Donโ€™t Compare Yourself to Other New Developers: Scrimba Student Silvia on Changing Careers

Donโ€™t Compare Yourself to Other New Developers: Scrimba Student Silvia on Changing Careers

๐ŸŽ™ About the episode

Meet Silvia Piovesan ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น! Silvia is a Scrimba student who recently got four job offers after four different interviews. But her success didn't come overnight! Silvia used to be a project manager in the pharmaceutical industry - where she first got interested in coding. After she got laid off (and became a mom!), she wanted to learn to code so that she could become a knowledgeable project manager in IT... before realizing that she actually wanted to code!

In this episode, Silvia reveals what's the similarities between learning to code and hiking Camino de Santiago, as well as her approach to learning and finding a job as a new developer. You'll find out how to utilize your soft skills, what to do if you don't know the answer to a question on a technical interview, and what to do during your first week on the job. Alex and Silvia also discuss goal setting, and why it's not a good idea to give your 100% every day.

๐Ÿ”— Connect with Silvia

โฐ Timestamps

  • Silvia's journey from pharmaceuticals to tech (01:11)
  • How Silvia knew a lot about the inner workings of a company but wanted to pursue specialization (03:27)
  • Did Silvia's professional skills from her previous career help her when she became a developer? ย (06:06)
  • Silvia's approach to learning to code (09:07)
  • Silvia only learned to code so that she can become a better project manager. What happened next? (10:29)
  • What knowledge did Silvia lack after a bootcamp? How did she discover Scrimba? (14:25)
  • Key takeaways from Silvia's approach (16:41)
  • On setting realistic goals (19:56)
  • How Silvia knew it was time to start applying for jobs and how long it took to get there (21:08)
  • On comparing yourself to other people learning to code (23:39)
  • Did Silvia have doubts about whether or not she would make it? (26:41)
  • Silvia's approach to finding her first developer job (plus: do you need to have a portfolio?) (28:21)
  • Let's talk numbers: how many applications, how many interviews, how many offers? (31:59)
  • How to stand out in a job interview (33:34)
  • Silvia's job interview process (36:10)
  • The most important thing you should know if you're interviewing for jobs (28:52)
  • Where does Silvia work now? (40:49)
  • Silvia's first pull request, and how long does it take to code a button? (42:13)
  • What should you do during your first week on the job? (44:24)

๐Ÿงฐ Resources mentioned

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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 ๐Ÿ™

๐Ÿ’ฌ Transcript

Silvia Piovesan (00:00):
At first, I wasn't really sure how to tell my story, but in the end, I said, "Okay, there is just one possible way." If a company has problems with me taking longer than three months to learn a totally different craft from what I was doing before then I do not want to work for that company.

Alex Booker (00:24):
Hello and welcome 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. I'm Alex and today you will hear the story about how Silvia left her well-paying job, learned to code while raising a kid, and then got five job offers in one week. That's the headline. Okay? But as you know, there is always more to the story. So let's dig into Silvia's journey and how exactly she managed to learn to code and break into web development. As always you're listening to The Scrimba Podcast. We will be looking for the key learnings and takeaways that you can apply to your own web development journey. Let's get into it.

Silvia Piovesan (01:11):
I was working in projects for a big pharma company across different departments and with a lot of different teams. Of course, nowadays projects normally means there's some IT application involved. So I had some exposure to IT but from the business side. I was the one setting requirements and acting as a bridge between the real business part and the IT guys that were developing the application. Working there I grew an interest for IT because to me it was just really amazing how these guys could take my requirements and then set up an application from that. It was like magic.
So I had asked my actual manager to move me in the IT department to work as really an IT project manager. But that didn't go through because I had a baby so I was home, and then there was a big layoff. I was in the list, and of course, moving to IT was not an option. They didn't give me any option, to be honest.
It wasn't a big drama for me. I just had my kid, he was like six months old or something like that. And I wanted to spend time with him. So I started thinking, what can I do now? What will I be doing afterwards when I need to find a job? Do I want to go on with the same job or similar job that I had before, or do I want to do something different? I said, "Okay, let's leverage this interest that I have for IT, and let's start studying." My idea originally was just to understand how things worked to be knowledgeable project manager, but along the way, I just loved coding. So yeah, here I am working as a developer.

