the space. So Solace is working to really build and solution to meet that need. What I'm sort of doing there is ... I guess my first big piece of work was doing a lot of the smart contract code in Solidity. I did an SDK in type script. I was working in Python on another script and working on a Discord bot to link up with an API at the moment. You'll see that I haven't actually done too much front end stuff there. Definitely using the JavaScript skills from Scrimba, it's a whole mix of things, and I find it pretty fun and challenging and interesting.

Alex Booker (19:13):
What was the application process like?

Jefferson Tang (19:15):
What happened is that the company that did the bootcamp, Consensus, they have a venture capital arm and they have a lot of industry speakers come and present. They had a job fair thing for two weeks after the course, and they have had sort of opportunities pop up in their jobs and opportunities channel as well. So I answered one of them. It was someone who went through the bootcamp previously, so there was that sort of warm connection there. And there was an application form, I guess, and I filled that out. Didn't get an answer first when I did it. So I went on Discord and said, "Hey, I filled this application, just letting you know." They said, "Oh, thanks for applying. I'll get back to you." And they did and worked out an interview two weeks later.

Alex Booker (20:00):
Was this a sort of phone call interview where they kind of asked you just some general questions, or did they just jump right into a coding interview?

Jefferson Tang (20:07):
It was more general questions and then they did some coding things for the last 20 minutes for which I showed them the projects I'd done. So the bootcamp had a final project, I showed them that. And I did a hackathon at the same time, so I showed them the hackathon project as well and I walked through the code that I did. So it was wasn't super grilling technical sort of thing, but I did touch on technical stuff.

Alex Booker (20:33):
It's relieving to hear they didn't make you sort of regurgitate things or do a whiteboard interview or something. And was that it? Was it just one ... It sounds like an hour, maybe two hour sort of interview, and you got the offer. Was there more to the process?

Jefferson Tang (20:46):
That was pretty much it, it was a pretty light process.

Alex Booker (20:48):
That's really cool. Maybe it just shows the sort of benefit of greasing the wheels, right? If they'd never heard of you or had no idea where you were coming from, and they couldn't see any of your code, they would take a lot of time probably to sort of feel confident that you would be a good contributor on the team. But because they'd seen you being helpful, and because they'd seen your projects, and they knew you were committed via Scrimba and this bootcamp, it just makes me think that, yes, there had to be an interview, right? But you'd done so much hard work already to set yourself up for success. And how did the offer come your way? Did they just tell you on the phone call, like, "Jeff, you're hired," or was there a bit of a wait?

Jefferson Tang (21:22):
So I was actually still working full time when I did interview going through the bootcamp and Scrimba and all of that-

Alex Booker (21:27):
As a doctor?

Jefferson Tang (21:30):
Yeah. Because I knew I wanted to pivot, but I wasn't sure where I wanted to land in yet. And I still had a one year contract that I wanted to see out as well. I guess what the arrangement I said was they ... See, they said they wanted me to come on, but I said I'm still working full time, I've still got two months left. So they said, "Oh, we'll do a part-time trial thing for two months." And then I did that. I found out that I really enjoyed working with the team and that I could actually produce productive code for them. So then when I got to the end of the two month period, I said, "Hey, I'd like to transition to full time." And they were pretty happy to have me on board.

Alex Booker (22:10):
Of course they were, that's awesome. And so if you work at a defi company, I mean, did your salary get paid in Bitcoin? Is that the idea?

Jefferson Tang (22:18):
No, they pay me in USDC. So it's, yeah, pretty much US dollars.

Alex Booker (22:23):
That's good. And if you want to sort of reinvest your money, I suppose that's something that you can have full control over. Wow. That's amazing. Jeff. I mean, obviously so happy to hear about your success, and it's a really inspiring story, actually. Just in closing, I was wondering if you were to go back to the beginning, is there any advice you could offer yourself to help you learn to code and find a job sooner or with less friction?

Jefferson Tang (22:44):
Obviously, to get onto Scrimba ASAP, because it took me about ... Probably eight months from when I started learning to code to find Scrimba, and would save a lot of time. And great place, can't recommend it any higher.

Alex Booker (22:56):
What was it about Scrimba that helped you? I mean, a lot of people, they described consuming a lot of courses and even practicing tutorials, but sometimes struggling to remember what they're learning, or put it to practice in such a way they can build old their own applications. Because Scrimba is quite hands on in that you're meant to be interactive and you edit the code along with your instructor, almost like they're sitting next to you. And it's project focused, right? So every module almost you're encouraged to apply what you're learning. Some people tell us that helps them sort of feel more confident in their coding ability. Does that about mirror your experience?

Jefferson Tang (23:30):
Yeah, definitely. Having that, being able to stop the screencast and writing the code, and sort of run the code there and see what it does, it's just something really special. And then the instruction teachers are always really encouraging as well, which is something that really helps when you're learning.

Alex Booker (23:48):
What stands out to you? Do you remember any teacher or any encouraging message in particular?

Jefferson Tang (23:53):
Message is like, "You've found this place. You've done really well for getting up to here." Because I tend to be pretty harsh on myself internally. I could have pushed myself pretty far, be like, "Oh, that's not enough. You need to go further." Whereas just hearing ... I think I remember [Per 00:24:09], just hearing him say, "You've done really well to get here." It was just was great mental boost, and it was true. The other thing where I kept hearing, "Hey, you need to take a break. You need time to sink it to your head. You should and just sort of go jam forward," which is what I'll do if I was left to my own devices.

Alex Booker (24:29):
Yeah. I can relate to that. I mean, thank you. And it's super encouraging to hear, because as much as we kind of align by our experiences being self-taught and speaking with people who are struggling, trying to help them. And obviously based on the interactivity of Scrimba, that's quite a unique thing that we believe helps you remember what you're learning better. It's obviously super encouraging to hear that you enjoyed it. And yes, thank you for paying it forward. I know that this interview will achieve for others what Per achieved for you. That reassurance that paths are windy, but you can find success in the end. Jeff, thank you so much for joining me on the Scrimba podcast, it's been a pleasure.

Jefferson Tang (25:07):
No worries, thank you. I really hope this helps someone out there, and really well done with Scrimba. Love what you guys are doing.

Alex Booker (25:16):
That was Jefferson Tang, a successful Scrimba student and Solidity bootcamp grad from Australia. Thank you for listening. If you've made it this far, you might want to subscribe for more helpful and uplifting episodes with recently hired juniors like Jefferson, and industry experts alike. As a reminder, I'm speaking with Austin Henline from LinkedIn next week about how to build an optimized LinkedIn profile. That will be episode 60 of the Scrimba podcast. So if you're listening into the future, now you know where to find it. You can also tweet me, your host, Alex Booker, anytime and share what lessons you learned from the episode so I can thank you personally for tuning in. My Twitter handle, along with Scrimba's, is in the show notes. See you next week.