Alex Booker (03:12):
How many years did you work in the pharma industry?

Silvia Piovesan (03:14):
I think it was something more than five years.

Alex Booker (03:17):
So you were quite far down that path it sounds like. It couldn't have been an easy decision to change career ladders essentially, and pursue development.

Silvia Piovesan (03:27):
That's true, but also I used to move quite heavily between departments. So when you move internally, you are sort of starting again every time. I had a lot of knowledge of the company, lot of knowledge of the industry, of course, but I was feeling like I was really a generalist and not really a specialist, every time jumping different projects, different departments, every time starting and not really bringing so much specialist knowledge to the new team or to the new department. And that's what I was seeking in IT also. A bit more of specialization if I can say that, a bit more of focus in my career. That was on one hand difficult because I knew I was going to lose financial power, of course. But on the other hand, it was also motivating for me to start on a very precise path even if at the beginning it was like project management, and then it turned out to be development, but a very specific one. So it wasn't that hard.

Alex Booker (04:45):
Tell me if I'm understanding you right, Silvia, but it sounds like you tried a bunch of things. You built up a high skill in a fair few things to the point you consider yourself a generalist, but maybe just you hadn't found that thing that was like your calling that you felt as though you could specialize in.

Silvia Piovesan (05:00):
I think you're probably right. For instance, I know very well how a company works, but what was my exact place, I didn't have this clear in that company or any other similar company. So maybe this was also meant to be.

Alex Booker (05:17):
It's interesting what you mentioned, because for all of the time we spend learning to code, and remember there are a few different types of learners, right? There will be people who are very young, who've never worked a job before. Maybe they've worked in a newspaper routes or something, but not like a salaried job. Then you'll have perhaps people who did jobs, which were just nothing to do with an office. They have really no idea what people do in an office or what the office culture is like. Anyway, you start learning about coding and you get deep into that, but actually working within a company like in an office job, there are so many unspoken rules and there are ways to conduct yourself. And there are also so many soft skills or practical skills that you really perhaps can't understand and internalize and get good at until you're actually in that environment, and then you pick it up, I think over the course of your first few months and years.
I'm wondering, did you find like a lot of the professional skills that you developed during your five-year career in pharma very useful when you decided to start pursuing development jobs? Did some of that stuff transfer with you, do you think?

Silvia Piovesan (06:18):
Yes, I did find my previous experience very useful, not as much when I was studying, but for sure when interviewing and afterwards when I started working. If you noticed also in the Scrimba server, I always try to encourage and support people that are career changers like me, because I also was at a point before looking for a job when I thought, okay, maybe my previous experience is not so relevant and maybe I should just remove it from my CV. But this is not a good idea because I interviewed and got to the end of the process with four companies and all the four companies recognized my previous experience as valuable, even if it wasn't related to coding or development or not that much even to IT directly. And now that I'm working, I'm obviously a junior for developing and coding, but I'm not a junior in any other task.

Alex Booker (07:31):
You're experienced and you're wise because of the years you've spent in another industry.

Silvia Piovesan (07:35):
Yeah. And that also helped me at the beginning because before starting a new job that you don't really know nothing about, you feel a bit anxious because you think, okay, maybe tomorrow I will get there and I will feel like I'm a total fraud and I will just get up and leave. But then you get there and it's just another office and another company. And all the things that maybe a junior is really stressed about, I mean like a real junior who is starting their first job just after university or school. Presenting in a team meeting or just speaking or sharing your screen or having a meeting with your manager, for me, it was like, okay, this is normal.
I think my anxiety lasted maybe half an hour and then I was totally cool. And now I really love going to the office. I love the team. I feel like I was at home there. So yeah, that helped me a real lot also in communication with other departments, in getting my authorizations, my accesses. Something that doesn't work at the beginning, you have to open a support ticket, I've done that hundreds of times. So, okay, normal. Contact the person. Okay, normal. For me, having had a different career before is certainly a plus.

Alex Booker (09:07):
I want to change the subject a little bit for now and learn a little bit about, okay, you decided you wanted to pursue development. That's a hefty objective, there are lots of paths and options you can take from university to boot camps, to self-learning routes, to YouTube, to books, to courses. It's kind of overwhelming, right? What was your approach to learning to code Silvia?

Silvia Piovesan (09:26):
Okay. I sort of have a slight advantage here because my husband has been a software engineer like forever. 12 years, I don't know. So he sort of directed me. We started looking at options and I said, "Okay, I think I will go for front-end because I don't know anything about this so backend might be a bit more complicated for the logic and for the simple fact that you don't see what you are doing straight away." So it was front-end and I started with a bootcamp here in Barcelona. It was all remote because it was the summer of 2020, so full pandemic. As I mentioned, at the beginning, the idea was not to be a developer after the bootcamp, but just to understand how things worked behind the scenes to be a project manager.

Alex Booker (10:29):
That's fascinating then because there must have been a point where you were like, wait, hold on a second, maybe I'll just write the code myself.

Silvia Piovesan (10:36):
Yeah, correct. I think at this point I got to it very quickly because I think after a month I was already fascinated by writing code and seeing the effect in a browser. And also the logic part was really amazing to me. So I started thinking, maybe I can also be a developer, I don't know. And I exactly remember one day I was talking to one of my teachers at the bootcamp and he told me, "Silvia, I don't know why you want to learn this just for broadening your knowledge. I mean, you can easily be a developer. You are good at it, so why don't you go through with this and just start thinking about becoming a real programmer." And I said, "Yeah. Okay, why not?"
After a couple months I was already, no, no, no, no, no, now I want to be a developer. No way I'm going to work as project manager. I want to write code and that's it. I finished the bootcamp I think in eight or nine months, something like that. But I wasn't feeling like I could start looking for a job at that moment. I also had my kid at home so that was also a factor. I decided to go on studying by myself. I wanted to go back to the fundamentals of JavaScript and study React a bit more in depth. And that's when I found Scrimba and became a pro member and started interacting, and I had the best time there.

Alex Booker (12:17):
Coming up on The Scrimba Podcast, Silvia's biggest challenge now she's on the job.

Silvia Piovesan (12:23):
I spent four hours doing the task of which five minutes to code and three hours fifty-five minutes reading the code.

Alex Booker (12:32):
All that to come and more, but first, Jan the producer, and I have a cheeky favor to ask of you.

Jan Arsenovic (12:38):
Hello, Jan the producer speaking. I'm here to ask you to, if you're enjoying this episode of the podcast, please consider sharing it with someone, be it on Twitter, on LinkedIn, in your discord community, or maybe in person. Word of mouth is the best way to support a podcast you like, so thank you in advance. Another way you can make sure that we can keep doing what we're doing is to subscribe to the show or maybe even leave it a rating or a review on Spotify or iTunes. There's a new episode every Tuesday and your support really helps us not break our streak. One week on The Scrimba Podcast, we are interviewing a recently hired new developer like today and the other we're learning from industry experts. That is precisely what's going to happen next week when our guest is Tiffany Jachja. She's an engineering manager for a media company, a career coach, and a Twitch streamer going by TiffTiffBytes.

Tiffany Jachja (13:37):
I got into programming basically when I was a kid in elementary school. One of the first sort of internet video games that I ended up playing was Neopets and that initially got me into coding before I even knew what coding was. And I didn't really think anything of it, it was just a way for me to express myself, have like a cool little HTML site. But that led to me learning how to do graphic design and Photoshop and photography. And then towards the end of high school, there's this expectation that you know what you're going to do, and I had no idea. I was applying to art schools and then I didn't make it to any of them. And I ended up doing the computer science program.

Jan Arsenovic (14:17):
That is next Tuesday on The Scrimba Podcast. And now we're back to the interview with Silvia.

Alex Booker (14:25):
I'm kind of curious, after a sort of eight to nine-month bootcamp, what kind of things did you still need to brush up on and learn more about?

Silvia Piovesan (14:34):
The bootcamp was React-focused because I chose the front-end part with React. In general, my opinion about these bootcamps is that they rush you a bit through JavaScript and the fundamentals of coding to get you to a framework that can make you more employable, of course. So this also makes sense. But for me having zero knowledge, that was a bit too fast. So I was able to do things in React, but I wasn't really understanding what was happening behind the hood. So I found Scrimba. I think it was in the recommended resources of my bootcamp actually for the React free course and the JavaScript free course. And I enjoyed those very much.
And I said, "You know what? Now I need an extra knowledge here. Why not starting to be a bit more serious about this and going pro and participating in the community." Because, okay, when you are doing a bootcamp like I was, you have a community there because you have other students and you can reach out and ask questions or just share your feelings. But when you are learning by yourself, it's a bit harder. Communities like Scrimba for me are essential when you are learning by yourself. I had already a learning base, of course. So I actually didn't finish the front-end career path. I would just take the parts that I needed, like the JavaScript in deep or the React advanced, or I think I did also the interviewing preparation or something like that. I was just taking the modules that I needed, and of course, asking questions and answering questions, that also helped me a whole lot in learning and really going in deep in what I was studying.

Alex Booker (16:41):
I think there are like three takeaways there. The first is that you can't rush the fundamentals, that's super important to know. The second is that you can go further when you go together and get involved in a community. And then thirdly, asking and answering questions is a great way to, I guess, be active about your learning. Instead of just passively consuming stuff, you really need to be active, whether that's solving challenges, whether that's building projects, or whether that's asking and answering questions, that's a great way to commit things to memory.
Oh, and one more thing I learned from you Silvia, just the fourth point I suppose, is that you can pick and choose your modules. I know when you're a new developer or you're new to something, it just seems so daunting at times. Like there's just so much in front of you. You certainly wouldn't feel like you want to jump around the modules because you might think, maybe this thing is related to that thing and I don't want to miss out on some knowledge, get an hour into the course and realize that it's not suitable for me. But once you've been doing this for a few months, you can absolutely give yourself permission to pick and choose modules or courses or tutorials or books and even chapters within those books that serve your particular interests.
I think that's amazing because one of the ways that learning gets boring is when people set objectives like, oh, I'm going to read this book on You Don't Know JavaScript Yet, and I'm going to read it cover to cover. And it's a cool ambition, I'm sure you'll learn a lot. But you'll learn a lot better if instead, you're building a project and then you're like, oh, I need to do this thing and this chapter in that book will help me do that thing. Then you read that chapter and then you apply it and you remember it better. And meanwhile, you're familiar with the book so next time you have a problem or a challenge you know there is a chapter out there for you. You're not trying to remember everything, you're just building this worldview where you can find information more quickly. I think it's really reassuring to hear that from you because it's not always so obvious.

Silvia Piovesan (18:19):
Totally. I think you summarized it very well. And about the modules, of course, you can just pick and choose. In my case, after the bootcamp, I was focusing on pure JavaScript. I also did some Vanilla JavaScript course and after five or six months only of JavaScript, I had almost forgotten React. So I had already taken Bob's free course or React, but just at that time Scrimba released the updated course and I did that again. So there is no harm even in repeating modules if you feel like that, you are just building up knowledge and doing that your way. And about what you mentioned that going together, you go farther, you remembered me of a quote that, "If you want to go fast, you just go by yourself, but if you want to go far, you go with others."

Alex Booker (19:19):
Yeah. I totally stole that, by the way. You've exposed me, Silvia.

Silvia Piovesan (19:23):
I did the Camino de Santiago four times and that's the real life demonstration of this quote, because if you want to walk really fast, you don't have to wait for anyone else. But if you want to go far and get to Santiago, maybe from the beginning of the Camino, you have to be with other people because you will need help and you will need company. Or you will just need someone to tell them, today, I don't feel like walking, let's just have a break.

Alex Booker (19:56):
I definitely have fallen into this trap many times in my career, both as a learner and a professional, which is where I get really excited about something, I set a lofty goal and I go very intensely about it. And I go really fast at the beginning every time. But what tends to happen is if you zoom out far enough, there's no consistency there. And because of that, again, if you zoom out far enough, it actually took me longer than if I was just to do a little bit every day. I'm not going to break down the maths, but it's not hard to imagine that if you give a hundred percent every single day, you will burn out. And then what actually happens is you give a hundred percent three days and then the other four days in the week you give like 10%.
But if you gave 50% every day or 60% on a good day, the sum of that week is going to be a lot greater and you'll be able to sustain that for a lot longer. And the truth is, it takes a while to learn to code and find success as a new developer, and so you really have to sustain yourself for a while. And on that topic, Silvia, I was doing the maths a little bit in my head. And I think you mentioned that when you left the pharma company, you said your kid was like six months. I happened to know that your kid is now nearly three years old. It's been a couple of years really since you started this journey, how'd you feel about your timeline?

Silvia Piovesan (21:08):
When I started learning, it was July 2020. When I said, "Okay, now I will start looking for a job," it was March this year. So yeah, almost two years of learning. Of course, it wasn't learning full time because I was taking care of my baby almost 24/7 because he started with the daycare full time only in January this year. But still, I was learning almost all the time with little breaks. We moved houses so I had a two months break. And I feel great about this time. I mean, I really enjoyed the journey. I also enjoyed the time that I spent taking care of my baby and mixing the learning and the parenting.
So when I started interviewing, at first, I wasn't really sure about how to tell my story, but in the end, I said, "Okay, there is just one possible way to tell my story, which is just tell it as it is, just the pure truth." Because this whole learning, coding, and developing, this was just mixed with me becoming a mother. Otherwise, I would've probably looked for a similar job to what I had before just right away after being laid off, and not even I would've thought about learning coding. So I just went for that. And I also thought, okay, if a company has problems with me taking my time to stay with my baby, and if they have a problem with me taking longer than three months to learn a totally different craft from what I was doing before, then I do not want to work for that company. So I was just totally transparent about it and I think this paid off.

Alex Booker (23:21):
I have a suspicion you will have had a very mature and robust way of thinking about this due to your experience, but how did you feel about stories like, oh, this so and so learned to code in three months and four months and five months. Were you ever comparing yourself to those stories and how did that make you feel?

Silvia Piovesan (23:39):
Okay. At the beginning, I used to feel a bit less valuable as compared to other students. I mean, while studying, because I used to see them spending, I don't know, 12 hours a day just coding and investigating things and building things. And I could not do that. I mean, I had four hours every day of classes or four hours in which I was supposed to develop and go through the problem sets that I had to deliver. And for me, those four hours was at most what I could get in my day. So for me, if someone can get to developer starting from zero in three months or even less it's okay. But after some time I realized that we all have different stories and different situations. And in my situation, it wasn't possible to do that in less time than what I did. I feel totally okay about it.

Alex Booker (24:50):
Comparison is a tricky thing because people will broadcast, hey, I did this in three months or they'll broadcast their success. But what you don't see is the rest of the story and therefore it's impossible actually to make a accurate comparison between two people. So, so impossible in fact, that I don't recommend anybody try for that matter.
But one reason I really love The Scrimba Podcast and getting to speak with people like yourself is that unlike its suites or a headline, this is the chance to get a bit more nuance about people's stories and realize that obviously in your case you were... I mean, there are things in life what are important aside from your job, like family and raising a child. And these take a lot of time and energy and the things you should savor and enjoy. And comparatively, somebody might be 21, have some savings. They're able to focus on learning to code full time and approach it with that intensity. It makes no sense to compare apples and oranges in that case. And I really appreciate your perspective on that.

Silvia Piovesan (25:44):
We all are different. We are in different points of our life, of our paths. So it's not a good idea to compare yourself to others, but maybe you need some time at the beginning to realize that. I was very self-conscious about my choice and the time that I could dedicate to studying, but still it took me some time to realize that comparing to others wasn't a good idea.

Alex Booker (26:15):
Was there any doubts in your mind about whether you would be successful at this? As I see it, to some level you had taken a risk because you had more experience at a time with project management and in a particular industry. I understand as well that you have a family to support and changing careers can sometimes... I think you phrased it as "losing financial power." Was it something that played on your mind? Like, did you have any doubt that you would be successful in the end?

Silvia Piovesan (26:41):
Of course, I did. And I think that when you decide to change careers, you are not sure that you will be successful or that you will really go through with it until you start working as a web developer. Because you always have this little voice here telling you, okay, if at some point you see that you are not fit for this or that you don't find a job as a developer, you can go back to what you were doing before. So actually until I signed the contract with my current company, I wasn't sure that I made the right choice, so that even I would work as developer in the end. I had always dislike option B in my mind. But yes, in the end, it turned out to be a great choice and something that I really enjoy. So I'm really happy with it.

Alex Booker (27:42):
That's amazing to hear. It sounds like that risk paid off essentially. Sometimes you have to risk what you have to get something even better, and success stories like this can only inspire people to do the same.

Silvia Piovesan (27:52):
Sure. I'm also a person that likes changing because yeah, I like learning very much, and when you change you're somehow forced to learn. I sort of enjoy this uncomfortable situation of not knowing if you will manage to do something, but still trying to. So I think it also depends on people, but in my case, I'm totally, totally happy.

Alex Booker (28:21):
And so what was your approach to actually finding a job and getting interviews? You mentioned on Discord that you tweaked your LinkedIn and built up your network in anticipation of applying for jobs. I'm kind of curious, how did you do that exactly and what was the impact? How did you end up getting your job interviews and how many did you get?

Silvia Piovesan (28:38):
Actually, I had finished my bootcamp in April 2021, but I was missing the last module, which was like a job seeking help or something like that. I'm just freely translating from Spanish. And I did that because I told to the people of the bootcamp and I said, "Okay, now I have no intention of looking for a job because I will delay this for some months. So is it okay for you if I finished this module when I start looking for a job?" And they said, "Of course, yes. You just contact us when you feel like." I did this last module in January, this year, 2022. It was like an fake interview and some CV advice, some LinkedIn advice.
Doing that I realized I could leverage my LinkedIn in the sense that I had already many contacts due to my previous jobs because I had more than one. And I started just doing that, polishing my already existing network, asking for recommendations from my previous managers and also teammates. I started creating new connections. I think I did some actual work there before getting to the real job search. Then in February, I actually went to a hackathon here a very important one in Barcelona. And that's where I realized that I needed also a portfolio, which I didn't have, or a personal website. How do you want to call that? I didn't have anything. So after that hackathon, I made a lot of new connections of course, because that's also the point of hackathon, including some companies. And they started asking me for my website or portfolio and I didn't have anything. So I was like, "Okay, it's in progress."

Alex Booker (30:45):
They specifically asked you like, hey, where's your portfolio? What's the link? How can I check you out? Or would they have been satisfied with your LinkedIn profile or Twitter or resume or email or something?

Silvia Piovesan (30:55):
No, no. They specifically asked for my portfolio. They said, "Okay, please give me your portfolio and your GitHub."

Alex Booker (31:03):
Wow, that's very good to know.

Silvia Piovesan (31:05):
Yeah. I sort of realized that that was what we call in Italy a sine qua non, so an essential condition to start looking for a job. Because at that point I hadn't sent out any CV or any application yet. So in two weeks I came up with my website. I had already some ideas, so I just built it. Then I started applying. But actually, the four processes in which I got until the end came from networking, not from quick LinkedIn application or something like that. That's why also in the Scrimba server, in the career chat, I always advise people to use that resource, to use the networking to expose themselves on LinkedIn, because that really paid off for me.

Alex Booker (31:59):
Give us an idea about the numbers. How many interviews did you end up with when you were ready to pursue the first job opportunity?

Silvia Piovesan (32:07):
I don't know how many applications I sent because, of course, I sent also some applications mainly through LinkedIn. But I don't think that much, I think something like 30 or close to that. The interviews that I got were... Well, the four companies and some more, but with the others, I really didn't get that far. Like an introductory call, what are your expectations? And that's it. So I would say four.

Alex Booker (32:40):
And how many job offers did you end up with after those interviews?

Silvia Piovesan (32:49):

Alex Booker (32:49):
Of course, I knew.

Silvia Piovesan (32:49):
It was four interviews and four offers. But yeah. Okay, I had sent more applications out, just these four where the ones that in my opinion went through because I had the chance to speak with the recruiters or directly the team members in one case. I think that if you have some soft skills or communication skills to leverage, that's the best way to go for it because you will have some advantage in the process. You are not just an empty doc with some words in it, you are the face and a person for them.

Alex Booker (33:34):
You need to stand out in some way and be memorable. And if you are just a piece of paper in a stack of resumes or an email, they won't remember your name probably. It's just human nature, you see someone's face, you hear their voice, you see their body language, they express some personality, they learn a bit about you, you become so much more memorable and likable. And at the end of the day, if you are to be employed, they want to think that they will like you and get along with you doing the job. So all of these things come together in like a very impactful way. Obviously, I'm not saying you have to be like the most charming person in the world. It's not about that. It's about being pleasant and showing you get it and you will be a positive contributor.
I think a lot of the times, especially in smaller companies, but this is true across every team that is hiring. There is an element of risk with every person you hire. They want to know, can you do the job? And you can prove that for your portfolio, your GitHub, your technical interview. But they also want to know, will you be successful on the team? Like, are you going to jibe with people? Are you going to be a can-doer and a positive contributor? And these are places where you need to be I think aware that the interviewer is trying to answer those questions and de-risk you, and you need to almost tailor your answers I think, to be authentic and be truthful always, but you want to sort of solve their concerns, essentially. Just like if you're buying a car, the car salesperson will try and address all your concerns and tell you the reasons why the car is great. You in an interview are selling yourself like you have services to sell essentially, and you need to adopt the same mentality, even if it's a little bit uncomfortable.

Silvia Piovesan (35:06):
Yeah. I think one of the big questions that interviewers have to address is if this person will be a good fit for the team and if the team members will love working with them or not. So if you can give a positive answer to that question, you have already a big advantage. And also your portfolio plays a role in that, in the sense that you can convey a bit of your personality through your portfolio. I think that also helps in the search.

Alex Booker (35:44):
It would take probably more time than we have to break down all four of those job interviews. Plus you did the mock interview with Mike and I so that's technically a fifth interview. People can watch that on YouTube, it's linked in the show notes.
Silvia, is a new front-end developer with no professional experience yet. She's been learning on Scrimba for a while now and today, Mike is going to put her through her paces to see if she's ready to interview for a junior developer role.
But take us through the job interview that led to the job you're doing now.

Silvia Piovesan (36:15):
It was actually a long process. I think I had four interviews plus the first chat that I had initially with a recruiter in an event. I had also a technical interview, which was the last step. It was really long. It was like one hour and a half. Plus it was my first technical interview. I had two really senior developers in front of me and I was, oh my, how am I going to pass this? Also, because the HR person wasn't that clear about what I could expect from the interview. So I was like, "Okay, I'm going to do this interview, but I'm not sure what I will be doing." And in the end, this was a mix of theoretical questions and some live coding, but mostly debugging. I really didn't know what to think after this interview because it was the first one of this kind for me. I mostly felt like you feel after a university exam that you're not sure if you passed or not. In the end, the outcome was positive. And actually one of the interviewers is now my manager. So I am pretty sure the outcome was positive.

Alex Booker (37:45):
I would agree with that. What were the sort of technical questions like Silvia?

Silvia Piovesan (37:47):
It was mostly about JavaScript and React, of course, due to the position. The part about JavaScript I think it was a bit challenging because it was related to the event loop. So mixing promises and timeouts, and I wasn't so strong on that. So I remember at one point I just said, "Okay, I have no idea, maybe you can help me figure this out." And they helped me. They did it. And I really understood it because afterwards they asked a similar question and I got it right. So I think it's not really that much depending on which questions, because if you start preparing your cell phone specific questions, you can get easily overwhelmed. JavaScript is impossible to know really in its depth, everything how it works. Also, senior developers have to look for stuff on Google.
But if you work on your ability to reason and to express what you are thinking and how you would solve something, I think it's the best thing you can do, because that will be also appreciated at least for a junior-level position. Because as a junior, I believe you are not expected to bring in so many technical skills, but you are expected to bring in some ability to look for things or understand things when they're explained to you. My advice would be not to focus as much on the questions themselves but on your ability to solve them or ask for help.

Alex Booker (39:41):
You're saying that drilling hundreds and hundreds of typical job interview questions can quickly become overwhelming. As a junior, in particular, you're saying you would be better to focus on the fundamentals and how you can talk about and convey your thought process with confidence. Which of course, if all you do is follow tutorials and copy them one by one, you won't be able to give a satisfactory answer in a job interview because you won't be able to explain your full process. You are saying, you should learn to think like a programmer and then demonstrate your thought process in a clear way that instills confidence in the interviewer.

Silvia Piovesan (40:13):
Yeah. That would be the best thing to do. When you will have a mid to senior level, you will be expected to have a different base knowledge. But now as long as you know the difference between let and var and what the function means, you will be fine in interviews. Just try to convey your thought process and you will be fine.

Alex Booker (40:38):
Well, you got the job, that's so exciting obviously. I'm so happy for you, Silvia. What is the company exactly and what kind of stuff are you doing there? What does a day in the life look like now you've been on the job for a few weeks or months even?

Silvia Piovesan (40:49):
The company is offering supply chain solutions. They have a big solver's department because it's all focused on algorithms, and also they have a big development department. My day-to-day, now I'm working on internal projects. So I started with a project and then I shifted to another one. But I'm not shifting constantly, it was just a thing of the beginning just to get me coding. I think after a week I started coding. So I also appreciated that because I wanted to get my hands on the keyboard as Bob says, as soon as possible.

Alex Booker (41:33):
I like that.

Silvia Piovesan (41:34):
My day-to-day is basically daily standup and then coding. I actually was surprised because I did my first pull request quite quickly. As a junior I was expecting, maybe I will have to spend weeks just reading the code base and the project documentation or whatever. And no, they just put me to coding and I was very happy with it. And yeah, now I'm developing almost full time doing some trainings, because if you want, you can also do trainings. And that's it, enjoying life.

Alex Booker (42:13):
That pull request you submitted and got accepted, what did it do? What was the thing you coded?

Silvia Piovesan (42:20):
Originally, it was a button, and then we changed that in an extra tab or something like that. So we also changed the requirement a bit based on the logic of the application. But really to code a button it's like four hours. I spent four hours doing the task of which five minutes to code the button and three hours fifty-five minutes reading the code and understanding where I had to touch it. I remember when I was in the reading part of that, I called my coach because I also have a coach. And I said, "Okay, I'm very slow. I'm still reading code, I don't know if I'm supposed to write code also." And they said, "Don't worry, it's normal. It's a huge code base, you have to understand how it works and you cannot touch some other things without knowing how this works. So take your time, don't worry."

Alex Booker (43:22):
There's a few quotes out there to the effect of, "It's harder to read code than it is to write it." I think it's from Joel Spolsky, who is one of the co-founders of Stack Overflow. And it remains very true, absolutely. And also as a new developer, you oftentimes are starting from scratch or you're working on quite small projects. This experience of jumping into a big code base that has been there many months and probably many years before you, that's a skill you just have to build up once you get there but it's one that's very doable as I think you've proved, Silvia.
Earlier in the episode, I sort of mentioned to people listening, but I'd ask you a little bit about you with this experience, like you've had a career before, like you've built up all these soft skills. At first, I'm sure you just focus on setting up your computer and it can be a little bit nervous feeling, but you said after just half an hour, you settled into it. Like, what to you was important during your first week on the job? How did you go about introducing yourself to people? How did you go about finding out the information you needed? Maybe that's from HR, maybe it's from your manager. Did you have a plan and what kind of things were really useful to you during that first week?

Silvia Piovesan (44:24):
I didn't exactly have a plan, but mostly I'm very transparent and honest. So if I don't know something or don't understand, I just say it. I remember my first day was nice because I had some introductory meetings, so I was also explained many things. But I think my attitude helped in the sense that I was used from my previous jobs to first try to look for information myself, try and figure out things. And if I cannot do that, then ask for help. And that's what I did also from the beginning in my current job and current team.
And also, I like to establish some connection with people because I consider, we spend a lot of time at work so it's better if you can share that with pleasant people and people you get along well with. I think these would be the things that helped me the most, at least in my first week. The first week was mainly about getting accesses, configuring the hardware. So I got a lot of help when I needed it and when I asked for it. I cannot really complain.

Alex Booker (45:50):
I really liked your advice, I think it's wonderful, and a wonderful note to end the episode on. Silvia, thank you so much for joining me on The Scrimba Podcast.

Silvia Piovesan (45:58):
Thanks for having me, Alex. It was a real pleasure. More than a pleasure, an honor because I'm a follower of The Scrimba Podcast so I feel like a celebrity now.

Alex Booker (46:10):
That's made my day. Thank you.

Jan Arsenovic (46:12):
That was Silvia, a front-end engineer and a career changer who likes to learn. Thank you for listening. Make sure to check out the show notes for all the resources mentioned in this episode. And if you made it this far, you could also subscribe. Every week in your feed you'll get a new inspiring and educational episode just like this one. The podcast is hosted by Alex Booker, who you can tweet at. His Twitter handle is in the show notes. And you can also tag him if you share anything you've learned from the podcast. I'm your producer, Jan Arsenovic. And we will see you next week.